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Cancelled job ---what to do?
Thread poster: N.M. Eklund

N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:23
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Nov 14, 2005

Hello Everyone,

I was contacted five days ago for a quickie interpreting job (1hour) for a press conference. I have done informal interpreting through my translation clients, but this was the first independant job.

Normally I have all translation clients sign a 'Bon de Commande' before starting work.

This time, I sent a quote and the agency accepted by phone, followed by a few emails talking about the reference documents.

In the meantime, I was offered another translation job which I refused because of the interpreting job.
Now, the day before, the agency calls to tell me their client decided that they didn't really need an interpreter.

I find myself the loser in this story. My boyfriend says I should charge a penalty for the loss of my time...but I'm not sure what to do because:
1) I don't have a written acceptance
2) I didn't specify a clause in my invoice for cancelled jobs
3) I'm afraid of losing any future jobs with this contact.

This agency checked out well with the Blue Board. They asked me to call them back to talk about what happened, but I'd rather get my head on straight before contacting them.

What would you do?

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Local time: 12:23
French to English
+ ...
put the ball in their court Nov 14, 2005

If they suggested you call, then they are clearly open to discussion. I suggest you call them and ask for explanations, very calmly and without anger or stress. You simply say that you turned down other business - if you feel Machiavallian, you could even imply that you turned down an old customer for a much bigger job, sum of money, because you wanted to honour your commitment to them and ask politely with a big question-mark in your voice, what they usually do under such circumstances. Obviously you may want to work for them again (!) and they may not care about you, in which case you may not have a leg to stand on.
You could call me and we could do a dress rehearsal if you like..... This sort of thing has happened to me as client and as provider....

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:23
Italian to English
+ ...
chalk it up to experience Nov 14, 2005

Although if the agency's asked you to contact them, perhaps they're prepared to offer you a cancellation fee anyway!

In any case, for all the reasons you've given (potential loss of good client, no written agreement etc) I wouldn't be prepared to fight over it.

(edit): I'd definitely be prepared to take up CMJ's very kind offer, mind you!

[Edited at 2005-11-14 15:52]

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Dina Abdo  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:23
Member (2005)
+ ...
Call them! Nov 14, 2005

Call them, listen to what they have to tell you, tell them about the other project you rejected and indicate that: "Things happen all the time, I understand. But you sure would understand the new term I'll be adding in my quotes submitted to you regarding cancelled projects in the future". Finally, tell them that no matter what, you'd love working for them again.

This way, you'll be telling them that:

1. Their mistake cost you.
2. You're still interested in working for them.
3. They won't be able to do it again.
4. You're a nice patient person who is tolerable to her clients, but who also learns how to deal with them.

I'd recommend you charge them nothing for the job cancelled. They would appreciate a similar attitude. Establishing a strong business relation with your clients can cost you sometimes. Don't mind it, as long as you're sure that you'll gain much more benifits in the future.

Good Luck

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:23
English to Spanish
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Also recognize Nov 14, 2005

You also need to recognize that cancellations are part of the territory in the interpreting business. People book your services, you give them that block of time, you turn down another conflicting job, then whammo... they cancel you out and you end up with nothing! In my experience in the USA this problem is very common with legal interpreting, a field in which there is a very high cancellation rate, and I'm sure it can reach 50% or more.

There can also e many urgent or last-minute requests as well, which don't make your life any easier. And they get canceled too!

The type of situation you mention would seem to be another risky one. Conference interpreting is much less risky because conferences are rarely canceled, and if so with plenty of notice, plus the fact that your assignments can often be for a whole day or several full days, not just for an hour or two.

There are ways you can minimize this problem, however. One is to make it very clear, perhaps even through a written agreement if possible, that you will charge a cancellation fee if cancelled within a certain period before the scheduled time, let's say 24, 48 or 72 hours or one or two or more business days or whatever you feel is right. The problems there are: 1.- Often it is not possible or feasible to get a written agreement signed, but you might try it by Fax. 2.- Many clients are just a "hard sell" on this point, and they don't want to pay cancellation fees; they'll go to someone else. If you don't need them, let them go, and if you do, then risk it.

The second and best way, I think, is to cover yourself and double-book. Several colleagues have done this with me with success. I am primarily a translator but I also interpret. A colleague will call me and ask if I can cover a certain assignment, and I agree. Then the colleague will also book a conflicting assignment.

The agreement is that if both assignments are a "go", then I cover. If one is cancelled, my colleague takes the good one and cancels me, which is all well-understood beforehand. I still have translations to do and I'm not depending on interpreting assignments for a living.

If you can find a colleague (or two) to work with on that, it's not a bad idea.

Insofar as your current situation is concerned, it would be good to call the client and mention your situation without being demanding at all, but to see if they are at least understanding. You don't appear to have much to go on absent any agreement on cancellation fees, but maybe they'll be good to you in the future because they know they "owe you one".

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:23
Dutch to English
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Be realistic ........ Nov 14, 2005

Be realistic here, it was only a one hour job.

Phone them and don't put it off - the longer you leave it, the quicker things like this lose momentum and you'll look like you haven't got the confidence to deal with issues in their eyes. This is going to happen time and time again - it's par for the course - so you need to prepare yourself and learn how to detach yourself from it. Just deal with it and move on.

Reach an amicable settlement, which in view of the small amount involved may even just be a commitment from them to give you a next job. They are obviously open for discussion - but then use the experience to adjust your terms of business accordingly, providing for a cancellation fee and tell them that. I'd ask them in a business-like fashion what their policy is towards the end-client who cancelled on them. Tell them you'd like to follow the same policy. On small jobs like this, they may waive a cancellation fee, if it's a good client. On a larger job, they may take a deposit which is retained in the event of cancellation.

It could have been far worse.......

[Edited at 2005-11-15 07:00]

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