10 Trademark Signs Of A Bad Translation Job Offer

10 Trademark Signs of a Bad Translation Job Offer

As a professional translator, do you know how to spot a translation job from a client interested in buying a commodity?

Rest assured that you can find out sooner than later.  

In a previous post we examined warning signs to potentially bad clients.

And more clues can be found before work ever begins.

Where else?

In the job offer.

Of course we all know that not all translators are professional, good or honest, just like not all clients are good or honest.

So, as a professional translator, it is very important that you know what to look out for in a job offer.

The potential client's job offer is the key to recognizing if the client is looking to buy a commodity or professional services.

Below we will examine a few trademark signs of a typical email job offer coming from a commodities client.

You've got mail!

You open up your email account and receive an email from an unknown client with a job offer, and the body of the email looks something like this:

Hello [Linguist/Translator/Vendor],

We have a 10,000 word document which needs...

a. Machine Translation (MT) post-edit
b. light edit


a. today.
b. tomorrow.
c. other impossible deadline.

The job is...

a. short and simple.
b. a great way to gain experience.

You will be required to...

a. take an unpaid translation test.
b. use a Computer Aided Translation tool/site.
c. provide a discount due to the large volume/repetition of words and/or for the use of CAT tools.


a. Our rate is (insert any sub-standard rate per word).  Please note that these rates are fixed and non-negotiable.
b. Compensation of (insert any sub-standard rate per word) with a sliding scale depending on the percentage of translation memory match.  Please note that these rates are fixed and non-negotiable.
c. Only reply with your best rate.

[Potential Client]

(Before anything, did you notice the greeting?  Very informal among other things, we will discuss this more in detail in another blog.)

Did you spot the red flags?  

Let's examine them one by one.

No. 1  Machine translation (MT) post-editing

In an attempt to lower their costs, clients look for translators to verify and improve their machine translation.

Since each job is different, would it make sense to review the job and figure out if your fee will be equal or even higher than your regular translation fee.


Because MT post-editing is not always easier than regular translation, in fact most of the time it requires more work.

Many professional translators would agree that they could translate more quickly than simply MT post editing.

Machine translation post-editing might simply be another way for clients to get a translator to do the same amount of work for less pay.

What can you do if you are offered a machine translation post-editing job?

Review the job and its details very carefully.

If you feel that the MT post-editing needs to be done from scratch or it is more work than a regular post-editing job, your fees could reflect the additional work and time involved.

No. 2. Light-edit

Many proofreading jobs have fallen into the scheme of unqualified translator then given to a qualified proofreader to clean up the mess.

Clients who want to save money pay unqualified translators for a draft then expect it to be improved to professional standards by a professional translator.

This might be another method used to have translations proofread, edited, revised to pay less.

What can you do if you are offered a light-edit translation job?  

Again, I can't stress this enough, review the job and its details carefully.

If you feel that the editing job needs to be done from scratch or it is more difficult than a regular proofreading job, your fees could reflect the fact that the job requires more work and time.

10 Trademark Signs Of A Bad Translation Job Offer

No. 3 Tight or impossible deadlines (aka rush jobs)

You are probably getting requests to do these jobs because the client has contacted you only after exhausting every other translator willing to do the job at their rate.  

When no one else is available and time is running out, they will contact you as a last resort.

Could these impossible deadlines really produce quality translations?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Only you, the professional translator, can determine if you can produce quality translations in such a short amount of time or determine a feasible delivery time which allows you to guarantee your services.

What can you do if you are offered tight or nearly impossible deadlines?

Just like employees who work overtime are paid more, you as a business owner decide what you will charge.

A tight deadline might mean you work late, give up your weekends or something else.

No. 4 Stating a job is "short" and "simple" or "a good way to gain experience"

Is there really such as thing as a simple translation?

Not really.

A client that mentions a job is short and simple or that it is a good way to gain experience might only be concerned with the fee and not the quality, value or professionalism.

Correct and accurate translations are the standard for professional translators.

If you are asked to translate 10,000 words in a single day, you might produce something that risks having mistakes and not publish-ready.

A client may be able to find an unqualified translator who is willing to charge less, but that translator can only go for so long until they will have to offer value, quality, professionalism, and up their fees or go out of business.

Ultimately "OK" quality can't survive for too long without actually delivering real value, professionalism, and quality.

What can you do if a client claims the job is short and simple or a good way to gain experience?  

If you are a professional translator, really consider the consequences under such conditions.  


Because not only is your professional reputation and that of your client on the line, but the value, quality, and professionalism of your work.

A client may state their job is easy, but ultimately it is up to you to decide if it is or not and what your fees will be.  It may take you a couple of minutes to complete the translation, but it has taken you years to reach level of professional and speed.

10 Trademark Signs Of A Bad Translation Job Offer

No. 5  Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools as a requirement

Most of the time, clients who require you to use Computer Aided Translation tools, do it in order to insist on discounts for 'repeat word', 'fuzzies', or the like.  

Although many segments may be a close match to others, ultimately you, the translator, still need to make sure it is readable and makes sense.

What can you do if you are offered translation jobs that require computer aided translation (CAT) tools?  

If you use a CAT tool, it is you who invested your money in the purchase of such tool and your time to master its use.  

And as such, it makes perfect sense that only you get to decide if you wish to give such discounts.

No. 6  Unpaid translation test

As a professional business owner, only you get to decide if you can afford to give free sample translation test.

Professional translators would agree that with a series of free sample translations, a client can get a job done for nothing.

What can you do if a client requests a free translation test?

Inform yourself on what a translation test is and what it is not.

If you decide not to do a free translation test, you can show the client previous work, your portfolio, CV, recommendations, reviews, or request that they pay for a sample of your work.

10 Trademark Signs Of A Bad Translation Job Offer

No. 7  Requesting a discount in exchange for a large volume of work

Discounts are common when selling physical goods or commodities, but rarely for professional services.  

You sell your time and expertise (just to name a few), not words by the pound.

As a professional translator, you must devote 100% to their project and usually large translations require an extensive fixing, formatting, consistency check, and much more.  

Accepting bigger jobs might prevent you from taking on other jobs, and possibly lose new potential clients (which is why many translators actually charge more not less).

What can you do if a client requests a discount in exchange for more work?  

Review the job and its details carefully.

If you wish to grant a discount, it is completely up to you.

Most clients who seek professionalism, value, and quality will agree to pay your fees based on your expertise, experience, qualifications, and skills. 

No. 8  Sub-standard rate per-word

As a business owner, you set your fees.

You are free to set your fees, higher them or lower them as you see fit.

Clients are free to accept, decline or negotiate with you and so are you.

What can you do if you are offered a sub-standard rate per-word? 

Remind your client that you are a business owner and set your own fees.

The client has a budget and so do you.

You, the professional, establish your own fees and not the client.

If you are open to negotiation, let your client know.

10 Trademark Signs Of A Bad Translation Job Offer

No. 9 Bad negotiation tactic

The client that haggles on your fee or states that your fee is above their budget is a client who might be looking to buy a commodity and not professional translation services.

What can you do if a client uses bad business practices?  

Inform the client why its to work with professional translators like you.  

If the client is looking for cheap labor, they will find it, but it will cost them more than just money in the long run.  

If you produce value, quality, and professional work, then you might want to apply your services elsewhere.

No. 10  'Non-negotiable' rates and terms

You are the professional.

You are the business owner.

You are free to decide the what, when, where, who, and the how of your professional services.  

You are not to be exploited or work under unethical, illegal, and unprofessional business conditions.

What can you do if you are offered non-negotiable rates and terms?  

As a freelancer, you are a self-employed professional who works independently.  

A client cannot impose their own conditions, terms, rates, or policy and expect you to follow them.

Regarding translation services, sadly many clients feel they are buying a cheap commodity and do not understand that in reality what they are paying for are your professional services.

In Conclusion

Only work with translation clients who seek value, professionalism, expertise, and quality.

Screen your clients just like they screen you.

Do you know of any other translation job offer red flags?

What has been your experience?

How can we better help and inform each other?

How can we better help and inform clients?

As always, thank you for reading and sharing my posts. Please if any of my blogs inspire you, give credit where credit is due.  Let's be fair, honest, and professional.  Let's help each other be great and stay great!

Feel free to connect or email me, Carmen Arismendy.  I'm a professional Spanish interpreter-translator and founder of eLingual.Net.  I started the eLingual Network because I could not find a fair, no middleman, no job bidding, ethical, and transparent meeting place for translators, interpreters, and clients online.  The website is in beta phase and by no means perfect but it's a step in the right direction.
eLingual.Net's mission is to spread happiness worldwide through happy translators, interpreters, and clients.
For the professional translator and interpreter, this means no middleman, no job bidding, the freedom of setting their own fees, having control over their services, and who they choose to work with.
For the clients, this means working directly with ethical and professional translators and interpreters committed to quality and value.
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