What do you look for in a PM? What makes a good one.
Thread poster: Ward Whittaker

Ward Whittaker  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:25
Portuguese to English
Dec 21, 2011

Hi all,

I thought I'd start this thread just to get an idea what others are thinking. We freelancers know that there are good and bad PMs out there and I thought that perhaps some of them may read this thread and learn.

What I look for in a PM are the following:

1) A sense of humor. This is imperative in a high stress industry like this one. We need to be able to share a laugh. It's what keeps us human and sane.

2) No micromanaging please. I find the best PMs are the ones who delegate a job and then just leave me alone to do it without checking up on me every day. They should be able to tell enough about me by my profile and history to know that they have chosen the correct person for the job, and they should therefore have the faith in me to deliver good product, on-time. Many times the client does not require rolling delivery but insecure PMs demand it just to cover their own insecurities. Rolling delivery is sometimes necessary, but it does not produce the best work. In large multiple document sets, we sometimes find a clue in a later document that gives us a better term, but if we have already send some doc back, its too late to update them.

3) Honesty and good communication. I think these two traits go together. The more information they share with me, the better the product I can give them. We all sign NDAs, so withholding info from us is madness. How many times have you received a doc with company names and other info redacted? I research thoroughly before I even start a job. I go to both the the client's website and other similar websites to look for terminology and get a feel for the client and industry. If we are denied that, again, we may not deliver the best product.

If a PM can just provide me with these 3 key things, I can do the best job possible for them.

I'd also be interested if freelancers would be willing to share some of their best and worst PM experiences (no names of course) just to act as a warning (or compliment) to PMs who may read this thread.



Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:25
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Minimal expectations Dec 21, 2011

Basic courtesy, clear communication, availability to quickly respond to problems/concerns that arise.

This and nothing else.

I am not looking for jokes, friendship, or a shoulder to cry on from PMs.


Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 18:25
German to Serbian
+ ...
Agree with Robert Dec 21, 2011

Robert has picked just the right choice of words, IMO:

Basic courtesy - I don't want overuse of "thankyous" and "wonderfuls", since I have bad experience with such PMs - they are not genuine and it seems fake

Clear communication - essential in time saving and result efficiency

Responsive and trained - not only should they be responsive and available, they also must be trained in order to address and clear up linguistic queries

Sense of humor, I really don't see why I would need this from a PM. They won't really impress me with that. I leave humor for different avenues and contexts.

[Edited at 2011-12-21 14:29 GMT]


JaneD  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Appreciation that I am a human being Dec 21, 2011

I have worked longest with several agency clients that are always responsive, sufficiently friendly but not overly so, and always appreciate the work it takes to produce a good translation in an often very tight time span.

My favourite agency is only small, but each of their PMs *always* acknowledges every email sent, even if it's a "sorry, I can't" message. It probably adds a bit more work to their day, but it definitely makes mine feel friendlier.

And on the other hand, I am currently considering ditching one agency which pays more than most of my other agency clients, but which has one PM in particular who rarely even acknowledges delivery of a project.

I work for money, yes, but I have the freedom to choose to work in a courteous environment, even if that is only by email.


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
The three key factors/virtues Dec 21, 2011

Robert Forstag wrote:

Basic courtesy, clear communication, availability to quickly respond to problems/concerns that arise.

This and nothing else.

I am not looking for jokes, friendship, or a shoulder to cry on from PMs.

Perfectly worded, Robert. If all PMs possessed these "virtues", then the translator's life would be much easier.

What I am definitely not looking for in a PM/agency is arrogance, willful actions such as simply paying only part of the amount agreed upon, no replies to clarification request emails and no confirmation of the receipt of the translated file(s).


Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
French to English
technical competence Dec 21, 2011

I would add a requirement to the above comments, I like working with PM's who understand various file types and know how computers and CAT tools work in general.

When I'm working on a website project for example, I like knowing that the PM is competent enough to answer my questions (does this string need to be translated?), or at least is competent enough to understand the basis for my query and explain it to the customer!

As for CAT tools, I expect at the very least that a PM understands the basics... huh? what's tmx?

I once had a bad experience with a PM who wanted me to work on a file type that my CAT tool couldn't handle. I initially refused the job because I didn't feel like fiddling around for hours with an unfamiliar file type. She kept insisting, seemed desperate, finally convinced me to take the job because she would copy/paste the parts needing translation into a word doc and then copy them back into the original file. A few weeks later, the end customer was furious because things had been mixed up during the copy/paste operation. It was not my fault, but I ended up having to fix it for the PM, extra work, not paid!

On a side note, for me, the "human" aspect is important. I prefer PM's that are friendly!


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