Fast Translation Becomes Mission Impossible: 40,000 Words in 48 Hours

The Internet is a strange place. If you’ve worked as a freelance translator, you’ve likely had an experience with an impossible job. Clients who expect to have a whole book translated in just a couple days are certainly the kind that translators hope to avoid. Having worked as a freelance translator since 2009, I’ve had my fair share of unreasonable job proposals.

All too often, a client won’t realize that a demand is unreasonable. To someone who has never translated professionally, completing 40,000 words in two days may seem perfectly normal. After all, they may think, you just have to replace the word in the source language with its equivalent in the target language. A piece of cake, isn’t it?

Anyone in the field knows translating is far from being a simple mechanical exercise. But, what can you do when you come across this type of client, who demands a fast translation?

Train Your Clients

A client unfamiliar with translation work could benefit from knowing what the trade is all about. Provide them with clear examples to show that fast translation is not as easy as they think it is. Explain how a professional translator shouldn’t translate more than 2,000 words a day, especially when a client insists on perfection, and that translating tens of thousands of words within a matter of days is an unrealistic, impossible-to-meet demand. It might surprise people to know that translating 2,000 words usually takes longer than writing the same 2,000 words.

Clients will either understand your refusal to work under such stress, or will label you as a lazy worker and won’t try to meet you half way. It’s always best to give the client other options if you deem their request to be unreasonable. Encourage them to consider a translation platform that facilitates the process and has the flexibility to assign multiple professional translators. If training your clients seems like an option, and won’t be a waste of your time, it might save you a lot of hassle in the future. There’s no harm in trying, right?

About Martina Stefani

Martina Stefani is a native Italian speaker living in Rome. She holds a Master’s degree in Foreign Languages and Translation and works as a full-time freelance translator and writer. Her working languages are Italian, English, German and French. She specializes in translating literature, marketing, medical, technical and business related content.