How to Get Your Best Clients

In business as in life, our mistakes are our best teachers. And when a client makes a mistake, it can work in defence of professional translators.

Last autumn, a friend of mine lost a bid to another translator who could allegedly provide the same quality of work for a much lower price. Understandably, my friend was not amused; she was also sceptical as to the quality the other provider would actually supply – we (colleagues) all were. Last spring, the client contacted her  and meekly enquired whether she would be available at short notice to edit the translation as the quality wasn’t there, after all. Luckily for them, she was, so she was hired to rectify the mistranslations, restore the omissions, etc.

My friend is still miffed. I see such anecdotes as blessings in disguise.

A few years ago, after using a translation agency and being told that the translation provided had been checked 3 times, a client contacted me to fix the many imperfections still remaining, which I did to her satisfaction. A few months later, she called me again, in a bit of a panic at 4.50pm on a Friday. This time, they had used an independent translator directly (why not me, I wondered) who had delivered some incomprehensible nonsense worthy of Google Translate or some translation program of sort. (After spending my weekend fighting with the mess, I promised myself that this would be the first and last time I would ever touched a machine translation!) Once again, the client was grateful for my good work and for rescuing the project in the nick of time. She then asked: “Do you only correct translations or do you translate, too?” – * Sigh at both ends of the phone*. Since then, she has been one of my most faithful clients.

Rather than get frustrated at clients’ mistakes, I see the positive outcome: such situations educate people (the hard way, unfortunately) about the skills required for translation and they bring professional translators the most trusting and long-standing clients as these will not risk getting burnt again.

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