How to guide your clients to write the perfect translation brief
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How to guide your clients to write the perfect translation brief

How many translators does it take to change a lightbulb?

Depends on the context.

Okay, stop groaning. We all know it’s only funny because it’s true.

Every translator out there knows you can’t produce a good translation without knowing the context behind it.

The way you translate a certain sentence could change drastically depending on where it will be published, the target audience and the goal of the text, to name just a few factors.

But clients often don’t get that.

It’s totally understandable for people who are unfamiliar with the translation world not to realise how important context is, as it’s just not something they’ve ever considered.

If you know a client isn’t familiar with the translation industry, then there’s a lot you can do to make sure you’ll receive a good brief from them.

That will make your life an awful lot easier and mean you can be sure your translation will be totally fit for purpose.

Clients that are unsure about the translation process will be grateful for your guidance and happier with the end translation as a result, meaning everyone’s a winner.

Here are some tips for questions to ask your client before you get started on a project to make sure the perfect translation brief lands in your inbox.

1. What will the translation be used for, and who will be reading it?

Ask your client exactly:

  • Where the translation will be published/what it will be used for.
  • Who the target audience is: as many details as possible including age, gender, level of education, job, relationship to the company...
  • What the specific target country/region is (or at least an indication of the target language variant required).

The more information you can get out of them about the context in which the translation will be used, the easier it will be for you to produce the results they need.

2. Is there a style guide?

Many brands or businesses have set style guides they want their materials to stick to, but they won’t always think to let you know that if they’re inexperienced with the world of translation, so it’s worth double checking.

You could also ask for any examples of previous translations that they were happy with as a point of reference.

If they don’t have an official style guide or any previous translations, you can just ask them for a description of the tone of voice they’re aiming for. And of course you can always check out their website to see other things they’ve published for yourself.

3. Are there any other reference materials?

On top of previous translations, you could ask for any other reference materials that will help make sure your translation is fit for purpose.

Things like a glossary of technical terminology can make your translations more consistent and save you spending hours on research or querying specific terms with the client.

4. When’s the deadline?

One of the most obvious but most important parts of a good brief is having a clear deadline in writing.

If a project includes multiple jobs, then you’ll also need confirmation of whether any of them should be prioritised above others.

And be sure to let the client know when you’ll need all the relevant reference materials and source documents to be able to meet that deadline.

Top tip: Create a briefing form

If you’re working with more direct clients then it’s probably a good idea to create some kind of form that you can send directly to your clients with all these questions in one place.

That will save you an awful lot of back and forth via email, and will ensure you don’t miss out any important questions.

It will also make you look professional and thorough in your client’s eyes, and mean they can give you all the information you need quickly and efficiently.

But of course, if you get stuck into a translation and realise you’re missing something, don’t be shy about reaching out and asking.

As long as you’re not constantly bombarding them with emails, clients will always be happy to give you the information you need to do the best job.

Use to keep all the information you need in one place

Did you know you can add notes to all your different clients and projects on

Use that feature to keep all the important information your clients have shared with you organised so you never get your wires crossed.

Give our 30-day free trial a go to see how could help you keep all your clients happy and your projects organized.

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