Four Easy Ways to Be an Ethical Translator

As a freelance translator, you work alone.

You’re in charge of the accounting.

You’re responsible for interacting with clients.

You don’t have a boss standing over you to make sure you’re doing everything you should be doing.

You don’t have colleagues to check up on you and your work.

It’s up to you to make sure everything you do is ethical and right.

And if you can’t be an ethical translator, you shouldn’t even be in the business.

Because your reputation is what will carry you as a successful translator.

The only way you can become awesome is by being honest in the translation work you do.

But some translators think that is too much work.

They’d rather take an easy way out by shortcutting the process.

Take it from me.

Taking a shortcut will never get you to your true destination.

So as a translator, what are some things you need to worry about?

First, let’s start with clients.

Keep Your Deadlines

Most translation jobs have a deadline.

As a translator who has agreed to a contract, you have also agreed to deliver a product on time and in the right condition.

If you don’t do that, that’s a breach of the contract you agreed to.

You won’t get paid.

And as a translator, you’ll want to make sure you get paid.

But even more so, you will be known as a flaky and unethical translator.

This is compounded even more so if you have no valid reason for the missed deadline.

You had other things to do.

You just didn’t feel like it.

It wasn’t exciting.

I’ve seen all these excuses from translators.

I’ve seen them from other freelancers.

And those excuses are surefire career killers.

So keep your deadlines.

Work later, work faster, become more focused, get rid of distractions.

Whatever you have to do, get it done.

Maintain Confidentiality

Your clients trust you to deliver a great translation.

But they also trust you to keep their documents confidential.

Most companies and clients will have you sign a confidentiality agreement as a reminder that you have an obligation to not give out the information to others.

But even if you don’t sign an agreement, you shouldn’t feel free to share any of the information you translate.

It’s not just the material you translate, either.

It also includes any supplemental material you receive from the client intended to help you with the translations.

Sure, maybe you won’t be held legally liable.

But again, are you going to risk your reputation as a freelance translator just so you can share some tidbit on Twitter?

If you think it’s worth it, you shouldn’t be a translator.

Be Honest in Your Pricing

Don’t be like cell phone companies that add all sorts of random charges to your contract every month.

Make sure your clients know exactly what they’re being charged for.

Lay it out before you accept the job.

If the client needs the translation notarized, know what that is going to cost before the contract is finalized and communicate that price to the client.

This is especially important when you’re working with a client that doesn’t have much or any prior experience dealing with professional freelance translators.

Sure, you might be able to add some false charges to a translation invoice.

But is it worth it?

Again, is your reputation worth it?

Not if you want to be a successful professional, it isn’t.

Be Honest in What You Can Deliver

This is simple.

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

If a client needs desktop publishing done as part of a translation, and you agree to do that, you’d better be able to do that.

Or figure out how to do it before you deliver the goods.

If you say you can translate into and out of multiple languages, great.

If it’s lie, you’ll be discovered soon enough.

And finally, don’t lie about your credentials.

As indifferent as I am about the ATA, don’t say you hold their certification if you don’t.

Any mileage you get out of lying might net you a small immediate gain, but the lie will catch up to you and ruin your career before it even begins.

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