How to turn down smaller interpreting assignments in a professional way?
Thread poster: wonita (X)

wonita (X)
Local time: 22:40
Feb 23, 2012

Some clients tend to assign their interpreting jobs very early, months before the event. So it happens that I get enquiries for events taking place in May, June or even later. If it's a big job, say lasting more than one week, I don’t mind taking the job right away. But I don’t want to commit myself to very small assignments for only a few hours, to keep me available for bigger, more lucrative jobs. I prefer to take small jobs at short notice, when I am sure that bigger jobs will not come in.

Understandable, isn't it?

“Sorry, I want to keep my capacity free for bigger jobs” sounds a bit harsh to me, especially for good repeat clients. Not telling the truth doesn’t work either. One client, an event agency, would ask me to suggest another time, if I turn down their offer with “Sorry, the time does not suit me”.


opolt  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:40
English to German
+ ...
Recommend someone else Feb 23, 2012

Bin, occasionally I get into a similar conundrum, though in my case it's more like the "big translation assignment vs. small interpreting job" conflict.

What I usually do is to recommend someone else, or at least I try to -- of course it means you need someone you trust, and he/she should work in the language combo and in the fields of expertise required.

So maybe you should look around for colleagues who would be able to help you out now and then. Not always easy because with interpreting, it often depends very much on where you are located.

Though I must say, in many cases I appreciate having all the time I need to prepare myself, even in the case of shorter int. assignments -- especially if there's a lot of expert knowledge required, which is not too infrequent in my language combos. Maybe that's a bit different for a Chinese interpreter.

Another obvious option is to raise your fees - you get less conflicting offers, and/or earn more, or the same amount for less work.

[Edited at 2012-02-23 14:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-02-23 14:26 GMT]


Ania Heasley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
English to Polish
+ ...
Tell the truth...? Feb 23, 2012

Tell them that you are sorry but you cannot really commit your time for such short assignments so far in advance, as you are likely to get larger assignments closer to the time. Explain that you only normally accept small jobs at short notice not to lose out on bigger jobs.

I cannot see much wrong with being honest here, this is business after allicon_smile.gif


Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:40
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
An alternative approach Feb 24, 2012

What Ania proposes here is very much on point. I would only suggest the alternative approach of proposing fees high enough to make reserving time for such small assignments worth your while. You can do so in a way that is courteous and forthright, and then the potential client can decide whether it is worth the investment to reserve your time.

This would seem a professional and businesslike way of dealing with the situation.

[Edited at 2012-02-24 14:23 GMT]


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How to turn down smaller interpreting assignments in a professional way?

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