Educating a know-it-all client

After working as freelance translator for as long as I have, I thought I have heard it all: Wrong! A few days ago, I had the first meeting with a direct client. First business meetings are the ice-breakers, when you have usually your one-hour-of-fame to convince a client that you have what it takes to produce a five-star translation that will move a business forward to new markets or that will offer a helping hand to users etc.

Clients usually have never used the services of a translator before, and even if they have they still think that they actually know what you are doing: you are just replacing words in a word file! What is the difficulty in doing that? Here are the three most interesting remarks/queries I received from my potential client:

Educational gap 1: -Well, you know Miss Drakou, I hold the First Certificate in English (or the Proficiency in English), so I am in the position to comment on your translations. Do you hold these certificates?

Lesson 1: Languages are living organisms that evolve in time. They are not stiff, wooden phrases that are memorized until the time of a language exam and easily forgotten after it.  Having the limited knowledge of grammar and vocabulary required by examiners in order to give you a “Pass” in a language exam does not put you in the position to become a language judge. Yes, it may provide you with the equipment to at least grasp the gist of a text, but it does not transform you into a native speaker. Universities provide a rather wide variety of courses in the translation field, so a 4-year course followed by a Masters degree (Greeks tend to always complete a Masters degree right after their BA or Bsc) allows them to have a more in-depth knowledge in a language than the certificates mentioned above. And yes, I have both certificates. Oh, plus, I lived in England for 10 years.

Educational gap 2: What do you mean when you say that you translate only 2000-2500 words a day? Don’t you have some sort of software that translates a text for you?

Lesson 2: I am not Google Translate! I have to research terms, I need to do some studying on the subject if necessary and I need to have time to proofread my work. And after, I am done with my version, the target text is given to a proofreader to verify that all is done as required. If you would like to have a translation of the quality provided by Google translate, you do not have to hire a freelance translator to do it for you, your knowledge in English is adequate (NOT!).

Educational gap 3: Why do you charge by the word and not by the page? My text is only ten pages long, so it is not so big.

Lesson 3: Yes, you are right; your text is only ten pages long but the fonts you have used need a magnifying glass in order to be read! So, it seems that you remember the method translators of the previous century used to charge (well, to my horror, some translators still charge by the page) and you have tried to squeeze as many words as possible in each page in order to be charged less. (What a cheek!- I kept that to myself). The charge is by the word and not by the page.

There were moments during the meeting that I just wanted to burst out laughing but I did manage to control myself. I did giggle later though on my way to my office. I am not quite sure if I will ever hear from this client again, but I got the feeling that the client was one of these people that are actually fond of outspoken individuals. And if I never have any news, I can still giggle thinking about the meeting!customs essay

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Hi! Great post to get ready to incompetent clients… Unfortunately, I think that if the premises on his side are silly questions/objections like the ones you have explained, there is little chance to get him educated. I admire the effort, anyway 🙂

    1. Valeria,

      I thought I should give it a shot! I had already invested sometime in this client!

      Thank you for your comment 😀

    1. Nelida!

      Thank you so much for pointing them out! Hahah, you are right, there must be a factory somewhere!

      Thanks again for your comment! 😀

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