I get it. You’re a writer. Words are your life. The way they fit together, the way they ebb and flow, the way they tell a story in vivid detail. But, most writers are of the “work-for-hire” variety. Freelancers. And that means you are responsible for FAR more than just the writing you do. You have a business to run. Finances to deal with. Money to collect (OMG. I could write a blog about that alone!). And of course, the most important thing of all, a project, or if you’re lucky, projects to manage.
So, how do you go about juggling all of these roles while writing stellar copy? Here’s how: You HAVE to have solid project management skills, and you need to put these skills in place asap. So here’s your blueprint to managing your multitude of projects with the utmost skill.
First, PLAN each and every project down to the final detail.
1. Do the right project. Using benefit cost analysis or ROI, look at the project that gives you the biggest value for your effort and is most aligned with your strategy, moving you in the direction you want to go.
2. Define the scope clearly and precisely.
3. Plan the whole project and make a plan.
4. Work with words and pictures to bring people with different perspectives onto the same page, contributing to the project as needed.
Prepare your team in just two steps:
5. Get the right team. Define the skills needed and get people with those skills. Be honest about gaps, and close them by taking time to learn to get it done right.
6. Get the expertise you need if necessary. Know that being an expert in one area does not mean being an expert in other areas.
Cover all the bases with the nine knowledge areas:
7. Scope. After defining the scope clearly, explain the cost involved in making changes to reduce change requests, then manage all changes, adding to the project only when it is essential.
8. Time and cost. Use unbiased, accurate estimation techniques. Set up systems to gather, track, and analyze time and cost information, so you can keep them under control
9. Quality. At the project level, work to prevent error, then find and eliminate the errors that slipped through. Allow time for rework to ensure you’ve eliminated errors without letting new ones creep in. At the business level, include customers in the revision process, and remember that the goals are customer satisfaction and added value.
10. Risk. Plan for uncertainty; prepare for the unexpected. Perform risk management every week of the project.
11. Human Resources. Help each team member step up self-management and technical expertise. Teach everyone project management skills so that they can improve. Then teach them to work together, until you have a great team of great people.
12. Procurement. Get the supplies and resources you need. If your project involves contracts, be sure to keep the contracts in alignment with project value and specifications.
13. Communications. Have a communications plan, and follow it so that you are in touch with all stakeholders throughout the project. Make sure everyone knows what they need to know to make decisions and get the work done. Analyze status information to create status reports. Be prompt and decisive.
14. Integration. Constantly direct corrective action. Evaluate all events that could change the project schedule, and all scope change requests. Review the effects of any change on all nine areas before making a decision, and then implement a revised plan with re-baselining.
Keep the project on track with stages and gates:
15. Use a life cycle. At a minimum, put a gate at the beginning to clearly launch the project, and then a gate after planning, a gate after doing, and a gate after following through.
16. Every gate is a real evaluation. Bring every deliverable — parts of the product, product documentation, technical documents, the project plan and supporting documents — up to specification. If a project can’t deliver value, be willing to cancel it.
Use feedback with your team and focus on scope and quality in the doing stage:
17. Use feedback at all four levels. Teach workers to stay in lane and on schedule; ensure delivery of milestones; manage project risk; and manage project change. Watch out for continuing problems that indicate a serious planning error, such as lack of attention to one of the nine areas.
18. Focus on scope and quality. Get it all done, and get each piece done right.
Follow through to success:
19. Deliver customer expectations. Seek to exceed them while leaving customers happy with every encounter with your team. Use every success and every error as a chance to learn to do a better job.
20. Remember ROI and lessons learned. Compare actual ROI to planned ROI, so you can be honest about the degree of your success. Compile project historical information and lessons learned to make future projects easier.