Guest post: Working with agencies

Welcome back to our guest post series! Our guest today is Alina Cincan, from Romania, but currently living in England. Alina is learning how to speak Brazilian Portuguese, can you believe it? And did you know Romanian is also a Romance language? So they are quite similar. 😉

Welcome, Alina! 🙂


5 Steps to a Project Manager’s Heart

Standing out in a competitive market is a must, no matter the industry you work in. The translation industry is no exception, and it’s not just translation companies that need to stand out, but translators too, maybe even more so, especially if your language combination is not exactly rare.

Case in point: from our list of approved translators for English into German, we only work with a few of them regularly. Why? Because we LOVE them. Why we love them? See below.

For those translators who have not yet embarked on the anti-agency wagon and who like their agency clients, and want to forge a goodgreat relationship with the project managers, here are some tips.

1.     Make a good first impression

You know what they say: first impression counts. Make sure your first email shows your enthusiasm and willingness to work with them (by addressing the person not Dear Sir/Madam), as well as impeccable language skills (a sloppy and full of mistakes email will not look good). All it takes is a little bit of research (the About section of their website, LinkedIn, social media) to find out a few things about the agency and person you want to talk to. Proofreading before hitting Send also helps, of course.

2.     Respond quickly

One of my favourite translators replies within minutes. This is not always possible and sometimes it may even hurt your productivity. But there are ways to make this possible. For those who are not at their computer all the time (or checking their email regularly) and cannot give an answer as to whether they are available for a particular project, a short email explaining when you’ll be able to have a look and give an answer will do. Especially when the agency is not one to send a mass email and select the first translator to answer (we at Inbox don’t), meaning they want you to work on that project and any delay in replying is a delay for the project. If you are busy, a short line saying so as soon as possible makes all the difference. Automatic emails are another option too.

3.     Respect deadlines

Pretty obvious, right? While we try to ‘educate’ (I’m not exactly fond of this term in this context) the end client about what constitutes a suitable time frame, sometimes urgent projects (or with not the most generous deadlines) do land in our inbox and ultimately in the translator’s. So, once a deadline has been mutually agreed, it should be adhered to. Sure, if there’s an earthquake, volcano eruption or some other natural disaster, no one would blame you for not sticking to them. Otherwise, if you encounter technical problems (we all have, I’m sure) or are going to deliver later than agreed (for various reasons), let your PM know as soon as possible. Depending on the project, a new translator may need to take over or, in most cases, the deadline extended.

4.     Communicate effectively

Sometimes the source texts we have to work with as translators are not exactly the great literary pieces we’d love taking apart and putting back together in another language. It may be about typos or grammar mistakes, or maybe ambiguous sentences. When it comes to the latter, don’t just assume what it may mean, let the PM know (especially if they’ve been working with that particular client for a while, they may be familiar with what the client expects or style guides etc.); if they cannot help clarify the meaning, they can pass your questions on to the client. Of course, pointing out mistakes or suggesting improvements will always raise your profile in a PM’s eyes (and heart). Another important aspect here is to ask the questions before starting the translation or when you come across an issue while working on the project, not after you’ve delivered the translation, which will mean going back and forth with amended files.

5.     Learn to say ‘No’

If direct clients may take this as rejection, a good agency should understand when you cannot take on a project (whether it’s not exactly a topic you are familiar with or have a very busy schedule which doesn’t allow you to accommodate a particular project) and, moreover, they should be thankful. They will appreciate a translator who only accepts a project if they can do a great job. So, don’t be afraid to say no.

Thank you, Alina, for accepting my invitation and kindly taking the time to write such an interesting and helpful article. I’m sure our readers will appreciate it as much as I did. I also agree with every single point you made. I’m a fully believer that a primeira impressão é a que fica (as we say in Portuguese), that’s why dressing adequately, having a polite behavior, writing properly, having professional profile pics, among others, are fundamental. I’m also a huge advocate of responding quickly to messages in general, but specially emails. I get instant notifications of incoming emails and whenever possible I immediately respond to them, and I appreciate when people do the same. Although obvious, #3 is a huge issue, right? How come people simply do not respect deadlines and not even bother to communicate the agency? Well, that’s it, otherwise, I’ll write another post myself.

How about you, readers, do you have any comments to add? Do you agree or disagree with any points made by Alina?

About the author
inbox-translation-alina-cincanAlina Cincan is a former teacher, translator and interpreter with over 10 years’ experience, now Managing Director at Inbox Translation. She is a language geek who likes to keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry. When Alina is not writing on her own blog, she is writing on other people’s. You can get in touch on TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and LinkedIn.

14 thoughts on “Guest post: Working with agencies

  1. Muito obrigada pelo seu convite, Caroline 🙂
    And the timing is perfect, as today Romania celebrates ‘Dragobetele’, which is the local equivalent of Valentine’s Day. So a post about love (albeit professional) is timely, isn’t it?

    Thanks for your own comment on the topic, and I look forward to reading a more detailed post.


      • The Valentine’s Day/Dragobete issue is pretty complex. Valentine’s has become popular in Romania in the last decade or so, despite already having a day dedicated to love (Dragobete). However, the Dragobete was not very popular or known either until Valentine’s Day started to get celebrated.
        As far as I know, there are no standard things to say for either of the two.


      • ‘Dragobetele’ falls on 24th February, but people started celebrating this recently, especially after Valentine’s Day (which we call ‘Ziua Îndrăgostiților’ – the day of lovers) started to gain popularity. I guess it was in a way as a reaction to that, something along the lines of ‘why should we get so excited about an imported celebration when we already have one?; let’s spread the news about this one’.
        Now both are celebrated, though Valentine’s is still more popular (that’s my perception at least). And it is couples who celebrate these two, but I don’t think there’s a special thing they say to one another.


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  3. Alina, I’m a freelance translator and I can say that your wonderful tips also apply to the relationship between translators and their clients! Thank you!


    • Hi Carolina, many thanks for your comment and lovely words 🙂 That’s true, they do apply whoever the client is (end client or agency).


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