How to Survive Your First Translation Mistake

July 28, 2015
How to Survive Your First Translation Mistake

Everyone makes mistakes, and your professional career is not immune to them either. Especially when starting out as a new freelance translator, you should expect to make a few mistakes along the way. It's important to accept these mistakes as a part of the learning process, but what should you do when you do make one? This Hub post will attempt to guide you through your first translation mistake, allowing you to learn from it and move on.

Let your client know as soon as you do

If you notice the mistake before your client does, ensure that you give them as much notice about your mistake as possible. By doing this, your client will hopefully see that you're an honest individual, and that you put your client's interests above those of your own. Hopefully this initiative will help soften the blow when you let them know about your mistake. 

Give an explanation, but not an excuse

When it comes to confessing mistakes, complete transparency is the best policy. Clients are more willing to accommodate honest translators who make the odd mistake then they are perfect translators who seem to be trying to conceal something. 

When explaining why you made your mistake, try not to sound like you're making excuses for your oversight. It's important that you hold your hands up and admit your wrongdoing, but you also want to show that you've learned form this mistake and won't be susceptible to it moving forward.

Your client's willingness to accept this explanation will largely depend on the severity of your mistake, but by being honest and showing you've learned from it you stand a better chance of being hired by this client again in the future.

Offer to make things right

Obviously, you'll be expected to fix the mistake in your completed translation, but if your client is still unhappy, you may want to make an additional gesture to smooth things over with them. For example, you could offer your service for a reduced fee, or perhaps even add an additional service (such as changing the document's formatting free of charge).

Giving away your services free of charge is never the best-case scenario, but when it comes to potentially loosing a good client, it'll probably save you more money and hassle in the long-run. Instead of begrudging the need to give away your work, instead view it as an important investment into your business. After all, if you're unable to appease your client, or you both part on bad terms, then it'll reflect badly on you. You don't want this mistake to snowball into bad publicity for your services!

Final thoughts

When you do make your fist translation-related mistake, we trust you'll be prepared to take the initiative and tackle it head-on, hopefully winning your client's trust and future business in the process! If you've already had to navigate a difficult mistake in your translation work, what steps did you take to make things right? Would you add anything else to the above points? Let us know in the comments below.

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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