Correspondence with Clients — The Survey Says!

Over the last month or so, I’ve communicated with my clients using a survey I created to obtain information that would be useful for other freelance translators. The survey questions involved email correspondence and resumes. My goal was to better serve my clients and also help my readers learn a thing or two. What follows are the conclusions from my research. Some of this may be common sense, but then again, there may be a detail or two that you, the reader, may be neglecting. In any event,  read and enjoy!

1. How many emails is a lot? —  Don’t write a novel!

As a freelancer I receive probably 15-25 emails a day, maybe more on a really busy day, particularly if we count quick short messages. Consider, however, that many clients/project managers receive and answer up to a hundred or more emails a day. That can consume a lot of time. What my survey results tell me is that it’s good to keep things brief and on point. And you’re no Dickens, so don’t write a novel!

2. What’s the right length of a resume?

The vast majority of survey respondents prefer either 1 or 2 pages, 2 pages maximum. If you go over 2 pages you risk having your résumé ignored.

3. What are some important resume items and red flags?

Important items: rates, CATs, expertise, contact information.

Red flags: the translator indicates that he/she translates all types of texts (as opposed to specializing in certain subjects).

4. What’s a reasonable email response time for a proposed project?

This is a tricky issue because timing is everything. Who hasn’t answered an project proposal only to receive a response stating that the project has been assigned to a different translator? It has happened to me, and it’s something I think we all like to avoid. What I’ve concluded from my research is:

a. For urgent emails an answer is necessary ASAP of course.

b. For non-urgent mails, the answers vary. Some respondents said up to 24 hours, which is quite generous. This definitely depends on the rapport between the translator and client. If you have established rapport with a client, I think they are more likely to give you more time to answer. Others indicated between 1-8 hours. An important point is the difference between being reachable and available. Regardless of whether you are available, it’s important that clients get a response, and based on the survey results, a response within 1-4 hours seems best, otherwise it’s recommended you put up an away message. This maintains clear communication with clients while you are indisposed.

5. What are some no-nos?

a. Don’t make spelling mistakes!

b. Be enthusiastic!

c. Be polite! Don’t be rude!

These last items may seem trivial, but they could make or break  you when courting new clients. No one likes sloppy work (spelling), no one likes a bore, a person who is not passionate about their work (enthusiasm), and no one likes an asshole (politeness).

Email correspondence (and resumes) is something translators deal with on a day-to-day basis, and in that sense we develop certain habits, habits that may or may not be good. I’m not one to tell people how to communicate with each other, but my survey has provided me with these few tips. Perhaps they will help you out in future.

Thanks for reading.