You don’t get to choose your family, but as a freelancer or small business owner, you do get to choose your clients and projects. Sounds great, right? But the truth is, it’s not always so easy to decide.
Here’s some of what we consider when making these decisions.
Are they a good fit?
‘Fit’ is a bit of a vague concept. But we’ll try and break down what it means to us.
Do they respect and value you and your work? Mutual respect is key for a successful working relationship. Of course, this should also be reflected in the rates you agree.
But a good fit goes beyond that.
Think about what type of client you want to work for. Do you want to work for a large multinational company, an NGO, a small business, or perhaps an individual?
What’s their style of work? Do their processes match your workflows and expectations? For instance, maybe you prefer working quite independently, while the client wants to be a bit more hands-on. Who’s going to take care of quality assurance? It’s important you iron out these details early so you can get things off to a good start.
What industry and sort of work is it?
Even if a client looks perfect in every other respect, if they’re aren’t going to have appropriate projects for you, is there even any point pursuing things? Consider the industry they work or specialise in, and whether this fits with your current or future areas of specialism. Research the sort of work they do and ask about the type of projects they’d like your help with. Make sure it’s a type of work and area you feel comfortable with and have the necessary knowledge for.
It’s also worth taking the time to manage the clients’ expectations regarding what you can and can’t help with. This could save a lot of to-and-fro and, ultimately, frustration on both sides.
Can you trust them?
A client-vendor relationship is built on trust. You need to be able to trust that you’ll be paid for your work. Make sure you do your research and check them out thoroughly.
It’s also worthwhile putting measures in place to protect yourself from any potential issues. This could include making sure you have professional indemnity and liability insurance, providing your terms and conditions, or ensuring you’re happy with theirs.
Always be on the lookout for potential scams. For some reason, the translation industry seems to be a prime target for scam artists. When it comes to this sort of thing, of course there are various websites you can check and colleagues you can ask. But humans are intuitive creatures. We recommend also trusting your instincts – you can often tell when something looks a little off.
Can you do the job?
Does it fall within your skillset and areas of specialism? Do you have the right software and tools? If you have any doubts, will you know where to look for the answers? You really don’t want to deliver a low quality translation. We recommend reading the source text and checking you’re confident you can do a good job before committing.
Do you have the time?
This one can be especially tricky to manage in the translation industry, where it’s often a case of feast or famine. But committing to too much can mean you deliver poor quality work, miss a deadline, or exhaust yourself and even burn out. You’ll also need to factor in time for non-billable work like administrative tasks and invoicing that really do need doing.
And don’t forget that the unexpected can and will happen. Take this into consideration and be realistic. Think about the whole job and not just the word count so you have a clear picture of the time it would theoretically take to complete. Will you have to go through reference material and instructions? Will it require a lot of terminology research? Add it all up and see if it fits into your schedule.
What’s the budget?
How much is the project paying and does it meet your expectations? Don’t underestimate the importance of this one. To avoid a race to the bottom, us translators need to ensure we don’t accept anything less than reasonable rates. You also don’t want to regret taking the project on.
And last, but by no means, least…
Do you want to do it?
Not every job can be super exciting, but there’s nothing worse than a project you really dread working on. And it tends to show. When you’re passionate about the subject or the type of work, not only are you going to enjoy working on it, but you’ll end up with a better quality text.
Consider if you’ll learn from it. Will you gain valuable experience in an area you’re trying to move into? Maybe you’ll pick up new terminology. Will you improve as a professional? Is this project important from a strategic point of view? Will it allow you to land similar work in the future? Motivation is important and can be a tiebreaker.
If you’re a translator, it’s important you go into each project well-informed. Have a look at the questions I regularly ask my clients for some tips.
Or maybe you’re looking to work with a translator for the first time? Our post on writing project descriptions is for you.