Couples Counseling: Reimagining the Freelancer–Company Relationship, Part 2

By Steve Lank


Enjoyed Part 1 of couples counseling? Continue reading for more tips on how to improve your working relationships.


[couple in a bench]

Assume the Best

When seeking new relationships, being open and assuming good intentions will serve you much better than being distrustful and assuming the worst (see above). Besides, with that attitude, why would you be out looking in the first place?  While there are unprofessional companies and individuals out there, the vast majority are not looking to take advantage or exploit; they are focused on doing the same thing you are: ensuring that their clients get the quality product they both need and deserve. We can better serve this purpose by truly cooperating rather than bickering. Plus (and this is surely my California days coming out in me), I truly believe that you attract the energy you put out in the world. So, work on your positivity.

Listen More/Talk Less

We have all heard the equivalent of the parental admonition, “You have two ears and one mouth, so use them in that proportion.” Well, that applies as much to business as it does to personal relationships. For the relationship to work everyone needs to do his or her part, but it will help you infinitely to really try to learn and understand your counterpart’s needs, likes/dislikes, pet peeves, preferred communication style and method, among other things. And if you discover some common interests, that never hurts.

Acknowledge Contribution to the Relationship

For a relationship to thrive, each party needs to acknowledge that their counterpart contributes something valuable to the relationship; while as individuals they may have strong identities and unique qualities, together they create something that neither can offer on his/her own, bringing out the best in each other. Without this acknowledgement and balance, there is no relationship.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

If you don’t like country music, don’t go to a honky-tonk. Likewise, if you are looking for work in medical interpreting don’t look at sites catering to conference interpreters, as you will just be frustrated. There are now seemingly endless online platforms to connect language service providers and buyers (not unlike online dating sites) and it can be tempting to advertise everywhere to make sure you don’t miss anything. But this can backfire, as you may end up attracting attention you do not want. Be intentional and discerning about who you approach and how you do it to give yourself the best chance of success.

Be Prepared to Compromise

To paraphrase the Rolling Stones: you can’t always get what you want, but if you work at it, you can often get what you need. And what we think we want isn’t always what we actually need, anyway. Just as in the best personal relationships, each party here often has to give up a little something to help the relationship succeed and thrive, allowing both parties to be happy and function at their best. This is not to say you should cave on your principles—far from it. It just means that you must be willing to acknowledge that the needs of your counterpart are just as important as your own and look for ways to come to some sort of agreement when the two conflict. It will not always be possible to resolve (not all relationships will succeed), but you must be open to it. Success here is a win-win as long as there is balance.

Talk to Each Other, Not Just Your Cohort

Talking to your girlfriends or the guys (or, god forbid, posting online) about your significant other is more about venting than problem-solving, and the same is true on the business side. Venting to your cohort is a search for validation and justification, not resolution. The only way to solve a relationship problem is to discuss it with the person who is in the relationship with you. It won’t always work, but if both parties go in with same intention there is a better chance than if you air your dirty laundry in public.

Our relationships reflect who we are

Treat Each Other with Respect and Work to Earn Trust

Mutual trust and respect are not givens; they must be earned. Still, we must go into our relationships with this as a goal and conduct ourselves in a way that is worthy of trust and respect. Professionalism attracts professionalism, respect attracts respect, trust attracts trust. Our relationships reflect who we are, and how we treat each other helps define us and our professional identity. We owe it to ourselves and the profession to present a united front.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable and Fall Back on Old Habits

Pay attention to the relationship. If you are coasting, you are probably actually backsliding. Go back to the top and start again. Repeat.


So, have I gotten inside your head? Are you already thinking of things you can do to make sure your current relationships are healthy and on track, and how you might change your approach to potential new partners? I hope so. My fondest wish for the industry is to see companies and freelancers working together in true partnership, recognizing and honoring the value of what the other brings to the table, while serving the needs of their common clients. This does not seem like too lofty a goal to me, but we really have to want it.

It is naïve (and not even necessarily desirable) to think that all companies and freelancers will be able to work with each other successfully, but there are matches out there for all of us; we just have to work to find them. We are all responsible for our own professional happiness and success. This is too big a part of our lives to leave to chance, so don’t settle for the status quo. Don’t let your career just happen to you—take control!




[Steve Lank]Steve Lank is VP of Translation Services for Cesco Linguistic Services, working from Washington, DC.  He has worked in the industry since 1987, having started out as a freelance translator and project manager, and subsequently holding senior management positions with companies in the US, Ireland and Spain. From 1998 to 2011 he chaired the ASTM International subcommittee responsible for the ASTM F2575 Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation and currently serves as the Technical Contact for the update.  Steve is a lecturer in the graduate interpreting and translation program at the University of Maryland and earned his MA in Spanish Translation and Interpretation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.


Image by Olessya via pixabay.com

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