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5 Things clients want to know before ordering a translation

5 things

We have all heard about the importance of knowing our own ideal clients, their needs and the problems we can solve for them. I am in a phase of my business where I’m still very much experimenting strategies and ideas to expand my client base and eventually get to the point where I can afford to work only with my ideal clients without having to compromise. It’s a hard way to the top and there is a lot of trial and error involved, but I try to stay positive and keep working.

In my efforts to step out of my comfort zone and get insights on what potential customers expect from me, I asked some business owners outside my industry a simple question: imagine you need a translation of any kind for your business. What are your concerns and doubts before ordering a translation? Are there any important points you would like to stress?

These were the main concerns that emerged:

Language fluency. Native speaker fluency is a must and customers who care about their product and message know it.
Lesson: stick to translation into your native language. There are exceptions, of course, depending on the nature of the text and the requirements of the client (translating a birth certificate into your source language can be okay, translating literature not so much), in any case ask a native speaker to proofread whatever you write before delivery.


Proper tone and register. Some people pointed out how important for their business is to communicate with the appropriate register, especially when dealing with Asian audiences.
Lesson: value the communication exchange with your client. Ask questions, suggest possible solutions, have the client clarify the purpose of the translation, the audience, the tone and build your work from there.

Specialization. Quite a few people highlighted the importance of hiring someone who is competent and familiar with their industry’s terminology. The “you don’t need to understand, just translate” school of thought is shifting towards a client who is more aware and willing to do research to find not just another translator, but the right fit for them.
Lesson: specializing doesn’t make you lose clients, it helps you attract the right ones. Constantly hone your expertise and never feel like “you know it all”, there is always something to learn.


Confidentiality. In some industries confidentiality is paramount and clients have the right to know what happens to their documents when the translation is done.
Lesson: always clarify all the confidentiality and privacy issues beforehand with your client, to avoid unfortunate misunderstandings.


Costs. Clients want to have a ballpark idea of the potential costs right away.
Lesson: show your prices on your website. Everyone has a different budget and giving clients an idea from the start will save everyone time and frustrating negotiations.


Turnaround time, format and practicalities.


You may argue that nothing here is groundbreaking news, all these points have been addressed in a way or another on translation blogs and publications. However, getting feedback from potential clients with specific examples pertaining to their businesses helped me put things into perspective and gave me a clearer overview of what is lacking in my communication and what I need to stress more in my marketing efforts and materials. And last but not least, asking the question served as an “excuse” to break the ice, so to speak, with people coming from very different backgrounds, to let them know what I do and to show them that I am genuinely interested in helping them solve a problem they may have rather than in just getting their money.

Time to get to work! 🙂

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