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What would you do? December 17, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

I had a difficult client (unreasonable Trados levels – 5!, sending e-mail to my Gmail account [which I only use as a backup] despite multiple e-mails requesting he write my work address, etc.) until a few months ago, when the company owner sent me a proofreading job on a Saturday due on a Tuesday. Since I try not to work on the weekends and try to stay away from my computer when I can, I didn’t get the e-mail until Sunday night. I wrote him telling him I would be happy to accept the job and when I didn’t receive an e-mail on Monday telling me the job had been assigned to someone else I assumed I had the job. I spent Monday evening proofreading a text that had obviously been translated by a non-native speaker or someone who didn’t know what they were doing. It was a nightmare. When I delivered the job and sent my invoice I received a pithy e-mail response from his project manager telling me that she had never issued me a PO and that she wouldn’t be paying the invoice.

Needless to say I was upset by this and wrote them and the invoice off as “never again.” This afternoon I had another e-mail from the company owner asking me to proofread another job. Obviously I am not going to accept the job, but I am curious as to whether you would even respond to his e-mail. My gut is telling me to just ignore it, but my instincts as a responsible business person tells me I should at least let him know why.

So what would you do?



1. John Rawlins - December 18, 2008

It also annoys me when people assume that you will be checking for business emails during the weekends. However, starting on a job without a PO is a risky decision – and I feel you should accept some of the blame.

2. céline - December 18, 2008

I would definitely respond and explain, in a very courteous and professional manner, that after what happened with the last proofreading job (insert short summary here, just in case the owner isn’t fully aware of what happened), you are not prepared to accept any more work from them. The agency was responsible for the communication breakdown and you should have been paid for the work you did.

3. Percy Balemans - December 18, 2008

I would respond, telling them why you don’t want to work for them any more. Maybe they will learn something from it… If not, at least they will not bother you again in the future. 😉

4. sylva - December 18, 2008

I would tell him I will take the job if they accept the inovice and pay me 50% more for a rush job!

5. Kevin Lossner - December 18, 2008

I would write a brief, professional response to the owner pointing out that their failure to communicate properly with you on the last job caused wasted time and lost revenue and that for this reason no work can be accepted if it not accompanied by a PO. I would also politely request once again that your previous invoice be paid. If you do accept the job, state a clear deadline by which the PO is to be provided, and if this deadline is missed, ruthlessly turn the job down. The manner in which you were dealt with previously does not imply good things about the relationship, so perhaps an unusual degree of strictness is called for. I tend to be very easygoing about purchase orders, because I am blessed with very good, trusting relations with 98% of my clients, but I can be a real bastard with the 2% if they start getting too legalistic with me.

6. Nicole Lisa - December 18, 2008

Since you’ve decided that you’re no longer accepting work from this client, I think it depends on whether you feel up to doing some client education. A brief polite letter stating your reasons for no longer working with them might reform their behavior for future freelancers who work with them. I also think it’s more professional than the high school breakup method of just not returning calls or messages, although goodness knows this courtesy is not often extended to us. But if you think that the ex-client will get huffy and take offense, possibly bad mouthing you to other people… well actually if you don’t respond he might do that anyway!

And go back to the golden rule and never accept a job without a PO or at least a confirmation to go ahead. We all slip up on that one from time to time.

7. jillsommer - December 18, 2008

Thanks for all your feedback. The overwhelming opinion seems to be that I should write them and let them know why I won’t be working with them in the future. The problem is I told the PM not to contact me again way back when this happened.

As for the PO thing, I should have waited to receive confirmation, but I’m like Kevin. Many of my clients don’t even send POs or send them after the job is finished, which is why I never gave it a thought.

8. Ryan Ginstrom - December 18, 2008

Often, I’ll get a job offer by email, and it’ll say, “if you can do this job, then please start on it.” In that case, I’ll start on the job. Otherwise, I wait for at least an email “go” sign. If the agency misses its deadline because it failed to tell me to start the job, then that’s its fault.

There are basically two situations where you need to jump on a job as soon as you get the inquiry. The first is when the PM is sending the “offer” to multiple translators, and you want to get picked. The second is when there’s a very tight deadline, and the PM will move on to the next translator if you don’t respond within X minutes. Neither of these are areas of the market that I particularly want to get involved in. 🙂

That said, even if I never planned on working for that company again, I try not to burn bridges, so I would probably send them a short but polite email stating that I would not be able to take further work from them.

9. jillsommer - December 18, 2008

I ended up sending this message (in German):

Thank you for your inquiry, but after my bad experience with the last proofing job for you, which you refused to pay because I had not been issued a PO, I am not prepared to accept any additional jobs from you.

FYI, since one can never tell how long it will take to edit a translation I, like most translators, charge by the hour and not by the word.

Sincerely yours, Jill Sommer

Oh, didn’t I mention he was only willing to pay €0.03 a word to edit a translation that his client had had translated in-house by a non-native speaker and was unhappy with? I probably should have mentioned that in the original post, because then I don’t sound so ungrateful. Doesn’t that sound like fun? The last job took four hours to edit/retranslate 8 pages. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather finish my Christmas cards…

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