Best practices for successful freelance translation projects

Successful freelance translation projects: best practices

If you haven’t worked with a translator before, you might think that sending them a quick email with a simple request is enough. However, there are certain best practices for successful freelance translation projects you should apply. In this article I’ll show you what these are.

Always include the text to be translated in your email enquiry

When you’re emailing your translator asking for availability to translate a piece of content always attach the text in question. Even if you have worked with them before and they know what your content usually is about, it always makes things easier for them. This way they know exactly what to expect and how much time they will need to do the job.

Try to avoid zipping the file, if size allows it

On some smartphones zipped files need to be stored in a certain location before they can be unzipped and read. This is a bit of a hassle if your translator wants to quickly look at a text to confirm availability. An unzipped document can easily be opened within the email program of a smartphone and you are likely to get a quicker response, even if your translator is out and about.

Only send the final version of your text

Do you want your translator to start with the translation of your unfinished copy and just send them the final version later? Here is why this is not a good idea:

  • A piece of content or copy only works as a whole and the same applies to the translation. Your translator will have a much clearer idea of your message if they get the chance to read the finished, polished text. In contrast, an unfinished text might lead to more questions during translation that need to be clarified – which costs time (for you) and stress (for your translator).
  • Quoting for an unfinished text is difficult. To be on the safe side your translator might quote a higher price and give a longer deadline than they would have with a finished text.

If you really can’t get around amendments of your original, pay your translator adequately for the extra work and give enough time for implementation.  Don’t send emails of the type “Could you quickly introduce this by EOB today?”.

Provide explanations to abbreviations, wordplay, and cultural references

If your text contains abbreviations, wordplay, or cultural references, your translator is more likely to get back to you on those for clarification to make sure they understand them correctly. To save a couple of emails back and forth, provide a list of these items together with an explanation.  Doing this saves your translator valuable time on research and you might even point out things they would have otherwise misunderstood or interpreted differently.

Provide any pictures that you plan to use with the text

Are you planning to embed pictures, logos, infographics or symbols in your text?  Send them to your translator for reference. It will help your translator understand your content better and to make sure the translation creates the desired effect and works nicely with what your reader is seeing. Plus, they can warn you of any pictures that might not be suitable for your new audience abroad.

Provide the translator with previous translations for reference

There are many ways to say the same thing. If you have translations from older projects and previous providers, then forward them to your new translator to make sure your wording is consistent. Do you have a glossary with frequently used terms and their definitions? Or a list of terms with your preferred translation? Perfect. Attach them to your email when asking for a quote. It might reduce the time spent on research and thus the cost of your translation.

Be available to answer questions

During the translation process your translator might have questions about certain parts of your text. This does not mean they don’t know what they are doing. Quite the opposite: they want to make sure they understand exactly what you want to say so that the translation can create the same effect as the original. Therefore, another best practice for successful freelance translation projects is to make yourself available to answer questions by email (things still could be misunderstood over the phone) to help your translator understand every bit of your message.

Agree on regular question cycles by email during the translation process depending on the translation volume, for example, once a week. This way your translator can collect all questions they might have and don’t feel they are annoying you, and you don’t feel obligated to be available for your translator all the time.

Allow for enough time for translation and proofreading

Just as with your copywriter, it is important to give your translator enough time to submit a quality text. Translating marketing texts and copy is a creative process – which means it requires time.

By limiting the time for translation, you’re limiting your translator’s time to create the effect you desire. I for one don’t even offer rush translations. I know that I can provide a much better result when I have time to polish my text and look at my final version a day or two after I’ve finished it – rested and with a fresh pair of eyes. Besides, rush translations are more expensive. So, you might end up paying a high rush fee and not getting the premium results you hoped for.

Instead, it’s a good idea to give your translator advance notice about when to expect a new piece from you, so they can keep a timeslot available for you.

Highlight words that you don’t want translated

Does the entire text always need to be translated? Not necessarily. Some companies prefer to leave certain words and phrases untranslated, for example, product names or slogans, if this is part of their global strategy and branding. If you already have a clear idea about this, let your translator know and mark those sections as not for translation in your text, so that they know that they should leave them alone and don’t need to worry about translating them.

Have your translator check the final text after typesetting

After you have implemented the translation into your website or typeset your pdf let your translator take a last look at your final text. Maybe you have inserted a line-break that shouldn’t be there, or there is a β (beta) instead of an ß (a sharp s in German). Your translator will spot these things immediately and will highlight them for you so that your content is flawless.

If you keep these best practices for successful freelance translation projects in mind they will contribute to a better result and save time as they immensely help your translator.  Don’t hesitate to suggest other project-related practices to your translator that you think could make work easier for both of you. You’ll see that with the right processes in place going global is much easier than you might have thought.

If you found this article helpful feel free to share – it might be useful for other people in your network too.

And if you are ready to go global but don’t know where to start looking for a translator, these four steps to find the ideal translator online might be just what you need.

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