Three tips to make a translator go the extra mile for you

I love nothing more than going the extra mile for my clients. It’s in my DNA. I’m a perfectionist and cannot resist highlighting things that could be improved in the original document and finding ways to make things more efficient and clear, even if the client has only purchased my basic translation package.

You must be wondering: what is the secret? What makes the difference to translators?

Here are my top three tips.

  1. Be nice – This seems obvious but it does make a difference. I know you are busy and stressed and in the middle of urgent matters and emails but it’s worth taking care over the tone of your emails. In my early days as a junior lawyer, I had so many matters to work on, so many foreign counsels to deal with, so many third parties to coordinate that I would send very short, curt replies to emails which, when read in the cold light of day, could seem a bit dry and harsh. I never meant to be abrupt but like you, I was just so busy. If someone called me out of the blue with a question, I would be talking to them inattentively while reading my emails or continuing to type whatever it was I had been working on before picking up the phone. The result was that the other person would usually not be proactive and try to make my life easier. Thankfully, I realised early on that this was not the way I wanted to communicate and I learned to slow down and avoid multi-tasking. So, if you receive an email from your translator with queries, it is worth finding a few minutes to read it carefully and answer the queries properly. If a translator calls you, stop what you are doing and turn your attention to the conversation. The call doesn’t usually last long and it may make a big difference to the end product.
  2. Always say thank you – It has happened that I have spent a lot of time on a translation and feel really good about the end product. I carefully craft my delivery email and send it to the client with pride. And then nothing. For days, even weeks. Often until the next job. I have never had a complaint about my work so far and I know the clients are happy because they keep coming back. But I have this feeling of disappointment. I guess it’s the same reason why we lawyers prefer to work for some partners rather than others. Most of my deals involved working like crazy to draft and negotiate the documents, have all the conditions precedents in place and coordinate a closing that could be very tricky. After the closing took place, when I received an email from the partner in charge thanking me for my hard work I felt very differently from when I heard nothing. When you hear nothing you feel unappreciated and over time you just do what is required to deliver high quality work but have no incentive to go that extra mile.
  3. Be flexible and understanding when you can – As a lawyer, everything is urgent and time-critical. Your clients put pressure on you to deliver and in turn, you put pressure on third parties. But as you have most probably experienced, sometimes you deliver this urgent draft to the partner in charge and it sits on his or her desk for a few days before they return it to you with some comments. You will remember this bitter feeling because you stayed up all night to complete it on time. The same goes for translators. It is a translator’s responsibility only to accept deadlines they can meet. Sometimes, your favourite translator will tell you from the outset that they cannot meet your desired deadline and that they require an extra day. Before trying to put pressure on them, pause and think whether your deadline really is non-negotiable. If it’s only your agenda that is dictating the timing, could you reorganise a few things and move tasks around? More often than not, you can. If you have been flexible in the past then on those occasions when you really need to receive the translated document on a particular day because, say, you need to file it at court (as has happened to me, where delivery of a translated document has been within a few hours of filing a last minute piece of evidence), the same translator will remember your past flexibility and will be more inclined to go the extra mile for you.



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