Freelance Translator’s Client Reference List

By Gabriela Kouahla

The client reference list of a freelance translator is very important when it comes to potential clients (direct/companies) or a job application for a new translation agency. It allows you to provide additional proof of your experience and assure a potential client or company/agency of the quality of your work. Everyone loves good feedback!


A reference list is a bonus you might consider including in your application. Remember, everyone loves a good bonus. If a client says they’re satisfied with your work, take the opportunity to ask for a recommendation. Do it quickly after the work is completed and the client has expressed satisfaction. If you wait too long, for example, months or years later, a client may not remember you and your work performance. For example:

Dear X,
Thank you for your good feedback on my translation. I am at your entire disposal for any further translation requests.
Following our collaboration, I would like to include you in my reference list as someone who has a good knowledge of my skills and abilities in translation [Add language pair].
If you agree to be one of my references, I will include your name, title, and contact information on my reference list and keep you informed of potential employer contacts.
Please let me know if you are comfortable with this request and if there is any information I can provide related to it.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Kind regards,
[Your name]

If your client’s response is positive, how do you create the reference list and when do you send it?


How do you create a client reference list? Personally, I opt for a simple document, letter style, that you can create with Word and then save as a PDF. What does it include? My contact details, the contact details of each client, and above all the language pair(s).

Knowing that sometimes a translator has several niches, I advise you to create several reference lists. A client who is considering your services as a marketing translator isn’t really interested in your experience as a legal translator.

At this point, respecting the time of a potential client or project manager is essential. They will need to have a clear understanding of how you can help them as a translator. So, the goal is to have references from different clients of your niche(s).


Sometimes translation agencies ask you for a reference list when you send your application, so this would be a good time to attach a copy. As far as direct clients are concerned, the best time is after first contact, via email, if you know the email address of your potential client. For example: “Please find attached my résumé that provides information about my experience and training. I also included a reference list of my former/actual clients…”

If you’ve made contact via social networks and the client asks you for more information, you can answer: “I would be happy to send you my résumé and a reference list of my former/actual clients…”

Shaping a Solid List Takes Time

Finally, in my opinion, it takes time to build a solid reference list of your clients. Happy clients can help you create this list, but the most important thing to remember is that you must have a reference list of former/actual clients “shaped” for future target clients.

Gabriela Kouahla specializes in certified translation, localization, and scientific proofreading. She has been a certified bilingual translator (English to French<>Romanian) since 2010. She is registered with the Unions de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d’Allocations Familiales (France) as a translator-entrepreneur and is a member of the French Society of Translators. The founder of the first localization agency based in Algeria, she is the only French>Romanian translator covering North Africa. Committed to localization, she has been chosen as a localization influencer by Nimdzi. She is also a LocLunch ambassador for Algeria.

“Business Practices” will alternate in this space with “The Entrepreneurial Linguist.” This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors.

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