Tips for Better End Client-Translator Relationships

client-linguist relationship

It is no surprise that working with agencies or multinational translation companies is radically different from working with end clients (a.k.a. “direct clients”). The former, when serious, have a much better grasp of what translation entails, are familiar with our jargon and tools, and experienced in problem solving. Unless a PM is a total nutcase, they are often much easier to work with than end clients, simply because they too speak the language of translation. Therefore, even though a lot of what I’m about to say can apply to both types of clients, these little things are particularly important when working with end clients.

Educating Your Client

Although some end clients, particularly large companies or firms, are accustomed to having things translated and quite familiar with what we do, many are not. Their lack of knowledge can often lead to unrealistic or inappropriate demands. But, if you’re dealing with a reasonable (and rational!) human being, it is easy to work around these issues by simply educating your client. This does not mean long condescending phone conversations or e-mails; it simply means giving your client a short and sweet explanation of why what they are asking for is not possible and immediately providing an alternative solution that works for everyone (including you!).

Communicating Effectively

Effective communication involves listening, understanding, acknowledging, controlling emotions, efficient decision-making, and problem solving. It is harder than it sounds, but worth the effort. When working with end clients, listening and understanding are essential to ensuring that your end product satisfies their expectations. You can’t achieve that if you are busier telling your client what’s good for them than listening to what they need from you.


Some say it’s pride, others say it’s naive optimism. Either way, sometimes we fail to honestly assess whether we are up to the job. Some honest questions are: Can I really meet the client’s expectations? Will I really be able to make that deadline? Am I really the right person for the job in terms of training and experience? The first person with whom you need to be honest when deciding whether or not to accept a job is yourself; but that honesty should also extend to the end client in every relevant aspect of your professional relationship.

Going the Extra Mile

Contrary to what was recently said on an online translation discussion, this does not mean being a pushover. Going the extra mile simply means doing a little something extra that you know your client will appreciate and may ultimately translate into customer loyalty, which is not an easy thing to achieve in the current market. And, you know what? It won’t kill you or your business!


You catch a lot more bees with honey. People like to work with friendly, easy-going, proactive human beings who get things done with a smile. This again does not mean being a pushover, it simply means controlling emotions, not taking work issues personally, keeping calm, remaining professional and being nice and easy to work with. Your clients and colleagues will appreciate your positive attitude and are likely to be nice and friendly in return.

Do Onto Others…

After so many years in the business dealing with all sorts of translators both professionally and socially, I am under the impression that many language professionals feel unappreciated and try to use verbal force or strong attitudes to redeem the profession. Although I understand where they are coming from and why they do what they do, I don’t think this is the right way to go at all. Too many linguists end up coming off as whiny frustrated people that are simply impossible to work with, and ultimately do more harm to themselves than good. In my personal experience, focusing on doing a great job and providing solutions or creative alternatives when necessary has bought me the extra appreciation I was expecting from my clients and has always translated into more work and word-of-mouth referrals. This, to me, makes perfect sense. I only go back to businesses and service providers who, in addition to offering great products, also treat me with respect and go out of their way to keep me happy as a client. If I like being treated well, why not treat my clients well too? “Do onto others” may be a philosophical oversimplification, but that doesn’t make it less true. So when thinking about the simple and overly obvious tips above, ask yourself this: isn’t that how you like to be treated when you’re the client?

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