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How do you define urgent/overtime work?
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:28
English to French
+ ...
Feb 13, 2009

I have been wondering about how translators define urgent/overtime work (the type of work you would normally charge a higher rate for because of its urgent nature). I have read different definitions on translator websites, blogs, this forum, and it seems to me that there isn't any more or less standard method for defining this.

To some people, urgent work means having to drop everything you are doing now in favor of the urgent project (and possibly become unavailable for some regular clients). To some, it means any work that will have you working outside of office hours (past 5 o'clock, weekends, etc.). To some, it simply means having to translate more than X words in a given time frame.

It makes sense to me to use a words/day or words/week ratio (depending on the size of a project), combined with the lead-in time. This means that, if I get a job that requires that I produce 3000 words per day five days in a row, that's an urgent job, even if it only starts in a few days and I don't have to make myself unavailable for other clients in the mean time. Likewise, if a job requires that I translate 2000 words two days in a row, but I have to get started on it right NOW, then it is an urgent job, because I become unavailable to other clients and I may be missing out on something juicier, and I may possibly be encouraging my other clients to become chummy with other translators since I am "always unavailable" and lose a client.

How do you define urgent/overtime work? Also, how much is the urgency worth for you?


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:28
Italian to English
+ ...
I don't Feb 13, 2009

Either I've got time, or I haven't. If I have, I'll do it at my normal rate; if I haven't, nothing I'm offered* is going to convince me to accept it.

* or at least nothing I'm likely to be offered: of course, if someone offered me €100 a word I'd be there until I fell asleep on my desk, but I don't think it's going to happen in this lifetime.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 08:28
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
an elder baseball empire ... Feb 13, 2009

... was asked about what makes a ball and what makes a strike. Geometry? Projection vertical to the plate? How would he (or actually how did he) quantify the rules? How did he make sure that the two alternatives are recognized in an objective, positive fashion?

His answer:"They are nothing until I have called them."


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Laurence Forain  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:28
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
no urgent notion here Feb 13, 2009

Viktoria,

Indeed I never use the "urgent" notion in my work and so in my rates.
My principle is simple : either I can do the job and I accept the job or I cannot do the job because the deadline is too tight, the daily/weekly load too high or whatever and I refuse the job.
If I accept a job for which I need to work during the weekend or at nigth, it is because I am willing to. On the contrary, if I do not want to or cannot spend my evenings or weekends working, I simply refuse the job.

My two cents
Have a nice night/afternoon.

Laurence


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:28
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Are you guys telling me to raise my rates? Feb 13, 2009

According to the first three replies (let's wait for some more still - these may not be representative of the community), there is no such thing as urgent work. However, I often find myself in situations where not one but two regular, long-standing clients have work for me that is rather urgent. I of course don't want to turn them off, so if I could, I would take both jobs. It would be feasible to do so, but I would have to sacrifice a portion of my private life, which I am unwilling to do - unless the money I earn from that work allows me to compensate for the time I didn't spend with family and friends (e.g., I may not be available to go to that rock concert in town today, but I have extra money to catch up on it in a nearby city a few days later). Are you guys suggesting that I raise my rate instead? Is that what you mean?

It would be interesting to know what the typical volume per project is for you. I seem to recall that Marie-Hélène works mostly on very small and very numerous projects. I work on relatively large projects (it is not rare that a sole project involves hundreds of pages), which means that for me, managing time and overlapping projects is also a lot harder than for people who translate birth certificates, press releases or MSDS. Could this be why the notion of urgency is very present in my business, whereas it isn't in yours?

[Edited at 2009-02-13 22:36 GMT]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:28
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I go with the ratios Feb 13, 2009

... except that 3000 words a day five days a week is a regular load for me. (Don't get me wrong, I was trained this way by my mentors). Hence a client who gives me 9000-12000 words to do from Monday to Friday is only keeping me reasonably occupied. But if the work is such that I have to put in extra hours or work on weekends, that changes the picture. I charge the extra volume at 150% (+50%) of my regular agreed rate, a procedure backed up by many collective bargaining agreements. (It goes without saying that volume discounts are out of the picture for me -- volume doesn't necessarily mean I'm getting any extra time).

A lot of my clients already know this, so they tend to avoid the inconvenience. However, they are happy to pay the surcharge if there's no other alternative.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:28
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Depends on what you translate Feb 13, 2009

Parrot wrote:

... except that 3000 words a day five days a week is a regular load for me.


Hey, I can see that happening! But what if you translate the type of rather scientific text, not always of top-notch quality, that requires that you look up terms fairly often, even though you have been dealing with the subject matter for years? And what if the document is large, chock full of terminology and the terminology really needs to be consistent?

To me, anything past 4,000 words per day is inadmissible, in any subject matter (unless you never sleep, or quality doesn't matter to you, or you dictate your translation, or some other shortcut). I did manage to translate 13,000 words in a day once - I dictated it and it was one of those very easy documents you can translate with eyes wide shut (didn't require any research). I wish that was a standard for me... Then, I wouldn't even bother charging extra for overtime. Meanwhile, my standard daily output is 2000 words (sometimes considerably less even, and on good days it can be more).


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RichardDeegan
Local time: 01:28
Spanish to English
Either I can do it, or I can't Feb 13, 2009

If I can fit something in within my current load, I take it. If not, I try for a reasonable extension (often granted). The fact that I may have to (or rather, choose to) work 16 hours one particular day is my problem. Or should I surcharge the 500 blurb from a long-time (and non-abusive) client that comes in while I'm in the middle of an annual report or 40-page contract? How should I allocate surcharges? (Surely if surcharges are fair, they should be allocated equitably, and not just on the straw that broke the translator's back).

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:28
Italian to English
+ ...
Project volume Feb 13, 2009

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

It would be interesting to know what the typical volume per project is for you. I seem to recall that Marie-Hélène works mostly on very small and very numerous projects. I work on relatively large projects (it is not rare that a sole project involves hundreds of pages), which means that for me, managing time and overlapping projects is also a lot harder than for people who translate birth certificates, press releases or MSDS. Could this be why the notion of urgency is very present in my business, whereas it isn't in yours?


Your memory is pretty accurate - most of my jobs are between 400 and 4000 words, and the vast majority of these are between 600 and 1200 words, so fitting an extra one or two in isn't usually a big deal. This undoubtedly makes a difference to my attitude towards urgency. No doubt if most of my work consisted of 100-page + jobs I'd have a different perspective on surcharges.

[Edited at 2009-02-13 23:16 GMT]


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:28
Portuguese to English
+ ...
My definition Feb 13, 2009

Urgent to me means something that comes up suddenly that needs to be done right away. Normally I don't charge extra for those jobs, because if I'm free I'll do them and if I'm not, I won't. If it's a real rush job I might warn the client that the work may not be up to my usual quality (read: so I don't want to hear any griping later if there are some mistakes, etc.).

I don't consider weekends to be overtime. To me, overtime is when I work all day and then something comes up to do at night as well. The times that has happened, the client has actually offered to pay overtime.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:28
English to German
+ ...
Excellent question, Viktoria Feb 13, 2009

I can't even answer properly - working on a continuous job, I can make 2000 to 3000 words a day, including proofreading and editing.

BUT:

Just to give a summary of this morning, I dealt with a nice variety of car antennas, hair coloration, gas meters, the horticulture industry of an African country and how to stack Tupperware.

Only a few lines each, everything urgent like hell. I didn't make much money today, however, it feels like a bomb went off in my head.

How to charge for this pain? I don't know. I have a headache.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:28
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Not the definition, but the cost of it Feb 14, 2009

Apparently it doesn't matter so much whether the translator will rate a job as urgent or not, but if the client will have to pay a surcharge on it.

As a freelancer, I'm my own boss, so I set my working hours every single day. If the client forcefully wants me to go beyond these, I will definitely charge extra. However if I am myself willing to burn the midnight oil on that job, and do whatever I want (either another job or anything else) during saytime, they won't pay more for it.

For instance, a colleague took two weeks to assemble a team to translate a 400-page software manual in 4 days. I was forewarned and prepared for it. My mistake was to take the longest chapter (95 pages) to translate myself, plus the DTP for the whole manual. For three days in a row, I worked 19 hour shifts, but at my regular rates.

On the other hand, last week a client called me during lunch to subtitle a 10 minute video and burn a DVD by 6 PM on that same day. I wasted 2 hours rummaging their FTP site, downloading 7 different versions of it (avi, flv, wmv, etc.), and checking which one had been renderized to the last frame. Only one of the WMVs was usable. The translation they provided had been done by an amateur emotionally involved with the message (added text that wasn't there), had all kinds of flaws, but I was expected not to change anything and to break and spot the subs. I made it just in time, but there was a 100% surcharge, as I had to drop anything I had going, and no time for mistakes.


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 00:28
French to Spanish
+ ...
Urgent, for me: Feb 14, 2009

When I accept to do a job 1.- RIGHT NOW and ASAP on "normal" days; 2.- on week ends; 3.- holidays or 4.- overnight (after 8 p.m.)
Depending of the combination of 4 points, of course I charge (much) more.


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:28
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Our definition of what rush is included in our price sheet Feb 14, 2009

From our current price sheet:

Rush / weekend surcharge: from + 30% to +50% of our base rates, depending on the project
rush: more than 2500 words of translation, or 7500 words of editing or 10,000 words of proofreading per person, per day.
weekend: any project that needs to be done on Saturday, Sunday or other holiday.



In order to avoid misunderstandings, our price sheets also includes definitions of certain tasks:

editing: revision of the translation with correction of mistranslations, omissions/additions, as well as language errors in the target language. Done by comparing the target text to the source text.
proofreading: revision of the translation to correct typos and similar errors in the target language. Performed without reference to the source language.
word counts: word counts are calculated on the source text, unless otherwise specified. Exceptions are texts provided as hard copy or in non-editable format (e.g., most pdf files), in which case the word count is calculated on the target text.


Going back to rush rates: according to my definition, if I get from a customer a project up to 2500 words to do for the next day (assuming I get it reasonably early in the morning), it is not rush. If a second customer then comes in and convinces me to do another 2500 project for the next day, that also is not not be charged as rush to the second customer (after all, it is not the second customer's fault if I got greedy and accepted too much work to do within a normal business day). On the other hand, if the first customer asks to add another project for the next day, that second project for the first customer is then counted as rush.

Similarly, if a customer gives me a 2000-word project on Friday morning, for delivery on Monday morning, no weekend rate applies. The same project, received eight hour later but still due Monday morning is charged at rush rates.

We may make exceptions for good customers, and not charge extra even for urgent jobs, but what usually happens when we ask for the rush or weekend rate is that the deadline suddenly becomes more flexible, and we are given the necessary extra time.


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Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 08:28
English to Swedish
+ ...
I have no rush rates, but ... Feb 14, 2009

I have no rush rates, but I have one steady customer who sends me some 600 words 4 times per year, a few minutes after NASDAQ closes, requires delivery at least one hour before the European bourses open the following day, insists on PGP encryption of all communication, and pays triple rates without complaining.

***********************
Sven Petersson
Medical translator
Website: www.svenp.com
***********************


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