Practicing Customer Service as a Freelancer: Nine tips for translators and interpreters

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Providing customer service based on communication, responsiveness and integrity is essential to a successful freelance career. When seeking new clients, customer service is what sets one certified expert apart from another. It is also what keeps clients returning. But what does good customer service actually look like for a translator or interpreter? We have nine tips for stepping up your customer service game from first contact with a client to end of contract:

  Invest in a good website. Most clients will seek you out online. Make sure that your online presence is easy to navigate and clearly provides all the information that a potential client will need to understand your services and recognize your value. Make it easy for them to contact you.

  • Practice good email and phone etiquette. Customer service for freelancers is all about building relationships, so be friendly, positive and professional. Use salutations in your emails. Smile on the phone and say thank you.
  • Listen to your clients. The goal of good customer service is a satisfied client – or better yet, a client who has been truly wowed. To satisfy a client you must understand what they want and deliver the product or service. To wow a client you must understand their values and priorities and be able to deliver an experience beyond their expectations.
  • Use your expertise, with tact. The customer is always right, except that they have come to you as an expert. You have the experience and knowledge to avoid potential issues in a project, so don’t be afraid to share your expert perspective on a course of action.
  • Set clear expectations from the start. Good customer service requires flexibility, but professionalism includes setting limits that reflect the value of your time and expertise. Agree upon clear and realistic deliverables and deadlines from the outset of a project. Include limitations such as how many revisions you will provide before incurring additional charges.
  • You and the client are a team. Even with the best laid agreement, clients will occasionally make unexpected requests and projects will hit setbacks. Remember that the client and you are on the same team and respond with flexibility and a collaborative attitude.
  • Focus on solutions, not blame. When problems arise or you receive critical feedback from a client, focus on generating solutions rather than assigning (or dodging) blame.
  • Be able to apologize. Owning up to your mistakes with humility demonstrates integrity.
  • Follow up. After completing a contract, follow up with the client to thank them for their business and ensure they are satisfied.                 

Success as a freelance professional depends on good client relationships and a positive reputation. This is especially the case in professions such as translation and interpretation, where the freelancer is involved in something as intimate and nuanced as communicating on behalf of a client. Consistent customer service practices demonstrate professionalism, dedication and integrity, all of which are qualities that will bring both new and repeat clients.