Translation Client Relationship Tips

Translation Client Relationship Tips

The following 10 quick tips are based on my experience as a Translation/Localization Project Manager, and regard the issues I encountered while collaborating with freelance translators. By taking note and following this advice you’ll secure a healthy client relationship, which could help lead to a steady and increasing workflow.

The following tips don’t follow any particular order, though I’ve tried to sort them based on a very rough chronological order:

1. Always Clarify Client’s Payment Policy

Before you start any translation work for a new client you should always ask them about their company payment policy. Don’t confuse this with your word rate, which you should agree upon when dealing with translation projects. A company’s payment policy refers to how and when you get paid. More specifically, you should at least ask them about these three things:

  1. Payment time-frame
  2. Invoicing process
  3. Payment methods

The payment time-frame deals with the amount of time between your completed job and your payment. It could be anything from instant payment upon delivery, to 30-60 days after delivery. Every company has its own payment time-frame so be sure to clarify it.

Invoicing also differs among clients. That’s why you need to ask then about their invoicing process. Most companies require you send them an invoice while others allow you to do the invoicing on their website, using a special online platform. Also, some clients require invoices to be prepared in a specific way, with particular information obtained from their Purchase Order (PO). So make sure you check with them.

As for payment methods, this is quite important information since clients are able to use various payment methods such as PayPal, Skrill (ex Moneybookers), Western Union, bank deposit (aka. wire transfer), bank check and so on. So you see why it’s important to make clear the payment method.

2. Respect NDAs / Read Them Carefully Before Signing

NDA stands for Non-Disclosure Agreement, and is a binding contract between you and a client that outlines how you should deal with confidential material, knowledge, or information. In simple English, it’s a document with various gagging clauses forbidding you from publicly disclosing any information regarding a specific translation project. Now and then, you’ll come across such a project and will need to sign an NDA to get the job done. That’s why you need to read it carefully and make sure that all clauses are reasonable and compatible with your line of work.

3. Don’t Take More than You Can Handle

Such a simple rule, but you can’t imagine how often translators take more than they can handle causing havoc everywhere. So don’t be generous and request only the volume you can safely handle, even when the client is pushing you to take more. Trust me, you’ll be doing more good to them when denying unmanageable, excessive work.

4. Don’t Handle Subject Fields You’re Not Comfortable With

As mentioned in the previous point above, this is another simple rule to follow. So don’t mess it up! Translate only subject fields you know about.

5. Always Request a Purchase Order

If the client is a translation agency then they’ll always provide you with a Purchase Order (PO). Request it at the beginning of the project so you can make sure it contains the correct information (rates, deadline etc.) since you’ll be using this data for your invoice later on. If you’re dealing with direct customers (non-agencies) they might not have a PO issuing system in use, so in this case use the information in your email exchange with the direct customer which should include rates, deadline etc., and can be used as a PO substitute.

6. Follow Client’s/Project’s Instructions Carefully

As straightforward as this seems, you can’t imagine how many translators fail to do it. Don’t be one of them. Read and re-read the instructions as many times as needed, and revisit them again if in doubt, especially before delivering back to the client.

7. Be Reachable (by Phone, Text Message, Email, IM)

We’re not talking about 247 availability, but you need to be reachable during most of the client’s working hours. For example, things may change for a project you’re handling or the client might need immediate information about something concerning the work you’re doing. It’s helpful to provide clients with more ways of contacting you other than email, so feel free to give them a phone number or IM id (i.e., Skype).

8. Be Frank When Problems Occur

Trust me when I say that you’ll do more damage to your reputation when not admitting you have a severe problem with your work, the moment such a bad thing occurs. And the more time you let go by without mentioning the problem, the more damage you’re causing to the client. So stand up to the task and let the client know immediately about the issues you’re having before it’s too late!

9. Don’t Go “Missing in Action”

This means you shouldn’t pull a Houdini to a client for whatever reasons. If you’ve been assigned work then you should finish the job as instructed. If, for any reason, something changes in the process that doesn’t allow you to complete the assignment then you must inform the client in a timely manner. Failing to do so will possibly blacklist you from the client’s Vendor Database, and could lead to further repercussions for your professional translation career. So be a professional and don’t go MIA.

10. Invoice Correctly

Just a reminder again, since this is a very important part of your business, that you should invoice based on a client’s invoicing policies. As stated in the first point, you should ask the client to outline their invoicing process and you need to make sure you follow it correctly to avoid any delays with your payment.


The above post is a modified excerpt from my book Translation 101: Starting Out As A Translator available at all major online publishers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes iBook store, Kobo, SmashWords, Lulu). A Special Edition of the eBook version (with useful translation tools included) can be found at http://www.translation101.net.

Petro Dudi avatar
About Petro Dudi
Petro Dudi is an American expat residing the last two decades in Athens, Greece. His professional career revolves around the Translation & Localization Industry for more than 17 years, having translated or project managed numerous projects for tech giants such as Microsoft, IBM/Lotus, Adobe, Symantec, GE Energy, Caterpillar, Toshiba, LaCie, Canon, Sony, Nokia, Bosch, Siemens etc. Petro is also the author of "Translation 101: Starting Out As A Translator", and the creator of the "Translation101 Toolkit" software.
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