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Long-term assignments
Thread poster: Stefan Keller

Stefan Keller  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:58
English to German
Aug 10, 2004

Dear colleagues,

This might seem a sort-of luxury problem to some of you, but maybe someone out there shares my feelings.

Some of my clients tend to schedule their projects way in advance, often a couple of weeks, sometimes even months. While this sounds great at first glance, like "hey, guaranteed future income", it can also be disturbing, when I have to regularly turn down other clients, especially if they are first-time clients.

Is there any way out of this? I thought about two counter-measures, but none of them seem to be feasible or realistic.

I'd appreciate your input.

TIA,
Stefan


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 12:58
English to German
+ ...
your clients are not reserving your time Aug 10, 2004

Stefan Keller wrote:

Dear colleagues,

This might seem a sort-of luxury problem to some of you, but maybe someone out there shares my feelings.

Some of my clients tend to schedule their projects way in advance, often a couple of weeks, sometimes even months. While this sounds great at first glance, like "hey, guaranteed future income", it can also be disturbing, when I have to regularly turn down other clients, especially if they are first-time clients.

Is there any way out of this? I thought about two counter-measures, but none of them seem to be feasible or realistic.

I'd appreciate your input.

TIA,
Stefan
Hi I know this situation. Since they are not paying for your time ( as a matter of reservation) you respond once or twice, record the communication and do not reject other clients. Keep the ball rolling. That is what I do. Who knows whether your clients get their project plans straight in the planned timeframe and yet come to you, usually they try other translators aswell, just as a matter of security to see their project done ( if it ever becomes a reality ). A few might even wish to have samples done,do once, and remind them of the sample delivered. Awaiting further instructions and so on.. If your clients are serious, they will (try to) come back, sooner or later, keeping mind that they have promised you and keeping you waiting in the reserve. They also know that the translators are top-level communicating folk. So sooner or later, they will come back anyway. Just don´t lose nerves, and reject other clients.
Best Wishes,
Brandis


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Ubaldo Cuadrado  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:58
English to Spanish
+ ...
Out sourcing Aug 10, 2004

Find a few reliable translators so you can pass them the assignment and keep the client. Once you are finished with the other assignments, all you have to do is get your client back. You´re going to lose some money, for sure, but it´ll be better in the long term.

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Graciela Carlyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:58
English to Spanish
+ ...
team up Aug 10, 2004

Hi Stefan,

Stefan Keller wrote:
it can also be disturbing, when I have to regularly turn down other clients, especially if they are first-time clients.

Is there any way out of this? I thought about two counter-measures, but none of them seem to be feasible or realistic.


I perfectly see your point. An what if your "sure" client, then cancels the job for whatever valid reason and you turned down new clients?
What I'd do is to team up with another translator of your confidence so you can pass on whatever you cannot handle.
You should agree on how/when he/she will get paid, but if it's someone close to you I reckon this is easy to sort out as long as you make it clear from the beginning.

Good luck!
Grace


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Stefan Keller  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:58
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks so far Aug 10, 2004

Thanks a lot for your input so far.

I was actually talking about *reliable* clients. So they actually *book* me (and do *not* merely reserve my time), and so far the announced projects all started perfectly on time.

About the outsourcing:
This is what I thought about as well. However, since the vast majority of my clients are agencies, I didn't dare do so. I just don't see myself returning translations I haven't done myself but pretend I have. Review is not paid for, so I would need to lower the rates for the person I'm outsourcing to, which I don't think is fair.

In addidtion, I don't think I'm *allowed* to pass on work to third parties as per the agreements I signed with the agencies.

Ok, I guess I need to continue walking the tightrope...

Thanks,
Stefan


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:58
German to English
+ ...
Long-term assignments Aug 10, 2004

As a general rule of thumb, I aim to negotiate deadlines for longer jobs that give me twice the amount of time necessary. If the job is finished long before the deadline, all the better.

Sooner or later, you have to turn down work; that's the nature of the business - translation doesn't scale, an individual translator can only do so much. The key is to leave yourself room to manoeuvre so that you don't find yourself turning down your most valued customers in order to service less valued ones.

Marc


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 05:58
English to Russian
+ ...
That depends Aug 10, 2004

A request to "be there at 6 pm in 3 weeks and wait if and until we show up" is no-no. There has to be one of a two - you both sign a contract with cancellation penalty, or you both know that in this business we live "in a pager mode".

Old clients should know that you can not book any unpaid time. I have the same problems, and my time is split between interpretation assignments and written work. I have two prime clients of absolute preference, I even forgive them some miscoordination or cancellations because they feed me well, desserts included. I know they will compensate in a form of another good workload because they value my devotion and experience with them. We are mutually supportive. As usual, friendships and a century-old:-) business relationships can not fall within some unshakable boundaries.

Very often I respond yes in principle (but never a final yes) to other calls posing some degree of uncertainty, but when the conflict of interest arises and I have another job at hand, guaranteed, I simply call and say - are you ready to confirm a 100% deal? No? Sorry, guys, I'm booked elsewhere, look forward to the next time. Never had any problems with professional clients, they always thanked me for the advance notice and came back (by clients in my case I mean agencies, that resolves my replacement problems). Actually, in quiet times I would call them to ask if I could be of any help (never "if they please have some work for me", always mention that I have "a window from/till") just to sweeten up our latest breakup and show that I'm sorry to miss the opportunity to work with such a nice client. Maybe tell them some cat stories... It is really amasing how flattery never fails:-)

It does not hurt to play hard to catch once in a while, and nobody appreciates someone appearing totally unclaimed and available at all times, happy to grab anything. Your reputation will only benefit from suggesting that you are a busy successful professional. IMHO.

Good luck,
Irina


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Mónica Machado
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:58
English to Portuguese
+ ...
team work might not be applicable so here's how I handle this Aug 10, 2004

Hi Stefan,

I do have similar situations all the time and because I work in very specific areas and my clients specifically state they don't want me to pass work to other people, here's how I handle this:

I have two sorts of market: direct clients and agencies. So for large scale projects I book them in as 2000 words per day, 5 days a week. As I am usually able to translate between 2500 and 3000 words a day this schedulling gives me room to book large projects and then still have time to work for regular clients that usually have small jobs every week.

When I have large projects booked in well in advance I keep a two-way communication to keep informed on any delays and ensure I don't refuse jobs because of a large project that turns out to be delayed/postponed or put on hold.

This usually works pretty well.

I do have to refuse work sometimes but that is really not very common and doesn't happen that much.

I find this a good solution and this really keeps everybody happy.

Hope this helps
Kind regards,
Mónica Machado
English into European Portuguese translator
Member of APT, IOL and ITI


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Stefan Keller  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:58
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Not sure if I got this one... Aug 10, 2004

Tayfun Torunoglu wrote:
IMO, if that is not a temproray case, you may be providing services underpriced (reletively as to what could be charged from clients).


Are you trying to say I should increase my rates to cover review which the client (note: agencies!) does not even expect to be done? I don't see how this is gonna work


Tayfun Torunoglu wrote:
I think you should think on increasing your rates upto such a point and find another equlibrium point with a little less client, higher rates and higher total future incomes.


I don't want to end up being *dependent* on very few clients. On the contrary, I'm still trying to increase the number of clients, although I'm permanently booked by 100-130%.
In the field I'm working in (Software/IT localization), it's not realistic to increase one's rates with agencies. It's tough enough to not have them reduced by the clients...


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 12:58
English to German
+ ...
I agree with marc on this Aug 10, 2004

MarcPrior wrote:

As a general rule of thumb, I aim to negotiate deadlines for longer jobs that give me twice the amount of time necessary. If the job is finished long before the deadline, all the better.

Sooner or later, you have to turn down work; that's the nature of the business - translation doesn't scale, an individual translator can only do so much. The key is to leave yourself room to manoeuvre so that you don't find yourself turning down your most valued customers in order to service less valued ones.

Marc


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Mónica Machado
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:58
English to Portuguese
+ ...
increase of rates... Aug 11, 2004

Hello,


I agree with Stefan. Having jobs booked well in advance doesn't mean rates are low. Could mean that work is valued and that a translator is working on a specialized market where quality is important and where not many people are specialized in.

Don't forget that we are going through a general crisis where national unemployment rates tend to increase. These days having a profession that is well-paid and where we can't complain about lack of work is something to value. Increase rates in a time of crisis just doesn't seem right. Unless we want to send our clients away. I surely don't so just keep my rates as they are and try to get as much work as possible.

All the best
Mónica


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:58
German to English
+ ...
increase of rates... Aug 11, 2004

Mónica,

Tayfun said "if that is not a temporary case". In other words, if you are always being offered more work than you can handle, your rates are probably too low.

I would tend to agree with Tayfun, except that I would say "be more selective in accepting orders" rather than "raise prices". Raising prices is only one way of being more selective in accepting orders. I would apply a number of criteria (not necessarily in this order):

- lucrativeness (higher rates do not always mean more lucrative orders; the level of difficulty needs to be considered)
- value attached to the customer (likelihood of future orders/long-term business relationship; payment practices)
- compatibility with own specialization profile

Marc


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
A common dilemma Aug 12, 2004

Stefan Keller wrote:


I don\'t want to end up being *dependent* on very few clients. On the contrary, I\'m still trying to increase the number of clients, although I\'m permanently booked by 100-130%.
...


Thing is Stefan, you are just ONE individual, and already working 100-130%, so it IS a tightrope you walk. You can´t have your cake and eat it. You can\'t be a freelancer (= a business of one) and an agency (subcontracting to others) simultaneously. And in your case anyway, there are restrictions on your possibility of subbing.

Marc\'s notion of building in time to allow for other projects is the logical answer. I have done that in the past, on the basis of 10,000 words a week, but at a push I can do up to double that (although only very exceptionally). That\'s the only way I can take on new clients, avail of new opportunities, and at the same time keep regulars supplied.

I also subcontact - but only when absolutely necessary - work from my private clients. Although the pay is better I still lose out financially, as I feel morally obliged to check over the work after. Generally I only do it when I am dealing with a surge of simultaneous requests from regulars, when under circumstances would I let them down.


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Stefan Keller  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:58
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Seems to be the way out... Aug 12, 2004

Hi Ailish,

Ailish Maher wrote:
Marc's notion of building in time to allow for other projects is the logical answer. I have done that in the past, on the basis of 10,000 words a week, but at a push I can do up to double that (although only very exceptionally). That's the only way I can take on new clients, avail of new opportunities, and at the same time keep regulars supplied.


Ok, I'm gonna try not to have myself booked 100% by one single client over an extended period. I'm curious about how they're gonna like it

Thanks to you all, guys.
Best regards,
Stefan


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Gabriela Mejías  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 07:58
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree! that´s what I do... if I happen to have a long-term assignment! Aug 22, 2004

Graciela Carlyle wrote:

Hi Stefan,

Stefan Keller wrote:
it can also be disturbing, when I have to regularly turn down other clients, especially if they are first-time clients.

Is there any way out of this? I thought about two counter-measures, but none of them seem to be feasible or realistic.


I perfectly see your point. An what if your "sure" client, then cancels the job for whatever valid reason and you turned down new clients?
What I'd do is to team up with another translator of your confidence so you can pass on whatever you cannot handle.
You should agree on how/when he/she will get paid, but if it's someone close to you I reckon this is easy to sort out as long as you make it clear from the beginning.

Good luck!
Grace


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