15 questions to ask a new client

This post is aimed at translation agencies and freelancers new to the industry who may need guidance in accepting new clients. The 15 questions below should be asked in initial discussions and negotiations, before taking on a translation project. 

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About the company

  1. What is their business?
    1. In order to accurately complete a translation project, you need to fully understand the client’s company operations and gauge who might be their typical customers.
  2. Are they specialised in a certain industry?
    1. If their business is tied to a specific industry, you must decide if you have the experience or resources available to translate with industry-specific terminology (for clinical trials, technical manuals, press releases, or legal contracts, for example).
  3. Have they worked with another LSP before, and if so, why did they choose to leave them?
    1. You’ll want to learn why they left their former LSP, to ensure that you won’t make the same mistakes that drove the client away.
  4. Why did they choose to work with you?
    1. Find out if they found your services to be unique from other LSPs. You’ll want to focus on that throughout the translation process.

About the project

  1. What is the target audience?
    1. The intended audience of the project will decide how you translate. If it is industry-specific, you may need to request a terminology glossary. If it is for a certain age group (a marketing text, for example), you’ll need to decide whether the language should be formal or informal. Lastly, knowing whether it will be published for the public, or for an in-house meeting will help you decide whether you should use general terms or industry-specific terminology.
  2. Is this restricted or confidential information?
    1. You absolutely must ask whether there will be legal repercussions for releasing information about the project without the client’s permission. Many clients may even request that you avoid typing in specific information from the text into a Google search, to avoid releasing confidential information. If you would like to make a case study about the project in the future, ask them for permission.
  3. What is the required language combination?
    1. Figure out if you or your in-house translators can take the project, or if you’ll have to use outsourced translators. This can change the price and turnaround time of the project.
  4. Expected deadline?
    1. Decide if you can meet their deadline, based on your availability and the size and requirements of the project.

Client preferences

  1. Is the deadline negotiable, if needed?
    1. While it is best to guarantee that you can always meet project deadlines, luck often has other intentions. It’s best to ask ahead of time if the client is willing to negotiate their deadline, should poor circumstances demand it.
  2. How many translators can work on this project?
    1. For large projects, more than one translator is often needed to meet the deadline. Discuss with your client if they are comfortable with that, and set a specific number of translators per project, if possible.
  3. Are native speakers required for proofreading?
    1. Find out if they would prefer native speakers to perform the proofreading and QA check. Some may feel strongly about this, and certain projects may demand it (such as marketing texts, clinical trials, etc.), while others may be satisfied with a simple check by the translator or a near-native speaker.

Technology preferences

  1. CAT tool preference?
    1. Clients are rarely happy to work with LSPs who don’t use a CAT tool. If you have a preference, let them know. Then, decide if you can adapt to using their preferred CAT tool.
  2. File format?
    1. Find out if they prefer certain file formats. You’ll want to decide if you can work in their preferred format, or if you will need new software to do so.
  3. Are terminology glossaries provided?
    1. For industry-specific clients and project requests, be sure to ask for a terminology glossary. Even if you have experience in the field, a glossary will ensure that you are up-to-date with the latest terms!
  4. QA and layout check software requirements?
    1. Clients experienced in working with an LSP may have a preference for how the QA and layout check is conducted. Discuss the steps that should be taken, and if they would like to receive evidence of use of QA software (track changes or screenshots of corrections, etc.).


Asking the right questions will help you decide if you should work with a potential client. Remember that you are a person, not a translation machine, who needs a business partner. The client should be open to questions and you should be flexible to their requests. Initial discussions and negotiations should reflect a level of respect and flexibility from both sides.


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