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Risk management procedures for translators

Risk-management is a comprehensive set of practices that every professional should incorporate to their usual workflow, but most importantly when embarking on a negotiation with a new client.

Before accepting a project from a someone you have never worked with before, you need to make sure that it’s a real offer from a legitimate client, that the client is reliable and trustworthy, and that both parties are clear on their rights and obligations. As a general rule, you should follow at least these basic steps:


1. Identify the client and corroborate their identity 

2. Assess the client’s reliability as a business partner

3. Clarify the scope and cost of the job

4. Agree on clear terms and conditions

5. Request a purchase order 


If, during these assessment procedures, you notice something that makes you suspicious, consider the possibility that you may be dealing with a scam. You can read more about detecting and reacting to scams, here.

And, because clients new and old may sometimes get behind with payments for a number of reasons, you should also learn what to do if your client isn’t paying you for your work


Basic steps for risk management

1. Identify the client and corroborate their identity

If you have been contacted by a company, you should ask for the company name, address, phone number and website; as well as the full name of the particular person that you are in contact with. 

Check that you are receiving the emails from the customer's domain, and corroborate the domain actually takes you to the company website. If they are writing from a free service like or, make sure that the email is publicly displayed as their contact address on their website, or corroborate the legitimacy of the address by phone or via their official contact address. Verify all details yourself on their website, Yellow Pages, Companies House, the Blue Board, the corresponding business registry, etc. Call them at least once to the number you found on their website (not the one you were given) and try to get in touch with the person who emailed you. Use Google Maps' Street View or a similar service to check the place and ensure the address exists, and it looks like a place where a company would operate from.

If you have been contacted by an individual, you should ask for their full name, address and phone number, as well as the purpose of the translation. Corroboration can be harder, but you should be able to find at least a minimal online footprint (Facebook, Linkedin, etc.) and check that their address and phone number are real. If they need the translation for professional purposes such as translating their academic work or their published book, this information should be verifiable. 


2. Assess the client’s reliability as a business partner

While this may be harder in the case of individuals, there are many online tools for assessing a translation company’s reliability. Try to find out about the reliability of the customer in terms of clear and responsive communications, correct specifications, and payments. For instance, you can look for the company in the Blue Board and check their average rating. Additionally, if you are a member, you can get full access to the comments left by other freelancers.


3. Clarify the scope and cost of the job

Ask your customer for the files to be translated, examine them, count the words, and identify any other tasks to be done on them: potentially lengthy preparations before translation, formatting after translations, etc. Calculate the wordcount, as well as the time for additional tasks, and let the customer know exactly what you are budgeting for. offers a rates calculator to aid you in this task.


4. Agree on clear terms and conditions

Agree on the invoicing requirements, the payment method and payment terms, your margin for revisions and additional editing, etc. If the company sends you a service agreement, read it carefully before accepting it, and don’t be afraid to negotiate terms that don’t work for you.


5. Request a purchase order 

Once the customer and job have been established, ask for a proper purchase order (most companies and agencies can and will provide this document) or an email from your prospect stating their full details (full physical address, phone, website, contact email, tax information), exact extent of the job (wordcount, files to be translated, any tasks expected from you), exact total cost (ideally also a breakdown of your rates, fuzzy-match rates in CAT-based jobs, etc.), delivery date and time, including the time zone (or a statement that the time is EOB), and exact payment terms (how many days after your invoice you will be paid and by which method).

Read more about assessing new outsourcers, here.

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