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Juggling potential offers of work
Thread poster: Fiona Paterson

Fiona Paterson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
Jul 31, 2006

Hello there

I've been freelancing for a year and I'm not sure of the etiquette of juggling concrete and potential jobs.

A new client contacted me about my availability last Friday, I gave a quote and a deadline, and she said the end client would confirm today. But I've now been contacted by a regular client about a definite piece of work. If I take on the second, I won't be able to do the first - which may not materialise anyway, but I don't want to offend my new client.

Similarly, I was in the situation two weeks ago of having no work at that moment but five potential jobs for the next week or so. As it happened, only some of them came through and I was OK, but I may have had to decline work after saying I was interested. Is that OK?

There are some clients (they tend to be direct clients, rather than intermediaries) with whom I trust that the work will materialise - but how do I juggle agencies? Especially as people often ask if I'm available and send me the text, and then only tell me that they're waiting for the end client's go-ahead.

Any hints, or references to previous threads much appreciated!

Fiona


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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:15
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
First come first serve Jul 31, 2006

Dear Fiona,

Promised work is not work yet, whereas a firm offer is work in your hand. I would accept the firm offer. If the other one materializes and you cannot handle both, I would decline the second job offer. Explain that you accepted another job at such and such a time because at that time you had not heard back from them.

Also take into account that the firm offer was from a regular client. This client has given you business before and you have an already established business relationship with them.

Good luck!
Lucinda


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Fiona Paterson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jul 31, 2006

That seems sound advice... I suppose agencies and other intermediaries know what it's like being a freelancer. But it can be so frustrating!

Thank you! and now on with the translation...


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:15
Italian to English
A job is a job when you have a PO Jul 31, 2006

It depends on your relationship with the client of course but Lucinda is right: "first come, first served". A job is only a job when it arrives, preferably with a purchase order.

If customers are trying to prebook your services, treat this as the compliment it is, but I wouldn't hang around waiting for them or refuse other jobs that crop up in the meantime.

Take things one job at a time and if you do find yourself logjammed, remember that you might be able to split the job with reliable colleagues or even pass it on to them.

You'll be solving the agency's problem and making a deposit in the translators' favour bank, as well as sorting out your temporary surfeit of timber.

FWIW

Giles


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Fiona Paterson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jul 31, 2006

This also seems good advice. I do pass on work sometimes, the problem is finding people I can trust...

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Jennifer Baker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:15
Partial member (2004)
Italian to English
Hindsight is always 20/20 Jul 31, 2006

Hi Fiona-
I had the same dilemma at when my freelancing career started to take off. I since have learned to keep only a slight margin of time for dealing with new clients. Then if these few new clients turn out to be worth it, I make more time for them (sometimes by giving less time to older clients). I've also found that as I've established relationships over time with certain agencies, if I tell them I'm full, they give me more time if I need it. And there are some others that I only work for if business is quite slow.
It's quite a juggling act in the end. The more you experience you have, the more you'll know what's best for you. And the clients and agencies who are really happy with your work will call you again even if you have to say NO sometimes!
Good luck-
Jennifer


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 20:15
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Only good pieces of advice Jul 31, 2006

- first come, first serve
- splitting with colleagues or outsourcing
- deadlines allowing to have a margin for regular clients

I'd just add one, for what it's worth: when you're asked about your availability always add a sentence stating that you're available and interested but this must be checked again when they are ready to make the P.O.

Claudia


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Cetacea  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 00:15
English to German
+ ...
Also Depends on Job Size Jul 31, 2006

When I give a quote and a deadline, I usually add that the deadline is only valid if I get the go-ahead by such and such a time. The smaller the job, the tighter I set that "such and such a time", because if something else comes up in the meantime, I can always work weekends if the first job is big enough to keep me busy for, say, a couple of weeks at least and still make the deadline I guaranteed to the client for that potential job. I also give more leeway to regular clients than potential ones, since many of the latter kind just want to find about your rates these days anyway.

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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:15
Partial member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
My experience Jul 31, 2006

This is a very important side of our work, in my view. Agencies tend to "book" freelancers and then not only the job might be postponed or cancelled, but they even forget to inform you!
It happened to me to say no to new projects because I had been "booked" by someone else and then find myself with no jobs at all. Extremely disappointing.

Since then I always add a disclaimer about my availability (i.e. availability and turnaround time to be confirmed when the job is confirmed) and in case of need, I clarify the issue adding something like:

"It happened to me in the past to be "booked" for projects which were posponed and cancelled. In the meantime I had refused other job offers. At the end I had nobody to blame but myself".

The above refers more to big projects, when a PM writes to you something like: "we will have a big project such as XXX in 1-2 month time, are you available?" According to my experience, these kinds of "bookings" tend to be very unreliable.

Laura


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Fiona Paterson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Disclaimers Jul 31, 2006

Yes, I like this idea of a "disclaimer", very useful...

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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:15
German to English
+ ...
The firmer the promise ... Jul 31, 2006

... the greater the probability that the job will fall through.

In my experience, if clients ask me to reserve time for them, only about 10-20% of the jobs actually materialise - and most of those are not within the agreed time frame.

I explained this principle to an agency once. They said "Ah, but this time it's a reliable client, this job really will come through on time".

Need I tell you what happened on the appointed day?

(That agency now doesn't bother trying to reserve capacity any more, although I still get some jobs from them.)


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:15
Portuguese to English
+ ...
I warn them Jul 31, 2006

There is one company in particular that has the habit of asking me how long it will take me to do a job that hasn't yet been approved. More often than not, the job is not approved. Because of this, I warned them early on that I would take other jobs, and could not guarantee my availability if their job was approved.

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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 01:15
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
One step at a time Jul 31, 2006

Hi Fiona,

As far as I understand, right now you have a confirmed job from your regular client and a potential job from a new client.

Start with what you really have: the job from your regular client, and work with it.

IF the new client appears with their confirmation and their job, start to think what you do:

- decline;
- accept and try to juggle with deadlines or request more time from the new client;
- outsource or share the work.

Your situation is perfectly typical for any freelancer, I believe. One of the conclusions of the Murphy's Law may be: `Whenever you have urgent jobs, all they come at the same time'. So managing your time and your attention to your clients is a natural part of being a freelancer.

Always Yours,

Shrek)


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:15
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
The juggling will never stop Jul 31, 2006

The juggling will never stop. It will even get worse once you've established a real client base.

I missed one piece of advice among all the wise comments: treat (prospective) direct clients better than clients who have alternatives available to get a translation done.

Regards,
Gerard


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 00:15
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
A job is a job is a job with PO Jul 31, 2006

to quote Gilles and Gertrude Stein. Of course you need to work in this direction.... I have actually been confirming the POs - to show the "chosen few" they are really on dry ground and safe. Building up trust...

This way there's no more lonely evenings watching the phone i.e. my in-tray ("Will she call? ...Has he forgotten me...? It 11pm and still no files...")

What remains then of course is a bare formality: the work itself (g).

regards

Vito

[Edited at 2006-07-31 15:58]


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