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Respond now or you will be out of luck… January 27, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

There is a new project in the [Agency] Order Pool. We have matched this project to your translation abilities and would like you to confirm your availability and interest in completing this assignment. The Order Pool is designed to notify all eligible translators of new projects. By confirming your interest in a project from the Order Pool, you are not guaranteed to be assigned that project. Please do not begin working on this project until it has been assigned to you.

There is nothing I hate more than receiving a generic e-mail from a client that has been sent to what seems like every single translator in their database. By the time you click on the enclosed link to look at the job (even if the e-mail arrived in your e-mail inbox a second ago…) the job has inevitably been accepted by someone else and is no longer available in “the queue.”

I have gotten to the point where I automatically delete these e-mails without even looking at them. I understand a system like this saves the project managers a lot of time since they don’t have to keep contacting translators who may not be available; however, I feel this also makes the company so impersonal that I no longer want to work with them. Looking at my client list I seem to prefer agencies who value me as a translator and show this by taking time to determine my availability and sending me a personal e-mail or quick Skype or Twitter message. If you run an agency and are reading this blog I hope you will consider this post and the comments below when you are deciding whether or not to implement such a system.

So dear readers, how do YOU feel about automated e-mails? Do you prefer them? Do you hate them as much as I do? I’m sure everyone here would really like to know what you think about them and why.



1. French Translation - January 27, 2011

I hate them too, especially when they come from very big agencies and start with the phrase “We would like your help with…”… This translates to “We would like you to work for peanuts and on a very strict deadline so that we can increase our profit”.

But apparently this strategy is working for them and that’s why the keep on doing it. Nice blog by the way!

Jill (@bonnjill) - January 27, 2011

You are obviously an excellent translator, because you translated “We would like your help…” perfectly 😉 LOL!

2. David Turnbull - January 27, 2011

Hi Jill,

Nice post!

As a translator, I can’t say I care too much for the huge batch emails either. It is a bit impersonal (in what can be quite a solitary job anyway!) and I think most of us appreciate clients that take the time to talk to us, even briefly. When I do decide to take a job from an auto email, I usually get in touch with the PM anyway, just to open the lines of real communication.

On the other hand, having worked as a project manager I am well aware of the time that can be wasted contacting multiple translators. Particularly when you have fove jobs to assign in a total of 20 different language combinations and it’s 4.45 in the afternoon!

Where used sensibly and sensitively, these programs can be very helpful: they can be fine-tuned to very small groups of translators already familiar with the client in question and they can help manage out-of-hours exchanges of files between translators and reviewers.

In addition, if they are used well by a decent “value-adding”, quality-oriented agency they can be of benefit to the translator too. The programs also usually do invoice and quote generation, CRM, analysis, auto-payment to translators, and many other bureaucratic tasks that are all part of the PM’s stock in trade. Not having to do all this paperwork frees the PM up to do real work that can help the translator (final proofreading, DTP check, glossary creation, TM maintenance, resolving problems for the translator, etc.).

Basically, I think that when used in moderation and used sensitively, they definitely have an application. The problem is in their abuse by sausage factory agencies that don’t use the time savings to do better work, only to do more of it.


Jill (@bonnjill) - January 27, 2011

Very good points, David. There is one agency I work with that uses an automated online system, but the initial contact is always via a personal e-mail from a PM. So I agree – when used sensibly an automated system can work. “Sausage factory agencies” made me laugh! Thanks.

3. Catherine Christaki - January 27, 2011

Automated emails and emails from PMs, which have been sent to many translators for exact same project and language combination: DELETE immediately. It shows that they don’t care who’s more suitable for the job, they don’t bother checking the profiles they made the translators fill in, their only concern is to assign it to anybody as quickly as possible. Why would someone want to cooperate with such an agency or PM?
Nice post Jill!

4. Jill (@bonnjill) - January 27, 2011

Some assorted responses on Twitter this morning I feel are worth sharing:

– @Dolmetschen_LE: I’m with you. Impersonal agencies are not my taste either. They “dehumanize” our services, I don’t want to be a machine.

– @v_aris: Also that practice could encourage a bit of a “hit reply and accept NOW, read source text/requirements later” mentality…

5. Franziska Pieloth - January 27, 2011

I’m absolutely with you, Jill. Impersonal agencies are not my taste either. They “dehumanize” our services – and I don’t want to be a machine.

@David: I looove your term “sausage factory agencies”! 😀

6. Jill (@bonnjill) - January 27, 2011

Some responses on Twitter worth noting:

– From v_aris: Also that practice could encourage a bit of a “hit reply and accept NOW, read source text/requirements later” mentality…

– From @pikorua: It’s not just impersonal, it also shows the agency can’t be bothered to select the best translator for this particular job.

– From @NTceline: Even worse: agencies that send tons of paperwork to fill in with this type of email.

– From @AnnedeFreyman: or masses and masses of reference material and glossaries when the deadline is ultra-tight.

– From @pikorua: My experience: the more paperwork you have to fill in, the smaller the chance you will actually get a job from them. 😉

7. Oliver Lawrence - January 27, 2011

Hi Jill, I agree, I tend to work with the smaller and medium-sized agencies with which you can form a proper working relationship. Automated portals for file transfer and that sort of thing are all very well, but in my view the moment of actually ‘clinching the deal’, even for small jobs, requires a human touch. That’s the best way to build business.

8. Kevin Lossner - January 27, 2011

A tactic for losers like NY-based TP, where everything, it seems, is an “urgent” cattle call. Of course with sites like PrAdZ offering tools for mass search and mailshots to “matching translators” (sometimes the criterion seems to be possibly having a pulse), you don’t even need your own workflow system and mass mailer software to play this game.

Like Mr. Turnbull, I’m a big fan of workflow automation and the time it can save to devote to better things. But any successful user of such a system understands when a human touch is needed.

9. Esther Patterson - January 27, 2011

I used to get exactly the same email notification from an agency I no longer work with.
Apart from @pikorua being absolutely right in my eyes, I also found it very impersonal to receive a generic email and therefore was pleasantly surprised when the PM suddenly started to call me almost every day to inform me of new projects. Usually interpreting agencies contact me by phone and I enjoy being able to talk to the PM about the project details etc.

10. Laurent K. - January 28, 2011

Even if this seems overly rude, and speaking of “pools”, my opinion is that such outsourcers should just jump in the lake!

11. Wenjer H. Leuschel - January 28, 2011

Hi Jill,

Really, a great post!

My experience tells me that 5 to 10 agency clients, who are familiar with you and your specialties, would be sufficient to keep you busy all the days or even over worked. So, you don´t need to respond to those cattle calls at all.

I do project management from time to time beside being a translator. And I value workflow automation, too. But I avoid excessive use of it whenever possible, because personal touch means mutual respect and mutual trust to me. Even persons whom we learnt through the Internet become familiar with each other and collaborate well only when there is a personal touch. Otherwise, people simply become silent lambs (read, good citizens) at such portals like PrAdZ to be called up with mass e-mails.

I guess this problem with business manners came along with the design of Web 2.0 as Jaron Lanier points out in his “You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto.” An interview with him is worth reading here: http://www.jaronlanier.com/poleconGadgetqa.html. We are people, not cattle or silent lambs to be manipulated by aggregators.


12. Tess Whitty - January 30, 2011

I guess it depends on the agency, but these generic emails directed to the masses are a big turnoff for me too. The more busy and harried I am, the less likely I am to answer at all. Especially since these types of clients are also likely to be the ones who are the most price sensitive. Granted, sometimes clients send out these kinds of emails when it is very urgent, and then I tend to respond if I can.

13. Roman Mironov - January 31, 2011

I treat such emails just as any personal email. What matters most to me is the actual business this email may bring. If I read it, and I am not interested and delete such email, it doesn’t hurt me at all and takes up just a few minutes of my time.

Another point to consider is probably the benefit to the agency. The savings they generate by using this kind of system may return to you in a form of a slightly higher rate.

14. J. Jugenheimer - February 1, 2011

Hi Jill,
great post. Thanks. If someone is not even willing to take the time to write my name, it is not worth my time reading the mail. I used to respond just to not burn bridges, but at least in my experience, no jobs worth taking have come out of those mass mailings in the last few years. I understand the argument re. time pressure, but still, in a language based business, I feel people should at least follow the rules of common courtesy.

15. Sophia OZOG - February 2, 2011

Hey Jill! Great blog and very noce post indeed!

I agree with most of you guys. I’m a translator and a PM myself. I don’t read email starting with “Dear Translator” or “Dear Linguist”. I totally hate those. They make me feel really undervalued as a professional linguist. If someone can’t be bothered to write my name and show they’re willing to start a truly human business relationship, then I can’t be bothered to read it. In my experience, the jobs which are offered in these emails are either underpaid or have to be completed within totally crazy deadlines. As a PM, I always do my best to create a special relationship with every translator I work with. I also agree with Wenjer: I will use mass-emailing when it is really necessary. However, my own clients know that finding the right translator for their project may take some time and that this is a crucial step that will make sure the translation is great! Those agencies that will keep focusing on positive and interpersonal relationships will keep their favourite translators with them. You just can’t get rid of the human side of our business.

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