Tips for managing time expectations in consulting "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs August 08 2013 True Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 612 Product Management 2.448

Tips for managing time expectations in consulting

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timeAs a freelancer, one of the most common scenarios I’ve been asked about over the last few months is what to do when the hiring company believes they need a full-time person, but you’re only interested in part-time projects.

While some may be interested in taking on that type of project (more security and potentially more money), personally, I’ve always pushed back on the client (ever so gently) and assured that the work can be done in a more flexible way, often without the typical five-day-grind commitment for either of us.

A few things to keep in mind when proposing an alternate work schedule:

1. What is the scope of the project?
As an experienced product manager, you should have a pretty good idea of how much time a project is actually going to take to complete. Think through some important questions when proposing more accurate time requirements. Would you need regular access to developers, designers, user experience or stakeholders? If so, the project might be a bit more time intensive as you have to work within other’s schedules and it might require you to be in the office more often. Will you be required to be in quite a few meetings as well? If so, that will take away from the time you’ll need to finish off specific deliverables.

When proposing a more flexible work week, just ensure that you’ve given yourself enough time to actually do the project well. So, take some time to understand the finer details of the project, and if you feel confident that you can deliver in a more flexible way – by all means – tell the client. They should respect you for your know-how and honesty.

2. Why does the organisation want you five days a week?
Is it just for ‘face-time’, aka Marissa Mayer’s resurrected Yahoo! HR policy, (I can say that because I used to work there :)? Or, is the project actually going to take that much time? To answer this question, again, think through the requirements of the project.  If you, as an experienced product person, know there’s no reason to work full time to complete the project, find out more about the culture of the organisation.

Quite often, hiring managers seem to feel safer, more comfortable just knowing you’ll be there every day – but that doesn’t ensure the product will be done better/faster than if it was a few days a week. Remember, you’re the product expert and you should feel comfortable helping the client create a project that really will work for both of you.

Happy employer = happy product manager, meaning everyone wins. However, you may find that the culture really is one that requires you at a desk from 9am-6pm, five days a week. At that point, it’s your call. Personally, I’ve walked away from those contracts before.  If I wanted an inflexible work life, I never would’ve gone freelance!

3. How much time do you want to commit to the project?
This will depend on numerous things – your interest in the project; the amount of time that you have to dedicate; even your personal financial situation. Need more money and looking for a stable gig for a few months? Go for it – don’t fight the force! If you’re super interested in the project and think it’ll be a great experience – jump in!

The point is to remember that you are your own boss. There will be times when you/me/we need to take a project to pay the bills. That’s completely understandable. There will also be other times when you can politely tell them to take their five days and …well, you know…:)