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Questionable communication experience with a jobs poster
Thread poster: poly
Italian to English
+ ...
Jun 29, 2006

Hi all!

I am posting this to seek some reinforcement, as well as to share an experience that may help other translators....

I responded to a Proz job bid for a large job: about 30,000 words. The rate was not very glamorous, but I decided that the consistent work- assuming about 2 weeks- was worth it vs. spending the next 2 weeks with nothing.

I got a pretty quick reply from the poster with the file and a due date of FIVE days from the email. That's it. No other terms, PO or anything.

SO I review the file, which ended up with about 20,000 words, not 30,000. I wrote the agency and asked several questions, including:
-confirmation of rate
-form of English to be used (also asked in my initial reply)
-payment terms, payment method, who to invoice, etc.

I then mentioned that the word count was different from the posting, and expressed concern about the close deadline. I suggested splitting the job between several translators.

I expressed to them that these questions would have to be answered before work could begin.

After a day, I received no response. I then wrote again and reiterated that I couldn't begin the work without confirmation of these basic items. I then received TWO responses from different people at the agency. This would have been great except that their responses were COMPLETELY different:

-one said that UK English was desired, and the other, US

-one said the payment would be by source word, the other , by target. The response that specified 'by target' mentioned that they'd just count it when they received my files.

There was no information on payment terms/method, etc.

I wrote them both and pasted both responses and asked for some sort of consensus as to the requirements of the project. I also reminded them that I'd not received any details about payment. I even mentioned my preferred terms and payment method (Paypal). I finally (not expecting any joy) reminded them of the fact that the wordcount was high for a (now) 4 day job, and again suggested to divide the work. (even posting this, I feel like a broken record!)

I received a terse response from one of the staff members, stating that payment was net 30 'after invoice month' and that I should in the future put all questions into ONE email instead of several. (um.....)
She then expressed concern that the project had not begun . STILL no answer about method, STILL no answer about whose instructions to follow, STILL no response about the wordcount vs deadline or splitting the job.

YET they expected me to be happy with this and begin the job. It is almost as if acceptance was assumed.

SO I wrote AGAIN and outlined the crazy communication I'd received thus far. I made sure I was calm first, and then outlined the importance of coming to an agreement on all terms before a project can be accepted. I also re-re-reiterated that their deadline was a lot to ask, especially at the rate they've requested.

Another day, no response.

What now?

Normally, I've been able to take care of all of this with one or two emails, that served as an agreement. I'd outline the terms, and ask questions, get a response with corrections/more info, then I'd re-state the terms , including payment info,etc in one formal email. I'd then ask for final confirmation, receive it, and that's that.

It's not a contract, but at least it has been a way to make sure everyone's on the same page.

If you've made it all the way to the bottom of this, thanks for reading, and any advice, anecdotes, or abuse is welcome.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-06-29 10:24]

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Sara Freitas
Local time: 07:54
French to English
Just forget about them. Not worth it. Jun 29, 2006

Hi lepetitpoly,

Not worth the trouble or the risk (of non-payment) if this is the level at which they are operating. Best just to move on and forget about them, IMO.

Reminds me of a hilarious situation I experienced with an agency this week.

The agency contacted me last month for a free test. I said I would have to invoice for it, they agreed. I provided a written quote, which they returned signed. I did the job. The payment is due tomorrow (will let you know if I get it or not!).

This week they contacted me for a series of short, urgent jobs for immediate turnaround.

The email was a group email (not even BCCd) to several translators asking who could take on the job.

I replied, asking her to please not do that again, as I like to keep my business relationships confidential (not to mention the practice of dispatching jobs this way, which really is unprofessional).

I stated that I was on a longer project, but one with a flexible deadline, and that I could fit their jobs in as they came in througout the day.

I asked for a purchase order so that I could begin work. I said I would accept an estimated word count.

The PM stated that she did not know how to do a purchase order.

I emailed her with an outline of a purchase order for her to fill out.

She stated that she did not have time to complete a purchase order and would have to continue looking for another available translator who would be able to complete the job without a purchase order.

She also stated that she had been working with translators "for a year" and that she had never been asked for a purchase order before.

I had a good laugh and got back to work.


[Edited at 2006-06-29 10:37]

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Italian to English
+ ...
wow! Jun 29, 2006

Thanks for your reply...I no longer feel so bad.

Since my post (maybe they read the forums!) , I have all of a sudden received a reply.

This reply came from the email address of the first staff person but was signed with the name of the second.

They first stated that if I have any questions or concerns, they should be expressed at the beginning of the project (isn't that what I did?)

Then they mentioned they'd be willing to send a PO *IF* I send to them all work completed up to now to prove I've started the work *and* sign the PO stating that I guarantee I'll deliver the job by the deadline.

Now, they've threatened to reassign this job if I do not comply with their request in 1 hour...not 1 *day* as it seems they like to wait to respond, but 1 hour.

I guess my turn to have such a 'fun' client was well overdue.

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Sara Freitas
Local time: 07:54
French to English
Poly, be careful how you use the word "client" Jun 29, 2006

For me, a "client" is someone who has actually paid you for work done (and on time).


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:54
English to Spanish
+ ...
Inocent until proven ..... Jun 29, 2006

Every time I see more and more translators being too cautious and requesting too many things........I'm not saying that a PO or to know the payment method are not important but we have to work.....give people some it......and when the problems come deal with them..........don't create the problems yourselves.........
Last month I did a job for an agency I felt was not going to pay but it was only 3000 words and I did I got the cheque in the post....even quicker than some of my old clients......
Each agency has got its own way of working so we need to understand people work in different ways.......some people are new in the business.......well done for sending them a template for a PO......
I don't know if you'll get my point....I am not being a servant but sometimes you have to trust people.....
Good luck anyway....

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Sara Freitas
Local time: 07:54
French to English
Jesus, I have to say I disagree totally. Jun 29, 2006

A purchase order should take about 30 seconds to complete. It is proof that work has been ordered. And it is proof of good faith. This is really very basic in any commercial transaction.

I don't ask for a 20-page contract or even a fancy purchase order. Just the basic info in an email will do.

Translation Agency's full contact details, VAT no and business registry no

Ditto for Translator

Volume of work to be completed



Payment terms

End of story. Anyone who balks at providing this very basic information is not, in my opinion, a good business risk. Giving the benefit of the doubt is one thing, but a purchase order is really the least you should expect before performing work.

Sara (zero outstanding debt since 2002...except possibly the invoice I mentioned in my first posting )

[Edited at 2006-06-29 11:04]

[Edited at 2006-06-29 11:05]

[Edited at 2006-06-29 11:05]

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Italian to English
+ ...
exactly Jun 29, 2006

Thanks for your reply, Jesus.

I didn't mean to appear to be a 'diva' of any sort. I feel the questions I asked were important, and I did not want to try my hardest to cram 20,000 words into four days, and never hear from them again. The fact that they ignored most of my emails, then complained that I hadn't asked these questions in the, AND the fact that two members of the staff sent two separate and conflicting instructions for the job, shows that they are not organized at all.

I would have not made such a big deal if it had been a smaller project, as you mentioned.

I didn't necessarily require them to send a formal PO, I simply wanted to make sure we agreed on all the terms of the job before I spent my holiday weekend (in the US) on a doomed project.

Sara: thanks for the correction on my use of the word 'client'.

In the future, I think I *will* be a lot more formal, and respond to files like this with a standard form for the agency to fill out, similar to what you've posted.

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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:54
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
All of you are right! Jun 29, 2006

I know that a PO is proof that work is ordered and states the terms of the job. The amount of words in this case also would seem to warrant it.

Still, my best client has never sent me a PO. They just write to tell me that they have a job for me never less than 40000 wds) and if I could take it, how long it would take me.

I say. for example, yes, how long it will take and start working. I deliver job + invoice and get paid after approx. 14 days. Their workflow is steady the whole year and payment is prompt.

I started the first job on a trust basis and it paid off well.

I tend to agree with Jesus. Play it by ear with a new customer, preferable take only a small job, observe payment practices and go from there.

Good luck!

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Anita Myszk  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:54
English to Polish
+ ...
it's your work, time and money we are speaking about Jun 29, 2006

I totally agree with getting the facts sorted. You have to know when to expect to be paid for your job. I took a job from an agency, which is even registered in, but has no records/opinions from translators working for them. I wanted to ask at the forum if anyone worked with this agency and could share their thoughts but my post was dismissed by one of the moderators and I was told to check the board.
To make a long story short - stupid me, I took the job (btw - an over-the -weekend job, how typical), did it and issued my standard bill with 7 days after completing the job payment term. Three weeks after the maturity day I call the agency and I am told (without them asking any details of the bill or the job or myself) that "Yes, yes, the boss paid the bills 2 days ago." Not much to my surprise until today I haven't been paid a penny. So much for my luck. I dont' think I will ever work for them again.

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Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 07:54
Member (2003)
English to Czech
+ ...
Questionable communication experience with a jobs poster Jun 29, 2006

Now, they've threatened to reassign this job

Let them do it. I agree with Sara they are not worth the trouble.

It's a good thing to trust a new agency, but not if they show their incompetence from the very beginning.

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ICL  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:54
English to Spanish
+ ...
Caution is useful... Jun 29, 2006

Jesús Marín Mateos wrote:

Every time I see more and more translators being too cautious and requesting too many things........I'm not saying that a PO or to know the payment method are not important but we have to work.....give people some it......and when the problems come deal with them..........don't create the problems yourselves.........


Please see the message I just posted at:

Although it is a good thing to "trust" people (in general), I think the fact that now anyone can have a web site in the Internet and give the impression that they are a "serious" company has added an element of potential fraud to the freelance translation work.

So I think looking for signs of mistrust (like unclear communication) in a company for which you have never worked before is not paranoia, but rather reasonable caution.

Plus, there are many ways to check first if a company is trustful, just like companies have many ways of checking if you as a freelance are trustful.

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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:54
I totally agree with Sara's comments Jun 29, 2006

The agencies I work for have never had any trouble providing a PO. As Sara says, it only takes a few minutes, and includes (if well done) all information required to complete a translation project. Of course, after having worked with a client and earned reciprocal trust, one can skip the PO phase. However, with a new client, and aside from e-mails exchanges, the PO is the only document that you can use to prove what they requested from you. I rather err on the cautious side, and ask for it. I am sure good faith agencies/clients understand this; the others will give you the run around, just like the one you have been dealing with. There are so many other potential clients out there, that I would just forget about them and look elsewhere.

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Aleksandr Okunev
Local time: 08:54
English to Russian
My view. Jun 29, 2006

1) I would drop them for half of the reasons you list. Your sanity, reputation and health cost more, irrespective of what they offer.

2) I have nothing agains trust and very often start working for a new client after an e-mail.

I think this is a case where no universal rule can be made in principle, there are too many variables involved.

Stay well

[Edited at 2006-06-29 14:27]

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sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:54
English to Russian
+ ...
Inebriated PM? Jun 29, 2006

Another good story to laugh at with your friends over a glass of wine. After 7 PM I received a phone call from CA from a PM (agency has all 5s in LWA!) requesting a one-page translation within a day. We agreed about the rate and deadline (next day) although not using a check as payment method (we are both in the US) but Paypal "for accounting purposes" and big discussion about paying my Paypal charges (in this case slightly over one dollar) should have been a red flag for me. I requested a PO and the file for translation to be sent ASAP so that I start working next morning, delivery next day in the afternoon.

At 10:30 PM the same night I receive another phone call from the same PM asking if I received the file and if I am on it. By this time the file and message with PO# arrived but no PO with terms and conditions per se. We start a long argument about absence of PO, what is my problem (sic!), etc. After I mention an obvious miscommucation, the PM laughs and says this is because he is American - this was supposed to mean that my English is not good enough or what? And then I finally start to realize that he is either drunk or stoned or both. Then a woman picks up the phone on the other line and says quietly that I will receive the PO within a few minutes, which I did.

But seriously, do we put ourselves and our families at risk of harassment by placing our home numbers at the translation websites because most of us work from home?

Another red flag for everybody: blocked number on your phone display when you receive a call from an outsourcer and P.O. instead of the agency address (or do they work from home, too?).

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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:54
Italian to English
Make it simple for the client Jun 30, 2006

Although I don't do much work for agencies, the ones I do work with always send POs.

If they didn't, and I still wanted to work with them, I would do what I do with other regular clients and write the PO/offer myself.

This means putting the info Sara has outlined in an email and sending it to the customer, *with a request to accept/reject the offer and mail the message back* (when delivering a job, it's a good idea to ask the customer to reply to the email as proof that the work has arrived).

Particularly with medium-size or large organisations, you can find yourself dealing with new people at very short notice. However nice they are, they may not know about your particular job, or in some cases even the organisation's usual internal procedures (think of how chaotic an office can be after a takeover, for example). So don't start work until a job is confirmed and keep a virtual paper trail of every step.

It takes so little time to send out a standard mini-offer that there is really no point in not doing so. It won't solve all your problems, but it will help to keep them to a minimum.



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