10 questions to ask a client before starting a translation project

The most important thing you should do before every translation project is to get to know your client’s needs and requirements. It is also crucial that you understand the scope of work you are about to complete. The following questions will help you decide if the partnership is a good choice and provide you with the initial guideline for the project.

Company profile

1. What is their business and specialization?

In order to best serve the clients, you need to fully understand their business field and company operation. Since each field requires different scope of knowledge and has its own characteristics, the more you understand about the client’s work, the better you can convey their intended message in the translations.

Also remember to ask yourself if you have the needed experience and resources to translate industry- specific terminology before making partnership decision. If you are not familiar with their specific industry (clinical trials or engineering physics, for example), you should ask for provided glossaries (if any) or consider to turn down the project. Losing a potential client might be painful, however, it is not worth risking your company’s reputation if you fall short of your client’s expectation.

2. Do they have any previous LSP and why do they want to find a new vendor?

You should learn if your clients have worked with other LSP before. If the answer is yes, you need to find out what made them chose to leave that vendor?  By completely understanding other’s mistakes, you can improve your own services and ensure that you will make your client satisfied.

Project requirements

3. What are their target customers?

How you translate a certain document depends on the intended audiences. You should understand your audiences in order to have appropriate writing style and word choice. Besides, by knowing the purpose of the documents, you can decide whether you should use general or industry-specific terminology.

4. Is there any confidential information?

Some clients have very tight restriction on the disclosure of their information and ask for absolute confidentiality. Therefore, you should carefully ask them for permission in any circumstances which may lead to information release. In some certain cases, the client even asks you not to type specific information from text into Google search to ensure secrecy.

5. What is the required language pair?

Right at the beginning, you need to figure out which language pair you will be working with in order to have good preparation for the project. The price and turnaround time of the project also depend on whether you use your in-house staffs or hire outsourced translators.

Client’s requirements

6. Is the deadline fixed or negotiable?

You should be realistic about your workload efficiency and decide if you can meet client’s expected deadline. Even when you are so sure about meeting project deadlines, there can always be unexpected situations and force majeure. It’s better to ask your clients if they agree to extend the deadlines, should you experience any poor circumstances.

7. Are native speakers required for proofreading?

Some clients might feel strongly about having native speakers for proofreading while others are simply satisfied with a check by the translator. Understanding client’s requirements will help you provide them with better services.

Technology requirements

8. Is there any preferred file format?

You should ask your clients if certain file formats are preferred so that you can decide if you need a new software or you can work well with your available ones.

9. Are terminology glossaries provided?

With some typical business fields, it is best to have a provided glossary so that perfect accuracy will be ensured and the latest updated terms will not be missed out.

10. Are there any requirements on QA and layout check software?

Clients who have worked with a LSP before may have a preference on the conduction of QA and layout check. Discuss the process with them and ask them if evidences of the use of QA software should be provided.

Mutual understanding is the key to effective collaboration. Asking the right questions is the perfect way to find out if you should work with a client or not. It is an art that requires both tactics and interpersonal skills. If the clients are open to questions and if you can be flexible to their requests, your partnership will surely be successful.  


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