Critical Tips for Freelance Translators to Provide High Quality

Feb 21, 2018

Content freelance translators

Everyone in the translation business can probably enumerate the qualities of a good translator – accuracy, commitment to high quality, on-time delivery to clients. But getting there is another matter. Whether you are currently working for an agency or looking for how to become a freelance translator, there are certain factors and criteria that will result in high-quality translations – products that will keep clients coming back and referring an agency or an individual translator to others.

Translation typically involves a three-stage process – translation, editing, and proofreading (TEP). Each stage is critical, and, as any translator goes through them, there are some key tasks to ensure quality.

Take a look at these tips for translating that will provide the quality that will keep those clients coming back for more.

  1. Carefully Review the Order

Read all instructions at least twice and make sure you understand them. As you read those instructions, make sure that the client has provided all of the documents you need to complete the project.

  1. Assess Your Expertise

If your translation niche is the law, then a client requesting a medical document translation will involve terminology with which you may not be familiar. If you are going into “uncharted territory,” make sure that you have the time and the tools (e.g., a niche translation dictionary) to provide the quality the client expects. If you feel unqualified, or you do not have the time you will need, then you are better off referring that client to someone else rather than take it on. You will earn some goodwill in the process and look professional to others.

  1. Use CAT Software to Ensure Correct Formatting

No client wants to have to re-format a piece they have received. Be certain that the original format is duplicated exactly, so that the client has nothing to do on his end. If you don’t do this, you will lose that client. Software tools for freelancers are quite sophisticated today, and you should make use of them. They provide accuracy and speed.

  1. Report Issues to a Client Immediately

One of the most important steps involved in translation is regular communication with a client regarding progress. But more important than that, is immediate communication if an issue arises. Whether it is terminology, format, or something else, the client should be given input, so that the final product reflects that input.

  1. Run a CAT Grammar and Spell Check

This is just the beginning of the editing process, but it should be done before any other editing occurs. These are the mechanical things – the details that you may often miss. Fortunately, technology takes care of that for you.

  1. Editing

Agencies usually assign a separate translator for the review and editing. Freelancers don’t have that luxury, unless they are in a type of partnership or have mutual arrangements with other freelancers. The first thing to do is to read the translated piece alongside the original, making sure that everything has been included correctly. Then, read the translated piece on its own, making sure, again, that it flows logically and makes sense. It should read as if it is an original document in that source language.

  1. Don’t Obsess About Being Literal

Clients don’t expect a literal, word-for-word translation. So, stop trying to do that.  Your translation will be “stilted” and unnatural. As you translate, read through the original document in very small segments. Get the main idea and details, and use your mastery of the target language to translate into a smooth flow of words.

And one final note. When you deliver that translation, put a personal comment page with it. This might include a specific use of terminology that you felt was the best; it might include other notes on certain sections; or it might just be a thank-you. The client wants to know that you have a commitment to quality and that you appreciate his business.