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6 must have project management skills for freelancers

6 must have project management skills for freelancers

There is more to being a freelance project manager than drawing pretty plans, barking out orders to team members on slack and sitting in your office sipping diet soda. Proper project management skills set apart successful freelancers from the rest

Freelance project management is about leadership. It’s about getting stuff done through the application of skills, tools and specialized techniques to meet project deadlines and surpass project requirements.

A freelance project manager is a master of different skills – a Jack or Jill with many talents. What elevates the best is that they get the job done, in time, within specifications and budgetary constraints.

Getting to that level takes time, dedication and experience. Six critical digital project management skills separate the pros from wannabes. Master them, and you’ll be on your way to being a sought-after project manager in 2019 and beyond.

These skills include:

  • Leadership ability
  • Communication mastery
  • Effective time management
  • Ability to meticulously plan
  • Exceptional negotiation skills
  • Subject matter expertise, etc.

Why do these skills matter and how do you hone, develop and demonstrate them in your work? Let’s get to that below.


leadership - project management skill


Leadership is not about a fancy title, corner office or a fat check. It’s about vision.

Capable leaders set the tone for the team. They motivate, serve, coach and inspire team-mates to be the best and achieve results together. A leader is like a maestro symphony conductor. She knows her stuff, her team and the actions to take to deliver a stunning performance.

Leadership is not about title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers.

Robin S. Sharma

A leader provides vision, a roadmap for success and serves the team to achieve a goal. As a freelance team leader, you mentor, galvanize, and enforce processes within the team to keep everyone in line.

It doesn’t matter what individual team-mates do, ultimately, the BUCK STOPS WITH YOU! You’re responsible for your team’s actions and the final result.


Projects crumble under the weight of minutiae without proper, strategic plans.

A plan outlines and organizes tasks in order, giving each task the proper weight to hit the desired outcome.

Digital project managers must give planning the serious attention it deserves and monitor progress each step of the way to make tweaks when necessary.

No plan survives the battlefield as one famous saying goes. It’s your job as the team leader to adapt strategies to each situation, keeping in mind the ultimate goal.

To this end, create statements of work, estimate timelines, plan out your days, keep status documents up to date, focus on the mission and readjust when necessary.

Plan for success. Plan for disasters. Plan to the extent that you’re always ten steps ahead and know what’s next. Keep back up plans as well. To quote Murphy’s Law, “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”

Be prepared when it does.



Effective communication is the backbone of any undertaking that involves different stakeholders, especially in a virtual or distributed work environment. It’s a MUST HAVE SKILL in the freelance digital project manager’s toolkit.

Communication ensures all people are on the same page. A good freelance project manager must communicate clearly and learn to listen. You need to take notice of any issues affecting your teammates ability to do their job.

Your team requires the right information to operate while your clients need constant project updates. It’s your job as the PM to create as many touch-points with all stakeholders as possible. No single client, or even team member ever complained from over-communication.

A breakdown in communication channels however will spell doom for your working relationship and the effectiveness of your team.

Additionally, it’s essential to adapt your communication system to particular members and situations.

People react differently to different forms of connection. Some respond well to brief written updates while others prefer face to face sit-downs or video calls. Tailor your communication appropriately.

The underlying principle is that with the right message, right timing, to the right people and through the proper channels, your team can overcome any hurdle and deliver mind-blowing results.

Subject matter expertise

Savvy project managers are masters in different trades. They know enough about each aspect of the project to create a plan, manage and execute it correctly with the team, platforms and systems available.

They also know their limitations.

You must know a bit about everything to be a competent freelance project manager. That knowledge arms you with the skill to give project estimates, explain any holdups to clients and estimate the length and cost of each project.

You should seek to understand how things work and tie together. Learn about strategy, product design, social media, development, etc.

Be a knowledge sponge to make a versatile digital project manager.

The result of your learning and dedication is a successful project delivery every time!


Negotiation is about building consensus and bringing disparate groups with competing interests to rally together.

Freelance project managers negotiate daily. You negotiate deadlines with clients, task priorities with team members, resources with your stakeholders, etc.

Learn to create win-win situations in any negotiation without burning any bridges. Compromise where necessary and hold firm without damaging relations.

Time management

time management skills

Time management is one of the key project management skills for any professional and more so for freelancers. There are a million things to do each day, but only a few that move a project forward. You must identify and prioritize critical tasks.

Determine and communicate how and on what other people spend their time. Learn how and when to say no if the situation calls for it.

It’s easy to get buried in urgent tasks on a project. Savvy freelance project managers resist the urge and focus on the top 20% tasks that deliver results. Set time aside each day for critical functions and stick to your guns.

Final Thoughts

With these skills, you’re well armed to take on any project. Your team and clients will love you and refer you to their friends, colleagues and business associates. Ultimately, you become an invaluable member to any group you join because you get stuff done.

What other project management skills do you look for in others? Which ones are you trying to develop? Let us know in the comment section below and join the conversation on social media.

About The Author

Simon Elstad

Simon is a freelance writer, content marketer & digital entrepreneur. He writes on business, tech, marketing, etc. He works closely with entrepreneurs helping them build thriving businesses. Can be found at: SimonElstad.Com or Contact and connect on Twitter & LinkedIn

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