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Translators on… brings together a collection of industry professionals, each sharing their experience and advice on certain topics of their career, offering a wider, more authoritative range of opinions than a single source. Want to know more about the series? Watch the launch video.


Whether you work with translation agencies or direct clients, maintaining business relationships is hard work. It’s one thing to ‘secure’ or to ‘land’ a client, to convince them that you are the perfect translator who they’ve been waiting for their whole life. But now you need to make good on your promises.

You have won your new client over with your professional qualifications, your experience, your achievements and your qualities – what you can deliver that your contemporaries cannot. And in doing so you have set the bar high. Your new client will expect great things from you, but each translation you deliver will need to meet those expectations, otherwise you and your new clients could be parting ways.

Let’s first look at working with translation companies. How do our contributors keep their agency clients satisfied?

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There are some aspects that are a given: quality being one example, delivering on time another. Having worked in-house myself, part of my job being to liaise very closely with project managers, there are a number of ways a translator can stand out. Strong communication is typically a high priority, which means quick replies as well as carefully reading and accurately responding to their requests.

Following instructions – as simple as it may sound – is where some translators trip up. If reference material, preferred terminology or style guides are ignored, that could spell an early end to your relationship with an agency client. This should not be understood to mean bending over backwards (see the previous post Translators on… agencies) and being taken advantage of, however.

Throwing personality into your relationship with your client – as Branco suggested – is an extremely effective method for client retention in my experience too. Naturally it depends on your client. I like to let my client set the tone of our relationship, remembering that the Germans, for example, do business differently than the British and will typically prefer to address me as Herr Bingham rather than Lloyd. Equally, I allow my clients to decide whether to address me with the formal or informal second person if we’re not conversing in English.

Another key point is empathy – remembering the position the project manager you’re dealing with is in.

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It can be easy to forget that we are not the only translator working with that agency. When working with a project manager, our aim should be to make their job as easy as possible and not take up any more of their time than is necessary, as that person will have other projects on their desk to deal with at the same time. This does not mean that we should not hesitate to contact them if there are any queries or problems. On the contrary, PMs tend to be incredibly grateful when made aware of these things.

Finally, there’s offering added value, going beyond what is expected from you to deliver an excellent service for your customer, as Suzanne explains.

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Moving on to keeping direct clients happy in particular, is there any special formula that differs from agency clients?

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So the same approach generally applies to agencies and direct clients alike: communication, understanding, availability and professionalism, to name a few. But there are additional aspects to consider, primarily the fact that direct clients are less likely to understand the translation process and our industry as a whole. It is up to a translator to act also as a linguistic advisor, which Tess pointed out.

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That’s the last Translators on… for a while. But our contributors have plenty more to share on the major aspects of their work.  Keep an eye out to see when the series returns.


1: Web analytics and how important languages are in your website