What does a translation project manager actually do? As a freelance translator that has never worked for an agency in this role, I have a limited knowledge on the daily routine of a PM. I decided to ask a PM currently working for a translation agency with which I have collaborated for many years. The PM was kind enough to accept my initiation and give us an insight into the role, some tips to translators, shares some positive benefits with working with freelancers and some fears that come with the role!
After studying in the US and working in Germany I cultivated an interest and desire to find an occupation with an International focus. I stumbled upon the role after graduating and here I am today.
What did you know about the translation industry before this role? I knew rather little of the industry before getting the role apart from the basic principles. It wasn’t until some time working the industry that I acquired the knowledge and understanding of the industry. I think generally I had the preconceived idea that translation was a much smaller industry than it actually is and far less diverse.
Everyone would like to know how you choose your translators. I guess you are given a list of names and rates. What happens next? Could you please explain the procedure?
It’s often a case of searching a database and making a choice based on subject area, expertise, experience, what CAT tools are used etc. Every project manager has a different way of going about sourcing and finding a translator or a group of translators they wish to work with and on their projects. My personal method involves some research into what type of specialism would be required, what kind of budget I have and so on (our Sales team agree on prices with the client and from there we establish our budget). I then shortlist a group of potential translators based on feedback, availability and suitability and then I get in touch.
Does the translation agency you work for employ in-house translators? Do you still outsource projects to freelancers or do you complete all projects in-house?
Could you please describe a day in the life of a translation project manager?
Getting to the office and making a cup of coffee is usually the order of the day. (Black no sugar for me). Then the morning usually consists of catching up with the inbox, readying project for deliveries to the client and catching up with the team. Generally speaking however, there is no typical day. Projects are always varied, there are always surprises and the daily schedule is rarely the same. I would best describe a ‘typical’ working day of a project manager resembling that of the mediator or middle man of a translation project. We’re in touch with the client, the translators and other external stakeholders holding the pieces together and making things happen. It can be a complex operation but orchestrating projects is very rewarding.
What advice would you give to freelance translators to get more projects from translation agencies?
A strong track record, an all-round profile and developing a good professional relationship with the project manager goes a long way to securing frequent work. Make yourself standout and take a variety of different types of projects; it’ll undoubtedly teach you new things and enhance your profile. The top 3 attributes I look out for in translators are integrity, flexibility and attention to detail. Language skills and linguistic awareness come in handy of course!
What are your worse fears when you collaborate with freelance translators?
I often feel like I can entrust a translator with a project, providing the instruction is sound and they have everything they need to complete the work to the best of their ability, being the language experts that they are. Nevertheless there is always an element of doubt and you do have to put some faith in the hands of the linguist. Fear is often induced by what you cannot control and so I would have to say acts of god top the list. If a storm wipes out the electricity of a freelancers hometown on the day of a deadline, there is little you can do. (This has happened to me before!).
What are the benefits of collaborating with freelance translators?
There’s a great deal of knowledge and insight into language, culture and life in general that can be procured from working with freelance translators from all over the world. There’s also the opportunity to develop great working relationships with interesting people, even though they may be many miles apart and you may never meet them face to face.
Have you ever worked as a translation project manager? Would you like to add your experiences or give some tips to freelance translators? Feel free to comment below!