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I don’t need no stinkin’ job tracking system… June 5, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation Sites.

Au contraire! I, like you, thought I didn’t need a job tracking system. When you are first starting out it is easy to keep track of the jobs because you may only have one or two. You may not think you need a job tracking system right now, but once things get busy and you completely forget about a job you agreed to take when you were stressed out with another job and/or forgot to write it down somewhere, you will definitely implement one! I’ve been there and I know of what I speak. I have forgotten two jobs in the thirteen years I have been doing this, and both times I was absolutely mortified. Luckily I had good relationships with the clients and was able to save our relationships. The first time I offered a substantial discount and busted my rear end to get the file done as soon as possible. The second time they decided to do it in-house, and the situation involved a lot of groveling and apologizing on my part… I’m still working with both clients – and the last job I forgot was back in November 2006.

My job board

There are numerous systems translators use to track their jobs. As you can see, I use the old-fashioned, yet oh so handy, dry erase board. It’s a tried and true method to track jobs and note deadlines and estimated word counts, and it gives you the added satisfaction of crossing a job off once you have finished the job and sent the invoice (the same day you deliver the job – or at most the next day. Don’t put it off or you’ll forget!!!).

As I mentioned before, one of my German-English colleagues uses Post-It notes on her monitor to track her jobs. Here are some other options you may not have thought of…

An Excel spreadsheet is an excellent tool to track your jobs and keep a running tally of how many words you have translated in a year. The graphic to the right may be difficult to read, but basically it contains the job number, end client, file name, pages, type of work (editing or translation), _x$h, word count, actual client, due, delivered, rush?, $/word, invoice date, $invoiced, notes, and TM. You can adapt this to fit your needs. You may want to include a column for date paid, late? (or days late), etc. I particularly love that it tracks the words you have translated for that year. You can also use all kinds of formulas to automatically add it up for you if you like that kind of thing. The sky’s the limit!

Another tool that is especially designed for translators is Translation Office 3000. This project management, accounting, marketing, word count, dictionary, etc. tool quickens, simplifies and optimizes a translator’s day-to-day work. You can keep track of your jobs, track your outstanding invoices, note your quotes and easily convert them into a job, handle your client contact information, and count your files based on lines, words, characters, etc. – all with the help of this tool. I particularly like the ability to track contact information and the visual schedule so you can see when a job is overdue. I don’t like the fact that you have to first create a project and then enter a job, but others may find it very helpful. You can download a free 30-day version here.

Some other options that were suggested to me when I forgot the job were:

1) a project planner (e.g., http://ganttproject.sourceforge.net)
3) a web calendar with automatic reminders (e.g., Freemail Kalender at http://web.de)

I use a web calendar as well (more on that another day when I talk about iGoogle), but I haven’t gone the extra step and entered due dates in it. My job board is perfectly sufficient for my needs – provided I am diligent about writing a job down as soon as I accept it. It’s become habit now, which is quite comforting.



1. Ryan Ginstrom - June 5, 2008

I’ve tried many different job-tracking systems, but I finally settled on Microsoft Outlook as the simplest thing that could possibly work.

When I get a job order, I drag the email into the Outlook Tasks pane. That automatically creates a task for me. I then drag in any relevant files and other emails, set the deadline of the task to the delivery date, and prepend the number of pages to the task title.

Then when I’ve delivered the job, I prepend “Invoice — ” to the title, and reset the deadline to when I need to invoice it.

(I also have some macros to assist in this process a bit)

I tried TO3000 a year or two ago, but it didn’t handle Japanese text at the time — a show stopper for me.

2. jillsommer - June 5, 2008

I have a phobia about Microsoft Outlook since it is so prone to viruses. I use Eudora, but your system sounds tempting to try.

3. Ryan Ginstrom - June 5, 2008

Hi Jill: The biggest thing you can do to protect yourself in Outlook is view emails as plain text by default (you can still view individual emails as HTML as needed). If you don’t mind reading a PowerPoint file, I gave a presentation on this at the IJET in Okinawa. Here is the file.

4. Abigail Dahlberg - June 6, 2008

Hi Jill,

Working for trade journals, I tend to get a large number of very small jobs (less than 500 words), which are really tricky because it would often take me longer to track them than translate them. Right now, I’m back in the Stone Age with a pad of A4 paper and a pen, but as an environmental translator I am looking to find something more eco-friendly. Maybe I just need to get a really big white board. 🙂 Love the blog!


5. Tracking your freelance income « Thoughts On Translation - June 12, 2008

[…] 12, 2008 by Corinne McKay After reading Jill Sommer’s post on job tracking systems for freelancers (for what it’s worth, I used to use a white board, then I switched to post-it […]

6. Masked Translator - June 14, 2008

I actually use a system very similar to Ryan’s using Outlook and tasks. I’ve been using various version of Outlook since 1995 and have never had a virus problem, not once, but I’m careful to install all Windows and Office updates, and I actively use and update antimalware software. (Even if you use Eudora or Thunderbird + Sunbird, which is the freeware e-mail client + calendar I personally prefer, or whatever other application, you are still at risk of virus exploits if you don’t update regularly and use antimalware software.)

However, I also use paid bookkeepers to keep track of my accounts receivable and payable, which is money well spent and surprisingly affordable.

Microsoft has a free version of its accounting software, Microsoft Accounting 2008, which has a bit of a learning curve but the free version seems very powerful. I would switch to software like that, or to QuickBooks, if my business became more complex or if doing so would lower my overall cost of bookkeeping.

Great post!

7. Hire yourself « Thoughts On Translation - August 22, 2008

[…] Objectively track your commitments. As a freelancer, the temptation to take on more and more work (thus earning more and more money) is always there, but we also know that work overload leads to poor quality which leads to a lack of repeat business. To keep this impulse in check, keep a list of the number of words or hours of work that you are committed to, just as a boss would track what employees are working on. For more on this, see Jill Sommer’s post on job tracking systems. […]

8. Carmen Moretón - September 18, 2008

Hi all!
I use SDL Trados Synergy. Is a good tracking system for SDL Trados users. You can dock it in the Start menu and it will start automatically when opening your PC.
The best: you can see your projects tried by delivery data and their status (translated, pretranslated)
The worst: Every project is a package and it take too mach hard disk memory.
Good blog!

9. Karen Tkaczyk - February 27, 2009

Ryan Ginstrom’s Outlook task tip may become a winner for me. I didn’t know you could do that. I just tried it with jobs in my inbox and it looks like it has great potential.
I do have a small white board but I only use it in weeks when things get hectic.
BTW, I’ve never had a virus problem with Outlook, and have been using it for as long as I can remember.
I could also track jobs in my invoicing system if I input the invoice when I got the job; but there I see them by the date the invoice is due rather than the date the job is due, so I don’t think I fancy that.

10. Judith Cohen Ex Zagoury - December 26, 2012

Totally agree, I also forgot job once and sometimes to send the invoice as well…I just didn’t find the ultimate tool yet…I used Excel for years, but now I return to paper and pen…

11. Pilou - April 9, 2014

I also use a combination of the 2nd and 3rd apoecaphrs you mention, Fabio. Resource management isn’t a problem with my workflow:In Studio 2011 I create on-going projects for each major domain and/or client. TMs and TBs are permanently assigned to these projects and I simply add new files for translation to these projects.There is some overlapping as a domain TM may also form part of a client project, but I apply a field value to that client so that I know where each TU has come from.The only downside of this system is the few minutes of administrative time needed to move files out of the Studio projects about once a month, so that the project file list doesn’t grow too long. Otherwise it’s a breeze!

12. zenner41 - May 2, 2014

I use a simple database (Bento on the Mac) plus the Mac calendar. I don’t like spreadsheets, and a database app allows you to set up any fields you want and perform calculations with them, so that when I enter the $/word, number of words, and time spent for each job, it calculates the words/hour and $/hour automatically. I include “total charge,” “date payment received,” and “amount received” fields, so it is easy to keep track of what jobs I have and have not been paid for. I enter the deadlines both on the database and the calendar, and that’s all I need for project managing.

13. Paulette - July 26, 2014

To keep track of project I use Asana since it’s free. When you set up a task it sends you reminder emails which to me is essential because I can’t be bothered with remembering on my own when something is due. As far as invoicing goes, I use Wave Accounting or Freshbooks for that.

14. Laurie Schiet-Heath - April 29, 2015

As a former math major, I love Excel. I have set up a standard spreadsheet for a year at a time to keep track of all my jobs, word counts, time worked, invoice numbers and dates sent and paid. Everything is is this one sheet (besides my email traffic in one folder on my Mail). If I have more or less jobs than standard each month, I just insert or delete the extra rows. I love the flexibility of adding columns to track whatever statistic I want to measure. When I take on a new job, however small, I immediately enter information on the client, topic and number of words, and of course time started translating.

15. John - September 26, 2015

I tried a lot of job tracking programs and I was always angry that it requires so much operating. I work on computer only and I hated when I forgot to click “start” or “stop” in timer and my data was inaccurate. Finally I started using TimeCamp and it’s a little bit better becuse it works automatically. It’s still not the best by the best I used for this time. Can you recommend any better software?

16. Nenad - January 18, 2017

Blast from the past, but it was interesting to read.

I have had this problem from when I was translating, all through now when I’m running a translation company as well.

So we kind of decided to create a super-cool project management system for small agencies, because nothing on the market really reflected our needs…

And now life is kind of beautiful again 🙂

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