What is Project Management really like?

Hello, hello! It’s month four of blog ownership and I’ve already fallen into the trap of letting it fall to the wayside. I must get better at keeping a stock of blogs ready to go during the quieter periods 😊.

If you wondered where I went, the answer is mostly Project Managing, with a bit of localising, translation, and revision as well. It’s been a busy month!

And now my head is truly back in Project Manager (PM) mode (I’m still also translating by the way), so I thought this blog would be a great opportunity to write something down about the job (sometimes called Account Management, sometimes called other things).

If you’re wondering what it’s like to work as a PM, or you’re curious to know what we do all day, then this blog is for you….

We tend to get a bit of a bad rep amongst some translators. Sometimes we’re met with suspicion:

Are you working with a Project Manager to achieve a high-class translation with added value, or are you simply being squeezed as much as possible in terms of time and money so that someone else can reap the rewards?

I can confidently say that we’re not all that bad, despite all the talk on social media about the bottom feeders slashing down the rates and piling on the pressure. It’s very frustrating, but I also sympathise with the Project Managers working for those agencies, who aren’t the ones setting the rates, and will be being pressured from the top. The market rate is also different in other countries, so what’s unfair to you really might not be in a different market. That being said, this week’s work offer was a record low at £0.02/word ⭐.

From the outside, it can seem like the Project Managers are holding all of the power, when in reality, we’re just in the middle – committed to providing an excellent service at a fair price for everyone. I’ve made a point in my freelance career to only work with companies as a Project Manager if I would work with them as a linguist. I want to make sure that everyone I work with is paid fairly and treated respectfully.

Here’s some of my main observations from almost 8.5 years of service in the job:

  • It’s a high-pressure environment, and it’s go go go from start to finish. There’s SO much to remember, with so many balls in the air. Everything is a constant juggle to keep things up and moving.
  • Jobs are rarely the same, or simple. We’ve got complex workflow processes and file formats to deal with.
  • We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got all of the correct information from the client, and communicated that properly with the linguists.
  • We’ve got to find the right people (and their specialisms) in the right languages (and the right variant) at the right time. Time management is everything.
  • We overcome translation issues with linguists; helping them find solutions, relaying that information to the client.
  • Some clients can underestimate how long it can take a human to translate something, and not give us enough time, which can lead to extra (more complex) processes like file splitting.
  • We’re also pretty good at Quality Assurance. I’ve never tried, but I could probably check for typos and double spaces in my sleep by now.
  • Formatting = the gift that keeps on giving. There’s plenty of work in tidying up files so that they look like the original, and it’s especially fun when you’re dealing with languages that expand.
  • There is almost always something that can go wrong throughout a process, and it’s our job first and foremost to not let that happen, but secondly, to get things back on track and not delay a project if something does go wrong.

I’m aware that this isn’t painting a rosy picture for a career in Project Management, but the reality is that it isn’t always easy, and that’s why agencies add value. Project Managers take away a lot of the work from both ends.

BUT, it’s also highly rewarding! Kind of like doing a puzzle. It’s so satisfying when you start off with a jumble of pieces, and at the end of the day you’ve managed to slot everything into place.

It’s a good opportunity to keep up with industry trends and developments, and learn how to use different translation management systems and CAT tools.

I really value the relationships that I’ve built with suppliers and clients over the years, however long or short they’ve been. It’s also so satisfying to see some published material out in the world and secretly know that you had a part in getting it out there.

I’ve also really enjoyed seeing people progress in their career over the years. Finding a translator that’s a perfect fit for your client. Giving a newbie their first ever translation job. Helping a new client understand how the process works, and how they can best reach their target overseas markets.

To all other Project Managers out there, you rock! It’s a tough job, but you’re absolutely worth it.

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