101 things a translator needs to know – #99

Keep calm – and keep the client

No matter how brilliant you are, at some point a client will complain about your work. How you react will determine your future with that client.

So don’t explode, but don’t grovel either. Express concern that there’s a problem and ask for specific examples. Examine these in detail.

If you failed to supply enough information to back up your translation choices, do so now (in the client’s own language). If improvements are needed, make them. If a less-than-fluent client has second-guessed you on vocabulary and style, don’t despair or spin out of control. Win them over by offering a third option instead.

Making a confident case for your work while indicating that you’re flexible enough to incorporate suggestions is a sign of professionalism.

I have had this happen to me, and although I’d love to say that it was always just a matter of taste or a misunderstanding, that would be a lie. Nobody is perfect, and I’d rather engage with my client and fix what went wrong than the client never working with me again – and telling everyone about the mistake I (may or may not) have made.

And even if a client decides not to work with me again, an honest conversation about the reasons is always preferable. In the best case, we’ll part ways amicably. If nothing else, at least I’ll know what to look out for and avoid next time.

This is number 99 of the “101 things a translator needs to know” compiled by WLF Think Tank. If you haven’t heard of it, go to the website and check it out. I got my copy from Chris Durban herself at a translator’s conference in Berlin a few years ago. It is full of useful, often funny, sometimes familiar, but always sound advice both for beginners and seasoned translators.

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