Cautious Translator: 14 Rules of Freelance Translator

Our job as translators is not limited to pure translation. We are translators, accountants, debt collectors, risk managers and many other things. The rules listed here are not a mandatory code of conduct. They are just the things we should remember when we deal with the business side of our profession.decision-1013752_1920


  1. Trust your instincts.

If something sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.decision-1013751_1920

  1. Do your job to the best of your ability.

If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

  1. Check a first-time client before you accept any work.

The amount of scammers, dishonest people and greedy agencies is outrageous these days.

  1. Be cautious.

Being a little paranoid can potentially save you hours of trying to get your money from a non-payer.

  1. Deliver on time.

“Better late than never” is not what your clients are looking for. Your motto should go along the lines of “a spoon is dear when lunch time is near”.

  1. Always stay professional.

Your reputation of a professional translator is just as important as your ability to translate.

  1. Always stay professional even if your client is not.

If your clients can afford to tarnish their reputation, you can’t. It takes more time for an individual translator to recover from the blow to their reputation.


  1. Don’t ignore your gut feeling.

Every time you don’t listen to your gut feeling, you pay with your time, health and money.

  1. Don’t take a job if you can’t do it to the best of your ability.

Trying to do something you are not qualified to do, you waste time you could have spent on doing something you are qualified to do.

  1. Don’t whine.

decision-1013712_1920Nobody likes whiners.

  1. Don’t complain.

Complaining will make you feel better, but it will have no effect on the progress of your job.

  1. Don’t accept rates you can’t live on.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

  1. Don’t accept jobs with unrealistic deadlines.

Time is of the essence. You know better than anyone how much you can translate in an hour and how much time it will take to complete the job. No song, no supper, but don’t let anyone bully you into accepting something you are not comfortable with.

  1. Don’t forget to ask for purchase orders and send invoices.

If someone decided not to pay you, no amount of legal documents will make them pay, but it is better to have paper trail if you want to sue or collect what you are owed. Sending invoice, you help your client pay you the right amount at the right time on the right terms.

The rules above are not panacea. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to dealing with risks that accompany the business side of translation. The ideas I shared are but a tip of an iceberg, nevertheless they can save from headache that comes with doing your job.

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