Before you start working as a translator, there are little practical details you won’t have even thought about yet. Project management is one of those things. At the beginning, you won’t be getting much work (unless you’re really lucky) so it won’t be hard to keep track of your jobs. As you start to get more work, it’s a good idea to have some sort of system in place, starting from the moment you get a job offer. Here’s my step-by-step guide:
1. Can you do this job? Check the deadline, the number of words, software requirements and the documents to be translated. You might not be able to read the text in full but have a skim to make sure you have the knowledge or at least the resources to tackle the topic. I’ve realised recently I should open the document with my CAT tool too in case there are any technical issues.
2. Accept the job offer. Do you have any questions for the Project Manager? Ask them now.
3. Save the document(s) to be translated. You will figure out the best way to organise your folders. Mine are organised by client, then project.
Do you have a backup system in place to make sure you don’t lose your work?
4. Enter the job details into your project management tool. I use Microsoft Excel to log my jobs and this is what it looks like:
At the beginning, you won’t know how much you can manage in a day or what your work rhythm is. This is why I added the Estimated Time and Average Output columns. The Estimated Time is the number of hours/days you plan to spend translating and proofreading. The Average Output is the word count divided by the number of hours/days you actually spend. Once you’ve finished a job, you can compare your expectations with reality.
Remember it’s not all about word count – a short technical piece might take the same time as a 2,000 word news article.
Once you know your own speed, it’ll be easier to decide whether to accept future job offers. Unfortunately that comes with experience and you will inevitably accept a job without realising how long it’ll take you. Your average output will also help to calculate how much you’re earning per hour so you can determine whether certain jobs are worth your time. The great thing about Excel is that it’s easy to make calculations and this will be useful when you’re invoicing too.
5. Make your intentions. This is a step I’ve thought about recently and I’d like to start implementing it. Most of us don’t translate just to earn money (although that is of course important), we do it because we love it. We have an overall goal or maybe we’re still thinking about what that goal is. Thinking about this before starting a translation can make the job more fulfilling. What do you hope to achieve by doing this translation? How will it help you to achieve your overall goals? Will this translation help another person? The great thing is, a translation will nearly always help someone else, if not many people.
6. Start translating.
This is very basic project management but it’s a start. There are plenty of apps available now to help you manage your projects but I haven’t tried any yet. I will at some point and let you know what I think.
Have you got any ideas to improve my system? Your comments are welcome!