How to say no to a translation project

Previously, I emphasized when to say no, rather than how to say no to a translation project. Here are some solutions in increasing order of preference.

In my previous post, one of you posted a very pertinent comment pointing out something I forgot to mention in my article. I quote: “Do not just say no, but explain to your client the reasons for rejecting a translation project.”  Indeed, I emphasized the part about “knowing when to say no”, but didn’t go into “how to say no to a translation project?”. Once you’ve decided to say “No”, you still need the wherewithal, meaning the words and reasons to make your case for turning a job down.

Obviously, there are many individual cases and several guidelines to keep in mind beforehand, but we’re supposing that you are absolutely determined to say “No” to the translation project. Here are the solutions in increasing order of preference.

1. Be Radical, And Don’t Even Answer The E-Mail

After the conversation generated in LinkedIn concerning my previous post, one member proposed simply letting the client’s request pass unanswered.

Advantage(s)Disadvantage(s)
It’s effective and un-messy.What can we say about the customer’s reaction to the lack of response and the fact that they have to find someone else to take on the project… and maybe future ones too?
It may well be considered a lack of professionalism on your part. It won’t be easy to convince the customer that you never got the message in the first place.

2. Be Delicate; Explain Why You Are Turning It Down

Clearly explain the reasons why you are rejecting the job offer: perhaps the timing is too tight, the source is of very poor quality, you don’t have the glossaries and terminology to handle the specificities of the project, and so on.

Advantage(s)Disadvantage(s)
You’re being transparent and honest.You’re also running the risk of having to move into negotiation mode. The customer may use the fact that you are available (reflected in your response to the offer) to try to convince you to take it on. As opposed to the “radio silence” approach taken in # 1.
The way you react is important.

3. Better Yet, Let’s Put #2 Into Practice And Propose A Solution For Our Client

For example, you can say “I can’t commit to this project, but I can recommend you contact the following people on my behalf: tdupont@gigamail.com, pmartin@supergigamail.com, spierrot@fedupwithyouremails.com”.

Close your answer with a phrase such as “Good luck with your search!” And try to show some understanding by giving the impression that you are really busy with other activities and, therefore, cannot continue the conversation.

Advantage(s)Disadvantage(s)
You are being more insistent with your rejection by passing the proposal on quickly. This will counter the customer’s desire to challenge your initial refusal or try to negotiate.If your contacts cannot take the project on, the customer may come back to you “grumbling” and begging you to accept it. This is a risk to be borne in mind. You can try to give them a second round of contacts.
After all, proposing a solution is a gesture that customers tend to value (and thus not bear you any grudges).
And once again, you’re showing the ability to react and you’ll notch up some Brownie points into the bargain.
There might even be a “boomerang effect” as your colleagues may well appreciate the referral and could return the favor someday.
This is all about being prudent and subtle.

And If This Doesn’t Work?

What can you do if the client won’t take no for an answer? Supposing the client is a tough nut to crack and just won’t give up.

Obviously, you are far too polite to end the conversation with silence or with a short answer that might offend them. So, just pick up the phone, because there is no point in dragging this out with another ping-pong e-mail exercise. Explain again, this time in person to the customer, why you can’t take this translation project on, as this will be the most effective solution and certainly much more so than a written communication which sometimes only goes so far as to show that there is an “emotional void” or a mutual misunderstanding. If you don’t feel comfortable with a phone call, bear in mind that you have the upper hand and are coming from a position of strength, which should give you courage.

Never forget that it is a real luxury to be able to turn down a project in our industry! If you can really afford to do this, then congratulations are in order!

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