In a previous article, we described how important it is for a freelance translator to create his or her own processes. One of our suggestions was to create a checklist containing all the information you need before accepting a new project. This checklist can be a good way to avoid unpleasant surprises during translation jobs! Below we have created a list of all the things that you need to ask your client about.

Source Text

Never accept translation jobs without seeing the definitive source document first! Insist and if doesn’t seem possible, ask for extracts. If the client cannot provide you with that, then don’t agree on a rate or deadline until you see the document. So many freelance translators find out after agreeing on a price and deadline that the “easy document” described by the client is, in fact, a technical legal contract about a merger acquisition… Check the difficulty of the source document with your own eyes!

File Format and Layout

Make sure you will be able to work with the source document’s format and agree on a delivery format with the client. If you’re using a CAT tool, you will need to check that the file’s format works with it or that you will be able to convert it easily. Also, confirm with the client if he/she is expecting a well-formatted target document. Not all freelance translators provide this service, but if you do, you may want to consider an extra fee for desktop publishing.

Style and Terminology

It’s always quite delicate to talk about the style of a translation because it is a very subjective subject and depends heavily on the quality of the source text. However, collect as much information as possible. Inspect the source text and see if the style should be kept or not. Is the client expecting transcreation? If so, you may want to readjust your rates. It is also essential for you to know the intended audience of your translation. Are they experts? Or should your translation be accessible to a wider audience?

Content to Translate

Don’t leave room for doubt! Double check with the client about exactly what needs to be translated. Confirm the number of files that need translation–it is possible that you haven’t received all of them. If the client sends you an Excel file, check the tabs that need translation. Same for pictures! Do they need localization? Make sure the number of words in the images have been counted before agreeing on a purchase order.


You will never forget to discuss a deadline with your client. They won’t forget either. However, use all of the information listed above to propose the best deadline for you and your client.
Remember that you can give a date range if you’re not sure about the deadline or you may consider delivery in batches.

Once you have all of this information, you’re ready to produce a reliable purchase order! Having answers to these questions may not protect you against every unexpected surprise, but at least you won’t look back and think, “I wish I had asked.”