How do you handle clients that you know personally?
Thread poster: JustineCH

JustineCH
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:00
English to French
+ ...
May 24

Good evening to you all,

First I hope this topic is in the right section - my apologies, it's the first time I have used Proz Forum.

To give you a bit of background, I have been a freelance translator for around 2 years, but I still work full-time as I don't have enough clients to support me fully at the moment and I also did not feel ready to be freelance 100% of the time until now, but that's another story.

I mostly do creative translations into French for whisky companies (I live in Scotland). These translations are very time consuming and sometimes need entirely rewritten, as the initial writing is pretty bad. I enjoy doing them but I sometimes get frustrated with a client of mine.

She was my first client, as she works in my partner's company as senior marketing manager. Lovely woman, but she meddles through translation projects I get from this company even if she is not the direct client. She gives me feedback about my translation choices if I bump into her in the street or at dinner parties, gives me instructions about projects she is not supposed to be directly involved with etc. This annoys me, also because the time I spent discussing my translation choices (which can take ages considering creative translation is all about personal style and preferences) and making amends is never paid, because of this personal relationship.

I don't know what to do about it. On the first hand, I really like her as a person and I don't want to undermine our relationship. But at the same time, I would like to follow the process and avoid cutting corners.

I know this may sound silly to established translators, but I'd really appreciate some tips on how to handle this situation. I feel like it's important for me to grow as a professional translator.

Thank you very much for reading this very long post.

Have a lovely evening,

Justine


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 16:00
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Not silly at all May 25

Dear Justine

It is a very relevant question.
The problem just never arises for most of us, because correspondence with our clients goes electronically, and it is much easier to keep work and private life apart.

However, many of us will have had early clients whom we knew personally - a colleague of my parents sent me a book - and paid handsomely for the translation, and I did a fair amount of work for my brother in law who was an archaeologist. Both kept at a suitable professional distance about work, though my brother in law was very helpful with terminology and advice - in private and when asked.

Could you say straight out to her that you don't want to talk shop in front of others?
Then perhaps elaborate that you generally keep your work confidential, and don't discuss clients' affairs in public?

It's GDPR-day today, and although you probably are not discussing sensitive personal matters, company marketing and so on should be kept on track, not taken up on the street and at dinner parties...

Perhaps you could say 'Oh, I'm not at work now, we freelancers have to draw firm lines between work and time off, or we never get any time off!'
Or 'You really don't want me to bore you explaining how I came round to that...'

Somehow, you have to refuse to talk about work, except in very general terms.

Can you talk to your partner about it, and perhaps he can pull a bit of clout at work about who handles things? It is partly the client's problem as well if their business is discussed all over the place, although of course everybody probably does see marketing.

I hope you find a solution!


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:00
Member (2008)
Italian to English
French May 25

Speak to her in French. Is she really fluent enough to understand what you're doing?

[Edited at 2018-05-25 08:55 GMT]


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 15:00
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
@Justine May 25

It’s a delicate situation to handle: you have to balance being firm without sounding harsh. I learned at my own expense (I was married to my boss) that we have to draw a very clear line between work and personal life… Good luck!

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:00
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Nightmare scenario May 25

Teresa Borges wrote:

It’s a delicate situation to handle: you have to balance being firm without sounding harsh. I learned at my own expense (I was married to my boss) that we have to draw a very clear line between work and personal life… Good luck!


My nightmare scenario: being married to a divorce lawyer.

Years ago I agreed to traslate a long, complicated book for a friend. It was the worst translating job I've ever done because when he saw my translation he said my English was better than his Italian, and he rewrote the whole book, which I had to re-translate.

Than guess what?

He did it again.

I thought it would never end. We're not friends any more.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 15:00
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Well... May 25

Tom in London wrote:

Teresa Borges wrote:

It’s a delicate situation to handle: you have to balance being firm without sounding harsh. I learned at my own expense (I was married to my boss) that we have to draw a very clear line between work and personal life… Good luck!


My nightmare scenario: being married to a divorce lawyer.

Years ago I agreed to traslate a long, complicated book for a friend. It was the worst translating job I've ever done because when he saw my translation he said my English was better than his Italian, and he rewrote the whole book, which I had to re-translate.

Than guess what?

He did it again.

I thought it would never end. We're not friends any more.


Let’s say that I learned the hard way that remaining neutral was much tougher than I thought…


 

JustineCH
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:00
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for sharing your experience May 25

Thank you all very much for taking the time to answer my message. It's good to know I'm not the only one who has struggled when professional life invades private life.

These are good pieces of advice - I think I will probably try a relaxed approach at first with a joke and if it still does not work, I will try to be flexible to a certain extent.

Yes we can talk about my translation for 5 minutes, but if you want me to go over all my translation choices, then we will have to arrange a separate meeting and the time spent discussing other translation possibilities will have to be billed.

It's tough being firm but I guess I will have to in order to have a fulfilling career out of translation and intercultural marketing.

Thank you again very much.

Justine


 

Carole VOLLAND
Luxembourg
Local time: 16:00
German to French
+ ...
Feedback is welcome, but in written -:) May 28

Hi Justine,
maybe tell her her feedback (or call it only suggestions to lower their importance...) is welcome, but that she can please do it in written - as it is much more time consuming than a conversation around a drink in private, she will probably soon reduce the volume soon by herself -:)
I recently found one client on Facebook and it is not always easy to keep the distance, but I try to not mix everything, i.e. I answer travel tips on Facebook threads or around a drink, and keep the professional conversations and emails very professional.
Carole


 

JustineCH
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:00
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Suggestions instead of feedback is such a smart shift May 30

Hi Carole,

I think using the term suggestion instead of feedback is really smart.

I sometimes feel like people who speak two languages think they can challenge our translation choices (which is fair enough to a certain extent) so I'll definitely use the word suggestion instead of feedback to lower their importance while reiterating that my translation choices are based on skills and expertise that classic marketers do not necessarily have.

Thank you so much for this.

Justine


 


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