When is getting rid of a translation client the right course of action?

February 13, 2019
When is getting rid of a translation client the right course of action?

Translators, like many other freelancers, invest much time and energy into building up a strong client base of loyal, fast-paying customers. Sadly though, not every customer is the dream client that you might hope they will be. At times, you may even have to choose to let a client go. This can be hard for freelancers – after all, getting rid of a client means getting rid of an income stream. However, it can also mean getting rid of a drain on your time and energy levels, leaving you refreshed and re-motivated to find better clients with which to replace the one you’ve fired. 

With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at when getting rid of a translation client could be the right course of action. 

Turning new clients away

Turning potential clients away is usually easier than saying goodbye to those you already work with. As such, it pays to be on the lookout for warning signs when it comes to new clients. If the relationship starts with the client making a fuss about paying your standard rate, that doesn’t bode well for the future of the relationship. 

Saying ‘no’ to work can be hard, but it’s worth trusting your instincts, which will develop as you freelance for longer. Your translation skills and time are valuable. If potential clients don’t appreciate that, it might be better to quickly say goodbye and find more amenable clients. 

Of course, there will always be times when you need the money, or perhaps need to demonstrate some experience in a new field of translation that you’re trying to establish yourself in. In such circumstances, it is of course entirely up to you if you wish to take on lower paying work – just make sure the job is very clearly defined and that the client is aware from the outset that if they want further work from you, it will be at your usual (higher) rate. 

Getting rid of clients who don’t pay

There are several reasons why you might want to get rid of an existing client. If you put your rates up (as we all must do from time to time, to keep up with inflation) and one of your clients isn’t prepared to pay the higher price, it could be time to end the relationship. 

Similarly, if you have a client who regularly messes you around when the time comes to pay your bills, it might be worth saying ‘goodbye.’ After all, the time you spend checking your back account and then phoning or emailing to chase payments could be better spent finding another source of income. The latter course of action may prove less stressful, too!

Redirecting clients to other translators

It may seem counterintuitive to send your clients in the direction of another translator, thereby essentially giving some of your income to someone else, but there can be good reasons for doing so. 

If, for example, you have a client that you regularly provide educational translation services for, and they ask for an in-depth financial translation, it might be better to find a specialist financial translator to undertake the required work instead. Attempting to deliver a specialist service that will see you compromise on quality, as you don’t have the right skills, could mean losing the client for good. Referring them to a specialist in the right field for a single job will hopefully mean they keep working with you on translations of their usual subject matter.

There may also be times when you are simply too busy to take on a translation job, even when you’ve been working with the client for a long time. Rather than over-commit and deliver a poor service, it might be better to redirect the client to a fellow translator who you trust to do a great job and who can help out until your workload has reduced. Doing so will result in the client still receiving their translation on time, even though you’ve not been able to complete it yourself. 

Saying ‘farewell’ to uncommunicative clients

Clients who are slow to respond to queries can be a real disruption to your workflow and thus a serious drain on your time. Not only can they delay your completion of the task at hand but leaving a job unfinished while you wait for a response can also impact on your motivation level and your general productivity. 

If you have a client who is uncommunicative to the extent that it's a problem, it could be time to consider parting ways. Such a decision can only be made on a case by case basis, so think carefully about how disruptive the lack of communication is and the impact that it is having on your working life. Trust your instincts and, if the situation isn’t working, let the client know why. You could give them a chance to rectify the situation, but if nothing improves, it may be best to get rid of them and spend your time finding a better, more communicative client. 

Final thoughts

Deciding to get rid of a client can be really tough, particularly when so little freelance income is guaranteed. However, it can also be the right course of action both financially and emotionally. 

Have you ever decided to let a client go? Was doing so the right move? Leave a comment to share your experiences with our community of freelance translators. 

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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