It’s so important that translators are honest about their abilities.
Don’t Exaggerate Your Translation Abilities
It’s also important that translators be honest about their abilities. Many quality issues arise because the translator concerned took the job for the wrong reasons - they really needed the money, they were afraid to say no, they didn’t check the documents before accepting the project, and so on. These are translators who admit they didn’t do a very good job of the translation.
Accept Honest Feedback
Many people who become self-employed, and this includes translators, find it difficult to accept negative feedback about their work. Fortunately, with age and experience, this does change, but it’s very important in the freelance world that translators are able to hear and learn from feedback regarding their translation work. When you’re freelancing there are no annual performance reviews, so client feedback is the best you’re going to get. If your client has a legitimate complaint about your work, accept this as a great learning opportunity. The only way to handle complaints is to apologize and do whatever it takes to regain your client's trust. Don’t become defensive because, even though your feelings are probably hurt, it will only escalate the complaint. Remember that these are all great learning curves and only add to your experience as a successful translator.
Dealing with a Dissatisfied Translation Client
It’s also difficult for a client to vet a translator ahead of awarding a translation project. You may be asked to provide references but, of course, any references you produce will be positive. And, because we’re human, even qualified translators have their bad days, miss deadlines, experience technical problems, or deliver substandard work. When this happens, it’s up to the client to provide specific examples of their problems with the document. It’s not good enough to simply say they’re not happy with the translation and therefore are not paying your account. Perhaps, as the translator, you could suggest that your client provides a document showing tracked changes indicating the revisions required. Alternatively, the client could show why the document had to be retranslated by providing a list of specific examples. If the document was sent to the end client without being reviewed and it’s the end client who is objecting about the quality of the document, then before the quality objections are addressed, the document needs to be reviewed by another translator – this will determine whether the end client’s objections are valid or not.
When All Else Fails
The hardest situations to resolve are when all necessary steps have been taken but there’s still conflict over whether the translation is up to standard, or not. Your next step as a translator will be determined by how much money is involved and how much you value this particular client. Sometimes the simplest solution is to give the client what they’re asking for, chalk it up to experience, whilst making a resolution never work for that client again. The most that can be gained is that you’ll be saving yourself a whole lot of stress! Of course, you must choose your battles and, if there’s a lot of money involved, it could well be the case whereby the client is being completely irrational and unrealistic and you’re forced to resort to legal action.