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Show me the goods!

Do not accept any job before viewing it first.

Getting a new job can be exciting, rewarding and lucrative. However, a word to the wise: ask the client to send the source document, or at least a sample before accepting. You will thank yourself when you do. The reason being is that it can be a real headache when you accept sight unseen.

If the translation turns out to be something it shouldn't, or something you don't want, one of two things can happen. Either you will have more work than would like to, meaning less profit, or you will jeopardize the client. You don't want either of these things to occur. I mean, you wouldn't buy a car without sitting in it first – and possibly taking a test drive. You wouldn't go to the vegetable section of the supermarket and blindly pick out an apple or grapefruit or lettuce. You would most likely inspect them, and also choose the best one out of the heap.

Receiving a document from the client is no different. You could have either a problem with format or content, or both.

Here are some things that happened to me when blindly accepting a translation job.

The documents were in languages other than Spanish, such as Catalan, Portuguese and even Romanian. I also received documents in English, though my translation direction is Spanish and English. This is obviously the client's mistake, but if I don't get back to the client in time, it becomes my problem.

Some documents dealt with topics that I was unfamiliar with. Though it is true that I translate clinical trials, I mostly translate the paperwork, and not medical reports. On occasion, I have accepted clinical trial jobs thinking that they would be forms and the like, only to find out that they were actually lab reports or exams that took me much longer to translate, and quite a bit of seeking terminology in various glossaries and dictionaries.

Then format can be a real bear to handle. Imagine getting a dead* PDF full of illegible doctor's handwriting. How long would that take to translate? This is also hard on the eyes, and you usually will not be properly compensated for the formatting work.

In addition to examining the goods before accepting them, there is an issue with deadlines and time zones. When a client asks you what time you could deliver a job that is offered to you, make sure that you give them their local time. By the same token, when you are offered job, make sure that you know what time it should be delivered per your local time. This is especially important when there is a big time difference, such as Eastern time and Central European Time, which can be up to six hours. If you misunderstand the time, you could potentially have a problem while you're fast asleep, and when you wake up, you will have some explaining to do.

Whatever happens, if you could do it, work with whatever you accepted, even if it takes longer. Nothing would be worse than to renege on your confirmation and cancel the job. If you have to work late, on the weekend, early in the morning – whatever it takes, then you should do it. If you simply can't, then get back to the client as soon as you can and explain what happened. Nothing is worse than leaving the client hanging in the air.

*Text in a scanned document that cannot be copied without undergoing OCR.

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