Communicating with clients

Client communication was probably not a skill you learned during your studies.

Or you may have chosen the career path of freelance translator because you prefer working with words to working with people. Being a professional translator is a pretty solitary occupation but you still need solid communication skills.

Client communication when working for translation agencies

Many freelance translators receive their main income through translation agencies. In this case client communication is pretty minimal. Agree on a price, accept the translation job, possibly send in some queries, send in the translated text plus your invoice. Job done.

Fine, as long as nothing goes wrong. However, what do you do when there is a major natural disaster? When you find yourself withoug electricity or broadband for three days in your area?

What do good translators do? First of all, they try to find alternatives. Can a laptop battery be charged in a nearby town? Can the smart phone act as a mobile hotspot for the laptop? If not. translators must find a way of communicating with the client, informing them that they won’t be able to make the deadline due to circumstances beyond their control. They do not wait until electricity is restored and send their reasons/apologies after the deadline has passed.

Client communication when working for direct clients

For a freelance translator working for direct customers, client communication is a lot more critical for success.

  • You need to negotiate a mutually acceptable deadline and price.
  • You need to communicate with your client to gather important information for the translation job in hand: find out why the translation is required, who it is intended for, wherer there is there a house style, whether the client knows of target language competitors who sell the same product/service etc., sending queries regarding the document in hand etc.
  • You may have to chase up an outstanding invoice. Although, in general, it is advisable to ask for up-front payment if you have not worked for a client before and don’t know their payment morale. You can send alternate pages of a translation as a pdf together with your invoice, to prove that you have compelted the work, and send the client the final and full version after you have received payment. In the case of certified translations, you can send the draft together with your invoice, and certify the translation after receipt of payment.
  • You may run into trouble (e.g. you suddenly fall ill, so you have trouble meeting the deadline).In this case it is vital you talk to your client. More often than not issues can be resolved in mutual agreement. This will keep your client happy, so they will hopefully return with future jobs.

Effective client communication will make your job easier and will help you retain clients: if you don’t know whether the text you are translating is intended for a trade conference or a group of laymen who know nothing about the product or concept to be sold, how can you possibly get the translation right?

Erika responded extremely quickly and did the work to a very professional standard within a day (and at a reasonable price).

October 2022

 

Christoph Hoerl

Accurate, confidential, efficient and reliable English-German translations

Professionally qualified German translator into English and English into German, offering first class translation services for commercial, industrial, governmental and private clients.

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