Behind Translation Scenes


First of all, we have to define the word “work/working” – I’m refering to the beloved act of translating, which we all enjoy so much, and translating alone. Now that this is behind us, here are the basic things a translator should do in order to live happily ever after – that is, ensuring you did a great job and getting paid.

Before working

Before even accepting a project, please see the files! And more: read the instructions, quickly scan the file to see if the you’re comfortable with the subject, if deadline is tight or loose, if you’ll need to do more research than usual.

After accepting, read the entire thing. I know, it’s easy to say, but too hard to do when the deadline is tight and other projects are knocking on the door. Let’s try again: nurture the habit of reading the entire thing before starting. While you read, note down some terms that are quite repetitive, technical terms and other words you don’t know – this will be your glossary and the 30 minutes you spent on it will turn out to save you 1h or so of extra work. You will be grateful for also having compiled the repetitive words, saving your fingers.

During work

Once you’re finished translating, scan your translation comparing it with the source text to make sure you didn’t skip any line or paragraph. If everything is there, spell check your translation. It seems pretty basic, but many translators fail to do this. A quick confession: when I’m working as an editor or proofreader, the first thing I do is to spell check the document. If anything comes up as a typo, boy, the project manager will hear very bad things about your work! Of course, I’ll read everything carefully, double check the terminology and make sure the translation reads fluently afterwards. But if a translator fails to do this simple thing, it seems to me that this individual is sloppy.

After working

Send your translation with a request for receipt confirmation, and requesting an automatic read confirmation (Gmail has this option). If the project manager doesn’t confirm within 30 minutes or so, send it again, just to be safe. They could be busy dispatching the work, or they might not have received your message. Try not to leave the computer until receiving confirmation. Better safe than sorry (you’ll regret leaving 5 minutes after sending everything and receiving an angry message from your client, saying you’re late).

You can find out how to set up an automatic read confirmation request on Gmail by clicking here.


Don’t think that you just have to translate and you’re done. Your client can request you to solve a few doubts,  check a list of inconsistencies or translate another short sentence that the final client just sent them – and since this is all part of the package, you’ll have to be available. However, don’t let your client confuse “part of package” with “please, walk all over me” – you should do all you can so that the result of this project is fantastic, but this does not include translating these 500 words for free because “this just came in”. Set your limits clearly or you’ll have to endure this behavior.

Oh, you also must invoice! Otherwise, the client will not pay for your work. Did you agree with your client to invoice right after delivery, or at the end of the month? It might be different with every client, so it is a good idea to keep a list of all terms you agreed upon.

Remember:  to do your job well, you must continue developing yourself. Strenghten your source and target language skills, try new softwares (not only CAT tools, but also accounting, project management, and other tools), read translation blogs (hello J), start researching different areas. Also, try to network as much as possible – your fellow translators are a great source of information, work and fun! If a client of mine sends me a quote request for a project that is not within my area of expertise, I can always refer a colleague, or be referred. Be open to helping and being helped.

Do your marketing, keep your bookkeeping up to date and make big plans!

About Michele Santiago

Translation, localization, editing, subtitling. 7 years of experience in English and Spanish into Braz. Portuguese, specialized in Medical, Pharma and IT. Love rainy days, travelling and gadgets. Not necessarily in that order.

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