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When clients count on you
Thread poster: Nesrin

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:21
English to Arabic
+ ...
May 11, 2007

I'm sure many of you have been in similar situations before.
One client tells you of a large forthcoming POTENTIAL project and gets your approval to work on it when it comes. Another asks you to do an elaborate test which is reviewed by 2 independent proofreaders, because they want to make sure they only work with someone who is really qualified for their highly specialised jobs. A third is one of your regular clients who always counts on you to work on an ongoing project.

Then, hey presto, all three projects arrive at around the same time. Obviously not at exactly the same time, and you've already started on the first job. But how do you feel about suddenly having to tell the second/third client that you don't have time for that job? All jobs are large and fairly urgent, so you can't squeeze them in or ask to postpone them.
I'm not sure I'm looking for a solution here, but is there anything you can do to prevent this situation from happening? Or is it perfectly ok to say "I'm sorry but I'm busy", if the client has been counting on you?
Or am I just so vain to believe that the client will be desperate without me? Probably the latter but I thought it would still be interesting to hear your experience, cause I can't help feeling bad about this.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 01:21
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
That's something to consider before committin to a project May 11, 2007

Perhaps this very dilemma is something to consider when agreeing to work on projects before you know your priorities? I think it's a rather straightforward approach, if not a solution.

I've been in situations like yours and I've blamed myself for promising too much or taking on too much work.

People are always telling me, "You can't earn all the money," and they are right! I try to heed their advice... with varying degrees of success


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Sanmar
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:21
English to Dutch
+ ...
Has happened to me quite a few times May 11, 2007

Hi Nesrin,

I have been faced with a similar situation on quite a few occasions. In your example, I would continue to work on the job I had already accepted. The regular client would be my next priority and I would inform the people behind the test translation that I am currently booked up with work but that I would be happy to do the test at a later date when I am less busy.
I find it extremely stressful to have to decline work from a regular client (particularly ongoing projects) but I have been in the situation you describe in your post quiete a few times, i.e. already working on a project and absolutely no time to fit in the regular work. First, I explain the situation to the regular client and propose an alternative deadline. In a lot of instances the later deadline is accepted since the end client knows my work and has been happy with it. If this is impossible, they usually understand and give the work to someone else on that occasion. Although, it has also happened that the end client was not happy with the work of the new translator and I was asked to do it again a week or two later. As far as I am aware I have not lost any clients by using this approach. However, I do sympathise! This scenario is always in the back of my mind when I accept a large project from new clients or clients who only contact me a couple of times a year. Having said this you constantly have to 'cultivate' new clients as well to ensure a steady stream of work. One agency I worked for has just lost a big account (which was worth a couple of hundred pounds a month to me). The end client was happy with the quality but decided to have the translations done elsewhere for cost-cutting reasons. When the regular assignment (for 3 years now) did not arrive around the beginning of this month and last I was glad that I had accepted jobs from less regular clients!


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Nisreen Barakat  Identity Verified
Palestine
Local time: 00:21
Member (2007)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Tough decision May 11, 2007

Well, I haven't been in this situation until now. But I know an important rule and that is Never to say NO to a client, especially an old one which counts on you. I know how difficult it can get when you're jammed with projects, you just have to know whan to say No.

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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:21
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Clarification May 11, 2007

Sanmar wrote:

I would inform the people behind the test translation that I am currently booked up with work but that I would be happy to do the test at a later date when I am less busy.


Hi Sanmar -
Small clarification: the test has already been done and found to be positive. Now the client is coming back with the proper job.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:21
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
It happens to me too May 11, 2007

Nesrin wrote:

I'm sure many of you have been in similar situations before.
One client tells you of a large forthcoming POTENTIAL project and gets your approval to work on it when it comes. Another asks you to do an elaborate test which is reviewed by 2 independent proofreaders, because they want to make sure they only work with someone who is really qualified for their highly specialised jobs. A third is one of your regular clients who always counts on you to work on an ongoing project.

Then, hey presto, all three projects arrive at around the same time. Obviously not at exactly the same time, and you've already started on the first job. But how do you feel about suddenly having to tell the second/third client that you don't have time for that job? All jobs are large and fairly urgent, so you can't squeeze them in or ask to postpone them.
I'm not sure I'm looking for a solution here, but is there anything you can do to prevent this situation from happening? Or is it perfectly ok to say "I'm sorry but I'm busy", if the client has been counting on you?
Or am I just so vain to believe that the client will be desperate without me? Probably the latter but I thought it would still be interesting to hear your experience, cause I can't help feeling bad about this.


Hullo Nesrin,
It happens to me too - it's one of the constant hazards of freelance workers everywhere - the "all or nothing" syndrome.
As others have said, you usually have to do the project you accepted first as a priority, and it's best to be straightforward about other work with your clients - the regulars will understand and appreciate this. Sometimes, a later deadline can be agreed, or one of the projects can be split between yourself and other translators if ultra-urgent.
After all, we freelancers have no "security of tenure" - however good the client, there is no guarantee that they will go on sending us work, or for how long or how often. Clients must all realise that freelancers have other clients too. The fact that you are in "hot demand" must be a plus-point for you.
Best of luck,
Regards,
Jenny.


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Sanmar
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:21
English to Dutch
+ ...
Very difficult May 11, 2007

Nesrin wrote:

Hi Sanmar -
Small clarification: the test has already been done and found to be positive. Now the client is coming back with the proper job.


I agree. This is a very awkward situation and I know what it is like. However, there is only so much you can do in any given time and it may be necessary to inform at least one of these clients that you are unable to accept the job. When this has happened to me I have just given an honest explanation, i.e. you had already accepted the other job and it arrived earlier than expected. Good luck!


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gdesai  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:51
German to English
Be of clear mind May 11, 2007

I have read all the comments till now and Jenny's comes closest to my way of thinking.
Even with your 'regular' client, unlsess you are bound by weekly or monthly commitment of completing so many words, there is no obligation to him.
True, he depnds on you for your work and your availability, but he must also consider that afterall you are a freelancer.
Recenly I was placed in a similatr situation.
One of my regular client sent me a text for translation stating it was 'rather urgent'. I had already accepted an assignemnt from another client and was busy and told him as such and also that I would be available only six days thence.
And -surprise of all surprises- on the seventh day he sent me not only the same text but also forwarded the previous message!
I think if you are honest and upright with your customer and of clear mind, even your favourite client will understand your situation.
Best of luck.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 17:21
English to Russian
+ ...
"Previous committments permitting" May 11, 2007

I always include these magic words in my preliminary correspondence with a potential new client. With the old ones it's simple - yes or no at any given moment, understanding is mutual, but with the new ones I always make sure they remember that I am a freelancer and any downtime is possible on a paid basis only. First come - first served. I try my best to explain it in a sweetest and most respectful language I can come up with. After that I do not hesitate to say "no". If they don't understand or pretend the same and get lost, then maybe it's for the best altogether because I can't imagine any professional client getting angry over the obvious rules of engagement in a freelancing world. This would be an indication of potential other problems with "misunderstanding".

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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 23:21
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
One more point of view... May 11, 2007

A fleeting thought - but is it not the time to let the other side feel, you are in demand? For a change it seeems like a seller's market and instead of feelings of guilt one could just as well take a deep breath and say:"Now, everybody listen, don't push, just get into the line, you'll all be served as royals one after another ..."

...and silently enjoy the (still stressed) moment.

regards and keep us posted

[Edited at 2007-05-11 15:06]


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:21
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Plan B May 11, 2007

When I have to decline a job for whatever reason, I usually try to recommend one or two Proz colleagues who specialize in that field and who I know are good. I also point out to the client the possibility of posting the job on the Proz website.

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Dina Abdo  Identity Verified
Palestine
Local time: 00:21
Member (2005)
Arabic
+ ...
Tip: Get a backup team! May 11, 2007

Hi Nesrin ...

Knowing that it may happen anytime, I managed to gather a team of excellent translators who I know would be more than willing to help on similar occasions. It would take you some time to do so, simply because you can't just count on any translator you try for the first time, but it should work out eventually!

Try to keep a list of some translators you know well in your language pairs, ask if they're going to be interested to help on urgent projects or over work-flow, and send them when you need.

Good Luck


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 00:21
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
They probably can wait May 11, 2007

If you are really tide up by the first assignment you just tell the other guy that you can start on their project after X days. Either they wait or they don't. I rather like to work on two projects simultanously, if the schedule alows it. Then I can produce more text than when working on only one project.
Regards
Heinrich


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Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:21
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
This happens to me regularly May 11, 2007

I think that's one of the difficulties of freelancing. You work day and night to create a long list of clientele that would be enough to supply a major agency, but when they start sending jobs, it turns out that you're alone. No matter how well you plan your time, you completely depend on them. There is no "cure-all" for such situations. Each time you find a way to cope with them. You either turn down some orders, or try to negotiate the deadlines, or find another translator to share the orders with. Only in such situation you suddenly realize that each client is a separate entity that does not know about the others, but they all know about you.

I am now exactly in that situation. For about a month I was enjoying life, listening to music, reading books, but since the beginning of May I have already received 12 major orders, and they keep arriving. I hardly manage to respond to the messages. I wonder if somewhere in the world a major volcano has erupted or someone has distributed vitamin T.


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:21
French to English
+ ...
"Yes but..." May 11, 2007

You can still say 'yes', but it can be a 'yes, but I can't start for 2 weeks', 'yes, but I can't start yet, perhaps my colleague Mr/Ms X could help, here's his/her number', or even, if you're feeling brave, 'yes, and my fee is £XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (big number)'.

And something along the lines of what Irene said about making it clear that you can't wait around for them.


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