Some of our fellow translators have a policy in place to prevent clients from making changes to their translations. Such policy is designed to protect a translator’s reputation. By changing the translation on their end, a client may introduce errors. If those errors get them into trouble, it’s not only the client’s reputation that suffers as a result, but also that of the translator. While I respect this policy as a viable marketing strategy, which helps project a highly professional image, I have doubts as to how practical that is for all translators. For example, for us, it’s totally impractical. And here’s why:
Why Clients’ Changes to Translation Are Fine with Us
- I believe that since a client is the one who pays for the service, they own the results and are free to do whatever they will with them. This is the same reason why we agree with clients on all the changes they make as long as these aren’t major errors. I bet that if we tell any of the translation agencies we work with that they can’t make changes to our translations, they won’t be happy at all. In addition, when we provide a “translation only” service to them, they may want to have our translation revised. However important it is, sending the editor’s comments for our approval is often not an option for them because there’s no time for that.
Large translation agencies often have the same policy, too. When they send files after client’s review, they ask us to agree with all changes unless there’s a serious problem. In other words, it’s a common belief that by paying for the service, a client has the right to use and modify translation as they like. When a client thinks that something can be improved in a translation, they should have the right to make a change without an approval. A client has much more subject matter knowledge about their products and services and is, therefore, able to make changes that add value to translation.
- This policy makes things more difficult for clients. If they agree to comply, they have to contact a translator each time they need to change something. Isn’t that too big a hassle for them? I don’t think many clients want to waste time on waiting for a translator’s reply. They outsource translation to save time in the first place. They do so even though they have internal translation capacity (if they can make changes, this means they have translation skills). Will a client be happy when a translator asks them to spend additional time on contacting him/her and getting an approval each time they want to make a change? And what if a translator is unavailable, e.g. on holiday?
As a result, a client will sometimes prefer not to make a change rather than waste time on contacting a vendor. By doing so, they will miss on the opportunity to improve the translation.
The policy prohibiting unauthorized changes is good for translators who translate high-level documents such as legal or financial where any incorrect change can cause serious damage. But for everyone else, it may not make much sense. More than anything else, it creates a hassle for clients and makes them upset about having to ask a translation to approve changes to what they paid for. If all a translator is worried about is his/her reputation, why not simply agree that if a client changes anything without his/her approval, they shouldn’t blame him/her for any troubles that change may cause?
You can also read about another way to make things easier for translation clients, which is extending your contact hours.
This might be a controversial perspective. Please disagree with me in the comments if you have a different opinion.