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Project Management Made Easy – Brief Handbook for Freelace Translators

Efficient project management for your translation projects.

Before the pandemic started I had the amazing opportunity to share my thoughts about project management in the translation industry in front of an elite public, freelance translators interested in growing and expanding their horizon and professional network in the translation industry. The event was hosted in Cluj by TranslateCluj, and I had to speak in front of a large number of translators about this industry.

I initially felt as an impostor, as I am not a translator. I have no superior linguistic studies. However, here I was, standing in front of them, being passionate about this industry for 12 years back then and 15 years today. But I like to think that we do not sell translations, but project management services.

What started out as a side business introduced to me by my high school colleague soon became my baby. The Department was born out of my desire to do things my own way. With a great team on my side, the transition was smooth. We practically grew up together and continued our path guided by the same values, all respect-oriented. Even if it sounds cheesy, if you don’t value and respect yourself, no one else will. 

More simply said, it does not all revolve around earnings and checking a task off your list. It’s about the process and how you manage to handle everything. Our approach paid off during the past years: most of our clients have chosen us following a recommendation they received, and they choose us over and over again due to the good professional relationship that we have.  

During my experience as a people manager, project manager or business owner, I had the chance to experience first-hand what are the benefits of simply being respectful with the people you work with. 

It all goes beyond costs and deadlines. At the end of the day, it all comes down to being happy about how you managed to do your job, the relationships that you build and doing something meaningful. I always go by the saying: Treat others how you want to be treated. 

This is how my presentation on project management for translators looked like – not as pretty as the actual Power Point slides, but containing the same highlights:

Don’t forget to respect:
• yourselves
• your business
• the people your work with
• your clients

If you don’t value and respect yourself wholeheartedly, no one else will either.

Freelancing means…

  • being a translator
  • being a business owner
  • being an all-in-one employee: doing the books, handling your contracts, dealing with late payments, IT issues and all the rest.

Being a project manager, in fact.
Whether you realize it or not.

While drafting the slides for this presentation on project management in the translation industry, I took some time to talk to a few translators to have their input on what the ideal PM would look like. 

As you might notice, the wishes that the PM and the translator seem to have overlap quite a bit. I am curious how would you continue the list that I started earlier. Let’s see. We have the following so far: treat us as equals, be proactive, offer support and don’t be pushy. 

What boxes do you have to tick as a PM-Translator?

  • be competent, with technical expertise;
  • be organized;
  • be proactive and a multitasker;
  • be cool under pressure;
  • be flexible and creative;
  • be a great communicator;
  • meet the deadlines.

Aside from translating, remember that you:

  • drive sales;
  • manage contacts and contracts with clients;
  • draft quotes and follow-up with potential jobs;
  • prepare the projects for translation for end-clients;
  • keep your terminology resources up to date;
  • issue invoices and follow-up on payments.

Your time-management skills must be sky high in order to deal with everything in a professional manner.

Speaking of time management, take advantage of all the resources you can find, such as:

It might not seem such a difficult job writing an e-mail. But it is. And doing it just right, choosing the right tone, what to point out, what’s the perfect length it should have, if it serves its purpose. Or quite the opposite. 

It might seem basic, but some of our main challenges while training junior project managers were to make them see the big picture and properly addressing something. Be it an e-mail, a phone call, a request sent out to a fellow colleague or translator. 

Keep in mind these simple steps for an efficient management of your translation projects:

  1. reply to the requests in a timely and professional manner;
  2. perform a volume and time frame analysis before accepting a project;
  3. make sure you have a PO/payment/contract for the job;
  4. request clarifications or instructions;
  5. prepare the files for translation;
  6. translate and proofread;
  7. run a QA;
  8. perform the final touches on the layout and deliver on time;
  9. update the Translation Memory;
  10. make sure you issue the invoice and follow-up the payment;
  11. have a clear overview on your projects until they are closed (delivered and paid).

And remember: You already have a superpower. Babies can’t be delivered in one-month, whatever project managers will tell you.
Don’t be afraid to sometimes say NO.

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We have a small collection of articles on our blog for your breaks from lists and work instruments. Two of these are on literary translations and creative writing – you can find them here.

Published on: 24.03.2023

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