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Off topic: Unreasonable demands from clients
Thread poster: gad
United States
Local time: 09:50
French to English
Feb 24, 2005

I am just writing to vent, more than anything, as I am sure all of you can relate. I specifically went over my schedule and availability (and non-availability) with this one client I recently started working with, and one of the days I specifically made myself available the entire day, I did not receive any work at all. OK, that is fine, but then the following day I received quite a few files, which are not simple files to translate, and then told that they needed them translated or proofread (some files for each) ASAP. I responded to the manager sending these to ask him, are you aware that my availability will be limited for the rest of this week, and he said that yes he knew that. The other contact person at the client called me and left me a message to let me know that there are more files on the way and that they need to be done right away – when I checked my email, these documents were over 50 pages each and they wanted them by tomorrow. Even had I been available to begin them last night, which I was not, to me that appears to be an unreasonable deadline. I just wrote an email to the client explaining that as I had previously indicated to them, my availability is limited and I would not feel comfortable committing to such a deadline. I am just annoyed because I go and set aside time in my schedule, and then nothing, and then all of a sudden, even though they know that I am not as available, they send me all these files at once and expect them back right away. I never commit to a job I can not complete within the deadline so I had no choice but to send that email. I tried to be diplomatic and apologize for the inconvenience, but I am frankly a bit annoyed at this situation.

I might add that previous proofreading jobs for this client have been very time-consuming, because they were so rife with errors that I can only conclude that these were done by machine translation – meaning I had to do just as much work to “proofread” them as I would have had to do to translate them in the first place, yet of course my proofreading rates are a bit lower than my translation rates, since most proofreading jobs are not as time-consuming or tedious. This has been frustrating as well. Does anyone have a suggestion for how I might tactfully communicate this to the client? I’d like to educate them to the fact that there is distinct difference between proofreading a job translated by a human being and “proofreading” a job done by machine translation.

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Bruno Magne  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:50
English to French
+ ...
How could you possibly educate.... Feb 24, 2005

a "client" who sends you over 50 pages to translate overnight?

Considering he is a new client, « je l'enverrais sur les roses ».

Bruno Magne

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Cristóbal del Río Faura  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
A Professional Approach Feb 24, 2005

It usually works. Once you receive the files, have a look at them. Keep cool, professional, and carefully estimate how long it will take you to translate/edit each file, and how much you will charge for it. If needed, you are free to quote a specific rate for the translation of machine-translated texts into human language. Then send your client a quotation with detailed costs and delivery times for each file. This will be a quotation of what you reasonably can do, for when and for how much. You simply cannot do more, they take it or leave it.

Good luck!

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United States
Local time: 09:50
French to English
Thanks for the replies Feb 24, 2005

Thanks. The client replied first by apologizing and stating they are happy with my work and hope I will still translate for them. I asked for clarification regarding the turnaround time for each document, and what the order of priority is for all the documents involved. They gave me a rather vague response, but they did request that I estimate how long it would take, etc. To respond to that, what I did was to send them the approximate word counts for each document and then review the previous information I had given them regarding my word count capacity per day. By the way, some of these smaller documents they had first sent to me, they are in the opposite direction from the language pair that I usually work in. I am not sure how to handle this, as I’m sure the thing is that the client may either not be aware of this or not understand why direction of language pair matters. Anyway, that specific information made it clear that 100+ pages of “proofreading” – even just a going over, as they are now requesting – would require more than two days (they sent this late yesterday so a deadline of tomorrow is a day and half to two days, depending upon what time tomorrow they were expecting it back originally). I offered to do the shorter documents first within a reasonable amount of time and then to do the larger documents, although those larger documents are what they wanted first. I’m waiting to see how they respond.

I do think that some clients might just not have an idea how translation and proofreading works, I think they may be well-intentioned but might not have an idea of what all is involved. I’m sure we’ve all run into that before. I did try to tactfully explain to them why certain jobs take longer and hope that they understand more fully. I guess what I had found most annoying was the asking me to be available and then I clear my schedule and nothing, only to be bombarded with work right afterwards, when I am not necessarily available. But I understand that some things might be out of their control as well.

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David Petherick
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:50
+ ...
It's about Education... the client now knows more about how you work. Feb 24, 2005

You've correctly told your client that you've made yourself available, and then been 'abused' by their unreasonable request!

I think many of us have been there!

They probably realised when sending things to you that it was impossible - but the pressures on them (and the factors affecting when they can deliver to you) are often outside of their control - and they may have been let down by another party. At the same time they have to deliver to another party - through you - because what they have to deliver is the translation that only you can provide...

You have now educated them as to how you work, maintained their respect, and perhaps they will realise the value of asking SOMETIMES for the translation of an 'executive summary' of a 50-page document, not a translation of the full 50 pages. Perhaps!

Educating your client allows them to respect your work - but remember that you have to also educate yourself about your client and respect the issues that drive their work.

Best from Scotland,


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