Build your own or buy a translation management system

A common dilemma for fledgling translation companies is how to manage the mountain of paperwork that arises during a typical translation work flow.

A typical translation process involves the following steps:

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  • Receive request for a translation job from a client
  • Send client a quote
  • Client and agency agrees the final price and project terms
  • Client issues a purchase order
  • Translation agency assigns project to a translator(s) and revisers and sends these resources a purchase order
  • Translation agency delivers the completed project to the client with an invoice


This whole process involves numerous emails and attachments and pdfs etc. A company with just 10 new projects a day will soon find it hard to manage all this paperwork and keeping track of payments and deadlines.

To solve this dilemma, most small agencies might use a mixture of “free” software, MS Project, MS Excel.

These are great tools but can become very unwieldy, hard to scale and difficult to share. Tools such as Google drive and, Dropbox have made sharing files v.easy but they are not really designed to help you run your business processes

The dilemma then shifts to should we buy an off-the-shelf program or develop something inhouse a database of clients, projects and translators?

For small agencies (defined as 1-10 in house staff and mainly freelance resources) buying an off the shelf program makes sense.

Developing your own system is not a great idea unless:

You have plenty of time.

Having spent 3 years developing TranslationProjex with an awesome software team, we know first hand how difficult, expensive and time-consuming it is to develop your own system.

You have plenty of money.

To build a system that lets you manage projects, resources, clients payments, expenses etc is likely to cost you in the region of US$50,000 once you factor in development time, internal resource time and software licences. Buying or renting an off-the-shelf system is far more cost effective; with an agency being able to get a decent system for around 5 employees for around  $3000 euros or $200 or so /month.

You know how to design a software application

Though it may seem straightforward to decide what it is you need  to your staff, specifying a translation project management system to a developer is not child’s play. Assuming that you can find a good and available developer (increasingly hard these days), you need to be able to specify down the field level exactly what your system needs to do, how it should function in the many different scenarios and how it should look. Our original requirements spec for TranslationProjex was 35 pages! Your developer should also understand intimately how your business and industry works so they can make the right assumptions

Your business is so very different from other translation agencies

If you have a unique workflow you may feel that the existing translation management systems like:

  • TranslationProjex
  • Project[Open]
  • XTRF
  • Projetex
  • LTC Worx

Do not meet your needs then it makes sense to build your own. But make sure you devote the necessary upfront investment in time and money to ensure that the system you get at the end is fit for purpose.