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You are only as good as your last translation April 7, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings, Translation Sites.
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Everyone has bad days. Days when you are simply unmotivated. Days when you can’t put a decent sentence together to save your life. Days when all you want to do is crawl back to bed and pull the covers over your head to escape the world. We’ve all been there. However, unfortunately in our field you are only as good as your last translation. Most clients are not forgiving when you send them a sloppy translation, as is their right because they have to ensure their client is happy. It doesn’t matter how many outstanding translations you have delivered to them in the past; if you screw up a translation you will most likely never hear from them again.

So how can you combat this? Consider hiring a fellow translator to proofread your translations and catch your (hopefully rare) boneheaded mistakes. Try to negotiate a longer deadline to ensure you can read over the translation when you have ruminated on it for a bit. I am always amazed how things that made no sense yesterday are suddenly crystal clear today.

If you ensure every translation you deliver is good quality and delivered on schedule you can be assured that you will have happy repeat customers. And that’s money in the bank…

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Comments»

1. Sam - April 8, 2009

I’ve toyed with the idea of hiring a fellow translator for proofreading myself, but almost all of the work I do is covered by an NDA of some sort.

2. Karen Tkaczyk - April 8, 2009

Just a thought: I’ve had this happen to me but it hasn’t lost me customers that I know of.
Last summer I delivered a job when my family had been at home all day and I’d had no peace. I used Dragon and there were ‘Dragonisms’ in the delivered job. They sent me the tracked changes, I groaned when I saw it, and gave them a hefty discount. They continue to send me work. They understood the ‘blip’ and forgave it.
Another example from a few years ago: once I delivered a long document (say 10K, but I don’t remember) and I clearly hadn’t proof read two pages of it. Those two pages contained errors, and again, I was sent the revised text. In that case it was obvious to the proofreader that I’d just missed a bit of the text in proofreading. They continue to send me work.
So: I agree with your principal, and none of us can afford to be blasé about quality, but when you have a solid reputation with a client I have found that the ‘had a bad day’ reason was accepted and that it did not ruin the relationship.
On the other hand if it were the first job for a client I can imagine they wouldn’t come back again.
To avoid poor quality like this, I’m a huge proponent of the ‘proof it the next morning’ school of thought.

3. Tom Ellett - April 8, 2009

I agree with Karen that a long-standing client will often forgive a one-off slip-up. Just don’t make a habit of it!

A few years ago, I mixed up “beech” and “birch” in a translation about Swedish furniture. Neither I nor the agency’s reviewer noticed the mistake until the end client pointed it out. I told the agency there would be no charge for the translation (it was only a small job anyway), and they in turn didn’t bill the end client. The agency continued to send me work.


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