I am a freelance worker taking on a new project with a company I'm already familiar with. My boss (the company owner) previously gave me a website project to work at while he also assigns a project manager to review the progress. But with my latest project, the setup here is a little different.

My boss assigned to me this project as well. He's only in the office two days out of a week. After the first meeting with the client, I wondered who was the PM since I wasn't introduced to him/her. When I told my boss that in most cases, I'd rather report to the PM because it's easier and more accessible, that's when he informed me there that my PM is the same person as the client! I was a bit shocked. I didn't want to tell him right out that I find something very wrong with that arrangement, but I'm stuck with this project for now.

So I end up being in direct contact with the client once a week, which is good in a few cases, but am responsible for meeting him for extended periods while my boss only sits in for a few minutes. Especially for a project of a scope which will last for a few months, I feel like I'm doing the job of both a project manager and programmer.

I didn't quote him for the project- the PM/client sent the quote to my boss, and my boss is handling my payouts based on that.** He also controls the schedule for the project. So I'm trying to tread carefully with completing the goals so I don't get short-changed.

My biggest concern, though, is the lack of good communication. The PM/client is not very technically inclined, sometimes states goals that are subtly different from what I perceive, and asks for things that are beyond the means of the tools I'm working with. My boss is better at explaining the situation in a broad sense, but like I said he's not always available, and pretty slow at responding online.

Basically, there's a lack of a dedicated PM and there is sparse communication among me, my boss and the PM/client. How would I track my own progress and ensure better performance, and avoid misinterpreting the tasks for the project? I want to stay on a good pace with the communication I receive without feeling stuck or overwhelmed.

I prefer face to face contact. Everyone else in the office updates their progress by discussing with PMs working in the office on a daily basis, and their projects go more smoothly. My boss isn't interested in having one of them work on this project because he says it'll take a lot of time away from their current work. I want to force in more communication in this project but my boss isn't doing much to help.

[Edit] Well, here's an update. What ended up happening is that our client was demanding other features that turned out to be out of scope, and the CMS that we had to use didn't permit addition of these features so easily. My boss and I struck out some of his demands in the essence of time and budget, and last week the client/PM ended up being dissatisfied and cancelled the project indefinitely.

In the future I will stay away from such arrangements with the client doubling as a PM. I think it gives someone far too much control over the direction of a project.

2 Answers 2


You should create a list of tasks to be completed for this project and manage it in a project management system such as Redmine. You should then give all necessary parties access to the project management system and have them add/edit tasks as necessary. With this, they can track your progress and ensure that all requirements for the project are listed and completed.

It's not the face-to-face contact you would prefer, but you definitely need to have something written down and able to be tracked. Otherwise, expectations will not be addressed from all sides and your project will likely suffer.

  • Plus One for Redmine
    – MattyD
    Oct 19, 2011 at 21:42
  • I don't know how I missed this one. I use Basecamp for my projects already. My client/PM just didn't have access to it.
    – Chris C
    Nov 8, 2011 at 19:42
  • @CC Ricers: Provide them with access and see if that helps your cause.
    – Bernard
    Nov 8, 2011 at 19:47

The fact your client and PM are the same person is actually pretty nice. There is no middle man so nothing get's lost in translation which is a real danger as you are already having trouble with just you and him... imagine if there are more people in between?

As Bernard already points you should use this time with the customer to flesh out what you will do in the upcoming week. Identify the features that are the most value and which you can tackle in that timespan and focus on them.

Focus on the details from his point of view. He's non technical and he shouldn't be. You cover the technical part and can tell him what is possible and what's not.

Then make sure you have your requirements written down in a verifiable manner. An issue tracker can be nice for this. Personally I like automated tests but business is not often willing to look at those even in business oriented tools like FitNesse or Twist.

As we're talking about weekly time boxed iterations you'll find you'll have to keep your tasks small as well.

  • "The fact your client and PM are the same person is actually pretty nice." The downside is that I'm still being paid as a programmer, but doing the work of two people. I am not big on client interaction. However, your organizational tips are great.
    – Chris C
    Oct 20, 2011 at 21:33

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