Being selective of translation job types
Thread poster: Hakan Kiyici

Hakan Kiyici  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:39
Member (2009)
English to Turkish
+ ...
Aug 25, 2012


I would like to pose the question about the general tendency for being selective with incoming works in one's specialized fields.

Let me illustrate further.

When you receive jobs that you can handle from your specialization perspective, do you become selective of

- country of job's origin (due to past experience of non-payment, political or out of any other principle)
- sector or job type (being well-versed with software localization, manuals, help files, yet, not taking translation jobs on gambling of banking OR excellent translator in medical field but not translating abortion related materials)
- rate (good opportunity and potential but below average rate, do you discard them)

So, are we/you being selective on the incoming jobs?

How does that stand in the ethics side of it for the translator?

With the actors, they are told not to be selective of roles they are given. It they are being selective, they are tested on their restrictions with tempting offers.




Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:39
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
You have to be selective Aug 25, 2012

Freelancers are business people, they run their business as any CEO would run a company. (Or they should be.) That means being responsible in setting up business relationships. The reliability of the client has to be established, and that includes due diligence. It is perfectly fine to be selective based on past or foreseeable negative experiences, including differences in business practices, business ethics, or difficulty in communication and chasing debts in certain countries.

I think it is also perfectly fine to be selective based on the content of the job: a responsible service provider would offer his/her services only if he/she is confident in his/her ability to do a good job, to meet the client's expectations both in terms of quality and timing.

As to being selective based on one's private opinion on certain political topics or other content (smoking, exploitation of others, gambling, pornography, etc.), that is also up to the service provider. Every one of us has to weigh the pros and cons of being selective in that sense, looking at what makes business sense and what gives peace of mind. I don't think there is a uniform answer as to yes, be selective based on your stand on such issues, or no, don't be selective, because it all depends on the circumstances. Some people are OK with working on materials that is against their beliefs, some people are not able or not willing to "compartmentalize" their job and their personal beliefs. I don't think either way is unethical, the point is to behave in a professional way whether one is accepting or rejecting a job. Making sure there is an agreement between the parties regarding the expectations for the job, before it is actually started is also part of being professional and ethical.

I hope this helps.


Local time: 20:39
Being selective in accepting jobs Aug 26, 2012

My rules for jobs selection:

1) Accept anything you can do well within the requested time if you do not have enough work.

2) If you have a surplus of work start saying "Not now, i have a full workload" to the worst customers. There are no selection criteria necessary : You know who the bad customers are.

3) The situation where you can only work for very good and well paying customers is rare, so do not burn any bridges. You might need your bad customers in the future to pay your bills.



neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes Aug 26, 2012

Yes to all three questions, plus everything in Katharine's post.

Be as selective as you like, because clients/jobs are like buses: if you miss one, you can catch the next one that comes along.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:39
Member (2007)
+ ...
Freelancers are businesses; freelancers are people Aug 26, 2012

On both counts, it pays to be selective. I don't think there's any sense in comparing us with typecast actors - I WANT to be typecast in my role of a specialist in marketing and tourism.

You don't have to be in full agreement with the texts you're working on. I'm a "devout" atheist and yet I found proofreading 60+ pages of the Pope's speeches to be quite interesting, and I believe I did a correct job. I didn't personally agree with the content of the text, but that wasn't my job. I was happy to make sure the text read naturally and error-free in English.

Of course, a lot of different things come under "marketing". I haven't yet had any problems, as far as I can remember, but I know that I would refuse to translate a website whose owners were advocating hatred of any kind, whether on religious, ethnic origin or any other grounds. I haven't had any "sex tourism" texts, but I would definitely turn down some (e.g. under-age prostitutes), accept others (e.g. holidays for swingers - their free choice, not one I'd make but...), and I'd have to think hard about others (e.g. are women being forced into prostitution?; is the local society being depraved?). The same would go for pornography in general - if I believe it to be by consenting adults for consenting adults, then I'd probably work on it (but I'm not 100% sureicon_smile.gif).

As a business person, I like to accept whatever work I'm capable of doing well. As an individual member of society, I have to permit myself to opt out of jobs which cross the line according to my own ethics.


Alexandra Schneeuhr  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:39
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
I wouldn't generalize... Aug 26, 2012

- country of job's origin (due to past experience of non-payment, political or out of any other principle)

While it's wise to be selective, there's one thing I know for sure - I would never turn down a job offer based solely on "the country of job's origin" criterion. If I had a slow-paying customer from,, Trinidad and Tobago, would it mean that the next one from this place would prove as unreliable? Well, may be, but then I am always free to request him to make an advance payment and thus be covered.
I am not sure whether it is a good example, but I am often baffled when I see on eBay some disclaimers like: "We no longer ship to Italy, please do not ask". It is possible that there are things about Italian (or Chinese, or Russian, or whatever) postal system which I do not know/understand, but to cut off this whole portion of the market for good? I personally would not ))


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:39
Member (2018)
French to English
. Aug 26, 2012

Hakan Kiyici wrote:

- sector or job type (being well-versed with software localization, manuals, help files, yet, not taking translation jobs on gambling of banking OR excellent translator in medical field but not translating abortion related materials)
- rate (good opportunity and potential but below average rate, do you discard them)

I wouldn't agree to translate texts propounding views contrary to my own on subjects such as abortion, although I could probably work on a speech by the Pope if he steered clear of touchy topics. I don't see the point of taking a ethical stance if you then agree to work for your opponents in return for money.

As for the rate, if it's a bad rate it's not a good opportunity! My clients have to pay me well, so that I can then take time to do pro bono translations for the causes I believe in.


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