Delivering good translations on time but finding it hard to retain your customers? Find out why!
Earlier this week I had an enlightening discussion with one
of my customers, who revealed that her main struggle when working with
freelance translators, and something that is often overlooked,
She revealed that the following bad practices would make her
less likely to continue working with freelance translators:
Not reading instructions
If customers provide a translator with
clear instructions (e.g. character limits, reference materials, glossaries,
etc.), they expect the translator to actually use them!
Not asking questions
Customers would much rather take the time
to answer your questions than for you to deliver something you are unsure
about. Don’t be afraid to lose face, you actually appear far more professional
if you raise doubts, as this shows you care about the
translation you are delivering (and is much better than guessing and getting it
wrong). It is also a good idea to ask where the document is to be published, as
this may change the tone of your translation.
Not reporting issues
If you are struggling with an aspect of
your source text (formatting, lots of abbreviations, more
transcreation required than you anticipated, etc.), let your customer know. Solutions can
often be found but, once again, you need to COMMUNICATE!!
Not passing on information
If you have spotted an error in the source
text and simply corrected it, for example, although your translation will be
correct, the original may still be published when it contains an error.
Customers appreciate you pointing out mistakes in their documents (with tact,
obviously), so that all published versions are correct. Do not take it for
granted that your customers will spot every inconsistency in their texts – they
are humans too and humans miss things!
Having bad manners/not using common sense
As I already mentioned, customers are
humans and they understand that LIFE HAPPENS. Your child is sick and you are
going to miss a deadline? Completely understandable. Telling your customer this
when you are already three hours late? No so much.
Some translators refuse to work with
agencies (or language service providers). This is a matter of personal
preference. However, if you do work with agencies don’t assume they are all out
to exploit you because some translators have told you they have had bad
experiences with some agencies. Check in with your project managers. Don’t
ignore their emails after you have delivered. Ask them for help. Many project
managers actually trained as translators and are more than happy to help you
with your research when you are stuck on a tricky term, for example.
Translators just don’t often think (or dare) to ask.
Refusal to work with CAT tools
Customers do not expect you to have
experience working with every CAT tool on the market, but they do expect
you not to flat out refuse to work with any CAT tool. Often they will be
happy to show you how one works if they like your work. A couple of hours spent learning how to use a CAT tool may result in much more work with a customer
in the long run.
Poor time management
Make sure you don’t take on more than you can
chew. If you have to rush a job because you have taken on too much, you are
more likely to make mistakes and your customer is sure to notice. It is much
better to say no to a job or ask for an extension if you know you will struggle
to deliver on time than to deliver something not up to your usual standards.
To create REAL-ationships and retain your customers, be:
INQUISITIVE (ask those questions),
DEDICATED (point out mistakes in source texts and answer
queries further to delivering),
TRANSPARENT (let your customers know if you are experiencing
personal issues, people are generally compassionate when you communicate),
HONEST (if you prefer not to work with a specific CAT tool
or on a specific project, let your customer know your reasons - maybe they will
put you on another project or allow you to use your CAT tool of choice),
ORGANISED (don’t take on more work than you can handle – you
are not a machine),
PROFESSIONAL (communicate politely and use your common
OPEN (if a customer asks you to try something new
(post-editing, a different CAT tool, etc.), don’t just refuse flat out. You can
always offer to try a small project for them and then if you really don’t like
it, explain your reasons for preferring not to take on these projects in the
FLEXIBLE (the notion of quality includes customer
expectations. If a certain style or specific terminology is preferred and the
customer informs you, make sure you take this into account and you don’t impose
your preferences – it is their product at the end of the day).
Most importantly, remember your customers are REAL people,
not just a response at the end of an email. I hope these tips will help you
create REAL-ationships to ensure your customers keep working with you in the