Five freelance translation mistakes to avoid

July 12, 2017
Five freelance translation mistakes to avoid

Whether you’re just embarking on a professional translation career or are an old hand, it’s always good to ensure that your working practices are putting you in the best possible position to make decent money and enjoy a successful working life. With that in mind, here we look at five freelance translation mistakes to avoid – no matter how long you’ve worked in the industry! 

Delaying billing

You’ve reached the end of the month (or the end of the translation you’re working on, depending on how you do your billing) and have a million things to do. You work steadily through your To Do List, but know that something is going to slip into tomorrow. 

It’s a situation that all freelancers experience – it’s part of the nature of the work. The temptation is to move tasks such as financial admin to the next day. After all, surely your clients won’t mind (or even notice) if your invoices go out a day late…

While that may be true, delaying billing is a mistake. Every day that you delay sending out your invoices means another day before they will be paid. By sending out bills late, you’re hurting your cash flow and actively creating a potential problem for yourself around the time that those payments are due. No matter how strong the temptation to delay, always make sending out your invoices a priority. Other tasks can wait – this one can’t!  

Setting your rates too low

This is a key mistake that many new freelancers make. Setting your rates too low is a hard position to come back from. It attracts demanding clients who value price over quality. It’s much easier to set a fair rate to begin with than to start off at a low rate and then try to push through an increase. 

Grabbing any work you can

In a similar vein to setting your rates too low, don’t just grab at any work you can. All freelancers experience quiet periods and the temptation can be strong to grab the first job that comes your way, even if it’s for a lower price that you would usually charge. Try to avoid falling into this trap. Remember that it’s better to commit extra time to finding a job that pays decent money than it is to go for low-hanging fruit, even if that sense of freelancing panic has begun to set in!

Not trusting your gut

Trusting your instincts is an important part of freelancing. This is true whether you provide translation services, blog writing, website design or any other kind of work. When it comes to making decisions about which new clients to accept, it is often you and only you who is involved in the decision-making process. That’s why it’s so important to listen to your instincts. If you have a bad feeling about a potential client, don’t make the mistake of ignoring that feeling. Instead, explore it and find out what it is that’s worrying you. 

Having a bad feeling doesn’t automatically mean you have to turn a client away. There are ways you can mitigate your risk. For example, for large jobs from new clients, you could asked for staged payments, with a percentage due upfront and then based on milestones being reached during and/or at the end of the work. It’s quite often possible to reduce your risk level in this way, listening to your instincts and letting them guide your approach.  

Underestimating the power of social media

Social media can be a serious time drain, but it can also be a powerful marketing tool. Successful social networking is a lengthy subject and one well worth exploring. Connecting with the right people in the right ways can quickly grow your network of relevant contacts and line up future potential clients as a result. Commenting on the right posts and forums, and making sure your content is relevant, insightful and engaging, can reap big rewards. 

Final thoughts

Have you made any of these freelancing mistakes? Are you still making them now? If so, it’s time for a change! 

If, however, you’re more concerned about an actual translation mistake you’ve made, don’t fret – there are ways to survive translation mistakes too! 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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