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What is your gut telling you? February 17, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation.

No, not that you need to get out and exercise more. ALL of our guts are telling us that! I’m talking today about intuition, your gut feeling. We’ve all had those job requests where our gut tells us “RUN!” but we take it anyway and live to regret it. You spend all weekend researching a bunch of terms and slowly plodding through the text only to have the client come back with a lot of complaints a week later because you didn’t know the subject matter enough. Or you take a job only to learn three months later that the client is a known scam artist and you’ll never see the $3000 he owes you. We all have our stories…

I have learned to listen to my gut more. This is something they don’t teach you in school.

If your gut is telling you something isn’t right, chances are the job offer is fishy or you simply aren’t up to the job. That e-mail from the Prince of Ghana is most likely not from the Prince of Ghana. The other subtle warning signs in the mail like typos and bad grammar are causing your gut to clench and say “don’t even bother responding.” That check you received in the mail from that client in Nigeria is probably a fake, just ask your gut.

One of my colleagues wrote our listserv today asking what seemed like a simple question about word prices for creating a specialized dictionary. She seemed to think it would only take one work day to create, and the client was requesting a word price instead of an hourly rate. Her colleagues suggested she demand an hourly rate and budget at least a month for the project. I would also have suggested asking for $40 a word since there would be a lot of research involved. I bet she’s glad she listened to her gut and asked for a second opinion from her colleagues. I bet if I had asked that colleague what her gut was telling her she would have answered “don’t do it.”

If your gut tells you something isn’t right or that you really shouldn’t try to translate that technical specification because you don’t recognize one-third of the words and would have to look them up, try listening to it. Ignore all the voices in your head telling you “well, I need the work” and tell the client no. Because if you listen to those voices you could really end up regretting taking the job (and possibly being institutionalized, but that’s a post for another day… LOL!).

Have you ignored your gut and lived to regret it? Feel free to share your experience here. I’ll start…



1. Jill (@bonnjill) - February 17, 2011

When I was first starting out I accepted a job over the July Fourth weekend that I had no business accepting. Not only did I have to hire a proofreader with expertise in the field because I was so unsure of the result (which SEVERELY cut into my profits – I think I pocketed about $30), but I spent so much time researching the terms that I spent the ENTIRE holiday weekend inside and missed the gorgeous weather and holiday festivities. Never again!

2. Jill (@bonnjill) - February 17, 2011

Here’s another example from another listserv:

Proofreading a 70-page EN-DE legal claim regarding multimillion dollar settlement from the financial crisis. The original translation had already been proofread by a legal translator for the legal terms and just needed someone to make sure the financial terminology was ok.

BUT once she started working on it…

The English syntax had been maintained throughout the document (use of the perfect tense instead of imperfect, inconsistent use of gender for the English terms, etc.) and the legal terms were translated literally and didn’t use the common legal terms used in German. And apparently the last 20 pages were translated by someone else, which just proves that you need to read the ENTIRE TEXT before accepting a job.

Live and learn…

3. Angela - February 17, 2011

URGH. I just accepted a job that my gut was shouting at me to reject. I suspect that by next week I will have a fresh story for your comments here!

4. Shadab - March 3, 2011

You are right dude.. one of my regular client send me huge project to work on ,i have start working on it though my Gut feeling was telling me to ask for some advance which i did not listen and worked on it and deliver on time(considering he is regular client and always pay on time) but this time i don’t know why . I am still awaiting to get paid for that project although i will get the payment sooner or later but still did not listen to my heart.

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