Decisions, decisions… When to accept or refuse a translation project

translation project

As freelance translators, we are pretty much our own bosses. If you have a solid client database, you will probably receive regular requests and sometimes these may overlap, leaving you with the decision to accept or refuse a given job. For me, this is an extremely difficult decision. Not wanting to face any dry spells, the tendency to grab whatever you can and keep yourself as busy as possible may put you in a situation where you just have too much on your plate. So, I’ve come up with this rationalization every time I find myself having to decide whether to take on a project or not.

Am I capable of doing this job?

Supposing you’ve already defined your work fields, after a quick review of the source text, you may be able to decide whether you have the necessary skills and knowledge in the subject field to do the translation. Do you have experience with the type of text? If the job is to be done using a specific tool or software, are you familiar with it? And, if you have any doubts, will you know where to look for the answers?

Do I have the necessary time?

Your workday has a finite number of hours. During those hours, you can expect to deal with all kinds of translation-related tasks, which are not actual translation. You may have an accurately calculated daily throughput (the amount of words you can translate daily, on average). You may have a nice super organized daily calendar with all your ongoing tasks and goals for the day. But the unexpected can and will happen. Take this into consideration and be realistic. Also, think about the whole job and not just the word count and the time it would theoretically take to be completed. Will you have to go through reference material and instructions? Will it require a lot of terminology research? Add it all up and see if it fits into your schedule.

Do I want to do it?

It’s a given that you’ll have to do some research while translating. And there is nothing worse than working on a subject that doesn’t actually interest you. Ask yourself: do you like or have a particular interest in the subject field? Is it important for you to work on this project because it will allow you to do important research and allow you to become more familiar with the terminology involved? Will you learn from it? Will you improve as a professional? Is this project important from a strategic point of view? Will it allow you to land more similar work in the future? Motivation is important and this can always be a tiebreaker.

After you’ve answered these questions, you may have reached the right decision, avoiding regret, missed opportunities and all in all a terrible mood.


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