multitasking translation project manager
multitasking translation project manager

Nowadays, the definition of manager has become so widespread that it is not always clear which types of responsibilities can be assigned to different types of managers (finance, sales, web, etc). More mysterious still, is the profession of a translation project manager. Who are they? – Are they simply dispatchers who merely receive orders and submit them for execution, or are they managers who actually make decisions? Here are some details that could help better understand the responsibilities of translation project managers and the importance of their work.

Responsibilities of the translation project manager

The translation project manager’s responsibilities differ sharply from one translation agency to another. Generally, there are two types of translation agencies:

  • Companies where the processes require that all individual tasks – interaction with the client, receipt of a project, distribution of tasks between translators and proofreaders, and accounting for finances – are performed by specialised employees. Within such an organization the “real” management is, in fact, handled only by the head of the office, who has to oversee the successful functioning of the constructed architecture. The success of a translation agency using this type of work organization depends on the clarity of the rules and guidelines, ideally in all possible scenarios.
  • Companies where the head of a translation agency needs to delegate management roles to a person who is able to work independently and make decisions at all levels. When a new project order arrives, all tasks related to its execution – determining by who, when, at what rates and how exactly this order will be executed, as well as monitoring the execution itself – are assigned to the project manager. The manager becomes a stand-alone unit that makes its own decisions. The challenge of the translation agency using this type of work organization is more about the human qualities of the manager: leadership, speed, self-sufficiency and flexibility.

How to find a good project manager?

The project manager position is one of the highest stages in the professional career of a successful office employee who is willing to upgrade and possesses the required personal qualities. A good manager is familiar with the translation and proofreading processes, quality standards, and can at any moment take part in the translation job, redistribute a task, agree on something with the client, find a way out of non-ordinary situations, etc.

Difficulties in the manager’s work

Some might say that the translation project management is one of the easiest jobs of the world: how hard can taking the files from the client, transferring them to the translator/editor, delivering a perfect translation to the client, entering the financial information and finally closing the project be? Sometimes a project can turn into a blockbuster scenario: because different clients have different requirements and expectations, the manager rarely succeeds in carrying out the project “in accordance with the guidelines”.

It seems that nothing serious will happen if you delay the project for a few hours. But in the modern localization process many people are involved, and the text transferred to the translation agency is transmitted afterwards to editors on the client’s side, quality control specialists and so on. Therefore, the client expects translation within a strictly defined time frame. Delays at any stage of the process can cause a whole chain of failures down the line. Delays, however, do occur. Even proven and responsible translators sometimes exceed deadlines due to unforeseen circumstances. As reputation is extremely important for translation agencies, managers tend to hire mainly reliable translators.

The quality assurance

Yes, it is one of the manager’s responsibilities. No matter how the situation develops, the client must get a properly completed translation. The manager may have quality requirements towards the translator as well as the customer towards the manager. It is important for all parties to avoid any conflict. If the quality of the translator’s work is poor, he has to lay out the reasons why. If the customer has a complaint, the manager should carefully find out whether the complaint is justified and, if it is, politely explain what caused the loss of quality and what actions have been taken to avoid it in the future.

In order to ensure successful cooperation, the manager must have a clear understanding  of the expectations of the client. Whenever the order is followed by detailed instructions is a plus, which helps proper project execution. Sometimes, though, strict implementation of the instructions does not improve but, on the contrary, adversely impacts translation quality; the manager has to explain it to the client and ask him/her to revise some of the instructions. And if there are no clearly defined requirements, the situation gets even more complicated: the manager has to “turn on” his intuition and develop instructions himself.

Dealing with project profitability issues

Project cost-efficiency is one of the key aspects of a manager’s work. However, some projects are unprofitable – for example, internal translations or test translations for potential or very demanding customers. In addition to the project management responsibilities, the manager sometimes also undertakes other tasks, such as translation, editing, proofreading, which means that a committed manager will run out of time very easily. Some issues are really quicker and easier to solve on your own. But from a long-term perspective, it is much more sustainable  to delegate responsibility and devote more time to management proper than to micromanaging  all the work. This will increase the competence of the team as a whole.


The Translation Project Manager is responsible for overseeing the entire project. It is the Project Manager that selects the translator(s), editor(s) and proofer(s) and interfaces between the translation team and you the client to ensure that the entire project goes smoothly. Making hard decisions, taking responsibility and thinking outside the box are essential to be a successful project manager. The work of a manager at a translation agency is very important. His task is to organize smooth interaction between all parties. An experienced Project Manager is your point of contact throughout the translation project and has the ultimate responsibility for finding and eliminating any errors in the project. If he succeeds, everyone is satisfied – translators, clients, the translation agency and the manager himself.


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