I’ve been working mostly remotely as an IT project manager for the past seven years. Sometimes that has involved running large multi-million dollar projects for deep-pocketed clients meaning the little things and extras on a project definitely aren’t an issue. No concerns with cutting back because certain things are expected and are built in to the overall price of the project.
But as consultants and project managers we are also going to have our share of the small, tightly budgeted project where nearly every expended penny is scrutinized. These clients watch every dime they spend so every task that you and your team are working on may be watched closely because it affects the budget and the dollars they have allocated for this project initiative. It is also more likely that your profit margin on a project like this is small and if something goes wrong causing extra work – and it’s your fault – you could be doing much of the work for free.
In order to help reduce costs or keep things more financially in line and easy to manage, I recommend doing all or some of the following:
Invoice the project client a fixed amount every 2 weeks or monthly. This is basically like a retainer and if I’m doing this in a purely independent consultant role, I bill the work up front. It’s too risky in this economic climate to bill after the fact. Only do that if you really want (or need) this particular customer and they won’t budge at all on the upfront billing issue. Most will budge or meet you halfway letting you bill at the beginning of a two-week period and then pay you one week into it.
Avoid “being there” whenever possible. One of the best ways to keep costs down is to eliminate most or all travel and use conference calls and video calls as much as you possibly can. And remember, there are free ways to do this. Freeconferencecall.com is very popular for free conference calls. And there are several sites that will allow free video conferencing like Zoom or you can use a free service like Skype.
Use a powerful, affordable, web-based PM software. There are many great PM software options available now that allow for full collaboration with the project team and even the client if you so choose. And they often cost a fraction of what one Microsoft Project license will cost your organization. Search for what best suits your project and team’s needs and rely on your team to help manage the project by making their own updates directly in one of these great tools that you can use to actually fully drive the project and the weekly project status calls with the customer.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of free and low cost things you can use as a project manager or consultant to run a low budget or tight budget project for your project customer. The key is to show great value and experience without significantly impacting the financial bottom line of the project. You’re the professional – do your best to recognize and understand when this is necessary with the type of customer and project you’re leading.