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Poll: Have you ever lost a client after turning down a project?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 12:04
Jun 12, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever lost a client after turning down a project?".

This poll was originally submitted by Maciej Burak. View the poll results »


Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:04
Turkish to English
+ ...
other Jun 12, 2014

How would I know? I am an individual freelancer and never subcontract work, so I have to turn down projects if I am busy. In some cases I have never heard from that person again, but I have no way of knowing if this is because I turned them down.


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:04
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Don't know Jun 12, 2014

Like Tim, I've never had a customer tell me so how would I know?

However, some fly-by-night places who contact me only once in a while and late Friday afternoon or just before long weekends or public holidays with 'rush jobs' have stopped contacting me altogether -- which is just fine with me. icon_biggrin.gif


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:04
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not sure Jun 12, 2014

For the reasons mentioned by Julian and Tim.


Marta Gómez
Local time: 21:04
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes, once Jun 12, 2014

Yes. It happened to me once. I used to collaborate with a translation agency on a regular basis and one day they contacted me to offer me a project. I explained to the PM that that that week I was busy with other projects and had no availability. That was the last time I heard from them.


Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 14:04
German to English
+ ...
I wrote other - usually the reverse Jun 12, 2014

If a client you have never met before asks about a project, and goes with someone else because you turned down a project, and you don't hear from that client again, did you "lose" that client? Maybe they only had that one project in your language pair. In that case there is no way of knowing.

Otoh, when you turn down a project because you say it's not within your expertise, that gains respect and trust. I have gotten new clients through this.


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:04
Spanish to English
+ ...
No Jun 12, 2014

Not as far as I know. I did once tell one client to go and take a flying... ahem, sorry, I mean take their business elsewhere, after failing to inform me that a weekend job I'd agreed to do hadn't materialised, resulting in me waiting fruitlessly for the thing to appear all weekend. As far as I'm concerned, it's their loss.

One occasional agency client contacted me yesterday with a text of about 1000 words they needed translated by yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, I already have a lot of work this week for my regular clients and the family is here for a summer holiday, so between one thing and the other there was no way I could have taken on the job from them at such short notice. The tried again today with another project, but I told them that I can even think about taking on any more work until the end of the month. I'd be willing to bet that they will turn up in July again to offer me more workwhen the rest of their translators are starting to disappear on vacation.

I can't even pass the job offer on to any colleagues, because this company has a poor Blue Board rating, mainly because they pay at 60-90 days and it seems some people just can't bear to wait that long.


Maha Arara
Local time: 00:04
English to Arabic
+ ...
Yes, and I am unhappy about it Jun 12, 2014

I had this one client with whom I had been working for long. I accepted a large project and promised to deliver it in a month's time. After one week, things came up on the personal level, so, in order not to take the risk or waste his time, I told him I might not be able to complete the job on time, and sent him whatever I had finished at no charge to him. To my surprise, he told me I was being unprofessional and that was it. He never contacted me again.


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:04
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other - Of course! Jun 12, 2014

Tim Drayton wrote:

How would I know? I am an individual freelancer and never subcontract work, so I have to turn down projects if I am busy. In some cases I have never heard from that person again, but I have no way of knowing if this is because I turned them down.

On top of being busy, not being an outsourcer, I turn down projects when I can't provide the services required. As much as I can, I'll refer them to one or more colleagues I know who can reliably do it.

For instance, I work EN-PT, and they need DE-PT. It makes sense to lose this client!

The same happens when they need specialized work that I've declared off-limits for me, e.g. translating medical stuff for MDs.

Perhaps they need EN-UK, and I only work into EN-US, or PT-PT, and I only work into PT-BR.

Maybe they need an interpreter in Rio, and I am in Sao Paulo. No point in having me fly 250 miles twice, while there are good professionals there.

So I never LOSE clients, I'm merely unable to provide them what they need or want.

IMHO this question is like going to a lube shop to buy a quart of 'oil'.
"And what kind of oil do you need, sir? We have all of them: crankcase, transmission, hydraulic..."
"I need olive oil for my salad!"

Has the lube shop LOST a client?


Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:04
English to Russian
+ ...
Many times, but I'm not sure Jun 12, 2014

There have been many occassions when I turned down a project from a client who contacted me for the first time and never heard from him again. And there have been several occassions when I lost a known, though irregular client, after turning down his offers once or twice. This is normal for a freelance translator.


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:04
French to English
Other Jun 12, 2014

When I have to turn down a job for a regular client, then the client tends to find a solution so that I can do the job. If it is urgent, then I contact one or two other people in whom I trust, in terms of skill and rigour and I sub-contract or put the client into contact with them directly. The reverse occurs too and so everyone is happy. Just seems an intelligent way of working. It protects my business interests and the client is happy. When you have this type of arrangement, you have to be careful who you chose to work with. In this type of situation, I need to have implicit trust and thank heavens there are people I can and do trust! Wouldn't the world be a sad, sad place otherwise?


Alberto Montpellier  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...

Been there... Jun 12, 2014

I've never heard again from any of the few potential clients I've turned down.
Something peculiar happened about two months ago... I was contacted by someone who asked me if I was available to do a job in the range of 32k words. All the details were there, except for the deadline. When I asked them about it, they just replied a brief "When can you deliver me back?". In that particular week, I had foreseen to do interpretation for about a day and a half, so I set a relaxed (but reasonable) term, since seemingly the deadline was not such a big issue, or so I thought.
I never heard again from them, and some days later I saw the same job posted on this same site.
Punch line is, with clients you never know for sure. Some might take a turn-down badly, yet some others might take it as a good sign of your seriousness if you explain the right way how you're currently busy with another job and unfortunately can't take theirs. I figure they wouldn't want a job of theirs compromised if you were offered another job while doing it.

[Edited at 2014-06-12 13:29 GMT]


Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:04
English to Spanish
+ ...
Define 'losing a client' Jun 12, 2014

I understand that the brevity imposed on poll sentences prevents the poster from being properly specific at times. Hence my question.

Maybe the poll could be rephrased as “After turning down a project, have you ever lost touch with a client?”

At the risk of sounding hyperoptimistic (which is not my personality at all), I'd say that I seldom think of the negative of losing clients.

A client may be “lost” in this sense if I turned down a project for business reasons (or scheduling reasons, whatever the case may be) but the same client may come back later with another project. Happens all the time.


Teresa Borges
Local time: 20:04
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Don't know! Jun 12, 2014

Tim Drayton wrote:

How would I know? I am an individual freelancer and never subcontract work, so I have to turn down projects if I am busy. In some cases I have never heard from that person again, but I have no way of knowing if this is because I turned them down.

I have never lost a regular client after turning down a project as we always find a solution. Regarding potential clients, I have no way of knowing...


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:04
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I have NOT lost a lot of clients in spite of turning down jobs Jun 12, 2014

Maybe there is enough work to do in my language pair, but I regularly turn down jobs.

My clients are not monsters, they are human.
The regulars know I really do my best for them. I hate not doing my best, for whatever reason, and it is a good policy in this job!
But my clients also know that when I say no, sorry, I can't pack more into the programme for today or this week, then the best they can do is find someone else.

Luckily there are others, and plenty of clients come back to me anyway.
That is why I work for agencies - they usually have someone else in the database who can help them out.

If any are annoyed because I don't work in their field or haven't time, then we would probably not work well together anyway. I can think of one client I probably did lose by saying I did not know enough about their subject area, but I warned them from the start, did a few press releases, and then pulled out when they really needed an expert. I'm sure it was best for me, the agency and the end client.

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