Guest blog post: “The rules of engagement” by Tilly O’Neill of VSI Group Reply

In this Translator T.O. post, guest blogger Tilly O’Neill, project manager at VSI Group, shares some insight as to what qualities a translator should exhibit in order to build and maintain a successful relationship with clients.


DeadlinesVSI is a film and new media localization company and here in our London office we specialise in subtitling, dubbing and voice-over. As a project manager in the subtitling department, I deal daily with multi-language subtitling projects, including corporate, broadcast and documentary content. In the media and broadcast industry, deadlines are tight and room for error is slim. Often, I find myself dealing with clients who have only thought about the subtitles they need at the last minute, which adds to the pressure!

It’s a vibrant and exciting industry to work in, and as a project manager I often need to rely on other people; I manage tasks and deadlines for a multitude of different specialists, from sound engineers and video editors, to DVD authors and translators. I need to speak their language and understand their needs, so that I can pull everything together in a short space of time and produce a high-quality video in any number of languages. The client can then download this in the correct format at the click of a button, to show at a conference, at a film festival, on an aeroplane, in a phone app, on a DVD, on their intranet, on the internet, on television…

Such heavy reliance on other people can be stressful if, like me, you’re a bit of a control freak. To run projects efficiently, it’s very important for me to be able to trust that people can react quickly to emails and phone calls, follow instructions, are computer-literate to the necessary level for their task, and can deliver on time (no time for fake deadlines!). They should also be able to deliver to the high-quality standards VSI are known for and, of course, offer a competitive rate.

These are requirements that any supplier can expect from a client if they want to be taken seriously. The end client expects them of VSI, VSI expects them of me and, in turn, I expect them from any specialist supplier I am working with, be they a colleague, a freelancer, or another company.

Of course, it’s a mutual agreement, and two-way, honest communication is essential, in order to avoid misunderstandings and any subsequent frustrations which can ultimately lead to the breakdown of a working relationship. When there is a problem, it’s important that each side accepts responsibility for their actions. Professionalism allows relationships to endure, even when tricky situations arise. Being argumentative or uncooperative leaves a bitter aftertaste that’s likely to be remembered (and, often, professionalismpassed on to colleagues).

So how do you work towards a regular workflow with a company in the first place? What turns a one-off job into a long-standing relationship?

My colleagues and I are all of the same opinion. Apart from the extensive list above, it’s also a cheerful disposition, someone who takes pride in their work and goes the extra mile to ensure the accuracy and consistency of the project as a whole. For example, being proactive by pointing out a mistake in a source text or spotting list, so this information can be relayed to all translators.

Flexibility is also another highly valued quality. A client may decide to change a script during or even after the translation process and the project manager needs to be sure the translator can handle this change quickly and without fuss.

Finally, the GOLDEN RULE: Ask. Never assume. We’re all human and people make mistakes. We can only do our best to avoid making them, so speak up if something doesn’t look right. Chances are there’s been an oversight, and the sooner it’s pointed out, the easier it is to fix. You never know, you may save an entire project from catastrophe and you’ll be in the project manager’s good books for the rest of your days!


Thanks, Tilly, for sharing this post with us. Be sure to check out the VSI Group’s blog for more valuable tips on how to succeed in the localization industry, as told from an agency’s point of view: http://www.vsi.tv/blog

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s