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Fight for your rights if you have to December 10, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation Sites.
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My disagreement with my client has been peacefully resolved, with everyone except maybe the end client happy (but then again the survey was huge, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the bill will be expensive…). My PM has apologized, and I have graciously accepted her apology and told her we should put it behind us and all is forgiven. Forgiven, but not forgotten. I won’t forget the lessons I learned from this incident, and I am vowing to stand up for myself more with this client.

They are my best client, and I have put up with a lot of things from them that I wouldn’t with other clients. I don’t mind churning out several thousand words a day for them, because the jobs are usually very easy and do not require a lot of effort looking words up. It pays very, very well, and I for one appreciate it. They are marketing surveys asking German respondents what they thought of this ad or that ad and why. I generally translate the phrases as fast as my fingers can type,  which was last recorded at a little over 90 words per minute. Sure, I often have to decipher atrocious misspellings and typos, determine which umlauts are sometimes missing, and figure out what the respondent was trying to say, but after four and a half years I have gotten really good at that.

The problem stemmed from the exporting. The exporting tool was aborting in the middle of the word count exports, and that caused the PM to think that the word count was half the amount I was claiming. She redid the word count at my request and came up with a higher word count, but it was still 10,000 words less than the word count I had. In the end I had to call her boss, and a third party familiar with the tool reviewed the word count and agreed with me. I just sent my invoice. Unfortunately I didn’t have the heart to charge for the time I spent reexporting everything for a detailed word count, but it was worth the effort since I was able to get my full word count recognized.

So you are probably wondering what the point of this post is. For all those of you who are new to the business and reading this, please realize that you have every right to insist on being paid for your work. If the PM refuses to discuss it with you and you know you are right, go over their head and talk to someone else. If you do the work you should be paid for it.

I have also decided that I will be insisting on more reasonable deadlines in the future. Their end client needs to be taught that translators are not machines. If I keep killing myself to make the unreasonable deadlines, the end client gets used to it and starts to expect it. And that doesn’t benefit anyone but the end client. Client education is so important, and I for one intend on working to educate the PMs there as often as I can.

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Comments»

1. Kevin Lossner - December 10, 2008

Good God, Jill – I assume this is what that 13,000 words or whatever the awful amount last weekend was about? I hope you are applying fat rush charges and weekend surcharges for that sort of thing. I’ve noticed that marketing types are often in a hurry and have absolutely no realistic concept of the time required to do good translation work. However, when dealing with these characters, my better agency clients have learned to assess 50 to 100% surcharges without being reminded to do so.
It is absolutely necessary to be firm about these things and drive your point home with a sledgehammer if you must. Too often a translator will feel the need to be so accommodating for whatever reason that the client relationship comes to resemble an abusive marriage in many respects no matter what the cash flows are. Two years ago I suffered – and I do mean suffered – under a relentless demand from clients calling at all hours, putting projects off for weeks or months just so I would take them and all sorts of awfulness. And of course I wanted to help… it took a year to recover from the physical and mental collapse that resulted.
So yes – insist on being paid in full for your work, punish or pass on unreasonable deadlines and cordon off your downtime with barbed wire if you have to. It’s really the only way to stay in the game and enjoy it for the long haul.

2. MT - December 10, 2008

I had a case very much like this maybe 10 years ago. A *lot* of people were disgruntled about a shoddily made piece of exercise equipment (like the things you see on TV all the time). So there were something like 200,000 complaint forms to be translated. The agency and I came up with a template for the questionnaire so they only had to pay for the handwritten comments on each one. But there were a LOT of text boxes because people had written all kinds of comments all over the form (usually variations on: I’m still overweight and now my neck hurts). And after 200,000 forms the number of words in text boxes really added up. And the PM didn’t get that MS Word’s word count feature didn’t include words in text boxes.

It took a lot of going back and forth but ultimately I did convince the PM that his word count wasn’t counting all the words. I think I gave him a little bit of a discount on something and he promised he’d make it up to me on another job, which he never did. But, yes, it definitely pays to stick up for yourself both on word counts and on deadlines!

3. Michael - December 10, 2008

“For all those who are new to the business” – Don’t give a firm estimate until you have all the material in hand and have counted it yourself. Recount every client count and get to the bottom of discrepancies of more than a couple of words. Don’t forget text boxes in Word. If images contain text that needs translation, don’t forget to estimate the time it takes to extract the text and put it in a table for translation. Good for you to not back down!!

4. Kevin Lossner - December 10, 2008

@MT: Those promises to make it up on the next job ought to be printed on toilet paper so they would have a practical value 🙂

It is surprising how many PMs are not aware of potential pitfalls in word counting like this.

5. Susanne Aldridge III - December 10, 2008

WAY…TO…GO…GIRL – I am glad you got it resolved. It should also show your client that you are honest and maybe next time they take your word without having you jump through hoops! Awesome, you deserve it 🙂

6. Dondu N. Raghavan - December 11, 2008

This forum posting by me in proz shows how I tackled a tricky situation with a client. Please see: http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/77822-this_is_how_i_tackled_a_client_what_would_you_have_done_in_my_place.html

Regards,
N. Raghavan

7. Carol - December 14, 2008

Hi Jill,
good post, I´m happy you made the client realize the mistake!

Educating the client is the most important thing in Translation business, I think. I used to be a PM in a big translation company (and freelance at the same time) and it would break my heart to ask very good translators to work in half the time for half the money…reason why I left. The question (and shame) is that when it´s all about making money some companies forget what translation entails….that is why we should never forget and point out as many times as we can!


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