The Perfect Client

A few weeks ago, Judy had the pleasure of working with a brand-new client, who turned out to be the perfect client to contract interpreting services. Read on for Judy's take and for details about this fantastic client and learn why everything worked out so wonderfully.

Vegas wedding chapel. Picture by Judy.
Clearly defined project. The client, the owner of a travel agency, called to say that she needed a consecutive interpreter (she used the correct term!) for a Vegas-style wedding at a local chapel. Let's call the client Angela (not her real name), and Angela said that the couple was Swiss, but that she was not looking for a Swiss German interpreter. I laughed and said I was happy to hear that, as I don't speak Swiss German. I was quite surprised that she knew the difference and immediately knew that I was dealing with a very sophisticated client, and I also liked her immediately (turns out the feeling was mutual). Angela told me exactly what I would need to do, and had precise date and times. I asked her a few more questions, such as whether I would interpret for the couple or the guests or both, whether the couple already had a wedding license, and a few other things. Angela was impressed by my attention to detail, and she could tell that I've interpreted at weddings before and knew which questions to ask. Angela also mentioned that two people had recommended me, which felt great. She emphasized that she wanted consecutive, and not simultaneous, interpreting services, and I was quite stunned that she knew this much about our profession.

Voluntary pre-payment. Before I even had the chance to send her a quote, Angela asked me how much I'd like to get paid. I quoted my regular two-hour minimum interpreting fee, to which she agreed immediately. She offered to pre-pay right away, and I received the funds via PayPal within five minutes (really). I hence waived the issuance of an official quote, as I'd already received the money, and Angela sent me an official work order.

Lots of details. The client's work order was more than four pages long, and it was full of important details. I was quite impressed by the level of thoroughness  and vowed to follow the instructions as given. There was even a section on permissible dress, which included the maximum length of earrings and length of the skirt. This might seem a bit overkill to some, but I figure it can't hurt to have precise details and to know what to expect. I usually wear a black business suit to everything, and that is naturally acceptable. What was surprising is that the company expects contractors to wear nylons unless it's hotter than 90 degrees (the forecast was 101 degrees). This work order took the guesswork out of the project, and Angela even sent the links to previously recorded ceremonies at the chapel in question so I could get an idea of how the pastors (there are two) hold their weddings. I watched five videos of each pastor and did transcriptions of all the sermons. I used the transcriptions to look up terminology and complied some lists of terms that I took to the wedding in a discreet leather-bound notebook (which I never looked at).

Quick to answer questions. After I reviewed all the documents, I still had a few questions, and Angela answered them within a few minutes.

Helpful staff. Once I got to the wedding venue, I immediately contacted the wedding coordinator (whose name was included on the work order) and introduced myself to the pastor. They were both quite happy to see me, and since it was my first wedding at this chapel, they took the time to explain exactly how everything was going to happen. Weddings are well-orchestrated events, and this chapel has it down to a science. The pastor had worked with dozens of interpreters before, and he told me that he would pause after each sentence so I could interpret. I was in interpreting heaven! The bride and groom, who arrived separately, were also very glad to see me, and I interpreted for the bride when she filled out some paperwork. We also spent some time talking to the maid of honor, as she was unsure of where to walk into the chapel. I'd like to think that I put them at ease because I spoke their language. Naturally, assignments of this nature are very different from court interpreting -- here, the interpreter can very much be an advocate in addition to a language conduit. I told the maid of honor not to worry, that I would tell her exactly where to stand and when to start walking. There were some tears of joy.

Ideal working conditions. The conditions could not have been better. I found out the day of the ceremony that the entire event would be shown online live for friends and family back home, which I thought was a fantastic idea. I stood right next to the pastor, so I could hear him very well -- no audio problems at all. It's a small chapel, so I did not need a microphone, and the audio was very clear on the video as well (which I watched online after the ceremony). The friendly pastor did indeed pause after each individual sentence, so I did not take notes (which is difficult when you are standing). 

Great working relationship. From the very first contact with Angela, I felt like we made a great connection, and our positive working relationship continued throughout the project. I made sure to e-mail Angela when I arrived at the venue (even though she had not requested this) so she would know that I was there. I checked in once again when I left and gave her a brief report. Turns out that the pastor then told the client that he was very happy with my services.

Overall, this project was so wonderful and went so smoothly that it's almost too good to be true. I wonder if I'll have another project that's this fantastic. What about you, dear colleagues? Do you have a perfect client or project? We'd love to read about it. 


Gio Lester on July 12, 2013 at 2:03 PM said...

I was just wondering how many times you must have said "Pinch me for I must be dreaming!"

I have never dealt with such a well-prepared client, but grateful and respectful, yes.

'till I drop by Vegas again or you decide to come to Miami!

Diana Coada on July 15, 2013 at 4:43 AM said...

Oh, if only all clients were like this! I've literally had doctors say to me ''Tell them they can't ask any more questions, they have to go.'' Shocking, really.

I understand that one can't compare the private and the public sectors, but it's the latter who gets training in working with interpreters and it's them who behave the worst...

See you in York! I'm really looking forward to it :)

Leonardo on July 18, 2013 at 10:51 AM said...

I once had a similar experience in a simultaneous interpretation assignment. My colleague and I had arrived in the booth that morning, and found that one of the chairs was missing. We nonchalantly took one of the many empty chairs available in the room next to the booth. A few minutes later, another service provider we'd never met, who did not regularly work at the venue, came in and started yelling at us for having taken "his" chair. We immediately offered to give the chair back, but the yelling continued. We were stunned at his level of aggressiveness towards total strangers, for such a feeble thing as a chair.

However, the sound technician (who, i later found out, was also the CEO) from the translation agency which had hired us as freelancers had left the microphones on in the booth, while he tested the mics up on stage before the audience was allowed in. He heard the unjustifiable and unfair yelling, from beginning to end. After a few minutes, he came into the booth with the client who had hired him (us), and explained that, unless the chairs guy were reassigned so we wouldn't have to deal with him, he would remove his interpreters from the venue. Essentially, he defended us, the chair guy was sent to another room (after apologizing to us) and we were able to work in peace.

With the chair.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 21, 2013 at 10:08 AM said...

@Gio: Oh, I thought that many times -- too good to be true indeed! But it was actually true. :)

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 21, 2013 at 10:09 AM said...

@Diana: Thanks for reading and for commenting. We agree: unfortunately, the scenario that you describe is much more common than our lovely scenario. Our profession still has a long fight ahead for sure....

Yes, see you in York -- I can't believe it will be in just over two months. Time flies.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 21, 2013 at 10:11 AM said...

@Leonardo: Wow, what a story! This might just be one of the most unreasonable people on the planet. Thanks for sharing this anecdote. Our profession can be quite a challenge, can it? How wonderful to hear that your client did the right thing and stood up to you. Makes you want to travel with a folding chair, doesn't it? Thanks for sharing this gem!

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