Any tips on hiring a freelance Project Manager?
Thread poster: BabelOn-line

BabelOn-line
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:12
English to French
+ ...
Feb 21, 2015

Hello All!


I run a small translation agency based in London, UK.

And I need a PM. Badly.

Problem is no doubt a classic one for small agencies: our clients like us because we are nimble, very reactive, we care a great deal about quality and we are probably cheaper than the big guns.

This in turns means I have been more or less glued to my chair and my trusted Apple Mac for the best part of 18 years – doing PM work and translating into French. Taking holidays is always a headache. Even days out of office are a problem.

What I'd need is a freelance PM, probably paid on a monthly retainer plus a commission on completed jobs, who could take over: quoting, commissioning jobs with linguists in our database and deliver to client – for long periods at a time.

First constraint is, this PM would have to be located within, say, + or – 2 hours from UK time. Second, very good English is a must, French would help too. Third, this has to be someone who is at his/her desk most of the time. Fourth, trust, obviously. Fifth, pay must be attractive for PM but still leave some profit margin for us.

Have you ever hired or used a freelance PM? Do you know one? Any tips or known pitfalls you could point?

Any input will be very appreciated.

Jean-Louis


 

Astrid_H  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:12
German to English
+ ...
Trust is the most important Feb 22, 2015

Hello Jean-Louis,

this is going to be very tough, I think. Rather than a person who works remotely, far away from you, you should probably look in your own area and among people you know for someone trustworthy.

I have worked in many fields both as employee in low and supervisory positions as well as freelancer. You can teach most people to do most chores, like quoting and working your database, but if you can't trust them, your holiday will not be very relaxing. How would you know your clients will still come back to you afterwards if they have had a bad experience with your substitute, or worse, been taken away by your PM?
My suggestion would be to find someone among your current trusted contacts or via contacts with knowledge of office work who is very good at dealing with clients and will contact you if he/she has emergencies to deal with, but will quickly be able to work on their own.

Secondly, if you spend all other time besides holidays glued to your chair, you may want to consider hiring someone more or less permanently, freelance or part-time for a few hours per week for part of your administrative work (on the retainer budget) so you can teach and watch them before you go away anywhere, and at the same time have an idea of their skills. Then when you are away you'd be more comfortable and have them work on-demand/on commission. This would also help you to either grow your business or take some time off. 18 years glued to your chair sounds very stressful!

Good luck finding help!


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:12
German to English
Exactly the same question Feb 22, 2015

Hell Jean-Louis,

I am looking for exactly the same thing and wondering about how exactly to go about it. In my case, native or extremely fluent German is a must (and Swiss German would be great) and the level of English is negotiable. I would not have a problem actually hiring someone as an (initially very) part-time employee with a short-term contract (initially six months). I also have plenty of projects lying around waiting to get done (aligning old files, website, pursuing old leads, etc.), so I would be able to keep someone constructively busy even at times when there are no translation projects to be actively managed.

I would assume there are tons of experienced PMs out there at giant garbage agencies or people who have done extensive internships or whatever and would be very happy to try things out with a small specialized agency/outsourcing freelancer and who would have lots to offer me.

I don't outsource at the moment, but at this point, it is the most logical next step for me and I am willing to invest a significant amount of time and money in seeing if it will work out.

So, keep us posted and I will do the same. In the end, I'll probably end up posting a potential job here and a couple other places as well as contacting a few people I know personally to see if they would have any interest.


 

BabelOn-line
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:12
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the input Feb 23, 2015

@ Astrid

Working with someone local would indeed be my preference. Only problem is the cost: if the cost of a freelance PM uses up most of our margin, there is little incentive for us to take on jobs.

As we are in London, finding someone local, who is at their desk most of the time, will be an expensive solution: these guys need to make a living in London, and their hourly rate will be high. And if they are more than 100 km away, it does not really make much difference if they are in Colchester or Prague. Only difference being the legal aspect: it is true that an NDA or a contract will be easier to enforce in the same country.

@ Michael

I have done it before on short periods (holidays) with an established linguist – a British translator operating form Spain. It worked just fine as this person is meticulous, very organised and perfectly trustable. Then, it is just a question of cost and availability.

Yes, there are tons of good PM who are probably disgruntled working for garbage big agencies, but agencies guarantee them a pay check at the end of the month, every month. Not sure we can incentivise them with potentially good, but irregular income.

That is usually where the rub is for smaller agencies: we can be snowed under one month and very quiet next month. This is a known conundrum from small businesses: the very first employee. So it has to be freelance, but a sort of permanent freelance.

Good thing is, we were already contacted by a few potential candidates who read this thread. This indicates there is no shortage of talent out there.

Will keep you posted!


 

Silvia Carvalho  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
It is possible to hire a good PM-part time/remote Mar 9, 2015

It is possible to hire a good remote PM that works part time, on a project-by-project basis, or as needed. For instance, I have worked at Localization companies locally but I've also been a remote/telecommute PM and Resource/Vendor Manager for many years. I work part-time for 2 or 3 companies at a time, on an as-needed basis.
As people have mentioned, trust is key, and gauging this while working remotely can be a challenge. As a Senior PM I have hired many local and remote PMs through the years. These are a few things I learned, which I recommend:

1. Post the job on sites like localizationcareers.net or on Gala. People looking for jobs there are mostly professionals in the localization industry with some degree of experience.

2. Ask for references and check them. Ask for email address and phone numbers of the companies the candidate has worked for. Note: at times NDAs will preclude them from sharing this information, but if they are experienced enough they should be able to provide a few names. Check references thoroughly.

3. Ask for a link to their LinkedIn profile if they have one. You will see any recommendations previous employers may have willingly provided for them. Ex co-workers and employers can see their profile, so LinkedIn is a place (unlike resumes) where people normally post their actual credentialsicon_smile.gif

4. Hire them on a trial basis (3-4 weeks) and see how responsive they are. Give them small projects at the beginning until you can trust them.

5. Provide for them a timer (there are several online) so they can automatically record their time and what they are working on (some of them record screenshots of their monitors). This will help you monitor what they spend their time on, especially at the beginning. Once you know you can trust them, checking may not be necessary.

Hope the hunt goes well.
Much success to you.
Silvia Carvalho


 

BabelOn-line
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:12
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@ Silvia Mar 10, 2015

Thanks a million for this detailed answer, Silvia.

This sounds like a brilliant step by step.

I like the checking phase, this sounds like a very reasonable process.

Will check localizationcareers.net and Gala, not heard about them before.

In any case, big thumbs up for this very precise step by step.

Take care.


 

Charlie Bavington (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:12
French to English
Be careful Mar 10, 2015

BabelOn-line wrote:

So it has to be freelance, but a sort of permanent freelance.


Friendly warning - check out the IR35 rules. Fully understand what you are saying about the size of the step to take on a first employee, but in trying to avoid making it, you probably don't want hmrc to decide you've actually made it anyway.

The rules were partly brought in way back to halt the tax avoidance (even before it was fashionable) on the computer contractor gravy train, and if you google IR35, a lot of the info out there is still whining from people bleating it's not fair. It also nipped in the bud the idea that e.g. supermarkets could employ "self-employed" shelf stackers although it's worth noting the same low-life who dreamed up that wheeze then had the idea of "zero hours contracts" so you can see the kind of upstanding pillars of the community the rules are designed to catch. Sadly the same rules apply to us all, even those acting in good faith.

Good luck with it all.


 

Anna Spanoudaki-Thurm  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:12
Member (2009)
German to Greek
+ ...
Charlie is right Mar 10, 2015

Any "freelancer" that you employ under such conditions can later sue you.

I do believe that you meant well but, actually, what you are asking is a way to buy cheap labour, so that you can win clients through your low prices. A very similar thing would be to ask where to find good translators in the developing world, so that you can pay even less and offer an even cheaper product.
This is exactly the subject of every second rant in this forum and I find it interesting that you still got helpful answers (helpful for you, damaging everybody else).
For me, the only fair way to deal with this situation would be to raise your prices.



[Έγινε επεξεργασία στις 2015-03-10 20:47 GMT]


 

BabelOn-line
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:12
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@ Charlie @ Anna Mar 10, 2015

Thanks for the words of advice.

Firstly, it is true that we may be looking for a country where every pound will give us more milage. Equation is very simple: if we pay a high price (say London prices) for someone to effectively run projects fro end to end, the profit margin falls to 0. We may either not hire anyone and carry on doing the job like we do now (and never expand as you can PM and sell at the same time), or shelve the project altogether. That may also mean that the money we are in a position to offer may look like avery attractive proposition overseas.

@Anna, we are not in the habit of buying cheap labour, we are actually paying all our freelance translators the best money we can afford. You seems to have no idea about the way we operate and treat our linguist colleagues – but that does not seem to deter you. I'd like to suggest you give a quick look to our BlueBoard first before laying such accusations so squarely.

Regarding the IR35, seems unlikely to apply outside the UK. People work from their own premises, on their own equipment, overseas. Work is regular, but not constant. They have other clients.

Believe me, if we had the budget, we would be glad to hire. In the UK.

[Edited at 2015-03-10 21:29 GMT]


 

Anna Spanoudaki-Thurm  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:12
Member (2009)
German to Greek
+ ...
You misunderstood me Mar 10, 2015

I do not have the time to explain in detail now, so I will just state what is more important.
I was never my intention to imply that you underpay your employees or that you are unfair or whatever. I certainly did not "lay any accusations". I started with "I do believe that you mean well" and I do believe it.
I did not look at your BB and the reason for that was that I simply understood your problem and from your posting I got a good impression and feeling about you.
Still, you may want to think about why it would be ok to hire a freelance PM from a cheaper country but not ok in the case of a translator? Why should your competitors continue to hire PMs and not do the same as you so that they can beat your prices? Would that be good for the industry? Would that be good for you (, since you would have to lower your rates further)?
Again, I want to stress that I am convinced that you are only trying to solve a practical problem and that you mean well and want to be fair and all the good things. I am only seeing it form the outside. Just discussing it. I mean well too.

[Έγινε επεξεργασία στις 2015-03-10 22:25 GMT]


 

Nancy Matis  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 08:12
English to French
+ ...
Freelance PMs Jul 20, 2015

Hi Jean-Louis,

I work with PMs who are all freelancers. They manage projects for me and for other agencies too. Most of them followed Translation Project Management in some of the schools where I teach this, they did an internship with me or some of my colleagues and joined the team afterwards.

We currently have 2 interns in TPM who want to work as Freelance TPMs once they get their diploma. They are based in France. Another one will start soon (after a Master in Localization including a TPM course) and is based in Corsica.
I can send them an offer if you send me some more details per email.
I also add this kind of information on my site for previous students who are looking for another job so if you wish, I can also post your information.

I would like to add that, in the past, I worked in an agency for several years supervising PMs who were all employees. I really enjoyed working with them, but they didn't stay very long, looking for other jobs/opportunities.
On the contrary, I've been working with freelance PMs for nearly 15 years now, and the team hasn't changed a lot.

Hoping this will helpicon_wink.gif.


 

BabelOn-line
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:12
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Nancy Jul 20, 2015

Hi Nancy.

Thanks very much for you for your answer – and for the offer.

I "hired" someone in Spain - the partner of one of my Spanish-->English translator. The guy is brilliant, he is still learning the ropes but I hope he will mature to be far more than a PM.

It was an interesting exercice as I had to clarify a lot of things before i could hand the controls over to him.

I can see that this is going to carry on for a good while too.My only concern is to get enough volume and interest to keep our new PM on board on the long term.

Kind regards


 

Nancy Matis  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 08:12
English to French
+ ...
Great! Jul 20, 2015

Hi Jean-Louis,

Good news for you!
I think that some freelance translators really enjoy doing TPM (on top of managing their own projects), even part time. They like to do something else from time to time, and it also gives them another view on the market. It also gives them the opportunity to build some network and get bigger contractsicon_wink.gif. Some freelancers in our team also learnt DTP and some technical tasks, which can be fun too.

icon_wink.gif))


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:12
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Not surprising Jul 20, 2015

BabelOn-line wrote:
It was an interesting exercice as I had to clarify a lot of things before i could hand the controls over to him.

I have always found the old saw "You only ever really learn something when you have to teach it" to be true.

Regards
Dan


 


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