Lessons learned: clients come and go

I’ve realised that my (often hectic) working life has taught me many life lessons in recent years. As some of these are freelancer- and/or translator-specific, I thought it might be an idea to share a few with you the reader. Perhaps you’ve gone through some of the same things, or perhaps I can alert you as to possible situations that might arise as you start to build up your business and client base.


So here we go with Lesson 1: Clients come and go.


One of the first lessons I learned when setting up as a freelance translator is that clients will come and go, and THAT IS OK! While building up my business, I’d sometimes find myself collaborating with customers – particularly agencies – that would be drowning me in work one month/year only to disappear off the face of the earth the following month/year. When this first occurred, I really fretted over it, worrying I had done something wrong or been blacklisted by the client in question. I was nervous to ask for feedback and so just let it go, turning my attention to my other clients instead.

The next time it happened, I wasn’t so shy and decided to just reach out and enquire as to the client’s sudden ‘radio silence’. The explanation took me aback, so simple that it hadn’t crossed my mind. The agency had stopped working with the particular firm for whom I had been translating and so they simply had no work to offer at that particular time in my language combinations. I was very glad I’d asked and got my answer. In the early days, and considering I built up my business gradually, this would sometimes come as a setback because it left me with a work deficit, but this only taught me that I needed to find a wider pool of clients so that the workflow would be consistent year-round, and that even if I lost a customer or two along the way, others would be always be on-hand to fill any gaps.


For a brief period, I then went too far the other way, collaborating with so many clients that I was often having to turn them down and finding myself battling (rushing) to meet deadlines and get everything done each day – far from an ideal situation. I soon realised I could never realistically keep them all happy and that what I needed was to scale back and achieve the perfect balance.


So having initially gone from one extreme to the other, I happily conclude this Goldilocks-type tale by saying that I now have a solid list of fixed clients for whom I work on an indefinite basis, enough to keep me busy but not so many that I have to turn down much work. They offer me interesting projects, we are a good fit and we collaborate very effectively. These ‘regulars’ are then supplemented with ‘new-entries’ that may bring a one-off job or a new project to the table, meaning that things are kept interesting and no two days of translation are ever the same. And because I work across a range of subject areas, many of which are actually of interest to me (motorsport, travel, luxury goods and marketing for example), I find myself really enjoying my work, not something to be underestimated in today’s climate that’s for sure.


Stay tuned for Lesson 2, coming soon.

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