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Client delivers the project weeks or months late ...
Thread poster: Patricia Rosas

Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 2, 2005

I hope this hasn't been discussed already (searched and couldn't find anything).

This year two clients have repeatedly delayed the delivery of major projects. I thought I was fully booked for this month, but one client just informed me that the next book won't be ready until December. The other client has a chapter for me but hasn't taken the time to review it. So, now, work!

I kept space open for both these projects because the clients insisted that everything was needed urgently and because the quantity was large.

How do others handle this kind of scheduling issue?

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Local time: 16:02
English to French
+ ...
A job in the hand... Nov 3, 2005

Hi Patricia

Unfortunately, it happens all the time in our line of work as we're usually at the end of a looong line. I have learned the hard way that a job is not here until it is here, in other words I never decline a job because I'm expecting one. If the scheduled job does come in and it keeps me busy on a full-time basis, then I outsource. I have built a small but solid team of colleagues I can trust, they have saved my... life more than once.

Another thing I learned the hard way: never be 100% booked, just in case.

Good luck!


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
It's on when it's there Nov 3, 2005

I saw your previous post about poor planning by the client resulting in much lost time and effort. I would recommend as I have before, that you have a talk with the client(s) involved and try to come to an agreement with them, in that you can only guarantee performance if they in turn perform for you, and they clearly understand that:

Until you have the job in hand and they assure you it is final and authorize it, its priority is zero because you have other fish to fry.

If they make later changes, they will have to pay for it.

If they put you through hell, they will also have to pay for that.

Of course it should be done a bit more diplomatically than I have described, but you get the idea and they need to get it also.

In addition, if they are amenable to it, you could also give them some diplomatic suggestions on how to clean up their process, for their good and for yours.

Some may understand and some not, but it's better to have clear communication now on such matters, because just letting them fester makes the situation worse and worse as time goes on.

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Fred Neild  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
Build a good client portfolio Nov 3, 2005

sarahl wrote:
I have learned the hard way that a job is not here until it is here, in other words I never decline a job because I'm expecting one.

I think this is very good advice.

Also, you get to know your clients, what to expect, is it worth the trouble, etc

I never leave my schedule open on promises, but I have some clients that if and when they confirm a promise, I will do anything to deliver, sleep less, outsource, whatever (within reasonable limits of quality, of course). For others (specially if they always mess up my schedule), I will say I am full and hope they go to one of my competitors.

Hope it helps!

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:32
English to Tamil
+ ...
A bird in hand is worth two in bush Nov 3, 2005

It happens all the time. The agency may not be at fault after all. I am sure they too would have been frustrated. But we should worry about our frustration and let the agency worry about its problems.

In my case, I tell the client that I if I don't get the project by the appointed date, I take up work from other clients and the deadlines will be affected accordingly. That's life.

If the client wants me to refuse other jobs in anticipation of his forthcoming job, he better pay me a retainer fee.


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Mary McCusker  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:02
German to English
+ ...
Other options Nov 3, 2005

I have had this issue with a couple of my clients. Since I work primarily with agencies, it is almost always the result of poor planning on the part of their clients. (It's strange though that this seems to happen to these two agencies, but many of my clients seem to have no such problems - I assume it has to do with the stage at which they contact the translator). Both clients have come forward with some options for this problem. Depending on your relationship with your client and the scope of their business you may want to explore these options:
1) Both my clients have offered to give me other work should the promised project not come in. This way at least I am not twiddling my thumbs or looking for other work options at the last minute. In actual fact, though, I've always had other projects come in from other clients to fill the gap. Depending on the volume your client deals with, this may be one option for you.
2) Both have also at different times suggested a sort of 'retainer fee' option, in which they would pay me a certain amount simply to be available (particularly at high volume times, such as the end of the fiscal year in my case). I haven't really explored this further, since I don't think it would be fair to charge what a full day of translating might otherwise bring me (and I think this would also be too high for them) and, if it's simply a nominal fee and I would have to take on other work, then I wouldn't really be available unless I added hours on to my work day which usually is not feasible. I would be really interested to hear if there are any other translators out there who have worked out such an option satisfactorily.
Just some ideas... perhaps they will be useful to you.

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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thanks for the support! Nov 7, 2005

Everybody, thank you for the support!

I will take Henry's advice: The job's there when it's there! And it helped to hear Sarah's "it happens to me all the time" and Fred's (and others' advice) to build up a base of collaborators. I'm doing that slowly. I have tried to (re?)educate the clients, one a publisher and the other a young academic, and each has responded differently. So whoever commented that you get to know your true!

I thought about posting a policy on my web page declaring that I cannot hold space open, but I've decided that I should just finesse matters as they come up. I hope I won't be burning too much midnight oil.

Again, everybody, thank you for "chatting" with me about this!
PS Oh! I forgot to say that other work has started arriving already...whew!

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