In many service industries, there seems to be a fine line between providing good customer service and being a doormat. Many freelancers appear to believe that they have to accept their client’s every request regardless of whether or not what is wanted is actually feasible. However, in many cases, it is better to say no if a deadline is too tight or the subject matter is not your area of specialisation, as long as you do this politely and, if possible, offer your advice on how long the translation might take or recommend a more suitable translator.
A problem which many translators face with their clients is late payments. While it is easy to get angry if you have not received a payment owed by a client on the due date, especially if it is your first time working together, it is important to check if the delay is actually the client’s fault. For example, I recently worked with a new client and decided to forgo charging 50% of my fee up front because I was desperate to work with this company. There had been no issues with the work, but the agreed upon payment date came and went with no sign of the money being paid. When I emailed my client they replied that the bank transfer appeared to have gone through at their end. However, when I phoned my bank they insisted that the problem must be with my client’s bank. This emailing back and forth and phoning banks continued for several weeks before we discovered the problem was indeed caused by an issue in the way EU to British bank transfers are carried out. Had I not decided to trust my client and started threatening to add late payment fees and blacklist them I could have ended up making myself look unprofessional and lost a source of interesting work.
Queries about your work
Another common problem for translators is when a client queries you work: querying why certain terms have been used, asking if that is really the way something is said in the target language or not liking the style of the translated text. The easiest way to prove to your client that your work is accurate is to provide examples from the Internet, newspapers etc which use the terminology queried or are written in the style you have used. This can be done by doing a Google search for a specific term and checking the number of results found.
While the advice offered in this post might seem obvious, it is easy to panic when things go wrong and think that all clients are trying to scam you. However, it is best to keep calm and seek advice from other translators before you take action which could end up negatively impacting on your business.