10 Golden Rules for Freelance Translators

Posted on Thu, Jun 05, 2014 @ 09:06 AM

freelance translator 2Give a rough estimate before you formally quote a job
Always offer the prospective client a ballpark figure over the phone; then submit a formal quote later. Why? It takes care of pricing issues right off the bat. Sending a quote later on gives the client the opportunity to shop around for another translator. Naturally, you don’t want that to happen.

Never accept deadline or project that you can’t deliver
If your specialization is not pharmaceuticals, you probably shouldn’t accept a pharmaceutical project. The same goes for a deadline: if you know that you can’t make it, say so up front. Turning down work does not automatically disqualify you for other projects. It simply demonstrates that you know your field and limits.

More about deadlines and extensions
Under usual circumstances, you’re a well-organized and reliable translator. But what happens when something unexpected comes up and you know you’re not going to be able to meet a deadline?

  • First, contact the project manager or client immediately. If the client knows early enough, s/he may be able to negotiate an extension. The longer you wait, the less likely it will be for the client to give you an extension—and more business in the future
  • Second, if you know there is absolutely no wiggle room on the extension, turn to a trusted friend.  You should have at least one trusted language translator you can turn to when you’re in a bind. You may lose money on the deal, but you’ll lose even more money in the long run if you back out of a project.

Look at the source files immediately
Have you ever opened up a file that looked something like this?

freelance translator

This should go without saying, but it’s better to find out that your source file is corrupt on the day you accept the assignment than it is to find out later. 

More about source files
Usually translators receive two sets of files: one set is sent with the initial inquiry, the other is sent with the work order. Documents sent with the initial inquiry may be “final” versions, but don’t assume that they are. Always, always, always work with the files sent to you in the official work order!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If you have questions, ask—but it’s best to compile all of your questions and send them off in one email. If something comes up, you can always send more questions, of course. Here are a few questions we ask right off the bat:

  • 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?

On invoices
Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to sending invoices. These tips come from Enas Ibrahim’s article in the most recent issue of the ATA Chronicle.

  • Make sure the invoice number is not a duplicate—this is not only confusing, but may result in rejection and delay of payment
  • Make sure that your company name and address are included on the invoice. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s a common misstep
  • If you are working with a project manager, include his/her name on the invoice
  • If you have more than one payment method, indicate this on the invoice, along with the payment method you prefer


Download our exclusive guide:  Translation and the Empathetic Imagination



Photo credit: Martin Deutsch / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Portions of this blog have been adapted from Enas Ibrahim’s article, "11 Tips for Freelance Translators from a Project Manager."

Topics: Modern Language Translation, Spanish Translation Course, French Translation Certification, Online Translation Certification Arabic, freelance translation, freelance translator, language translator

Subscribe via E-mail


Our Latest Guide

Most Popular Posts

On Demand Webinar

Latest Posts

Posts by category

Follow Me

New Programs