I've been helping startups as VP Product and am now considering freelancing. Whether you're early stage or growth stage, I can see the need for a dedicated PM, but a good PM in whatever shape or form is way better than a dedicated average PM. So I'm curious - would you hire a freelance PM to help you out ?
In my experience, international organizations of all sizes successfully hire freelance product managers and/or product consultants. This is especially true In the entertainment and media business. Anyone who says differently has probably never seen it done successfully. Are there challenges with freelance - absolutely - but what do you think all this product development lifecycle software is used for?! What are all these telecommuting tools, online presentation tools, and mobile phones used for?!
Apparently the naysayers here have never worked with a large organization that has multiple international offices -- many times, this is the ONLY way to get things done.
Hiring a freelance Product Manager is a terrible idea. There is certainly merit to someone with a lot of recent Product Management success (notice I said success, not experience) helping an inexperienced product manager improve process and practice, but the idea of a wholesale outsource for this role is really not something that I would suggest you promote.
It would be a terrible signal to investors and it would lead in almost every case to a suboptimal result for the product.
I know of companies that hire contract Product Managers. I've interviewed a number of PMs over the years and otherwise been involved in PM hiring decisions while leading engineering and scientific teams.
Although most firm prefer W-2 (direct) PM hires for a number of reasons (including legal), sometimes the applicant will request 1099 status. They might be former W2 employees we are now part-time in business school or raising a family, and can't commit to the full-time workload. There might be temporary Visa issues that allow 1099 but delay a W2 hire.
The most common reason I can see is if the firm is a start-up that is rapidly scaling up and doesn't want to commit to a full-time hire until either they've secured additional funding and the person has proven themselves in the lighter 1099 role (or possible both). This is the way some temp hiring works: the employee will be on a W2 from the temp agency, but is a contractor to the employer. That's a route some better funded start-ups will pursue if they're desperate to make a PM hire, but don't want to take the legal risk on a direct hire. Later, when finances are more certain, they might convert the temp to a direct hire.
It doesn't sound like you're in any of the situations I just mentioned. The term "PM" potentially encompasses a wide range of skill sets. It could be anything from someone with some simple time-management and prioritization skills all the way through very technical or client-facing PM roles that may require valuable technical, sales, marketing, branding and management skills. You mention you're former "VP Product" so it sounds like you're probably at the high-end of the PM skill range. Therefore, it's doubtful you could find a position through a temp agency.
Start-ups that are rapidly scaling will try outsource their non-core functions, including more senior-level positions. You have firms specializing in outsourcing entire HR departments, business development departments, engineering and IT departments. See advertisements for start-up advisors on places like Clarity that say they are "a timeshare CTO."
So those are some strategies you could try. You could work as a project manager for an outsource engineering or IT firm that presumably requires an elastic workforce to handle client requests. You could try rebranding yourself as an "timeshare Chief Product Officer" that saves start-ups money by providing them with a part-time experience product person at a fraction of the full-time hire rate.
I have experience in a number of areas, and have started on Clarity by listing myself as an expert in analytics and predictive modeling. But I've interviewed hundreds of engineering and PM candidates over the years for extremely selective employers, and have worked closely with PM roles while leading my teams. I'd more than happy to take a call and answer any follow-up questions you might have.
ONLY STUPID PEOPLE HIRE FREELANCE PROJECT MANAGERS.
Bringing a product to market is the most important role (almost) in an organization. Why would anyone in their right mind outsource that.
I would completely lose confidence in any leader who want part time help doing a full time job.
PLUS -- accepting that job puts you at such a disadvantage. Why be responsible for things where you are not under control?
(BTW, I'm not calling you STUPID. Just pointing out that you have better ideas than this...)
You really have to question the organization you are in, or running, if you are outsourcing the lynchpin of your customer development and product development. This is especially important if you are at the early stage. If those full time invested in the company aren't setting the vision, which leads to the roadmap and then backlog to execute...then who is?
Different organizations view PM differently. Some confuse them with project managers...avoid at all costs. They don't know what they want: someone to set the vision because they don't have one and/or be the middleman between them and the engineers...again, avoid at all costs.
In my experience, unless you have a strong ability to offer more value than just product management, the assignments tend to go to a dedicated product manager or the other teammates or CEO provides this role and then they hire either a long term consultant or a full-time person. If you're a long term consultant, at least half your time is invested in the project, typically. You can freelance more easily doing two VP Engineering roles that also covers Product.