Common Problems that Freelance Translators Face

common problems that freelance translators face

Working for yourself always has a romantic attraction.

Unhappy Clients

Eventually you’ll have an unhappy client. This commonly involves a businesstranslation that they’re not satisfied with for one reason or another, and often they refuse to pay you for your work or inform you that they’ll have to have the piece re-translated by someone else.

In my experience, stylistic disagreements are the most common problem; the client reads your document translation and simply does not like the word choice or sentence structure. Sometimes this stems from too-vague instructions at the outset, where a client didn’t communicate their vision. Sometimes though it’s simply the choices you made. In either case, the best approach is to ask for clear examples of the problem, and offer to rework certain sections if you can see the client’s point. Arguing will often get you nowhere and is usually counter-productive.


Probably the worst nightmare for a freelancer is a client who simply does not pay as agreed. Often this is because of problems on the client’s side, such as a mistake in the rate quoted or a miscommunication concerning the size of the job.

First and foremost, you should always have a cushion for your business, money you can tap into for short-term problems. Beyond that, your best approach when a client can’t pay – as opposed to won’t pay – is to approach your client and work with them. Find out what their issues are, and see if you can’t work something out and compromise. It’s better to get something for your efforts and keep a client happy than to get angry and lose a client in the process. Of course, if a client becomes a repeat offender and is constantly telling you they can’t pay you, you’ll have no choice but to consider severing your ties with them.

Cancelled Jobs

Sometimes a client cancels a job midway. It’s important that you have language in your agreements that outline what happens – at minimum you should be paid for the time you’ve already logged on the job. For very large jobs, I’d recommend a deposit be requested – bill your client in stages, say one-third of the work at a time. This way if the client cancels after the first third has been completed, you have been paid for your time and can walk away cleanly.

In the end, freelancing has many clear rewards. As with anything that comes with rewards, there are challenges as well – be prepared for them and you’ll never be in an awkward situation.