“By what time can you finish the project?” “Well, I can do it by tomorrow 3 PM.”
The above conversation seems so normal. But when it comes to a translation project, that could be very confusing and possibly problem-causing because the translator and client are often located in different time zones.
I will list the countries where my clients are located.
- Canada (from Montreal to Vancouver in 3 different time zones)
- United States (From New York to LA, cities in 3 different time zones)
- Australia (Sydney)
- China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong)
I’ve gone all around the world. (Come to think of it, I translate between Korean and English, but I don’t have any Korean clients… I had some a few years back, but I don’t have any now. Maybe the time difference is too great or perhaps it’s something else…)
But because my clients are spread out all over the world, communicating with them can get a bit complicated. Well, 70% of my clients are in the United States or Canada, so it’s not too difficult to manage. But for clients in Europe, there aren’t many time slots throughout the day when I can communicate with them. It’s even more limited for clients in Hong Kong, so I set very specific times for them. Only when I wake up in the morning to respond to their emails (between 8 AM and 9 AM my time) can they go to bed comfortably.
When you communicate with clients in different time zones, it’s most important to know what time zone they are in when they tell you the date and time of the deadline. Polite PMs will convert their time into your time, for example, ‘5 PM (your time)’ or ‘EOD (ET)’, etc. But, if they do not, the translator must make sure everybody understands the deadline to avoid stressful situations.
To know what time it is in your client’s city for more effective communication, refer to a world clock.
You may also need to convert their time to yours and vice versa.
After a while you’ll know off the top of your head about what time it is in a certain city. Even if you don’t know the exact time, it will be much easier when you communicate if you have a general idea.
To know more about translation market and where your clients are, read this post: Translation Market: Where It Is and Why This Is a Good Time to Be a Translator.