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When you accept a job be sure you deliver it! August 11, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

My latest tweet has inspired this post: R translators flaking at the moment? This is the 2nd time in 2 days I’ve been asked 2 help an agency when a transl8r bailed on a project.

I don’t understand this at all. I have only bailed on a job once in my 14-year career as a translator, because it was way beyond my capabilities. BUT (and this is a big but) I let my project manager know in plenty of time so she could find another translator. Yesterday I was contacted by an agency at around 2 PM because their translator had bailed on the job about 2 hours before it was due. I was glad to help them out and delivered the files this afternoon. Shortly after I delivered that job I returned to my office to find a voice mail on my cell phone from a completely different agency (that I consciously haven’t worked with in two years) asking if I could “help them out with a translation today” – at 4:30 pm. Sorry, I’m tired.

If you accept a translation job you should do everything in your power — even if you have to pull an all-nighter — to deliver that job on time. Apart from hospitalization, grave illness, death and perhaps computer troubles (although I had computer troubles today and still managed to find a way to translate about 3,500 words for Agency #1 and deliver them on time) there is no other excuse.

I am always surprised to hear stories about fellow translators flaking out on agencies and clients, but obviously it happens a lot or it wouldn’t be such an issue. Whatever you do, please try not to be one of those translators. Your clients and agencies will love you for it. Reliability is a major plus in their eyes and could give you the edge over another translator when they are deciding who to contact.



1. therealpotato - August 11, 2009

Absolutely- well said. Bailing on a project– especially at the last minute– is an almost-unforgivable sin to PMs, and the quickest way to ensure you’ll never work with that agency again. I say ‘almost’ because I’ve had a few good, reliable translators with good excuses over the years, like the excellent Spanish translator who went AWOL for a few days– and then contacted me from her hospital bed to tell me she was having an emergency C-section. ‘Sorry, I forgot I had to do something else,’ on the other hand… um, no.

2. Andrea - August 11, 2009

Funny that you should write about this today.

I’ve been working on a 2-month long project for a client (not an agency), and last Friday they called me asking if there was any way I could deliver this week’s files ahead of schedule because, apparently, I am the only translator who’s delivered as planned and their editors & proofreaders are literally being paid for doing nothing, since they were hired “on hold” according to the set schedule…

I accepted to go the extra mile for them and work extra hours (and even accepted files I had not initially intended to translate), since they are usually a very good client and respectful of my time… scratching their back this time, and all that.

Yay for me for being “the reliable one”, but I’m still ashamed that this is happening…

jillsommer - August 11, 2009

Good job, Andrea. Your client is very lucky to have a hard-working translator like you! That’s fabulous.

3. inkamaria - August 12, 2009

Yep. Sounds familiar. When I had my translations agency, I had to cope with quite a number of translators who bailed out on a job at the very last minute. One even told me that he was aware of the fact that the client was not going to be pleased but he is tired and now what. Huh?! Needless to say I never worked with this translator ever again.

4. Laurent - August 12, 2009

Seems to me that those translators that bail on jobs are the same that offer 2 or 3 cents a word on Proz…

5. Christine Schmit - August 12, 2009

I completely agree with you Jill. It should be common sense that delivering a project on time is the bare minimum expected from a professional, yet from what I hear from agencies, colleagues and direct clients I work with, it seems that failing to meet the deadline is actually quite common. Why?
– The translators completely underestimate the time it takes to complete a project. I guess this could only happen to someone who is relatively new to the business, as an experienced translator should have a pretty good idea about the time needed.
– They accept a translation without seeing the text and it turns out to be much more complex than expected.
– They accept a translation in a field they are not familiar with and hope they can somehow manage. Always a bad idea!
– They are completely desperate for work and accept an impossible deadline.
I can’t think of anything else, except for emergency situations or computer problems of course, which are a different matter.

6. Judy Jenner - August 13, 2009

Agreed –delivering a job on time and according to the agreed-upon specifications is the absolute minimum requirement in our profession (and any other). I frequently underpromise and overdeliver, and routinely turn in projects a day ahead of time if I am done and if I know the client is really in a bind. I am stunned that some fellow translators don’t stick to their deadlines. Unfortunately, there are always individuals (let’s hope they are in the minority) who give the profession a bad name.

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