I was a Project Manager for 6 years. During those years, I did have favorites, and my favorite translators got a LOT of work. How does a translator become a PM’s favorite?

Note: This post is about how a freelance translator can go from being just a name in an agency’s roster to the translator that all Project Managers will work with. It is not applicable to the relationships freelance translators maintain with direct clients.

Deliver great work. A translator whose work is praised by the reviewer or end client will get more work.

Be ultra-responsive. During business hours, I respond to every project offer in under 15 minutes and I try to never let a client call go to voice mail. When you take 3 hours to decline a job, the PM has to find another resource. This person will have 3 hours less to turn around the assignment.

Use your “Out of Office” response. Agencies are high-pressure, fast-paced environments. If I have stepped out for an errand or if my schedule is overflowing, my PMs get an OOO message. That way, they know when they will get a reply or if they should start searching for another linguist.

Be a problem-solver. When a project is riddled with problems, the PM generally knows it and is not coming to us for a lengthy opinion. They want the problems solved.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Is the source text unclear? Does the content of the glossary contradict the reference material? Never make assumptions and ask for instructions right away.

Be there for the agency when others are not. I leaped from the roster of unknown translators to the list of preferred linguists with a major agency by accepting an overnight proofreading assignment on Thanksgiving to help them “rescue” a project that had gone bad. Now, I get offers from them on a daily basis.

Never let a PM down. They will remember it if you do. Deliver great work and deliver it on time. The only acceptable reasons for dropping the ball are serious medical or personal emergencies and even then, you should try to help find a solution. Delivering late because of a bad hair day is a sure-fire way to see a decline in project offers.

Find mutually-agreeable financial solutions for individual projects. If you feel the compensation offered for a project is too low, save the long arguments about rates for Vendor/Resource/Supplier Management. In many cases and in my personal experience, PMs are not allowed to grand universal rate increases. Instead, reply with a simple, take-it-or-leave-it, project-based offer, for example: “I can take care of the revision of this document, and the first round for client changes for $XX.”

Tell the PM why you are turning a job down. Whether it is because of the deadline, the compensation or the subject material, tell the PM why you are saying ‘no’. He or she might be able to do something about it.

Thank the PM. This sounds trivial, but if your recipient sees the words “Thank you” in the email preview feature, he or she will be drawn to the message. The following exchange happened to me today when receiving a PO:
–    Me: My pleasure, thanks for thinking of me, Jane!*
–    Jane: Of course! ♥
Jane sends me work every week, so I already know she thinks of me on a regular basis. And yet, by expressing my thanks, I got a heart! We like working together and it shows!

Finally, be absolutely delightful. As human beings, we are naturally drawn to nice people. Smile on the phone and smile in your emails. Adopt a bright and enthusiastic tone. Be the person that a PM looks forward to talking to.

* Name change for confidentiality and privacy reasons.