6 golden rules of client etiquette – Part I

Sometimes I wonder why many professional attitudes seem common sense to some, whereas other people couldn’t care less. Speaking of the translation industry, I believe some types of behavior result from a lack of understanding about the dynamics of our field. New clients and beginner translators might ignore some implicit rules in their interaction and behave in a way that is considered rude or clumsy.

I’ve come up with a list of my top three dos and don’ts that translation clients should observe for the sake of an optimal relationship with their language professionals.

~ DOS ~

Here are the top three polite behaviors I expect from my clients.

1.    Acknowledge receipt (of quotes, translations, invoices, etc.)

We’ve all experienced bad server mishaps and seen messages get lost in cyberspace. So it’s good practice to confirm that you have received an email, a quote, a translation.

If a professional was attentive and put in time and effort to reply to your email with a quote or answer to your questions, a quick reply is in order. A single line saying something as simple as “Thank you” will do the job and will take less than a minute of your time, right?

2.    Update on the status of a project

If you requested a quote and got it from your translator in a timely manner, it’s only fair that s/he gets updates on where that project stands. If, for some reason, you decide not to hire the translator, just drop him/her a line. You don’t need to go into details you don’t feel comfortable with. Saying that the project has been canceled is enough.

3.    Communicate without bugging

Each professional has a preferred communication medium. If you know your translator’s preference, stick to it whenever possible.

Unless you’re dealing with an urgent matter, I believe emailing to be the most efficient way to get your message across. I also think most translators find it less “intrusive” than phone calls, Skype calls or chat, or other forms of IM.

Another reason why I consider emails more convenient is that I can choose to mark them “as unread” until I’m ready to send my reply. This works as a visual reminder to me. Now think of this scenario: you exchange a couple of lines via Skype chat on a Friday evening, just as your translator is choosing which movie or restaurant to go to. Your message might slip his/her mind very easily and might not be available later (if a mobile app doesn’t sync well with the desktop), so important details might be lost.

If you decide to call or IM, avoid disturbing your translator outside of business hours—again, unless you have a very urgent matter to discuss. And double-check which time zone s/he’s in. Just because our Skype, GTalk, MSN or other IM account shows we’re online, it doesn’t mean we’re available or willing to discuss business on a Sunday morning, for example.

As freelancers, we tend to work flexible hours, but it can be disturbing to get a Saturday Skype call about something that could wait until Monday. Be sensible and understand that, if we do work on evenings and weekends, it’s our choice, not an obligation.