10 Jul 2023
by Gillian Morris

Working with a freelance project manager

What's it like to work with a freelance project manager in the language services sector?  Gillian Morris reveals all in her guest blog.

Summer holiday season is approaching, and with that comes an increased number of requests from LSP owners enquiring about my services as a freelance translation project manager. Most people just want to know how it works. Sound familiar?

There are many ways of working with a freelance translation project manager. I’ve been hired for an hour, I’ve been fully-integrated into a system and team for several months, and I’ve worked for someone over a block of several days before. What you get really depends on what you need.

Communication is key

It’s probably best to arrange a call or a meeting first to discuss what you need and see whether you align. Letting a freelancer inside the inner workings of your company is a big deal, but to us it’s no different to working with any other client. I sign your NDA, we come to an agreement together, and we stick to it. I keep everything separate, and I don’t discuss any details with anyone.

Some people worry that I’ll come across clients and linguists that I already know. I do! When I ‘bump into’ a translator I’ve worked with before, I see it as a positive if I already know them. It’s less usual to see clients in different places, but it does happen sometimes when multiple LSPs get asked for a quote. In this case, I have to be upfront about it with whoever I’m working with and take myself out of the equation to avoid a conflict of interest.

With a freelancer, there are no ties on either side, and unless agreed otherwise, either party can walk away at any time if things aren’t working out. This doesn’t feel like an issue when communication is good and everybody knows where they stand. Boundaries need to be discussed early on, as with every relationship. When I begin working for a new client, we discuss what we’re comfortable with. Some good examples of this would be methods of contact, working hours, days off, sharing each other’s names on social media, and so on.

Adapting to a new team

Every company has their own ways of working and team structures, so it’s fair to say that I’m the one that will have to adapt – but this is easy when you do it often.

Although I’m free to work with anyone, I won’t work with more than one regular LSP client at a time. This is partly because I’m also juggling translation and copywriting jobs; I want to make sure that I have enough time for everyone and can be flexible enough to pick up tasks when I’m needed.

If I’m not needed, I’ll just do something else – that’s freelance life for you. Sometimes it gets hectic as things have a habit of all coming in at once, but I do my best to manage my workload and prioritise my regular clients.

Start your search

If the idea of collaborating regularly with a freelance translation project manager sounds appealing, start your search now. You’ll need time to familiarise them with your systems and processes so that they can hit the ground running when needed, and are ready to help during busy periods or unexpected absence, when you still have a full workload to manage.

If you don’t have time, or don’t think it’s necessary to train a freelancer on your internal systems completely, then you could consider sending them other small tasks that can relieve the team of some workload – like Quality Assurance, formatting or file preparation.

And now here’s the question I know you really want the answer to:

Is it more expensive working with a freelancer?

Yes. We charge a higher rate per hour/day/account than you would pay an employee because we’re in charge of our own taxes and equipment, and don’t have the right to paid breaks or holidays. However, not every hour of the working day is a billable one, so it works well for both sides (this is where the trust and good communication comes in). If you only need ad hoc work as opposed to someone working for you full-time, it could save you money in the long run.

If you experience unstable busy periods where you could do with another hand, but aren’t in a position to employ a member of staff, then working with a freelance project manager could be the solution for you.