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A message to agencies about translator availability
Thread poster: Todd Field

Todd Field  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:32
Member (2003)
Portuguese to English
Jun 30, 2005

By posting this message, I am hoping to put a positive spin on a disappointing situation, as I know agencies occasionally do read the ProZ.com threads.

Today one of my favorite agencies, one that I have worked with on many rewarding projects, threatened to "permanently remove me from their database" because I was unable to accept two translation projects in a period of two weeks. Their requests simply came at a time when I could not, in good conscience, accept more work.

I replied that I have a per-diem ceiling on the number of words I can comfortably translate, and although I am not afraid of hard work, breaking this rule could have negative impacts on quality and thus would be unfair to my customers. The agency never replied and I am sorry to have lost what seemed to be a good business partner.

So here is my message to any agency who might read this:

- Freelance translators cannot control the volume of work offered to them. They can only control the volume of work they accept.

- Freelance translators usually have no idea when job offers will come

- Good freelance translators are busy, and thus often not available

- Good freelance translators can be hard to find

- Freelance translators are human beings, and value the quality of their working relationships

And therefore:

HAVE A CONTINGENCY PLAN FOR DAYS WHEN YOUR USUAL FREELANCER OF CHOICE IS UNAVAILABLE RATHER THAN PUNISH HIM/HER FOR HAVING ACCEPTED OTHER PROJECTS!

My two cents today, peace to all..

Todd


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:32
English to Spanish
+ ...
Deplorable Jun 30, 2005

So they threatened to "permanently remove you from their database" because you were unable to accept two translation projects in a period of two weeks? The reasons you state are perfectly valid and professional.

That is the epitome of arrogance. No matter how rewarding the prior projects were, unless you get a profound apology, after wishing a pox on them and their entire family I would forget them forever.

That is indeed a sorry state of affairs for us as translators. I wish I knew the answer.


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:32
English to Spanish
+ ...
So then... Jun 30, 2005

...by the same logic I would assume you could (haughtily) refuse working for any agency that doesn't assign you at least two projects every couple of weeks

No, it does not make any sense, and neither does this agency's reaction. Their behavior lacked courtesy and professionalism, without which how do you sustain a working relationship?

All best,

Susana Galilea
Accredited Translator EN-ES
sgalilea@ispwest.com
www.accentonspanish.com

[Edited at 2005-06-30 04:21]


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Barbara Micheletto
Italy
Local time: 22:32
Russian to Italian
+ ...
Illogical... Jun 30, 2005

If they need you so much, why threaten to remove you forever from their database? I understand your frustration, but in my opinion you shouldn't think to have lost this "good business partner" (as you call them). Their behaviour shows they're in great difficulty without you and can't count on a host of good translators to substitute for you. So, I think they will come back as soon as you're available. Since you're so "irreplaceable", what about increasing your rates for them just a little bit?
My 2 cents.
V.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Permanent remove Jun 30, 2005

Todd and Monica Field wrote:
Today one of my favorite agencies, one that I have worked with on many rewarding projects, threatened to "permanently remove me from their database" because I was unable to accept two translation projects in a period of two weeks.

I would "permanently remove" this agency from my database as well - or contact an other project manager in case this was a newbie.


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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:32
Partial member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
So many aspects of this issue Jun 30, 2005

I think many agencies do not have a backup plan and expect you to be always there, always available.

I have often been "reserved" by agencies for projects which were either cancelled or postponed. First they reserve your time. Then they forget to update you with the changes in the schedule.

I am going on vacation tomorrow. I told all the agencies I work with. A couple of them have unreasonable requests, such as "ok, have a good vacation, but can I send you the work for X even if you are on vacation? Only the work for X..."

Threatening you of not giving more work because you refused 2 jobs in a row looks REALLY unprofessional and unethical to me.


Laura


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Rebekka Groß  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:32
English to German
what position... Jun 30, 2005

Harry_B wrote: - or contact an other project manager in case this was a newbie.


...does the person who threatened you with removal from their database hold in the agency? I totally agree that this threat is completely unprofessional but perhaps you could get in touch with someone more senior and find out what's going on. If you can be bothered that is. However, since you have worked with this agency for years and so far felt you had a good working relationship, it might be worthwhile taking this further. Perhaps some overzealous and overworked PM overstepped the bounds?

Let us know if there is any further development.

Good luck!

Rebekka


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Rosa Diez Tagarro  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:32
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It is unprofessional Jun 30, 2005

of them to treat you like that.

You collaborate with them, they do not owe you. You can't be waiting for them to send you work, it is quite obvious to anybody in the business that you have other clients too (or you wouldn't be very good and professional yourself).

Your reasons are all right and I couldn't agree more.

I guess there has been a mistake, something as suggested by Rebekka and Harry.

They are the ones who should be sorry, anyway.

Great idea to write this post to let other agencies see our point of view, though I guess that most of them understand that perfectly well.

All the best,

Rosa


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Graciela Carlyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:32
English to Spanish
+ ...
so unreasonable Jun 30, 2005

Hi Tod,

I fully sympathise with you.
I can think of a number of situation of your contact to react like this, but NONE is justifiable.

This is just rambling...but...appart from the lack of courtesy, they know that you are a freelancer (I guess they must be used to working with freelancers!), and if they want people to sit waiting for their projects, they should either take employees in-house or pay a booking fee.

Well, the fact is that if they really meant what the said, you're better off without them.
And if it was due to someone's inexperiency and ineptitude, maybe you could take things further up to clarify the situation (expecting a big apology of course!).

All the best,
Grace.


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:32
Shooting themselves in the foot? Jun 30, 2005

Todd and Monica Field wrote:
HAVE A CONTINGENCY PLAN FOR DAYS WHEN YOUR USUAL FREELANCER OF CHOICE IS UNAVAILABLE RATHER THAN PUNISH HIM/HER FOR HAVING ACCEPTED OTHER PROJECTS!
Todd


If I might add, they are really not punishing the good translator, who most probably will keep busy with other clients and forget about such agency in a short period of time. The agency is punishing itself by deleting from its database one of their best translators! I am afraid that, if they continue with this policy, they will deplete their database from good translators (who tend to be busy) and end up with the ones that always have time because the quality of their services is not as good. IMHO, serves the agency well; candidates for a nomination to the Darwinian Awards...


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Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 16:32
English to Spanish
Reliable associates can solve the spot problems Jun 30, 2005

I for one wouldn't think twice about providing sub-standard or even defaulting on a job for an agency that gives me ocassional work, in order to satisfy another one that provides me with lots of well-paid work.

As a translator I have to make choices. It's not as easy as who came first, no matter if it sounds unfair. You have to put your limited chips on the winning number.

The best way to deal with this is to have reliable associates that can take the work you can't do at the drop of a hat.


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Suzanne Blangsted  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:32
Danish to English
+ ...
working with agencies Jun 30, 2005

Don't worry, they will be back sooner or later, if they are good business people. They need quality translation to stay in business. I ran into the same problem a couple of years ago losing a client because I could not take on more work. They dropped me but came back later and then accepted my price, which I by then had increased.

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Ian M-H
United States
Local time: 16:32
German to English
+ ...
A commitment's a commitment Jun 30, 2005

Pablo Roufogalis wrote:

I for one wouldn't think twice about providing sub-standard or even defaulting on a job for an agency that gives me ocassional work, in order to satisfy another one that provides me with lots of well-paid work.


That kind of attitude, rather than politely turning down work you cannot fit in because of prior commitments, sounds like the perfect recipe for losing credibility and clients.

Thankfully, most professional translators do their best to be reliable and only take on what they can handle.


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Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 16:32
English to Spanish
Sigh... Jun 30, 2005

Ian Harknett wrote:
Thankfully, most professional translators do their best to be reliable and only take on what they can handle.


Well, the first step towards a "reliable" and "professional" translation is to be able to adequately read the source text. Read my post again, Herr Harknett.

If you need it spelled out, what I meant and do regularly is that if I am doing a job for a non-regular customer, and a regular one asks for an urgent job, I would not doubt for a second about doing the latter job first, even if it means doing a rush job for the first customer or even delivering late. Had I received the job for the regular customer first, I would turn down or indicate my limitations to the non-regular customer.

You may not have been in that situation ever, for better or for worse. But if you ever do, you have my opinion about what to do. No need to send thanks.

BTW, even my rush jobs are way better than almost all jobs I copyproof. And I'm no stranger to all-nighters, to meet a deadline.

[Edited at 2005-06-30 21:15]


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:32
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
I agree with everything you said, Todd Jun 30, 2005

Thanks for posting this, Todd. I agree completely with your message. This has been on my mind lately, too. Luckily, I have not been threatened as you have. My guess is that you can do without that agency.

My strategy is to keep my regular clients appraised of my capacity situation on an ongoing basis. For example, if my week fills up, I let the other clients know that I cannot take new projects until the following week. Conversely, if a project falls through, I immediately contact other clients and let them know that some capacity opened up. The hierarchy kind of depends on how much work I have done for whom lately. That's the best system I have found for managing capacity.


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