How writing an ebook was less of a learning curve and more like a cliff dive

(No laptops were harmed in the making of this ebook) It seemed like such a natural progression: several people who enjoyed my blog (in its former incarnation as a project management blog to help freelancers organize their work) mentioned to me that it would be a good idea to put out an ebook. I agreed, it would be a good idea. Being a good little project manager, I worked out that it would take about 8 weeks, plus 2 weeks of editing and general tweaking. I thought squeezing in a section a week on top of my normal work sounded do-able, with some nice photos, charts and worksheets. After all, I already had all the information at my fingertips, I knew the topic backwards, forwards and upside-down. No problem! That was last May. It is now January, and I have just finished putting together a sales page and uploading the finished product. BAD project manager. What went wrong? And why have I developed several new nervous ticks? The rationale behind project management is that you should a) Use your own experience to estimate how long tasks will take, or b) Get advice from experts if you don’t have that experience … Continue reading

Time management: How scheduling when to start a task is more important than when you finish it

I’ve been playing around with some different project management software recently and one thing that has struck me has been the emphasis on finishing a task. Finishing tasks or projects is obviously very important – we freelancers don’t get paid for half-finished work – but scheduling when you start tasks is as important, or even more important, than when you finish them. Scheduling tasks The great thing about using project management software is that it can really help when you are scheduling tasks within projects, or scheduling whole projects. This can really help you keep in control of your workload, and is far more effective than an endless to-do list. To-do lists are fine for short-term things, like making a note of things you are meant to get done in a day: Call plumber, contact client, file bank statements… But for large projects you can get totally disorganised, plus you tend to put off the tasks you like doing the least and tick off the ones you like most first. Scheduling your tasks means that you have to work through them in a logical order, and that’s a good start to getting your projects completed on time. Starting vs finishing … Continue reading

Freelance headaches: 4 strategies to avoid hassling

You’re a freelancer and you love what you do. That’s why you went freelance: to get away from office politics and focus on what you love. In your head it would just be you, in a beautiful place, creating wonderful things.   Looming deadlines But somehow you still have a long list of people you’re putting off getting in contact with, dreading those phone calls. Your deadlines are fast approaching and you’ve no idea whether or not you’re going to meet them. With a bit of organization you can avoidmany of these situations and smooth down confrontations before they get prickly. 1/ Your client hasn’t got back to you with feedback from the initial draft ‘Pre-hassling’ is the key here. Agree with your client when you hand over your draft how long it will take them to give feedback. It’s much easier to be assertive earlier rather than later in the project. If you’re both clear on the date, usually just a polite query is enough. 2/ You haven’t heard from a team member in a while By agreeing a communications schedule with your whole team you can keep on track of everyone’s progress. This could involve something like a … Continue reading

Freelancers: Boost your income with effective project management

There has never been a better time to be a freelancer. A recent study by PCG (a UK-based freelancers’ association) showed that an incredible 84% ‘believed that business opportunities would stay the same or increase in the months to come.’ The 2011 Freelance Industry Report found that ‘Fifty-four percent of freelancers wouldn’t even consider working as an employee again’ and ‘The majority of freelancers (52%) either have not been impacted by the economy or have faced only a very minor impact.’ There’s a whole lot of optimism out there in the global freelance community. Recession? What recession? That doesn’t mean we can sit back and rest on our laurels. If anything, we need to solidify our position as the buoyant sector of the economy and keep working on our gains. “But I already work every waking hour!” That’s where effective project management comes in. You’re working hard to meet those deadlines, now let’s turn things around and make those deadlines work for you. Your deadlines give you structure With effective project planning you can work back from each deadline to create a project plan that allows you to focus on the tasks in hand and not worry about upcoming ones. … Continue reading

Keeping it simple: 5 reasons to use a spreadsheet to plan your project

Many freelancers would say they don’t have the time, the inclination or the need to learn to use specialist project management software. But there are alternatives – you don’t have to give up on trying to organize your projects altogether.  You can very easily use a spreadsheet to plan your projects and keep track of your work if you don’t want to use specialist software.     1. Sharing One problem with dedicated project management software is that if you want to send your plan around your team they will also have to download the same software.  You can save the plan as a pdf, but that does mean it is static and can’t be altered by anyone but you.  Most of your team members should be able to open a spreadsheet and even change things if needed.  2. Learning curve Learning new software can be time-consuming. If you already know how to use spreadsheets competently you should find it fairly quick to create one for a new project.  Once you’ve got a template you’re happy with you can add new projects in a fraction of the time.  3. Overkill Using project management software for keeping track of simple projects … Continue reading