Identifying toxic clients in the translation industry is actually fairly simple – they are the clients that make you feel bad at the end of the day, the ones that stop you from getting a good night’s sleep, and the ones who generally make you dread the job you usually enjoy.
However, it is important to identify why a client like this has become problematic. Toxic clients usually display one, but often more, of the traits we discuss below.
General disrespect – at any level
Disrespect at a lower level can be the client not valuing the translation work you do for them, but not causing you too many problems. This can simply be a lack of gratitude – never getting a thank you can be very frustrating and demotivating.
At the higher end, translation agencies and freelance translators do sometimes come across rude clients, who voice their feelings in an inappropriate way. Once this line has been crossed, it can be hard to continue working with the client.
The middle ground is a client that leaves you feeling stressed at the end of the day. Remember that if you are taking longer to wind down at the end of the day because of the way a client treats you, this extends your working day.
No respect for your time
Having no respect for your time can come in many different forms. It can be an unawareness of the time it takes to complete a translation. Clients can presume that if you are a translator you can just translate thousands of words right away.
A client can monopolize your time, by constantly checking up on what you are doing, changing the task at the last minute and asking for continual amendments. If you have fifteen clients and one of them is taking up the largest proportion of you time in relation to the amount of work you do for them, this is unfair to both you and your other clients.
The ‘grass is always greener’ client
When a company employs the services of a translation agency, there has to be trust. A client who is constantly questioning your work and thinking they could get better services elsewhere does not have any trust. Worse still are the clients that get a bilingual employee without qualifications in their firm to ‘check’ your work and take their word over yours.
A translation agency has bills to pay, like any other company. A late paying client can mean that you cannot meet your financial commitments. This is not good business practice and should be addressed when onboarding a new client in order to set expectations.
Clients that pay low rates are not always bad clients – some just don’t have the means to pay more. It is then your choice whether to work with them or not. After all, it isn’t all about money. Doing small projects in your favorite field for lower rates might be just what you need to keep you motivated. However, if you do agree to lower rates, make sure you can do it without feeling bitter.
The real problem arises when a high-end company approaches you and offers you peanuts. This is the time to say no, as they don’t respect the skill, time and effort that go into translation work.
The bottom line is, if you feel bad at the end of the day working for a certain client, then it is time to reevaluate. The first step should be to think about how to improve the relationship. If this doesn’t or can’t work, you need to make plans of how to move away from them.