Are you someone who lives by the phrase “better done than perfect”? Do you live for the thrill of starting a new project, organizing and delegating and closing milestones? Maybe you always volunteer to supervise school field trips, or you always lead university group projects. If so, listen up, because I’ve got a job you’re almost certainly perfect for:
Every project needs a manager, and project management-based job opportunities are clearly on the rise. Do I have your attention? Then read on for your starter’s guide!
What is a project manager?
So, what exactly is a project manager? Anytime a company takes on a project, from building a building to publishing a book, there needs to be a responsible person who oversees the project from start to finish. This visionary person oversees all the moving parts, understands what must be accomplished, delegates and tests all tasks, and is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a given project.
Some industries have been built on the backs of project managers from the start – such as construction and manufacturing, where the entire process is focused on building a building or making a product. However, as technology and a fast-paced world make managing business and reaching customers more complex, other industries are also learning the usefulness of project managers. That includes online business and entrepreneurship!
It’s a great time to be a project manager. And if you’re super-organized, can break down big projects into sequential tasks, and have both strong leadership and great communication skills, you’re ready to go.
What does a project manager do?
You may be wondering what a project manager actually does on a day-to-day basis. The most correct answer is that it depends on the project and industry you are working on at the time. However, one thing you can count on is that almost every project will involve obstacles, obstacles and unavailable resources – so you have to adapt and be creative every day!
Broadly speaking, though, here’s what you’ll find a project manager expected to do:
- Develop project ideas. Your client may tell you what they want you to do in a project (build an app, create a marketing campaign) or they may tell you what they want done and then expect you to figure out how it can be accomplished (book Engage readers in some way before publication). In either case, you start by breaking the project down into actionable steps.
- Assemble the necessary teams. You will be responsible for assembling a team to meet the various objectives of your project. For example, if you need to develop a social media marketing campaign with short videos, this might involve hiring a copywriter, a graphic design artist, a videographer, a commercial composer, a market researcher, and more.
- Coordinate the various parties concerned. Once you get your team together and start handing out assignments, you actually have to lead the team. Make sure they clearly understand their assignments, get materials from one team member to another, keep them on target, and respond to any delays with creative energy and speed so that the project doesn’t break the momentum. (E.g. replacing a team member if they can’t hold up their end of the bargain, or deal with a poorly done job.)
- Stay on budget. As a project manager, you are also a money manager. You must balance freelancer, service, and production costs against project requirements to your client’s satisfaction.
- Make your deadline. You are responsible for ensuring that your team reaches each milestone on time so that the final project is completed on the due date or even sooner. A project lives or dies by its deadline, especially when dealing with a fast-paced online world that changes daily.
- Engage with the parties involved. In addition to coordinating with your team, you need to communicate with all involved parties (just one, if you’re an individual at the client, or perhaps if you’re contracted to a company). Doing this well and respectfully includes learning the company culture and treading lightly when talking to their C-suite or managing their employees on your team.
- Transition smoothly. For projects that involve an ongoing service (such as building and launching an app) or some minimal maintenance (book promotion, where reader reviews will be collected after the book is launched), you should oversee the handoff of staff from your team to the client.
These are the main guideposts for every project, and carefully observing them and carrying them out successfully will lead to a happily completed project. That can go in your portfolio as you move on to the next project!
What Skills, Tools, and Certifications Should a Project Manager Have?
You have already seen that you need strong organizational and planning skills as well as finely tuned communication skills. You need to know where to hire strong talent, how to create (and stick to) a budget, and have the gut instinct to fine-tune a team and keep them engaged and productive. You should have some contract management and risk assessment skills. Depending on the industry you target, you may need specific knowledge of industrial processes, terms, or science. You should also know how to use the best software and services available for project management, such as Basecamp, Microsoft Project, Slack, Smartsheet, etc.
Apart from skills, you also need experience. You can come at it from an informal angle – all you need is someone willing to hire you. Successfully complete their project and bamboo! You have gained work experience and have a project to put in your portfolio. You can make progress from this informal pursuit alone, especially if you have well-placed connections who are willing to support you. There are projects all around you, and finding them can be as simple as your local hairdresser’s salon that needs a website but doesn’t know how to start, or your cousin’s small day planner business that needs a Kickstarter run.
To supplement your hard-earned experience or give you the training you need going forward, there are courses and certifications you can complete: Many universities (including online colleges like Kaplan University and Liberty University) offer degree or certification courses in project management. You can also go for certification directly at the Project Management Institute: They offer different types of certifications with different education and experience requirements. (You’ll almost certainly want PMI certification to command the fees you deserve.)
This is a great time to enhance your skills by taking project management-related courses. A class like Tina Forsyth’s Online Business Manager Certification Training is a 90-day intensive training course that will give you the tools you need to run the day-to-day operations of an online-based business. This includes managing operations, employees – and projects!
Where can you find project management jobs?
Once you’re ready to hang out your shingle and start searching for project management gigs, there are several resources you can turn to:
- Personal connection. Never underestimate the power of personal connections – check with your family, friends and business contacts on LinkedIn to see if there are any companies or individuals in need of a project manager.
- PMI. Once you are certified, it is definitely worth it to become a member of the Project Management Institute. In addition to instantly establishing your trust, they also offer a job board to their members.
- Online job board. Job boards like FlexJobs, Remote.co and Virtual Vocations can be great resources for finding remote project management positions. And, of course, there is always indeed.
That’s the end of our starter’s guide, leaving you ready to start your project manager life! What are you waiting for?