Basic Project Management knowledge for freelancers to handle large translation projects

It becomes common knowledge among translators that now freelancers have the chance of closing the deal on a large volume of translation projects. In many cases, freelancers would restrain themselves from taking such kinds of opportunities since they are not confident with their capacity to finish on time or lack experience in project management. 

However, those two problems are actually very manageable when you are dealing with good clients. Before you proceed on working on a large-volume translation project, it is important for you to know who is the clients and their records, project scope, budget, and deadline. You should make sure that their records are clean from any kind of red notice from their previous collaboration. 

If you are lucky to close a project deal with a reliable client who will surely give your payment at the arranged time with a high translation price, and the project has interesting subject matter, deliverable outputs, and a comfortable deadline, then you should never feel worried to proceed the contract to the next stage.

Working alone or with colleagues

When you are working as a freelance translator, you only work with yourself as it only needs simpler time and quality management compared to working with several freelancers on the same project. If you are new in this field and never dealing with clients by yourself, you should first know the detail of translation language pairs, the area or subject matter, the per-word price, and the deadline. 

Usually, clients will give detailed information about the materials that need to be translated including the details mentioned above. Then, you only need to calculate the deliverability of the project according to your daily capacity. If the volume and deadline are not deliverable with your own capacity, then you should consider another scenario which is to share it with your colleagues.

In a large-volume project, you can work only as a project manager or take a combo as a translator and project manager. What you need to keep in mind when managing a translation project is to make sure that the project will be completed on schedule, within your budget, and meeting the quality standards that have been set before. Therefore, it is sometimes wiser to only take the responsibility of a project manager since you still have tons of work that need your focus.

The importance of project management and CAT tools

In a large-volume translation project with a tight deadline, you may need the help of several translators. You can calculate the number of translators that you need by using the same way as you calculate it for yourself when working alone. Assuming that every translator has a different daily capacity and different speed of translation, you can use their average as the divider of the project volume and deadline.

If you have assembled your team, always remember that you are working as a team that has the same vision, thus project preparation is very crucial before you decide to kick off the project. In this stage, you need to break down the tasks, evaluate the scope, and identify the client’s needs. If you have got all information that you need, you can use a CAT tool to help you create the project’s glossary and set the right format for easier distribution. 

When all set, project planning is in the second stage of your project management. Since you are the one that has the client, you should be the mediator to tell your team about the information that you have in the previous stage. The topics of discussion are mainly translation resources such as translation memory and glossary, the use of the CAT tool, project schedule, and workflow. 

You will also consider the project communication and evaluation in this step so you can monitor the progress or track the workflow of your team.

The use of CAT tools, anything, will help you distribute the translation materials according to each capacity and area of work. Most translation tools are also capable to break down a large structure of materials into several work packages. You can distribute each of them including the translation memory and termbases that you have created earlier into one package for each of your team members. This kind of task distribution is even monitorable with some online project management translation tools or translation management systems (TMS).

The other of using such technology in translation allows you to reintegrate the translated documents again. Integrating several work packages into a single output format that is wanted by the clients. For example, if you have a PDF file commissioned by the client, then you should hand over a similar file format without hurting the original layout and arrangement. CAT tools can help you handle this easily with their friendly functionality.

Monitoring the translation progress

Communication is the key when your project has started. Clients will regularly contact you with updates as well as check your team’s progress. This stage could be very stressful but having good communication with both client and all team members will help you to complete the project. As a project manager, you should always inform your team about client updates which are normally about terms, ‘do not translate’ elements, and deadline changes. 

While communicating about those things, you should monitor your team’s output quality and provide direct feedback so that you will not need extra time for editing later. The monitoring should be frequent but not very often as you can distract your translators’ focus. You can ask the senior or the most experienced translators in your team to work as an editor if necessary. 

Monitoring is also useful when your clients are asking for samples for reviewing. This is normal since they also want to know the progress and also the overall quality of your team’s output. This can be a back-and-forth process but necessary to make sure a satisfying project result and on-time deliverability.

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