Freelance Project Management

Freelance Project Management

So you’ve got a freelance gig. You’re excited and you want to get cracking. I bet you’ve got some cool ideas and can’t wait to get started! Well I’m here to tell you that just diving in is the last thing you should do.

Before you start designing, you need to understand some basic things about the project.

Who are you designing the project for?

This is easy, right? You’re designing the project for the publisher, right?


While the publisher is employing you, you need to consider the end user. Who are they? What do they want from the finished product? What are their expectations?

Answer those questions and you have taken a big step towards designing a successful product.

What are the project’s goals?

Sure, the goal of the project is probably to be a commercial success (i.e the publisher is hoping to make some money by producing a product his customers want) but you need to dig deeper than that.

What exactly is the product’s purpose? For example, is it part of a product line? Is it a standalone product or part of a series? Does it have a particular theme, feel or setting?

Behind the design curtain, does it have specific goals? Is it meant to simplify a certain aspect off game play or preparation? Introduce a new subset of rules?

Understanding a project’s goals empowers you to design outstanding work.

What does success look like?

How do you know if you’ve succeeded in turning over a great piece of work? Hitting the turnover deadline and expected word counts are both vital facets of success but they are not the only things you need to consider.

Employing an extreme example, turning over ten pages of new spells is a tad pointless if you were contracted to produce ten pages of new feats. Similarly, turning over an adventure whose encounters have an average EL of 4 when you were contracted to produce an adventure for 1st-level characters on time is likely a failure.

Failure sucks. Not only does it waste time (yours and the publisher’s), it means you are unlikely to get paid and the publisher will have a flop on his hands (or a hole in his schedule). Before you start a project it is therefore vital to know what the publisher is expecting you to achieve. If you are unsure, ask – they’ll be happy to clarify matters.

Closing Thoughts

The above advice may seem blindingly obvious, but you would be surprised how often designers ignore even the clearest instructions. If you know what you are doing, who you are doing it for, why you are doing it and the criteria for success you stand a much better chance of successfully completing your freelance project.

About the Designer

Creighton is a keen gamer who passionately believes in the Open Gaming License and is dedicated to making his games as fun and easy to enjoy as possible for all participants. Reducing or removing entry barriers, simplifying pre-game prep and easing the GM’s workload are the key underpinning principles of the products he releases through Raging Swan Press.

Over the last 11 years, Creighton has worked with Expeditious Press, Paizo and Wizards of the Coast. He now releases his own products through Raging Swan Press. You can read his thoughts on game design at

Creighton lives in Torquay, England where, apparently, the palm trees are plastic and the weather is warm. He shares a ramshackle old mansion with his two children (“Genghis” and “Khan”) and his patient wife. Famed for his unending love affair with booze and pizza he is an enduring GREYHAWK fan.

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