7 Mistakes Freelance Translators Should Avoid
Thread poster: Levent Yildizgoren
Levent Yildizgoren  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:19
English to Arabic
+ ...
Dec 27, 2011

There are several measures you can take to establish productive relationships with your customers. Delivering high quality translations and keeping up with deadlines will play the most important part of course.

There are many things we have learnt by working with hundreds upon hundreds of translators and clients over the years, which we thought would be good to share with you: avoiding the seven mistakes identified in this article will help you have a long term relationship with your customers, and will more importantly, ensure that you run a stress free business.

7 mistakes you should avoid:

1 - Charging too little for your core service.
Never sell your core service too cheaply. It will devalue your product and customers may not appreciate it. You can offer free test translations or reduced charges for your supplementary services such as job-checking or for translations of only a few words.

If you charge too little for your core service in order to get new clients, you will despise them in the long run; and if you charge them less the first time, they will expect you to charge the same rate the next time they work with you. The relationship may suffer when you would, only naturally want to put your prices up.

2 - Being afraid to ask your customer questions.
Do not be concerned with asking your clients questions about the files you are translating: there is nothing wrong with going back to your customer asking for clarification of words that maybe be difficult to read or understand. They will not think any less of you because you asked a question. Be sure, however to ask relevant questions, well in advance of the deadline.

3 - Thinking you will lose your customer if you turn down a project.
If the project offered to you is in a subject you do not know about, or a deadline you cannot meet, don't be afraid to turn down the project. Whatever the reason may be, being clear and open to your client about it will help you to establish long lasting relationships. Taking on a project which you cannot properly translate, or accepting a deadline which is not feasible will do more damage to the relationship than turning down a project for a perfectly valid reason.

4 - Only getting in touch with your customer when you need work from them.
Keep in touch with your customers regularly. Let them know how you are doing. Tell them about the new tools or software you may have acquired, and any new skills you may have learned since last working with them.

5 - Thinking that you are the only translator your client should work with.
Translation companies need to have multiple translators for each language pair they work with and in particular subject matters. Do not feel threatened if your client uses another translator and asks you to carry out checking or proofreading: this means they trust you and value your opinion.

6 - Not having a specialist subject.
Without a doubt translators need to be able to cover a variety of subjects: they will also need, however, to have a specialism in which they have extra knowledge which sets them apart from other translators. Your niche will help you to become an authority in your particular field and the first port of call with your customers.

7 - Not collaborating with your fellow translators.
The translation community is global and we all have the same aspirations and challenges wherever we are in the world. There are many professional support organisations and associations out there for translators. Most successful translators are the ones that support their colleagues and share information.

Levent Yildizgoren
Managing Director - TTC Language Services Ltd
yildizgoren.wordpress.com
@yildizgoren


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Maria Popova  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 00:19
Member (2011)
German to Bulgarian
+ ...
Thank you! Dec 27, 2011

Thank you for sharing this with us!)

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Hiromi HORIYA
Local time: 23:19
French to Japanese
That's right ! Dec 27, 2011

Levent Yildizgoren wrote:

There are several measures you can take to establish productive relationships with your customers. Delivering high quality translations and keeping up with deadlines will play the most important part of course.

There are many things we have learnt by working with hundreds upon hundreds of translators and clients over the years, which we thought would be good to share with you: avoiding the seven mistakes identified in this article will help you have a long term relationship with your customers, and will more importantly, ensure that you run a stress free business.

7 mistakes you should avoid:

1 - Charging too little for your core service.
Never sell your core service too cheaply. It will devalue your product and customers may not appreciate it. You can offer free test translations or reduced charges for your supplementary services such as job-checking or for translations of only a few words.

If you charge too little for your core service in order to get new clients, you will despise them in the long run; and if you charge them less the first time, they will expect you to charge the same rate the next time they work with you. The relationship may suffer when you would, only naturally want to put your prices up.

2 - Being afraid to ask your customer questions.
Do not be concerned with asking your clients questions about the files you are translating: there is nothing wrong with going back to your customer asking for clarification of words that maybe be difficult to read or understand. They will not think any less of you because you asked a question. Be sure, however to ask relevant questions, well in advance of the deadline.

3 - Thinking you will lose your customer if you turn down a project.
If the project offered to you is in a subject you do not know about, or a deadline you cannot meet, don't be afraid to turn down the project. Whatever the reason may be, being clear and open to your client about it will help you to establish long lasting relationships. Taking on a project which you cannot properly translate, or accepting a deadline which is not feasible will do more damage to the relationship than turning down a project for a perfectly valid reason.

4 - Only getting in touch with your customer when you need work from them.
Keep in touch with your customers regularly. Let them know how you are doing. Tell them about the new tools or software you may have acquired, and any new skills you may have learned since last working with them.

5 - Thinking that you are the only translator your client should work with.
Translation companies need to have multiple translators for each language pair they work with and in particular subject matters. Do not feel threatened if your client uses another translator and asks you to carry out checking or proofreading: this means they trust you and value your opinion.

6 - Not having a specialist subject.
Without a doubt translators need to be able to cover a variety of subjects: they will also need, however, to have a specialism in which they have extra knowledge which sets them apart from other translators. Your niche will help you to become an authority in your particular field and the first port of call with your customers.

7 - Not collaborating with your fellow translators.
The translation community is global and we all have the same aspirations and challenges wherever we are in the world. There are many professional support organisations and associations out there for translators. Most successful translators are the ones that support their colleagues and share information.

Levent Yildizgoren
Managing Director - TTC Language Services Ltd
yildizgoren.wordpress.com
@yildizgoren


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:19
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Great ideas! ... converted into a proactive stance Dec 27, 2011

1 - Charging too little for your core service. - converts into...
1 - Charge fair prices for whatever you do.
Constantly find out how much your services are worth in the marketplace, take into account the quality level you deliver, and adopt these prices.

Don't give discounts just because you've been asked. If you do so, it will mean that your first estimate was dishonest, a rip-off. However if you know a way to save your client money by doing something differently to achive the same results, don't be shy to propose it.

In any case, if your client cannot afford your cost, find ways to reduce it at no cost to you. For instance, if your translation will be reviewed under a magnifying glass by the end-client's tech guys or marketing gurus, agree that you won't check it beyond the spellchecker.


2 - Being afraid to ask your customer questions. - converts into...
2 - Ask your client anything you are uncertain about.
If you feel the source text tone is inadequate for the targeted culture...
If the terminology is novel or uncertain...
If the graphic formatting will be compromised after translation...
If the source text is insufficiently clear...
... never hesitate to ask them! This will show your concern for them achieving their goals.


3 - Thinking you will lose your customer if you turn down a project. - converts into...
3 - Tell them what you can do!
If the subject matter is far away from your comfort zone, say so and, if possible, refer them to a specialist in your language pair. As you become aware of areas you don't know squat about, not enough to understand, and much less to translate, research dependable specialists in these areas.
If you can't meet a stipulated deadline, tell them when you can get it done. Sometimes they'll prefer having you doing it later than taking chances with someone new.


4 - Only getting in touch with your customer when you need work from them. - converts into...
4 - Inform your client every time you have news that might be interesting for them.
Of course, you shouldn't contact them every time the tide is low, to ask if they have any work for you to do.
However they'll be interested - and grateful - to know if any news related to some job you did for them came out on your local press. Don't bother to translate, they can use machine translation to get the gist of it, and eventually hire you if they really need a complete translation.
If you bought new software or hardware that will enable you to serve them better in any way, tell them. However use sales techniques, tell them what benefit they will get from it. No point in saying that you've upgraded your computer to a faster processor, added RAM, etc.


5 - Thinking that you are the only translator your client should work with. - converts into...
5 - Always strive to be the best translator that works for your client.
In everything you do for them, in every contact you have, try to cultivate in them a desire to call you first whenever they need translation work.


6 - Not having a specialist subject. - converts into...
6 - Have your specialties clearly defined, but also draw the line for what you consider off-limits.
Of course, after years of experience you'll hone your skills in some areas to become a star in them.
However you should also identify areas where your knowledge does not suffice to translate material written by professional practitioners for professional practitioners. State these off-limits subjects clearly, and only compromise if there is no other option, and after adequate reviewing has been definitely arranged for.


7 - Not collaborating with your fellow translators. - converts into...
7 - Network! Network! Network!
Get acquanited with other translators in your language pair(s). Know their specialties, and get them to know yours.
And don't make it tit-for-tat, i.e. if translator John Doe referred you to ABC Corp. for your specialty, don't feel indebted to him alone, consider you owe it to the community. If you get a request you can't fulfill, refer it to the most qualified member in your community to handle it. The entire community will be referring clients to John in his very specialy area. Everybody wins!


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Raquel Zyserman  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 19:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
Thanks! Dec 27, 2011

Thanks, Levent and José, for your helpful ideas!

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Cossette
Argentina
Local time: 19:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
Helpful ideas! Dec 27, 2011

Thanks for the tips. : ) Sometimes we don't have these things in mind!

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Levent Yildizgoren  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:19
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your feedbacks Dec 28, 2011

I am glad that my article has been found useful.

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Darko Kolega  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 23:19
Member (2009)
German to Croatian
+ ...
7 childish attitudes.... Dec 29, 2011

Thanks for a very useful & clear topic as it helps rookies to progress faster in right direction. My mistake is being afraid if I decline a single job from my clients they will find someone else - as I'm aware it happens vice versa (I also established some new partnerships because other translators were not available at a certain moment). I also feel strange when evaluating tests for new translators for my clients as as soon there is a perfect new translator with perfect score I tend to find as many errors possible just not to put myself in a shade of the better one than me.
Thanks therefore for these points that show me I should not have such attitude and if we give our best, client will still respect and love us for all the work done (and that's more important than word counts, tasks and POs)

Take care!
Darko


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Levent Yildizgoren  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:19
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Re: 7 childish attitudes.... Dec 29, 2011

Well we are all humans, so I would not call them childish

You are spot on with your conclusion. At the end of the day what matters is that we provide a service to our clients. Evaluating a good quality test translation and scoring it high, will gain you your client's trust and respect. You will be their first port of call when they need an opinion or have a challenging task.

Our clients are also human beings. And a job done well done will always be noticed by them. But as everyone is too busy, do not worry if they do not get back to you too often to tell you that. But you can always ask for their feedback. We often do that with our clients and always receive useful feedback/comments.

Best wishes

Levent


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AnneGeorgiou
Local time: 00:19
Very helpful!! Mar 14, 2012

Thank you for the great tips!! I think more or less we've all done few of these mistakes throught our carrier..
It's very helpfull to track the things that can improve your "business" and make sure you avoid them in the future!!
Anne


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:19
Member (2008)
Italian to English
We know Mar 14, 2012

Levent Yildizgoren wrote:

There are several measures you can take to establish productive relationships with your customers.


I would assume that most experienced freelancers know these things - and there are quite a few other things we would need to know that you didn't include on your list, such as the very basic one of never beginning a translation until you have a confirmed purchase order. And so on.

[Edited at 2012-03-14 09:51 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:19
English to Polish
+ ...
Not fully onboard with #4 and #7 Apr 19, 2013

I'd consider #4 and #7 to be relative or culturally sensitive. I don't really like the idea of staying in touch when not actually having a going job. Sure, it's great to make friends with client and agency staff, and it'd be great to make friends to the point of just calling to ask how's the weather on your latitude today. But I really, really don't like the idea of newsletters, nor do I have one (or wish to receive one from anybody else). As for co-working with other translators, I believe referrals are fine and that's about it unless translators team up to amass enough manpower to outcompete an agency and land a nice project. But I'm a translator, not a project manager or agency. I don't want to be responsible for someone else's work, nor do I want anybody else's fees to inflate my sales volume for tax purposes (in my own personal case, I have a VAT exemption that's conditional on not exceeding a certain sales volume), and I certainly don't want to be responsible for editing separate translations or parts of one translation to sound good together and be terminologically consistent after two different dudes split the work. Not my cup of tea. I'm actually inclined to tell my prospective clients that all of my experience is in actual translation and turn this into an asset rather than a liability.

[Edited at 2013-04-19 21:58 GMT]


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