The Linguist

The Linguist 54,3

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 25 of 35 FEATURES Working with direct clients is the aim of many freelance translators. They hope it will bring higher word rates (since there is no agency taking a cut), direct communication with the end customer (rather than project managers who are often unfamiliar with the specialist field concerned) and well-deserved recognition for their work. Overall, working with direct clients promises a better quality of life, as higher word rates lead to more free time for family and hobbies. In theory. But working with direct clients brings challenges of its own. Greater demands/responsibility Turning down an offer of a translation assignment from an agency because you do not have any free capacity, or simply have other things to do, is relatively simple. Since the agency has a whole list of translators, it will simply contact the next one on the list. The next translation request from the same agency will undoubtedly arrive in your inbox soon enough. There is, therefore, no need to worry either that you might lose a customer or that the agency will not be able to handle the assignment without you. With direct customers, the situation is different. Direct customers rely on their (often only) translator, and turning down an assignment would mean leaving them in the lurch. They would be faced with the time- consuming and complex task of finding another translator at short notice. This is simply not acceptable: if you work with direct clients, excellent customer service is essential. Being a good service provider not only means delivering translations of the highest quality, it also means meeting your clients' needs. This does not, of course, mean that you have to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, as a provider of a service it is your job to find solutions to ensure that your clients' needs are met even when you – understandably – do not have time to take on the assignment. Since you will hopefully be working with more than one direct client, it is also possible that several assignments from different customers will need to be processed at the same time. So solutions need to be found not only for days off and holiday periods but also for peak times during the normal course of business. Making yourself indispensable might sound like a great marketing concept but beware: customer loyalty should not be at the expense of quality of life. Boundaries It is not a good idea to make clients believe that they are your only customers and that you are just sitting around waiting for their assignments to arrive. If you let clients know that you are a freelance practitioner and do all translations yourself, rather than hiding behind a company that really consists only of you as a 'solopreneur', your customers will better understand your limited capacity. Lawyers do not have only one client and web designers do not work on one project at a time – clients understand this. However, if you behave as if you are always available at the drop of a hat, customers will start to expect this. It is up to you to set the boundaries from the outset. Your clients need to know what you are – and aren't – prepared to do. Be consistent: if you make an exception you should tell them. Otherwise you will give the impression, for example, that you regularly work on Sundays or through the night. Customers who demand extensive translations by unrealistic deadlines are often not aware of how long it takes to translate. It is up to you to educate them and to ascertain their requirements. Through this process you will find out which customers can tolerate longer delivery periods, allowing you some leeway to concentrate on jobs that really are urgent and time-sensitive. Availability Good customer service includes being available but this does not mean you should be available all the time and via all channels. You should let your clients know If you behave as if you are always available at the drop of a hat, customers will start to expect this Can working for direct clients improve your quality of life or should you stick with agencies, asks Karen Rückert A direct service 26 The Linguist Vol/54 No/3 2015

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