The life of a freelance translator can be dreamy. We can work from home, design our schedule, and set our own pay rates. Peachy, right? Most of the time, sure. But as many of you know, certain types of clients can quickly turn your dream life into a nightmare.
Although seasoned freelance translators may already be hip to the proverbial red flags indicating a nightmare client is headed your way, we thought we’d offer those new to the profession five signs to watch out for.
5 Red Flags Freelance Translators Cannot Ignore!
- Auditions. In the old days, especially when working for a firm, clients might request spec work before committing, and that was fine. These days, freelance translators are better off sending them to get someone else's specs. With today's technology, clients can easily communicate with your references, read your blog/website, have instant access to samples of your work, etc. That should be enough for them to make a commitment or go elsewhere.
- Drip-Drops Now, Waterfall Later. Clients will often request that you lower your rates because they will have X amount of projects per month, every month. The sheer work volume, and your need for steady business makes this proposal more tempting. "This is what it means to be a freelance translator. I have to build my business," you said to yourself. Unfortunately, the promised future work rarely materializes. Provide high quality work, remain pleasant/professional in client communications, and you will build a business making your desired rates.
- Adjusted Pay Schedule. Don't let a client bully you into adjusted pay schedules. Stick to your payment policies. Your fear of losing a client might mean doing all the work for a client that doesn't pay you. You may make one graduated payment plan concession, such as a 50/50 split (client pays 50% up front the remaining 50% after), but firmly stand by your one option. When you don't get paid up front, there's no guarantee you'll ever see the remainder.
- High-maintenance Clients. The first time the client says, "This is a rush project! We need it ASAP!" it's one thing. The second and third time, you realize it's the client who has the panic issues—not the project. Stay out of the "Urgent-Project-Flow" or you may never get out of it unfrazzled. Clearly explain your timing, work process and client feedback needs and only take jobs if the client is agreeable.
- Multi-tiered Approval. When an army of people is involved in approving your work, you should hear Warning Bells in your head. Working with one or two people throughout the project is much more likely to yield quick and consistent approvals.
In addition to knowing what kinds of clients to avoid, we suggest that you also have a few networking strategies on hand to help you find the ones you do want. We cover this topic in one of our recent blogs, “10 Networking Tips for the Freelance Translator.”