A reader writes:
Is it financially feasible for a solo freelancer (Ex: Developer, Designer, Marketing Consultant, etc.) to hire or partner with a PM on their projects? How can a one person shop afford to hire someone like you without taking a loss on the project?
As a follow-up, what are some of the benefits of working with a PM when you specialize in another discipline? How can I leverage the fact that I have a PM on my "team" to better sell my services and provide a better client experience?
Why yes, yes it is feasible for a solo freelancer to hire or partner with a PM on their projects. But before I go into that, let's start with your follow up: what are some of the benefits of working with a PM and how can you leverage them?
First off, you probably went into business for yourself as a developer or designer or marketing consultant because you're really good at developing or designing or marketing. Now that you're out on your own, you now have to give status updates to clients, gather their business requirements, keep track of hours, estimate a job from start to finish, bill clients, and make sure your work is still in scope. You have to be crazy organized and have charts and projections, et cetera et cetera all the things that aren't what you want to do. That's the bummer part of the business according to everyone I've ever talked to who wasn't a PM. Well - good news, PMs literally do all of that. We run interference, we think of all the stuff people forget when they estimate a job (rounds of revisions and QA, for example), we organize and chart and smooth things over and give bad news if it happens (so you don't have to), and we do all the work needed so you get to do the thing you wanted to do in the first place. I mean, unless you like that other stuff. Do you like that stuff? No one likes that stuff, no one but me and my PM friends.
So a PM will do all the stuff that's not the thing you went into business for yourself to do. You can also leverage them by letting them be the face of your "company". Think about how differentiated you'd be as a freelancer if you had a PM. We're like real life business cards, we instantly make you even more legit. We're your leg up. And we're doing all the work you don't want to do.
Back to your original question, can you afford a PM? Yep. You "bake in" the cost of the PM into your own costs. You're going to be able to take on more work because you no longer have to do the stuff you don't really like, and your work is going to be even more stellar than it already was because you're going to have a second set of eyes on everything, someone with a different skillset that can keep you in the black. PMs typically charge anywhere between $85 and $125/h, and can usually be covered by 15% over your total projected hours for the work. You focus on the work you have to do, you stay efficient and focused, and the PM handles the rest, without adding a ton of overhead.
And by the way? Good PMs are fantastic upsellers. People get really annoyed when they talk about PMs sometimes because we're always so hyper-focused on scope. But that benefits you, because when we know something is out of scope, we don't just say YOU DIDN'T PAY FOR THAT, we say "that's an excellent addition that we could do in phase 2 for just $$$." Wait, you didn't plan for a phase 2? Wasn't even something you dreamed about? Well, we did. We always do. Your one-time project just turned into a longer term, phased engagement.
Need more convincing? Take a look at these scenarios to see if you are ready for a freelance PM.
So, find a PM, ask them about your next project, and see how the numbers pan out for you. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Good luck!