What a client!

By Gabriela Garcia Calderon Orbe
In Freelancing
Aug 1st, 2016

What a client! Funny stories about translation clients

My name is Gabriela Garcia Calderon and I’m a freelance translator. Today I want to share with you a funny -not so funny- story about one of my potential translation clients. I’m sure that many of you out there can relate to this, and at least we can all have a laugh together.

By mid-June this year, I got an email from a potential client. A friend of mine had recommended me to translate a document about ways to save energy in the hotel industry. The email said something like:

“I have a text in English about energy saving methods for the hotel industry I need to translate into Spanish. It’s a PDF file I can forward to you as soon as you instruct me to. Please, let me know your quote and estimate time of delivery, but have in mind it’s really urgent. I need to have it translated by late June tops”.

After reading the email, I started a reply, which went like this:

“No problem, please send me the document so I can take a look at it and calculate the fee for the translation”.

Less than 15 minutes later, I had the file on my inbox. After downloading it and converting it into a MS Word document, I had the total word count. There were over 10,000 words to be translated. I started to calculate a reasonable rate, considering a lot of things before deciding on a final amount.

Before I could send my fee and estimated time of delivery, I got another message from the client urging me to send my answer. “This is really quite urgent,” I said to myself.

After some more minutes, I finally sent the potential client a message mentioning my fee and telling them I’d do my best to have it ready by late June.

At the most, I could take the first week of July to have it translated and double checked. And then, I waited, and waited, and waited. No more e-mails, no more urging words demanding an answer from me.

Nothing. Just silence.

The next day, I got a new e-mail with a very brief message: “I’ll get back to you by June 30.” Apparently the translation wasn’t so urgent as this client thought.

I deal with this kind of people all the time: they contact me with desperate words, crying for help, more or less telling me that their lives depend on my work and how fast I can deliver it. And all that urgency, all the needs end up suddenly when they get a quote.

What are they thinking? That the translation was to be made for free? Why do they even ask for a quote on the first place? Why don’t they just say: “I can only pay this for the translation, so take it or leave it”?

Saddened for what I felt was a lost job opportunity, but encouraged with the feeling that I was getting rid of what will surely become a hassle or, worse, an unpaid job, and knowing the answer beforehand, I waited until June 30 before sending a new e-mail:

“This is just a reminder for you that today it’s June 30 and I’d wanted to ask you if you’ve made a decision about the translation”.

I got an answer the next day: “No, sorry, I don’t need the translation anymore.”

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About "" Has 5 Posts

Gabriela Garcia Calderon. I'm a lawyer, translator, proud lefty, short-sighted born in Peru and based in Lima. I live two blocks away from the Pacific Ocean. I am able to read from right to left, as a mirror. I love Limean winter, yes, the winter. I like reading, watching good movies, writing on my blog "Seis de enero" (January 6th) and sharing an ice cream all around the year.

5 Responses to “What a client!”

  1. Nice article, Gabriela. Definitely captures that feeling of frustration when you drop everything to respond to an urgent request – and the silence that follows. Keep up the good work!!

    • Sure it’s frustrating, Ciarán, especially when this alleged client insists that the translation is urgent and urgent and tortures you with three e-mails in a row, and then nothing. I think we’ll just have to keep the good work to forget these situations.

  2. manuel. says:

    Hi Gabriela! I’m a native Spanish speaker from Argentina and I work as a translator (English-Spanish, mostly). I would like to expand my business into the lucrative field of Spanish-English translations, but I just don’t have the confidence to do it. I don’t know why, really. I’ve been studying English since I was a child and I even spent two years in Britain. I can speak the language fluently, but when it comes to the written word… well, there’s a voice in my head telling me that I don’t know what I’m doing. No matter what I do, no matter what I read, no amount of Joyce, Wilde or Yeats seems to be able to silence that annoying voice. Do you have any advice for me? I would really, really appreciate it.

    • Hello Manuel:
      My only advice would be “don’t hear that annoying voice”. You’ll just have to accept you’ll make one or two mistakes while writing in a foreign language… but, hey!, it’s understandable as it’s not your native tongue. Free yourself of worries and just go ahead!

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