When we began our career in language translation, we spent months sending out resumes, calling translation agencies and foraging relationships with other veteran freelancers. Like most newbies, we were hungry for clients, so once the work started coming in, we found it tempting to give knee-jerk reactions to job offers without truly knowing what they involved (a perfect recipe for disaster). To help you choose your work wisely, we’d like to share 5 of our golden rules.
5 Things Every Translator Should Do Before Accepting an Assignment
Always do your research
It feels great to get surprise calls from a prospective clients, but before you accept a new job, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I know anything about this organization?
- What is this agency’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau?
- What do other translators have to say about this organization?
- What do payment practices lists say about this client?
Once you’ve done your research, ask more questions
The company looks legitimate. Good, now you need to ask for clarification. Veteran translator and author Corinne McKay suggests asking clients these six questions:
- How many words/pages are in the document?
- In what format is it?
- What’s the subject matter (ask for specific details)
- In what format is the translation needed?
- What is the deadline? Is there any wiggle room with the deadline?
- Does the client have any reference material or existing translations?
Always ask to see the text before accepting the job
You never know what you’re going to get when you open up a document. Sure, the client may have been honest when he told you there were 2,000 words in the document. What he failed to mention though was that it was handwritten on a cocktail napkin in red marker. Always ask to see the text before accepting the job. There’s no other way to assess whether or not the job is worth your time.
Do not accept work that is beyond your ability
You may be hungry for work, but accepting work that is beyond your ability can be disastrous not only for your reputation, but also for the client’s. Don’t be afraid to say no. No doesn’t mean that you’ll be blacklisted. To the contrary, it shows that you know your limitations and refuse to turn out shoddy work. This is something to be admired.
As a side note: When you reject the offer, highlight your specialization and let the prospective client know that you hope to work with him or her in the future.
Agree on a rate before you accept
“What should I charge?” is a common question amongst new language translators. You’d think there would be a straightforward answer, but rates vary between jobs and translators. Some translators charge different fees for different projects. If the translation requires a lot of editing, formatting, or is handwritten, they may tack on a surcharge. What you charge is up to you, but you must establish your rates with the client before accepting the job.