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Responsibilities of a freelancer...
Thread poster: Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:38
Japanese to English
+ ...
Feb 13, 2009

Hi all, I have a question for you all today.

I am wondering, what exactly are the responsibilities of a freelancer, when an agency gives us a job with basically no other instructions but to "translate" it.

For example, I am now working on a 1000+ page document for an agency. The majority of this, however, is already translated and in a TRADOS TM. My job is to translate the changes and/or updated portions of the document. Even so, there are still around 150,000 characters in Japanese to translate, so it is no small task.

Anyway, TagEditor, for some reason or another, did not like the fonts in this file, and in the majority of sentences is not even showing tags for some font changes, or putting tags for the wrong fonts within the source text. I first ran a pre-translate on the file to get all the 100% matches out of the way, and in even those the fonts are a mess for some reason. In the first half of the file I wanted to make sure the fonts were correct so I placed the tags as carefully as possible to keep them in the same format as the source sentence (which took a lot of time, and also I am not getting paid for these as they are only less than 100% match due to the tags in TagEditor, and the agency did not run the TRADOS analyzation on the TTX file but the original source DOC file).

When I go to clean up the file at the half-way point I find the fonts are in terrible shape, despite my careful work (or maybe even worse because of the tag placement... thanks TagEditor) but I have no time to fix all these fonts for delivery.

Of course, the agency comes back today (about a week after I submitted) and tells me the fonts are very bad and I need to make sure it doesn't happen in the latter half. I am trying to minimize the problem by placing the least amount of tags possible and putting them in strategic locations that do not necessarily match up with the source tags it's giving me (another time consuming task) but I know that they are still not going to be perfect in the end.

Is it really my responsibility to ensure that the fonts are perfect in this before submitting it? Is that not the job of a DTP person and ultimately the agency? I've been dealing with a lot of agencies recently that expect everything to be 100% perfect when it is submitted to them. I care a lot about my work, and always spell check and make sure my document is in top condition before submitting it, but ultimately I am a human and sometimes I make mistakes. Furthermore, in a file with well over a MILLION characters in it, there are bound to be some problems in it that I alone will not have the time nor the resources to fix.

I'm not trying to get out of any responsibility here, but sometimes I am wondering what it is exactly that these agencies are getting paid for. I thought it was THEIR responsibility to proof and clean up the document into perfect condition for delivery to the client, not mine. (I'm not saying I shouldn't have to proof my work. But, everyone knows that when you proofread your own work you often cannot find mistakes that someone else can. Typos and the like should be taken care of before submission to the agency!)

Anyway, for those of you with short attention spans or who can't get through my rambling, what I want to know is... am I really responsible for the perfect formatting (font-wise) of a 1000+ page document, when the formatting was destroyed by the tool they told me to use in the first place?


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:38
Japanese to English
Negotiate Feb 13, 2009

You need to negotiate with the agency, preferably before you start, to agree these things.

Failing that, you need to contact the agency as soon as you identify a problem, and start negotiating then.

If the agency isn't prepared to negotiate, put it down to experience and look for more amenable clients.

You might try breaking the job down into manageable parts and getting the client to look at each part for you.

You also need to check that the client understands the potential issues with Trados. Most don't in my experience. Ask the client if they have a support contract for example, and see if you can get SDL support involved to sort out problems for you.


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Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:38
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Negotiation, eh... Feb 13, 2009

Well, I said it is a 1000+ page document but it is actually 8 documents that add up to 1000+ pages, so it is broken down already to a certain point.

As for the agency and negotiation, I have already tried this and failed. I did not think there would be a problem before the job began, so I couldn't really negotiate at that point. The first half of the project, minus the formatting problems, went rather smoothly. But, it was way more time consuming than I expected. Of all the translations in the TM they sent me, probably about 90% had some type of grammatical or other mistake. Some were actually something completely different from what they should be (i.e., the source would say "this" and the TM translation would say "that", but it is a 100% match according to TRADOS).

I contacted the agency about this and they asked for some examples, which I gave them, but I received no response. Up until this point I was fixing these problems (for free again) but since they gave no response on the issue I decided to let them all slide if TRADOS was matching it up.

In the second half of the project, however, 3 of the 5 files would not open in TagEditor at all. I was posting about it on the TRADOS forum actually. TagEditor would just freeze and no error message would display. I again contacted the agency about this. They tried it as well and it froze for them too, so they told me I just have to use TRADOS in Word to do the translation. As I stated in my first message, this is an impossible task for these documents. I told the agency this, and again received no response so I was stuck with these files and no idea of what to do.

After doing a miraculous conversion process on the files (original DOC -> openoffice DOC -> DOC -> DOCX -> DOC; and yes, that's really the only way I could get it to work) I got the files to open, but this took about 3 or 4 days (yes, days) to figure out. Now I've been up all night for the past 2 nights trying to catch up for the deadline on Monday, and they're yelling at me about formatting after ignoring all my previous issues with the project.

I politely told them that I felt the issue was with TagEditor and was beyond the scope of this job for me as a translator, but I was doing what I could after realizing the problem with the first half in order to minimize the damages to the formatting for the second half. I have yet to receive a reply (and I probably won't, considering my past messages to them), but I am worried that they may try to reduce my payment or something for the formatting problems. I am already giving them a "volume" discount since they refused my normal rate, and refused to pay based on TRADOS analysis of the TagEditor TTX files instead of the DOC files (which was a difference of about 300,000 JPY by the way).

Am I crossing the line here or am I OK to stand my ground?


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:38
English to French
+ ...
Tell them you need a reply before continuing Feb 13, 2009

I don't know why, but it looks to me from your latest post that every time the client can't come up with a solution, they leave you in the dark. I don't know if that really is the case and why they would be doing that, but it seems they are not taking these issues as seriously as you do, or at least that they don't realize their extent and their potential implications.

You are wasting a lot of time on tasks that you shouldn't be working on. For example, I find that the right time for the client to find out that they can't open some of the files was not after the translator started working on the project. If you can help your client, that's great, but if that means that you might deliver late, then the one who will be blamed is probably you, even though you did more than what was initially agreed. You are trying to figure out things that are not yours to figure out, and if you make the wrong decision from the client's point of view, they may conclude that you didn't do your job properly. In other words, you are taking some of their responsibilities, while they don't seem to be taking all of theirs.

I think at this point it is important for your client to know that you can't keep wasting time like this and that this project will not materialize if they don't do what they are being paid for: ensure that the translator has a clean source text to work with and support him to ensure that everything is going according to plan. When you ask them for help, they don't reply. Why not send them an e-mail telling them that you are not working on this any further until they address the issues you are having? No need to be impolite - just tell them that these issues are having a major effect on the quality and the timely delivery of the project, that the risk is too high to be ignored and that you absolutely need them to address your concerns so you can resume work. You may also offer to do all the extra work, for a separate fee (figure out how much the extra effort is worth) and at the same time request a revised deadline. In any case, don't offer to do the extra work without a revised deadline - you would be committing to something you can't deliver, and you would fall out of the frying pan into the fire.

All the best!


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casey
United States
Local time: 13:38
Member
Japanese to English
Yet another reason not to agree to discounts... Feb 13, 2009

I find this problem often, especially when there are heavy image files in the documents. You translate in TagEditor only to find out it won't save the file when you're done. Then you go through copying and pasting into the original document spending twice the time you initially expected. If you've offered a discount on top of that, you're basically paying them for the job.

I feel for you, man.

[Edited at 2009-02-13 08:04 GMT]


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Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:38
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
If I could trust them, I would... Feb 13, 2009

You've brought up some good points Viktoria, and I agree with you fully. I was thinking of e-mailing them exactly as you have stated because I did not feel comfortable with the way the project was going. Unfortunately, this project is VERY large (from a financial point of view) and I want to make sure that I am the one working on it.

If this was a client that I knew I could trust, I would certainly e-mail them with the problems and tell them I was not going to do any more work on it until they can solve them, because I too feel like there are many issues they need to resolve. Unfortunately, having dealt with this client in the past, I do not feel that they trust me as a professional as much as I would like. They will often have my work proofread by a non-native English speaker, and then come back and tell me my translations are wrong only because the proofreader could not understand the real meaning of my translations, at which point I have to do a word-by-word analysis of my translations for them.

With this in mind, I'm afraid they will simply turn to someone else if I complain to much, and that's something I can't afford!


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:38
Japanese to English
You might not get paid Feb 13, 2009

My first big Trados job was a bit like that. One grim learning experience after the other...

I think you need to go into damage control mode. You still need to negotiate what sort of deliverable they're going to get in the end, because they're not likely to be happy with it. I'd have your service contract to hand when you negotiate.

Good luck. And smile. Smiling helps.


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Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:38
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the replies! Feb 13, 2009

Thanks everyone for the replies. It makes me feel (a little) better than some of you have had the same experiences and that it is not 100% my fault. I love what I do, so any time any agency comes back and tells me things are not right I feel very bad.

Fortunately, the second half of the files are looking much better now that I have realized what's going on and basically stopped using the tags in TagEditor except to preserve references and links (what the heck did I spend all this money on TRADOS for then?!). Still not sure why the font tags are not showing up properly in TagEditor, but then again most of the problems I've run across in TRADOS have been an unsolved mystery.

Thanks again!


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Peter Bouillon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:38
Member (2005)
French to German
+ ...
Sorry for you … Feb 13, 2009

Brandon Wood wrote:
Of all the translations in the TM they sent me, probably about 90% had some type of grammatical or other mistake. Some were actually something completely different from what they should be (i.e., the source would say "this" and the TM translation would say "that", but it is a 100% match according to TRADOS). … I contacted the agency about this and they asked for some examples, which I gave them, but I received no response. …

3 of the 5 files would not open in TagEditor at all. … TagEditor would just freeze and no error message would display. I again contacted the agency about this. They tried it as well and it froze for them too … this is an impossible task for these documents. I told the agency this, and again received no response so I was stuck with these files and no idea of what to do. …

I am already giving them a "volume" discount since they refused my normal rate, and refused to pay based on TRADOS analysis of the TagEditor TTX files instead of the DOC files (which was a difference of about 300,000 JPY by the way).


Well that won't help you with the job at hand, I'm afraid, but it all goes to show that particularly “cheap” jobs usually are particularly icky to work on, too.

Here's what I have written right now by chance in another thread recently:
There are several reasons for this:

  • The agency that offers such jobs often is as “cheapo” as the translators they try to attract. They quote cheap to the end customers on projects that more reputable agencies shun for good reasons.
  • This means that the demands they get from their end customers are often particularly unreasonable. These demands are then passed through to the translators.
  • Due to low markup and therefore low income on the part of the agency, jobs are bound to be badly prepared and badly thought through. This makes working on them difficult.
  • Good agencies come at a price, in the same way as good translators come at a price. Thus there's a chance that a “cheapo” agency is lacking in competence somewhere - resulting in bad co-operation with their translators and bad co-ordination with the end customer.


IMO, all these issues are demonstrated here.

The agency has evident problems but evidently does not know what to do about them. Probably, they aren't in direct contact with the end customer, but integrated in a “food chain” where one agency passes business down to the next. This would explain their long stretches of non-reaction.

The Trados memory seems to be f**cked up. This is evidence for the theory that either the end customer or the agency (or both of them) treats all their translations in general in a lacklustre, lackadaisical attitude. This just asks for trouble in the long term, and trouble happened. So this is probably not specific to this job at hand.

Well, you have my symphathy…
Peter


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Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:38
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Peter Feb 13, 2009

Yes, the TRADOS memory is, as you say, f***ed up. The thing is, this job is for a very large company in Japan, and the agency I'm working with usually works with pretty high profile clients (if they are directly involved or not that I do not know).

The problem here is that this agency used to be a very good client of mine, but then the project managers changed and things have been going downhill since. The first job I got from them was a similarly large TRADOS project. I had no problems with it, the translation went smoothly, and I received no complaints. Unfortunately, as the people that work there have changed their attitudes have changed and I have not had very many good experiences with them.

It's funny how most of the clients I work with praise my work and keep coming back for more, yet every once in a while I'll get one that rips it to shreds... but still keeps coming back for more. Maybe I should give these guys up, but they give me pretty big jobs so I'm kind of torn on that issue.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 20:38
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Try SDLX Feb 13, 2009

I don't know about Japanese, but sometimes problems in Trados can be circumvented using SDLX and vice versa.
Regards
Heinrich


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looby
France
Local time: 19:38
Responsibilities Feb 13, 2009

The point you raise about the responsibilities of agencies is an interesting one which I have also been contemplating. I recently worked on a large project for an agency with an extremely tight deadline. Once I had submitted my work (which I felt I had nevertheless done a good job on given the time constraints) the agency started to send me a chain of mails from the client with changes to be made. These were for the most part minor, including formating, missing punctuation and changes in terminology - most, if not all, of which could have been carried out by the agency, if not the client himself. I begrudgingly made the changes, but couldn't help but feel that the agency should have taken responsibility here.
I think that when working with agencies one should still produce high-quality work, but I agree that minor changes, especially formatting, are definitely the responsibility of the client.



[Edited at 2009-02-13 13:02 GMT]


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Brandon Wood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 03:38
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That's right looby... Feb 13, 2009

I completely agree with you looby. One of the reasons why I am still a freelancer (for the time being) and I have not started my own agency yet is because I am not sure if I want to take on the added responsibility and stress of doing what an agency is *supposed* to be doing.

As you say, yes, we are still responsible for delivering high quality work to the agency who is in effect our client, but I do not think we should be expected to thoroughly proofread or make minor changes to our work if needed. If we have to get someone else to proofread our work, or somehow attempt to proofread it ourselves in order to make for a perfect translation the agency can just hand in, they are essentially getting paid for pressing the "Forward" button on their e-mail program when I mail them my translation.

I know that is one aspect of how the agency makes money, like any other middle man, but they have their own responsibilities as well when it comes to the final draft of the translation sent to the client.


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Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 00:08
English to Hindi
+ ...
As like in many other cases, you also may be going to loose your repo with your client! Feb 13, 2009

Your job is in trouble
I have worked in this type of situation. The main issue you are facing is related to font, and this is your software limitations. You simply can not solve it. While using Trados or SDLX, for almost all Asian languages, it is very difficult to use any other font, then Unicode font. Here in your case there are at least two fonts. If so; when the client re-engineer the SDLX file to ‘clean to target’ and send PDF for proof read. The proof reader will report font garbage, and then this is going to fall on your head.
My suggestions,
1] Check whether you are responsible for the use of more then one font, font used is other then Unicode. (You didn’t mentioned this)
2] Check if tags in source itself are broken. If so don’t west time correcting them.
You have no way but to go back to client; I know they know nothing about these things. The people there, sitting in PMs chair, just can calculate time and money (and, in this type of case they looooos the both!) not translation issues or MT limitations over different languages or fonts.
As like many cases, you also may be going to loose your repo with your client, but be confident that you are, not at all responsible for this. This is there fault!


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