There’s an idea that freelancing is a constant round of doing and seeking: as soon as you finish one job, you’re looking for the next one. Of course, the ideal is to seek new work continuously, no matter how closely you want to focus on the jobs you’re trying to complete right now.
But whatever your approach to sourcing work might be, there comes a time in every project when you put your head up and realize that the end is in sight. You’ll soon be finished on this job. But then what?
Whether I have the next project all lined up and ready to go, or I’m still negotiating the next gig, there are a few tasks that I always try to complete at the end of a project, to prepare myself for whatever’s in store.
Project Review and Opportunity Search
Toward the end of a project, I begin to think about what I’ve learned from it. Perhaps I’ve had a chance to work in a different industry, do something I hadn’t experienced before, or learned some new tactics for teamwork or productivity.
As well as the good, I try to focus some attention on the aspects of the job that I could have been happier with. If I conduct this kind of review before the end of the project, I occasionally find there’s still a way to improve the areas that I feel aren’t as hot as they could be. I also find that the project is still very fresh in my mind, so it’s not difficult to recall the highlights and lowlights, and assess how I might change my future approach to avoid similar eventualities.
I like to take a serious look at my schedule toward the end of a project, so I know what’s coming in the next month or so. Obviously, I’ll want to schedule in any follow-up tasks for my current project, as well as upcoming work, so I know what I have to manage.
I also find that the days immediately following a project’s completion can be filled with various bits and pieces I’ve put off during the project, and I like to schedule them in so I don’t forget anything.
Finally, the time toward the end of a project often provides a good opportunity to review my weekly schedule and make any changes that have been nagging at me. Perhaps the time constraints for the next project will require me to juggle or reschedule some other commitments, or I just want to mix up my routine a bit. Now’s the time to schedule those plans.
Resume or Folio Update
Whether or not i’m still trying to find my next project, I try to work out which materials from my current project I’d like to include in my folio. I’ve learned from bitter experience that trying to scrounge together copies of my work product can be very difficult after the fact, so I try to snag samples while the going’s good.
I also try to update my resume on and offline with the details of the job I’m about to finish so that my contacts know what I’ve been doing most recently, and can see how my experience and current focus might benefit them.
New Project Preparation
If I have the next project planned, I try to prepare (at least mentally) for its commencement — perhaps I need to remember to get office supplies, set up a meeting with the next client, or do a little background research.
It can be difficult and distracting to try to give attention to your next project while you’re at the pointy end of the current one, but I find a few moments spent thinking about what I’ll need at this point can put me in a good position to be cool, calm and collected, rather than frantic and under-prepared, when the next project kicks off.
I think the end of a project always makes a good time to refocus on what I do. All that project reviewing and resume updating tends to get me thinking about the bigger picture, the kinds of projects I want to do more of, and the types of clients I want to work with.
Reflecting on where I’m at now, and refocusing on where I want to go, feeds back into many of the other tasks I’ve already discussed here. It also generates a sense of direction and progress that can be hard to achieve if you feel your freelance career is just about getting something — anything — to keep the wolves from the door.
These are the tasks I like to undertake toward the end of a project. What’s your standard approach to project wrap-up?