• Loie Favre

Stop! What to do when accepting a translation task

Updated: May 12, 2020

As a freelance translator, especially for those just starting out, you might be willing to say yes to any job, wild-eyed and desperate after having applied and searched for numerous freelancer jobs online, with this acceptance seeming like an oasis in a desert of rejection. Take a breath, and before you leap, remember some things before you say yes to the task.

Browsing for jobs? Consider these points before you accept.

Check for scammers

Checking the validity and the reputation of a company for which you would like to work is important, in order to make sure that they will ultimately pay you. There are some ways of doing this:

  • Check reviews about the company on a translator’s forum, like proz.com or translatorscafe.com. There you will see what translators have said about working with the company in the past. You can also find ratings on places like trustpilot.com or glassdoor.com.

  • Check out their website; there are ways to see if a company is legit this way, like checking out their privacy terms and conditions (if they have any) and how old their website is (usually found at the bottom of the website).

Once the company or agency seems A-OK, proceed to the next point to consider.

Understand the scope of the project

You may be asked to do a huge word count for a short deadline, which may not be not feasible for you depending on the average amount of words you can translate per day and still keep the quality top-notch. Often those doing the requesting are either pressured by the stakeholders or higher person in the company if they assign a translation task that not even the Hercules of translators could complete. A good thing to do is to ask for an extension straight away, letting them know that you would be happy to do the translation, but you would greatly appreciate a slightly delayed deadline in order to do the necessary research and do a quality job. It’s much better to communicate this right at the beginning instead of during the actual task. If you do the latter, you run the risk of seeming unprofessional and tardy. Saying it right up from shows that you have a very good understanding of what type of workload you can in fact handle.

Know how the cash flows

Further to my first point, knowing how and when you are going to be paid for a translation task is an obvious but vital question. Not only that, depending on the company in question, they may have a lot of red tape that causes delays or perhaps they don't cover PayPal transfer fees, leaving you to pay for this out of your own pocket. Find out if they pay per task, per month or after a certain number of days, and always, I mean always, review your contract carefully to read up about these facts. As I mentioned above, the reviews on some trusted third-party websites will help at lot as well, and will tell you if this company in question has a reputation for late payments. Be wise before you are wary.

Read employment contracts carefully in order to protect yourself.

Now get the lay of the land, aka ask the right questions

It may not always be the case that the person providing you with the translation request will provide you with all the needed information about the task. There will be times when they will throw it your way, and expect you to leap into action..which you should. But first, ask the following questions:

  • Who is this translation for, and can you give me some details about them, age range, sex, profession, interests, country or specific region within a country (this could make all the difference.

  • Tone of voice and style

  • Glossary and vocabulary requirements

  • Word Count (for example, texts in English are far shorter than in German, meaning you will likely write longer in German, thus needing to adapt it slightly to make it fit the required characters. This often happens when Google ads or the like.

Granted, you have a freelance translator and specialist should also be able to pick up some of this by simply reading the text, because you should generally know how texts should be translated for which group of people (business, teens, children, casual, etc.). That being said, asking makes you seem clever and caring, which brings me to the next point.

Know how to make yourself indispensable

When I have worked as a translation manager, those people who were indispensable were those who were very responsive, provided translations that needed little to no editing after proofreading, and who often gave me comments about the source text, like if there were any errors. Translators who are silent (do their work and never comment) don’t show that they care about the task, those who participate in its success, stand out and are called back more often.

Once you have done these things; the company can be trusted and is credible, you know you will be able to manage the task based on the client’s instructions and needs, the deadline is reasonable, you can take the plunge. When you do the task and deliver it, make yourself indispensable to them, and try to get them as returning clients.

There are likely more things to do, and I will update this article regularly with any new ideas that I can come across. What do you do when you accept a translation task?

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