return to a full-time position. Instead, she was surprised by how satisfying the short-term work was, she says.
She’s since worked on web-development and media projects with
American Express Publishing, Victoria’s Secret retailers, Milliman actuarial
services and dozens of other companies—and plans to continue on the
“Your portfolio and your credentials matter a lot as a contractor,” Ms.
Phillips says. But once you’ve landed the gig, “it’s great money.”
A January 2013 analysis by Forbes magazine showed that project man-
agement is the second-most lucrative job in the freelance arena, paying an
estimated US$34 to US$46 an hour on average. Project management is also
the third-most popular career category for job seekers on Flexjobs.com, a
freelance jobs site.
The demand for freelance project managers doesn’t surprise John
Thorpe, president of Arras People, a project management firm in London,
England. His company’s research shows that as many as one-third of project manager positions in the United Kingdom are being filled with contract
To make it work as an independent worker, he says, “you have to be
entrepreneurial.” Even if pay rates are high, freelance project managers
have to account for gaps in employment between projects and the added “unbillable” hours to manage
taxes, complete paperwork and promote themselves.
“The best contractors are always talking to people, updating their CV, and making new contacts,”
Mr. Thorpe says. “Their careers live and die by whether they impress people, so they always have to
To set herself apart from the freelance crowd, Ms. Phillips regularly pursues new certifications.
She’s currently studying for the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification. “It’s a lot
like running your own business,” says Ms. Phillips. —Sarah Fister Gale
matter a lot as
—Rachel Phillips, PMP, New
York, New York, USA
A TEMPORARY WELCOME
workers in the
million in the
Source: MBO Partners
If companies don’t manage freelance project managers with the same governance and
oversight as in-house staff, they may be introducing unnecessary risk, says John Thorpe,
Arras People, London, England.
“The biggest cause of failure is not that the project manager does a bad job, but that the
requirements, stakeholder management and project governance are not in place,” he says.
To increase the odds of project success, organizations need a thorough onboarding
process for contractors that ensures everyone understands what’s expected of them and
who has authority over the project, says John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Chal-
lenger, Gray and Christmas, in Chicago, Illinois, USA. “Clear communication and expecta-
tions can help ease this transition.”
Organizations should also prepare unambiguous contract terms that include clearly
defined schedules and expectations for deliverables. “This way, the project managers and
their supervisors know exactly what success and failure look like, and everyone can be
held accountable,” Mr. Thorpe says.
Freelance project managers may also struggle if they aren’t familiar with the corporate
culture and lack a network of internal peers and supervisors. “They can be isolated in
these roles,” Mr. Challenger says. “It may take them longer to figure out who they can turn
to for help.”