How to recognise an order you don’t want to take

How to recognise an order you don’t want to take

Taking orders – is it even acceptable to say no?

Beginner freelancers often find it challenging to win clients’ trust and establish long-lasting business relationships; as a newcomer in the field they struggle to cover the monthly expenses, maintain the work-life balance while still trying to derive some pleasure and satisfaction from performed tasks. No wonder that bearing all these aspects in mind, one finds refusal to take an order unacceptable; a decision which might potentially severely affect further cooperation with a given client. Before we delve into the intricacies of scientific fields we know nothing about, we should always ask ourselves – are we able to deliver a reliable, high-quality translation which will meet the expectations of our clients? If not, then politely declining to take the order is sensible rather than offensive.

Always remember: “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Find your niche!

Linguists specialise in a highly diversified range of disciplines, usually establishing themselves as specialists in legal, literary, medical, technical or financial translation. Even within those general areas specialists can be divided, for example in medical translations, into those providing reliable services relating to particular fields of medicine, i.e. cardiology, oncology or neurology. Profound knowledge of a given discipline is highly valued, along with the ability to provide quick, reliable and trustworthy language solutions. Once a young translator has decided on their chosen specialisation, they can start reaching out to potential clients and business partners working within a given field.

Project selection criteria

Having the ability to choose among numerous projects is a blessing – but it can also prove to be a curse. Depending on preferred work method translators either select numerous shorter orders or decide to go for the one that is complex and extensive, with a fairly long deadline. Beginner translators usually feel overwhelmed by highly specialised texts, especially the ones requiring access to professional resources and consultation with independent specialists. A refusal should not be treated as a personal offense but rather a display of common sense and thorough knowledge of one’s abilities.

translate selection

Below are presented a few crucial steps in project selection.

Read a few excerpts of the text and try to assess the grammatical correctness and text comprehensibility. Sometimes it is not specific nomenclature but the language itself that poses the greatest challenge; look out for grammatical errors, improper punctuation, unclear phrases and ambiguous sentences. The more of these are included in the text, the more likely it is that it will require numerous consultations with the client – and there is still no guarantee that the overall effect will faithfully convey source text’s meaning.

In case of specialist texts, try to identify a few field- or industry-specific phrases, abbreviations and terms. Look them up in available resources, use the Internet, dictionaries, journals, in case of more challenging issues try to contact fellow professionals. If every single one of them is problematic, the translator might be in for a task of establishing primary translation for people working in the field (and these terms might soon become official translations of given medical or technical terms); not everyone is ready for such responsibility.

Consider the projects underway and decide whether taking up another order will not interfere in timely execution of formerly accepted tasks. The clients value reliability and punctuality – and in case of potential failure to complete all of the entrusted duties, they are less than likely to show compassion towards a professional who simply had too many irons in the fire.

Last but not least – declining an offer does not equal showing one’s weakness!

Nobody likes to admit that a certain task is beyond their capabilities. No matter how scary this might seem, admitting that a reliable completion of a given order is impossible is far more mature and speaks volumes about one’s responsibility. A professional is able to look at their skills from the distance and appropriately assess their abilities. As much as clients value consistent and uninterrupted cooperation with one professional, they find honesty and loyalty far more compelling.


If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us!