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Booked out for some time in advance - what do you do?
Thread poster: Carolin Haase

Carolin Haase  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:08
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Feb 17, 2007

Hi all,

taking into account that I've been "only" working as a +/- full time freelancer for about 6 months (little 2 year old girl now in kindergarten, etc.), I'm quite satisfied with my work load. But, now I'm booked out (Right term/expression? Any suggestions?) until the second week of march or so.

What can I do if there are any further assignments coming up? Do I simply tell my outsourcers/clients that I'm busy? Do I not take on any more work? Or do I still try to squeeze something in, somehow, somewhere?

What about outsourcing? Sounds weird to me, because I feel that if clients ask me to translate a text, they want me to do it, not someone else. And, after all, I'm a "one woman show", not an agency.

I'm looking forward to your advice!

Thanks a lot,

Carolin


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:08
French to English
+ ...
You have a few options Feb 17, 2007

Hello Carolin,

Your overbooked status is only a few weeks - not dramatic.

In your shoes, what I would do is one of the following:

1. See whether your prospect's deadline is cast in stone. Sometimes, if they really want to work with you, wiggle room suddenly becomes possible

2. Your prospect has no leeway. You can recommend a colleague you trust and whose work you know for a fact to be up to par. You are not outsourcing, you are developing a mutually beneficial network that will also put you in the loop when its members are overstretched or don't handle the language pair requested.

3. If neither of the above is an option, you politely turn down the request. The worst thing to do is to take on more work than you can handle because you output may turn out to be under par. It takes a long time to build a good reputation, it takes no time to get a poor one.

Cheers,

Patricia


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:08
English to German
+ ...
Definitely oursourcing Feb 17, 2007

I know how this feels - you don't want to lose your regular clients.

In those cases I am outsourcing my jobs to cherished and trusted colleagues. I am sure that you have met some in the KudoZ-forum already. None of my clients ever said a word when jobs are delivered that obviously were done with CAT-tools which I don't use. Those clients know that I will check the translation to make sure that it meets the usual standard of quality.

Being busy, booked up and "hard to get" actually will benefit your reputation.

Oursourcing to colleagues doesn't mean acting like an agency (as long as you don't want to make profit out of their work).

Sometimes I recommend up to 3 colleagues for a job that I can't do at this time. In this case I am being paid for every phone call and the time spent (I never asked for it, they just offer it.)

Hope I could help you.

Regards,

Nicole


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:08
French to English
+ ...
Offer alternatives Feb 17, 2007

I always find it's better to offer alternatives to your clients, i.e. the earliest date you could do rather than a flat no. Clients always seem to appreciate the fact that you're showing willing and as Patricia says, sometimes can extend their deadlines if they're really keen to have you. It's also no bad thing to be in demand and will definitely enhance your reputation. I have on occasion, been asked to proof-read jobs where I've been heavily involved in similar translations, and I will do that if I can, but it can be a mixed blessing, depending on the quality of the translation. Good for goodwill, but....

As the others have said, I also recommend trusted colleagues if I can, but I would never sub-contract as that would mean me having to check the work before returning it and if you're busy, that's the last thing you want to do. It's a different story if you're trying to set yourself up as an agency, of course.

Keep on juggling!


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Sanmar
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:08
English to Dutch
+ ...
Recognition Feb 17, 2007

This is a very timely thread for me since I am currently having the same 'problems' as you. It has been so busy that I have had to turn down work from some good, regular clients. I find this very stressful since I know that these clients continue to offer me work because they are happy with the service I provide. Yet, they are not going to be that happy when I have to turn down (repeat) assignments or when I have to propose quite long deadlines. I see it as a kind of 'catch 22': when I deliver quality work on time, I get more work, from more clients, until I get to the point where I have to disappoint people because I have so much more work than I can handle. Then I am worried that these same clients will not contact me in the future because I always seem to be too busy! At the same time I realise that this is a bit of a 'luxury' problem and it is obviously good to be in demand and have plenty of work. Fortunately, I do have a trusted colleague I can pass work onto from time to time. I will keep reading the replies with interest!
By the way, it has taken me a good few years to get to this point so well done Carolin for getting to this position so quickly!
All I can advise is not to take on more than you can handle, make sure you have a regular day off to unwind and relax. You don't want to 'burn out'!
Additionally, in my experience most agencies will understand your situation and if they have always been happy with your work, they will usually come back (direct clients may be less understanding, though...)
Good luck!

[Edited at 2007-02-17 11:31]

[Edited at 2007-02-17 11:33]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
just to add my 2 centimes worth Feb 17, 2007

It's always best to avoid booking up 100% for weeks ahead, becuase once you have regular clients, they will keep coming back, and the more clients you have, the more you will need a have a margin reserved for their 'urgent' jobs so as to keep them happy.

So, if someone, for example, offers you 10000 words (approx 5 working days), negotiate a delivery of 7 working days, that way you can easily squeeze in at least 1 or 2 little jobs. And when you take on bigger jobs, make sure you have a comfortable margin built in.

I also have a system that works with some authors (and others are learning - the hard way*), that they give me notice of jobs they are working on and an approx arrival date, so I can pencil that work in and bear it in mind when I decide whether to accept/reject other jobs.

*One client recently asked me to do an urgent job, and as it happened, I could only give a date for 2 months down the line...so I asked him, from then on, to give me advance notice...after all they have to research and write the article, so THEY KNOW!


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
some more thoughts ... Feb 17, 2007

Caroline,
I agree with what the other posters have suggested (particularly, Patricia, Claire, and Lia). I find that if I explain my situation, people are usually very willing to let me "fit them in" when I can. I have had some problems that I'll share, however.

Sometime ago someone in this forum gave me a good piece of advice: The job isn't "on" until it's "on your desk."

But I ignored that and recently suggested to one of my favorite clients that he give me two weeks notice before sending me a long manuscript. In late November, he told me that he would send it on December 8. On December 13, he told me he'd have to send it after the holidays, and after the holidays, he told me he'd send it in April. Similar delays occurred at the same time with two other large jobs. I limped through November and December, working on small jobs. Then, on January 2nd, still believing that I was "just about to get an avalanche of work," I turned down a big editing job.

November, December, and January turned out to be the worst months I've had in years.

However, given that you have a young child, you may want to consider how serious it would be if you asked your favorite clients to schedule in advance--knowing that some of them won't produce on time, leaving you with some "down time" to do "mommy things" without losing any clients ...

Also, on the outsoucing vs. sharing question: I prefer to pass a job to a trusted colleague. Outsourcing is too time consuming. Even if the person produces a very good translation, I usually have to edit it heavily for writing style, and I definitely have to check it for accuracy. In one case, on a tight deadline, I gave work to an acquaintance who insisted he was a good translator, but the material he produced was a disaster. Not only did I invest (waste) a lot of time, but I alienated him, and because I paid him for part of the work, I lost money.

I hope that everything works out well for you!


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
A thought... Feb 17, 2007

When service-oriented businesses reach the point where they consistently have more work than they can handle, they usually raise their rates a bit. At least that's what they taught us in high school business class.

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Referring to Patricia's reply Feb 18, 2007

That was bad luck, but it should be said that a client who starts calling wolf like that also has to be made understand that by actually making time for them, you are losing other work if the job doesn't come through.

So yes, indeed, get the job on your desk.

That said, however, knowing of a possible upcoming job, you can try to juggle things so you manage to keep the client happy and don't lose other work by doing so.

Don't allocate the time there and then, simply bear it in mind ...turn down lower paying jobs from non-regulars (because there's a good chance your better paid private job will come through) but be prepared to juggle a better paying job from a new client with the possible job from your client.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
yes, raise rates:-) Feb 18, 2007

Steven Capsuto wrote:

When service-oriented businesses reach the point where they consistently have more work than they can handle, they usually raise their rates a bit. At least that's what they taught us in high school business class.


Too right! I was at a conference at which Chris Durban (who writes in the ITI Bulletin) spoke, and she said the same: "If you're overworked you're not charging enough":-)


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Anne Patteet  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:08
English to French
+ ...
As I was reading the posts before writing my own answer, Feb 18, 2007

I was wondering if anybody raises his/her rates when receiving too much work...
I agree with the previous posts generally speaking, but my own answer was going to be the same as Steven's. Of course there's a limit to everything.
Then, if you want to start outsourcing a bit (not becoming a mini-agency, but only when in emergency, just the occasional real overflow), you need to take some time to get to know a few translators that you are going to trust, in the sense that after a few times -or immediately- you will know that editing/proofreading their work won't give you a headache. And you don't do it to "get rich", but to keep your client happy knowing he can always count on you.


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Carolin Haase  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:08
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Trusted colleagues, etc Feb 18, 2007

Patricia Lane wrote:


2. Your prospect has no leeway. You can recommend a colleague you trust and whose work you know for a fact to be up to par. You are not outsourcing, you are developing a mutually beneficial network that will also put you in the loop when its members are overstretched or don't handle the language pair requested.

3. If neither of the above is an option, you politely turn down the request. The worst thing to do is to take on more work than you can handle because you output may turn out to be under par. It takes a long time to build a good reputation, it takes no time to get a poor one.



Hi Patricia,

thanks for your advice! Yes, asking trusted colleagues for help is always the best option, I guess.

I think this is what I'll do in the future- just have to find some who have time.


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Carolin Haase  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:08
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
raising rates Feb 18, 2007

Lia Fail wrote:

Steven Capsuto wrote:

When service-oriented businesses reach the point where they consistently have more work than they can handle, they usually raise their rates a bit. At least that's what they taught us in high school business class.


Too right! I was at a conference at which Chris Durban (who writes in the ITI Bulletin) spoke, and she said the same: "If you're overworked you're not charging enough":-)




Thanks to both of you. In fact, I already raised my rates a bit in January, but maybe not enough!

I'll see what I can do in the future!


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Carolin Haase  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:08
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to all of you for your valuable input! Feb 18, 2007

Claire Cox wrote:

I always find it's better to offer alternatives to your clients, i.e. the earliest date you could do rather than a flat no. Clients always seem to appreciate the fact that you're showing willing and as Patricia says, sometimes can extend their deadlines if they're really keen to have you. It's also no bad thing to be in demand and will definitely enhance your reputation. I have on occasion, been asked to proof-read jobs where I've been heavily involved in similar translations, and I will do that if I can, but it can be a mixed blessing, depending on the quality of the translation. Good for goodwill, but....

As the others have said, I also recommend trusted colleagues if I can, but I would never sub-contract as that would mean me having to check the work before returning it and if you're busy, that's the last thing you want to do. It's a different story if you're trying to set yourself up as an agency, of course.



Yes, you are definitely right - having to proofread works costs extra time and money, so the best option is to give the work to people I trust.

And yes, it might be good for reputation if you're booked out. But turning down clients (as I had to do yesterday with yet another job that would have been due tomorrow) I don't want to dissapoint anyone... however, delivering poor quality when you're overworked is even worse!

THANKS again to all of you! I'll keep in mind what you told me and see how things turn out in the time to come!

All the best,

Carolin


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:08
English to French
+ ...
Listen to Steven Feb 19, 2007

There are many pieces of advice in this thread that are worth reflecting on, but none as logical as Steven's. When you are in demand, it means you are better than many others. This means you are also worth more. I am not saying you should hold your head too high, just that from this point on, it should be an auction type of thing. Whoever really prefers you to others should also be ready to pay you better. It's a question of common sense - the client has to have an argument so that you pick him/her over other clients.

I think that having too much work is a sign. They want you and they have good reasons for wanting you over other service providers. This means you are rare. Now, I don't know about you, but I am willing to pay much more for a real Van Gogh than for a print of the same... And I think clients think the same.

P.S.: I just got a bonus from a regular client. I did not ask for it - they offered. They've been complimenting me on the quality of my work and on the otherwise pleasant working relationship. To me, they are simply making sure they can keep me. They are subtly telling me that they don't mind paying me a bit more as long as I reserve some time in my schedule that they noticed was a rather busy one. They make a lot of sense - and at that price, I can afford to put some X's on the calendar for them.


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