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Cancellation fees
Thread poster: xxxXX789
xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
May 30, 2008

Dear all,

I'm sure it has happened to all of you at least once. A client books you for two weeks, promises the source text will arrive on this and this date, meanwhile you tell all your other clients "no" because you're booked already, and then when it really comes to it, there is no source text and therefore no translation. The client apologizes, but meanwhile, you've lost two weeks of income. If you're lucky, you can restore about half of that by frantically telling your other clients that you're not booked after all, begging for work.

This year this happened to me about 8 times in a row, and I lost more than 10.000 euro because of this. As you can imagine, something had to be done, which is why I have now introduced a 50% cancellation fee.

You want to know when I can deliver? At *this* moment my best delivery date is this and this. You actually want me to guarantee that delivery date? Then I will actually book the project and charge a 50% cancellation fee. If they are so sure the project really arrives, this fee should no be no problem, right? Or weren't they so sure after all? Then why tell me the project is a go? They weren't lying, were they?

I find it highly unfair that clients expect us to guarantee a delivery date while they refuse to guarantee the assignment itself. Double standards, I say. They are asking us to bear a risk which they refuse to bear themselves.

When I order a kitchen, and the plumber can only start when the carpenter has done his work, the plumber will charge me too if it turns out the carpenter hasn't finished yet and the plumber came all the way to my house for nothing because I booked him. Why should it be any different for translations? Hotels have cancellation fees, airlines have cancellation fees, but us, the translators, we behave like wallies who are not worthy.

I'm curious... do you use cancellation fees? If not, why not?

I have to admit that in the past this wasn't so much of an issue. I could bear the occassional cancellation. But this year clients are more whimsical than ever, and cancellations seem to have become a matter of course.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:45
Italian to English
+ ...
I don't apply a cancellation fee - May 30, 2008

- simply because I don't consider the job booked until it actually lands in my in-box. Until then, it's just an enquiry of potential availability. I never turn down a solid job offer for something which "should be" arriving tomorrow/next week/whenever.

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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:45
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Same here May 30, 2008

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

- simply because I don't consider the job booked until it actually lands in my in-box. Until then, it's just an enquiry of potential availability. I never turn down a solid job offer for something which "should be" arriving tomorrow/next week/whenever


I never consider a job booked until it is in my inbox.


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Claudia Digel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:45
English to German
+ ...
No cancellation fee May 30, 2008

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

- simply because I don't consider the job booked until it actually lands in my in-box. Until then, it's just an enquiry of potential availability. I never turn down a solid job offer for something which "should be" arriving tomorrow/next week/whenever.


Same here. I don't consider myself booked until I actually receive the file.

If a client wants to book me some time in advance, I clearly inform them that I am generally available and that I will try to fit in the job but that I will not turn down other work until I can be 100% sure that the project will happen (i.e. until I receive the file).

Clients do normally understand this, and so far, I have never ended up being double-booked because most files tend not to arrive on the specified date. Anyway, if I ended up with too much work, I could always outsource some of it to one of the colleagues in my network.

I doubt that a client will agree to a cancellation fee. In many cases the person who outsources the job is not involved in the creation of the file. This is most definitely the case with agencies but also more often then not with direct clients where the project manager (or whoever is responsible for sending the file to you) will have to rely on the information they get from their authors/developers/etc. I guess hardly anybody can ever guarantee that they will indeed be able to send out a file on a given date and therefore will probably not agree to a cancellation fee.

Just my 2 cents.

Best regards,
Claudia


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your responses so far. May 30, 2008

Thank you for your responses so far.

My particular problem is, it seems, that the clients in question do demand that I guarantee the delivery date even though the files have not arrived yet. In *that* case I say: I can guarantee that if you are willing to pay a cancellation fee.

Normally however, I work the same way as all of you: I don't consider the project booked until it's actually there. The issue is that some of my clients do not agree with this approach and want me to book the projects anyway.

So let me rephrase the question and ask whether you think whether in such case, a cancellation fee is justified?

[Edited at 2008-05-30 08:13]


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Anita Cassidy  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2005)
English to German
absolutely May 30, 2008

Loek van Kooten wrote:

Thank you for your responses so far.

My particular problem is, it seems, that the clients in question do demand that I guarantee the delivery date even though the files have not arrived yet. In *that* case I say: I can guarantee that if you are willing to pay a cancellation fee.

Normally however, I work the same way as all of you: I don't consider the project booked until it's actually there. The issue is that some of my clients do not agree with this approach and want me to book the projects anyway.

So let me rephrase the question and ask whether you think whether in such case, a cancellation fee is justified?

[Edited at 2008-05-30 08:13]


If you're being asked to guarantee a specific delivery date, which basically amounts to "reserving" your time while you could accept other jobs, you would be perfectly within your rights to apply a cancellation fee if the job then fails to materialise.

You just need to be absolutely clear about this with your client from the start - you want to book my time, you need to pay for my time.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:45
Dutch to English
+ ...
Perfectly within your rights May 30, 2008

Loek van Kooten wrote:

Thank you for your responses so far.

My particular problem is, it seems, that the clients in question do demand that I guarantee the delivery date even though the files have not arrived yet. In *that* case I say: I can guarantee that if you are willing to pay a cancellation fee.

Normally however, I work the same way as all of you: I don't consider the project booked until it's actually there. The issue is that some of my clients do not agree with this approach and want me to book the projects anyway.

So let me rephrase the question and ask whether you think whether in such case, a cancellation fee is justified?

[Edited at 2008-05-30 08:13]


Would be foolish under these circumstances to do otherwise.

Will sort out the wheat from the chaff for you.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:45
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Justified, certainly May 30, 2008

Loek van Kooten wrote:

Thank you for your responses so far.

My particular problem is, it seems, that the clients in question do demand that I guarantee the delivery date even though the files have not arrived yet. In *that* case I say: I can guarantee that if you are willing to pay a cancellation fee.

Normally however, I work the same way as all of you: I don't consider the project booked until it's actually there. The issue is that some of my clients do not agree with this approach and want me to book the projects anyway.

So let me rephrase the question and ask whether you think whether in such case, a cancellation fee is justified?

[Edited at 2008-05-30 08:13]


Hullo Loek,
Yes, I think a cancellation fee is definitely justified in the case you describe, but would the client agree to it? I rather doubt it. It sounds to me as if this particular client needs to be "educated", as Viktoria would say, to understand that you need to schedule your time like any other service provider and that if you have reserved your time for them you're going to have to turn down other clients, thus losing income if the promised job doesn't materialise. You'd have to get the cancellation fee firmly agreed in writing when accepting the job.
Best of luck,
Jenny


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nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:45
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
In this case, a cancellation fee is the right thing to do May 30, 2008

If the client insists, he will have to pay for it.
If he doesn't agree with your approach ... then he was not serious after all.

Interpreters do apply a cancellation fee if the assignment is cancelled y the client.

To estimate the fee, you could charge your daily rate (hourly rate x 8) for every day when your time has been reserved.


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Damian Harrison
Germany
Local time: 00:45
German to English
Perhaps you should consider asking for a down payment May 30, 2008

Charging a cancellation fee is not such a bad idea, but you could well lose clients through it... Perhaps you should consider asking for a down payment on major projects (something in the order of 20% perhaps), it would be one way of sorting the 'maybes' from the 'definites'.

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:45
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
If they *insist*, they must commit. May 30, 2008

Loek van Kooten wrote:
My particular problem is, it seems, that the clients in question do demand that I guarantee the delivery date even though the files have not arrived yet. In *that* case I say: I can guarantee that if you are willing to pay a cancellation fee.
[Edited at 2008-05-30 08:13]


Hm. Interesting situation. I've had clients promise projects for which I am supposed to reserve time for years, but quite honestly I am not committed until the files arrive or there is reasonable evidence that they will. I make it clear that our availability cannot be guaranteed in the case of a schedule change, though something usually can be worked out. But no client has ever *insisted* on a guarantee of availability on my part.

If I were asked to provide a CONTRACTUAL guarantee of availability, then I would do exactly as you suggest - request that the client sign a binding letter of intent committing to a cancellation fee. You might even scale the fee according to the length of advance notice as many hotels do or according to the size of the project. I would probably be inclined to apply a steeper percentual penalty to smaller projects (length: one day to a few days?) than to larger ones. If I expect a project to last 8 weeks and it falls through, surely I can fill my schedule back up again after a week or two. In this respect, maybe a flat cancellation fee representing the usual lead time for you to "load up" again (2 or 3 days' average earnings?) might be appropriate. That will depend on the dynamics of the market for your language pairs, with which I am utterly unfamiliar.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:45
Member
English to French
I do "book" time without cancellation fees May 30, 2008

only with longstanding agency customers and for large projects. With a bit of precaution, in the end, the amount of lost revenue due to scheduling turbulences is, if not pleasant, at least insignificant. But I use any unscheduled free time to do things I meant to do in a previous life.

In your case, it is quite a bit of lost business. You need to do something indeed.
Cancellation fees are the most reasonable way to go if a customer WANTS you to be available. Being available is like being on call, you're paid for your time even if there's nothing to do.
However I find 50% quite a lot, the fee for cancelling my rent in Spain is only 20%.

Good luck,
Philippe

PS Kevin's approach to the fee scheme is sensible. Basing your cancellation fee according to the actual lost business (and not the theoretical one) sounds fairer.




[Edited at 2008-05-30 10:54]


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all May 30, 2008

Thank you all for your response! My gut feeling already told me that I must have had a point, and your postings have reconfirmed this. I feel more confident about my current approach now.

In fact, one of my clients just called me and said that after much thinking, he agreed with me (he could not pay a cancellation fee, but he also understood that he could not demand a delivery date).

Hopefully other translators in the same situation (the described situation is quite common in the game industry) can use this thread to their advantage.


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Detlef Aberle  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:45
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I distinguish old clients from unknown people May 30, 2008

If a known client tells me that in a few days he will receive a patent that has to be translated with a fixed deadline, I trust him. But I never admit that an unknown, potential client "books" me in advance.

Good luck.

Detlef Aberle


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casey
United States
Local time: 18:45
Member
Japanese to English
I agree with you and the others May 31, 2008

I don't guarantee delivery dates until the project is in my inbox. If, however, the client wanted me to guarantee a delivery date before the file was in hand, I would definitely let them know there would be a cancellation fee. That's never happened before, though.

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