Translator’s Dream Client

Translator’s Dream Client

Afterthoughts on a Facebook discussion

Depending on the target audience and current business plans, every freelancer has a unique picture of ‘the dream client’.

This post on translator’s dream clients was originally published in Russian following a discussion, which took place in a Facebook group.

Actually, it was an attempt to make a list of features and options a freelancing translator would be happy to see in current and potential customers.

Take it or leave it, if you like. Adapt and use to your best interest.

As differentiated as preferences can be, every freelancer is able to name at least some valuable attributes of potential clients. Ideally, this first stage should be followed by figuring out a more considered approach. But even many seasoned translators do not know what they are searching for. In fact, they would be glad to take any project if proposed.

You may say ‘the dream client’ concept sounds somewhat vague and artificial. But your own checklist can be really helpful in avoiding problem clients who turn out to be not cash but problem generators wasting your time and energy.

Unlike office-bound workers, the freelancer is able to choose people for potential cooperation (to a greater or lesser extent.)  A pool of good—and great—clients is a key to enjoying your everyday tasks, continuous professional development and mental health.

I divided into several categories all features and criteria of ‘the dream client’ mentioned during the discussion. It’s up to you to decide, which of them is of the utmost importance and which will be the last to consider.

FINANCE

  • Good rates. No numbers here as a hot discussion considering ‘reasonable’ and ‘trash’ rates is not our topic.
  • Special rates for rush jobs / overnight work / weekend projects, etc.
  • Regular and accurate payments. Mega bonus: you do not need to calculate and double check your output and invoices.
  • Flexible payment variants. At least several additional options added to a standard bank transfer.
  • Bank expenses covered by the client.

EFFICIENCY

  • Most projects cover one specialization area.
  • Originals ready for translation. ‘No’ to poorly scanned PDFs.
  • Convenient software for handling translations; no strange planning / management systems.
  • Official procedures reduced to a minimum: extra paperwork takes time, and time is money.
  • High quality glossaries if any offered.
  • Proper feedback based on the translation provided.

COMMUNICATIONS AND PR

  • The client has formulated reachable goals; translation priorities and tasks are articulated clearly.
  • Competent contact persons. (Nearly) the same team of project managers.
  • Proper support during the translation process: sample translations if any, clear instructions, reference materials, etc.
  • Emails as a default communication method. Phones are for emergency situations only.
  • Quick replies. Meaningful answers to your questions.
  • You name added to the published translation.

FLEXIBILITY

  • Regular predictable projects leaving you enough time for other clients.
  • Reasonable rates for most projects.
  • Possibility to discuss terms of your agreement.
  • Possibility to put off delivery date in some cases.
  • Possibility to reject a job from time to time.
  • Possibility to regulate your workload (often / less often; large / small projects)

Basically, these are the fundamentals to consider. Feel free to apply your own priorities and accents, add or leave out some points taking into account your preferences and goals. And off we go in search of our ‘dream translation client’.

* * *

If you need more points and ideas to draw your Red Carpet Client, try a great presentation of Marta Stelmaszak (Traduemprende translation conference in Madrid). ‘The Ideal Customer Avatar’ section starts from 56:00.

hiring a marketing translator

Hiring a Marketing Translator

Most important points

Prices

No size fits all when it comes to marketing communications and translations. Each project is unique. Sometimes, straight translation is your best choice. Certain tasks require transcreation and adaptation. Even copywriting may come in handy.

The first step is to be clear on what we’re dealing with. Is your project highly technical or creative? Is it general info, a marketing brochure, or a web copy?

My fees start at 80 Euro per 1000 words. But if you ask for a price offer without sending your project for estimation, the final figure may appear to be higher. Moreover, some jobs are charged by hour (not less than X hours and no more than Y) or by complete project.

To get a final cost breakdown, the translator needs to have a look at the document to:

  • See if the subject suits his or her expertise
  • Count total words
  • Consider file format and software needed
  • Consider delivery time
  • Consider special requirements (if any)

All documents will be treated as confidential, even if you choose another service provider.

Deadlines

No freelancer signs on a project without a deadline. Sometimes, translators can set their own deadlines. Other times the work is time sensitive, so the deadline is set by the client. But be realistic. How long did it take to produce the original?

On average, I translate from 1.500 to 2.500 words per day. A technically challenging text may take additional time, if some background research is required. Projects with special formatting including presentations take longer, too.

If your project is broken up into phases, a deadline is assigned to each phase. In case the scope of work changes, the deadline is also subject to change, and vice versa.

I will do my best to meet your needs, but I believe that rush negatively affects quality of work. I don’t like compromising on quality, so the minimum deadline is 24 hours.

Get involved

If you are ready to spend some time and prepare reference materials, chances are high that you will get exactly what you need. Previously created or localized brochures on the same subject, style guides and glossaries, product photos are more than welcome.

To choose appropriate vocabulary and text style, the translator needs to know as much as possible about the context: what the document is, who created it, what are the purposes and the audience. You need different writing styles to make web site content, catalogue descriptions, or media publications work effectively.

In case you cannot offer any background information or reference materials, that’s not a problem. I have years of experience in my specialisations backed by strong research skills. Any vague terminology will be discussed with you to find best possible solutions.

Single Point of Contact

A lifesaver both for the translator and the client. Limiting project communication to one person, whether you are a soloprenuer or a manager in a big firm, you avoid confusion and double work, save time and energy for all parties involved.

An inquisitive translator is actually good for your project. Some technical details can only be cleared by an in-house expert. May be your company uses different terminology for its in-house technical documentation as opposed to marketing materials? Then we’d better discuss your preferences with a person in charge of translation project.

Ideally, the result is examined by a single well educated person, native in a target language and familiar to your business and technologies. If you plan to have several reviewers, they’d better have clear criteria for correcting ‘mistakes.’ Too often, drawbacks and errors in a final translated version appear after reviews on the client’s side.

Editing & Proofreading

By default, the translator performs a basic check for consistent layout, typos and grammatical errors. If you plan to receive a document ready for publication—printing or upload— be sure to inform the translator. In that case you need an editing service.

Editing includes correction of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and sentence structure errors, checking the text layout as well as graph/table/image layout, and checking for style and pitch. In publishing, it’s typically understood that a document after editing still needs to be proofread. The proofreader reviews spelling and punctuation errors, looks for typos.

For editing and proofreading I charge per hour: fees start at 20€ per hour. If you’re still not sure whether you need an editing or proofreading service, just contact me for a consultation.

Payment & Invoicing

Currently I am based in Kyiv but I deal with customers from all over the world accepting payment via Paypal, Payoneer, Moneybookers, bank transfers, or cheques. Quotes in EUR and USD. A payment schedule and a grace period depend on the project and are discussed individually.

A project order

After the above mentioned points have been clarified, a project order is issued (a legal offer to buy translation services).

A project order includes:

  • Outsourcer’s and service provider’s details
  • The name of the file(s) included in the project
  • Source and target languages
  • Project volume: characters / words / lines / pages or hours devoted to the service
  • Original source file format and project delivery / target format
  • Delivery deadline: date and time (including time zone)
  • Software required (if any)
  • Rate: per source or target character / word / line / page or per hour
  • Rate total and currency
  • Primary payment method
  • Payment deadline: the date and time limit for the outsourcer’s payment
  • Further terms and conditions for the project and the business relationship (e.g. non-disclosure agreement)
  • Additional information / requirements: useful URL(s), formatting guidelines, etc.

Services agreement

American Translators Association offers a sample of Translation Services Agreement with a comprehensive outline of contract clauses, terms, and conditions; includes compensation and payment, delivery, quality assurance, ownership of translation, confidentiality, non-inducement/non-solicitation, indemnification, dispute resolution.

translation agency or a freelance translator

Provider vs Freelancer

A translation agency or a freelance translator? Finding your match.

For companies in search of translation, the market supports numerous variants, from freelance experts to small boutique type translation agencies, to multinational language service providers.

Some companies prefer in-house translators, which is another viable choice.

The good news is there is enough room in the translation industry for all of them. From freelancers who had left their office careers to work less to LSPs operating millions of words in dozens of languages. If positioning their services correctly, all of them feel more or less comfortable.

But what is the right variant for a client? The differences between freelancers and agencies are significant, but the answer depends on your needs. Still there’s no clear-cut approach.

When searching for a service partner for today and tomorrow, how to choose between a tranlsation agency or a freelance translator? Being aware of their capabilities and limitations, you are much more likely to make a good investment into the long-term mutually beneficial relationship. I’m going to ignore the hobbyists in this discussion. When I say ‘freelancer,’ I mean the pros who do this stuff day in and day out.

AGENCY: ADVANTAGES

Availability

An agency is ready to take virtually every project claiming to follow established procedures under a clear chain of command. Apart from higher overhead, it also means on-demand availability and broader choice of services (see the next point).

Services

When dealing with larger projects, agencies are better equipped to meet varying client needs and tough technical requirements. Usually, they offer a variety of translation/localization/asset management and other services.

Turnaround

Most agencies have an impressive translator base. An agency is geared to assemble a team and meet the most challenging deadlines for your translation project. It will also arrange text standardization and reviewing if needed.

AGENCY: DISADVANTAGES

Price Tag

In general, translation agencies are viewed as expensive, especially in comparison to language students willing to do the same job for 1/10 of the cost. Like any business, they have overhead costs to cover and will typically have several specialists involved on one project. But higher prices do not necessarily mean they work with well paid, experienced translators.

Reliability

When asking for a full-package multilingual service, you have to control the qualifications of the person who will actually do the job. Too many agencies accept any translation project willingly and worry about finding a suitable translator later. In that case, you cannot control their hiring decisions. Moreover, an agency can’t guarantee the same translator for your project each time.

Communication

The hiring process for freelancers may only consist of a few emails back and forth. If you need a project done by tomorrow, it may be your best bet. Larger agencies have complex communication processes and structures, making everything slower.

YOU DEFINITELY NEED AN AGENCY IF…

Companies hire agencies because they are perceived as having almost superpowers. And they do have some:

  • Dealing with high-volume projects and/or challenging deadlines.
  • Offering all-in-one service packages to manage all your language-oriented tasks.
  • Being able to manage of all the aspects of marketing communications.
  • Choosing most suitable translators for clients who don’t know the target language of their translation job.
  • Providing additional services like desktop publishing, video subtitling, web editing, audio recording, etc.

While not being immediate experts of your product, agencies may even have the tools and drive to dig deeper than your staff employees.

FREELANCER: ADVANTAGES

Expertise

Most seasoned freelancers are passionate at what they do, so they take on projects only if they are qualified enough to provide the necessary result. Freelancers may also be an option if you need to find an expert in your specific niche. Be prepared to spend some time finding that person, though.

Transparency

No extra layers to be found between the end client and the translator. You hire a freelancer you liked and tested; you get the job done by that freelancer. One point of contact ensures direct and quick communication: you work more closely with the linguist, allowing the project to move along faster. And you can be sure that your documents remain highly confidential.

Price Tag

Freelancers may be the best option for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs if cost is among key factors. Why not pay a translator directly for outstanding work and cut out the overhead ending up with cheaper services? Thanks to lower overhead, you’ll be offered lower prices, although rates can vary greatly.

FREELANCER: DISADVANTAGES

Experience

Professionals tend to specialise in a couple of areas. It can be difficult to find one freelancer to meet all of your translation needs: legal, finance, marketing, localization, user guides, etc. Very few have all the skills (or teams) for large-volume complex projects involving translation and editing in multiple languages.

Turnaround

Many freelancers have a busy schedule and don’t work with subcontractors. If you have a looming deadline, most freelance translators will politely decline without being able to schedule days in advance.

Reliability

Use freelance job sites with caution: you may end with the jack of all trades. Dedicated websites are preferable. And don’t be tempted to choose a service provider just by their price tag. Young freelancers get work by offering low prices with little to no experience.

YOU’LL ENJOY WORKING WITH A FREELANCER IF…

With all the pros and cons, there are certain projects and situations where a freelance translator is a better fit than an agency.

  • I have a tough budget for localising new brochures for my company.
    If you know your absolute limit, your best bet is seeking out a freelance translator and planning on giving him or her as much background and context as possible.
  • We have a conference coming up and need extra translation help.
    Call up that freelancer your buddy always recommends.
  • It’s Tuesday, and I need this translated by Friday.
    Tough situation. You might try calling a freelancer to check their availability.
  • I have most of the marketing materials ready; I just need someone to flesh out the rest.
    Try a freelancer.
  • I need materials to be translated and published online regularly.
    Find a freelancer with expertise in your sphere.

Freelancers are known for their flexibility. When hired wisely and not only based on initial cost, freelancers can be a great add-on to the in-house team. If you require ongoing translation services, your savings and benefits build over time. You get a reliable contact who knows your needs and demands, your style and preferred terminology.

In any case, the first step to choosing between an agency or a freelancer is to define your project. Start with making a list of translation jobs and tasks of your organization. Local start-ups have very different needs from large enterprises. By defining your needs, it will be easier to communicate with a prospective translator (whether they are an agency, boutique firm or freelancer).

Virtual employees are great

5 Reasons Virtual Employees Are Great

Who is a freelancer? A manager or an expert who works with the company on a temporary basis and is not a part of corporate stuff.

More companies are considering freelancers when looking for potential partners.

What are the main benefits of collaboration with remote subcontractors?

The same work costs less

A highly qualified freelancer will cost you less as compared to a staff employee or a service providing company:

  • No payments for sick leaves, insurance or vacancy days
  • No funds for their working environment
  • No training and/or professional development investments

Qualification

Successful freelancers are seasoned and highly qualified professionals. You can hire a virtual employee who would be too expensive for you as a stuff member:

  • End-result commitment
  • Subject-matter experience relevant for your project
  • Access to new ideas and an outsider’s viewpoint

Motivation

Time is money, and like you, freelancers know it very well. Virtual employees make their own living, so they are perfectly aware of the ‘no result, no gain’ mantra. Moreover, they are in love with their work. In fact, it’s the only way for them to achieve great results:

  • Highly efficient
  • Open for time pressing projects
  • With flexible timetable

Individual Approach

You are dealing not with a project manager, not with front desk staff but with a specialist who is ready to go ahead with your tasks and become a part of your project. Having transferred some of their duties to a freelancer, your employees get additional time for more important tasks:

  • You continue with a usual scheme: assignment >  fulfillment > control and analysis
  • No intermediate links for better communication
  • Both parties are interested in long and efficient cooperation

Flexibility

Your virtual employee may be located in any part of the world. It means that you get an access to a much broader base of experts available:

  • You can hire a local specialist in the region of your interest and choose the qualification level you need
  • You pay for delivered projects and not for hours spent in the office
  • You handle seasonal peak workloads more efficiently

* * *

There can no doubt that you face certain challenges when working with a freelancer. Later I am sure to turn to more gruesome aspects of hiring virtual employees.

In any case, once debugged, the workflow engaging a virtual employee will have more advantages than drawbacks.

And it is one of the major reasons behind the fact that 40 percent of all U.S. workers are expected to be freelancers by 2020.