Communicating with clients

Client communication was probably not a skill you learned during your studies. Or you may have chosen the career path of independent 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

A lot of 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? No electricity for three days in your area.

What does a good translator do? He finds a way of communicating with his agency, informing them that he won’t be able to make the deadline due to circumstances beyond his control. He does not wait until electricity is restored and send his reasons/apologies after the deadline has passed.

Client communication when working for direct clients

For an independent 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: finding out why he wants the translation done, who it is intended for, is there a house style, does he know 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.
  • 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?

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