Contributed by Laura Pennington
When I first started out as a virtual assistant, I had no idea how many doors it would open. I had no formal training or certifications in project management and many of my early VA jobs were simply completing tasks.
When a recruiter reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in managing a team of freelancers for a big company, I was shocked. I had no background in this! I was able to meet my own deadlines, sure, but how could I take on a team of 10 freelancers if I’d never done it before?
That experience was in 2014 and since then I’ve worked as a digital project manager for TrueCar, Microsoft, LevelUp, and many more. Being a project manager is slightly different than being a VA, but it’s a great way to exercise your strategic muscle and serve amazing clients. That’s not even to mention commanding higher rates!
Even though I fell into project management accidentally, I’ve learned a lot along the way. And what follows are my insights about the most important qualities for a project manager to have in order to succeed. If you’re thinking about making the transition to become a project manager or just incorporating it into your offerings, see how many of these ring true for you.
You’re an Excellent Communicator
Most digital PMs serve as a go-between with the client and the contractors. This means you have to hear both sides, interpret what’s being shared, and reiterate back what’s necessary to the other group. In one of my PM jobs, I was interpreting the needs of a European client for U.S. based writers, and my role as PM was critical for ensuring things weren’t misinterpreted with regard to cultural differences.
As a PM, you’re the middleman, so you have a lot of responsibility to set clear boundaries with both groups and make sure things are working smoothly. That might occasionally mean disagreements with your liaison at the company or letting people go from the contracted team- which is never easy. As a great communicator, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle these tough situations.
You Love Setting Up Workflows
As a digital project manager, it’s your job to determine the workflow. Everything from setting boundaries to ensuring that people follow guidelines, most clients want you to control the workflow. In many cases, you’ll be able to set up the rules for all of hiring, submission, and possibly even invoicing.
You must be prepared to adapt, since each PM role may look somewhat different. You’re likely going to be responsible for workflows in every position.
You Love Taking Big Picture to Small Picture
In most digital PM jobs, the client cares about getting an end result. Freelancers, however, need more guidance- how to do it? When to do it? Are there rules about doing it? How do they get paid?
As the PM, it’s your job to see that end goal of the clients while breaking it down into meaningful instructions, steps, and guidelines for the freelancers. You must have a keen sense of timeline required to get things done and be willing to adjust if something you’ve required in the past simply isn’t working out.
A lot of being a digital PM is about testing. It took four iterations of invoicing rules for one team I worked on before we found something that stuck and made sense for all. But it’s about taking all those complex inputs and finding a solution that works for the entire team.
If you’ve been thinking about becoming a digital project manager, now is the time! There are more PM jobs popping up than ever before, especially at places like the VAinsiders Club!
Laura Pennington is a virtual assistant, project manager, and freelance writer who coaches others how to launch and grow freedom-based, flexible online businesses and you can learn more about her at her website.