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5-P's Changes and Who Pays?
Thread poster: xxxVadney
German to English
+ ...
Mar 19, 2007

After discussing the principle of the 5-P's (Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance), I received the following comments after a discussion with an outsourcer (agency owner) who insists on rushing jobs out and then getting the client's comments or complaints back and sending them to the translator in drips and drops and when the translator insists on better planning and timing and fewer smaller comments and corrections, sometimes of words and phrases out of context, or after a larger rushed translation, despite numerous requests for client feedback on terminology, the translator gets a marked up pdf with a request for comment, improvement or correction and I remarked that the way things were being done (piecemeal) we would have to start charging for the changes and small "Nachträge" (additional texts).

The outsourcer writes: "Man kann schon eine solche Regelung treffen, die Konsequenz muss aber dann sein, dass jeder (!) Mangel eine Minderung darstellt und dass die Kosten des Lektors bei berechtigten Reklamationen vom Honorar des Übersetzers konsequent abgezogen werden müssen. (Was für ein Aufwand!) Entweder, oder ... Ausserdem muss gleiches gelten, wenn bei der Übersetzung die Formatierung des Textes verlorengeht. Die Zeit, die nötig ist, die Formatierung wiederherzustellen, müsste dem Übersetzer in Rechnung gestellt werden. ich befürchte, dass man damit mehr Zeit verbringen würde, mit den Übersetzern über die Richtigkeit der Übersetzung zu diskutieren, als produktiv zu arbeiten.
Wenn die nochmalige Durchsicht tatsächlich berechnet würde, muss das Klima zwangsläufig herber werden, denn dann zählt jeder Cent und jede Minute. Und wenn mal eine Deadline überschritten wird, dann gäbe es herbe Abzüge etc. etc. etc. ... dann mache ich aber vielleicht diesen Job nicht mehr.

English translation: "We can certainly have such an arrangement but the consequence of this would be that every (!) defect would represent a discount and that the costs of the proofreader with justified complaints would be consistently deducted from the translator's fees. (What an expense!) Either, or ... besides the same would apply if formatting is lost during translation. The time required ro reformating would have to be billed to the translator. I expect that if this were done more time would be spent discussing the correctness of the translation with the translator than productively working.
When a second pass is actually subject to charges,the climate necessarily becomes a bit less congenial because then every cent and every minute counts. And when a deadline is mssed, then there would be harsh reductions in fees, etc. ... then perhaps I wouldn't be doing this job anymore."

I'd like to know the opinions of some other translator professionals on this subject.

Thanks very much,


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:12
English to French
+ ...
I completely disagree Mar 19, 2007

Your client, either intentionally or out of sheer ignorance, fails to understand that the same work can be carried out by you in less time AND at better quality if things are prepared correctly before actually starting the job and if you get reactions to your concerns as you work, not a week after. S/he does not appreciate the fact that you work hard, often harder than you should, to produce a translation as close to perfect as possible.

You are right - in a perfect world, these bits and pieces added later on to your workload should be paid. One of my agency clients got a new job from a client whose source text is never really ready for translation (badly written and very ambiguous) and that agency negotiated a higher rate with their client for this project. I am bumping into the same errors, some things still take more time to figure out than they should, but this time around, I am getting paid better also. We are talking about an agency here, who took the initiative without me having to ask (although I was going to). They also got a favorable reaction from the client. So, if this agency can do it, why can't your client?

Also, your client is talking about pennies and minutes as if they were really precious - but then, s/he would have to admit they are just as precious to you as they are to him/her. I think your client's explanation is simply proof that s/he cares about his/her finances and succes - but cares not the least about yours. I wouldn't feel appreciated by such people and would seek to work with other people. The above message was sent to you because your client wants you to know he's not about to change his/her attitude, so I think it would be a waste of time to "negotiate". Finish the business you still have with them and then go looking for other clients. If the entire community would deal with such situations this way, then such clients as yours would have the choice to either change their ways or be out of business. In other words, nobody would have problems such as the one you are having anymore.

All the best!

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Nicole Johnson  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:12
Italian to English
+ ...
Disclaimer: Badly Organized/Written Source Texts May Result in Bad Translations Mar 19, 2007


This is a pickle. Obviously, if this is a major client you don't want to create animosity, but I do understand your frustration with receiving jobs that aren't complete or that come back with lots of little extra changes.

IMO, it's normal for these types of things to OCCASSIONALY occur, and I personally don't usually charge extra if there are a few little changes after I've completed the translation. However, this should certainly not be happening with every job you receive. You may want to reiterate to the outsourcer that it is important for translators to receive a well-written, organized text in order to provide a "good" translation in the least amount of time possible (something he should already be aware of).

My first suggestion would be to simply raise your rates for this client to cover all of these "extras" rather than billing after the fact for the changes/additions.

Your other option, which you mentioned yourself, is to charge for each extra job that comes in after the translation is complete. However, since it seems you have tried to diplomatically discuss the issue with the outsourcer and the response you received did not indicate a propensity on the outsourcer's part to consider your point of view, you could simply state your terms as a "take it or leave it" option and of course risk losing this client.

Finally, you could always place the disclaimer I've written in the title on your translation agreements, to cover your bases!

I guess much of it depends on how important this outsourcer is to your business.

Best of Luck,


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:12
German to English
+ ...
don't bother trying Mar 19, 2007

You've apparently run into someone who knows far better than you how things should work. If you can live with the nuisance, OK; otherwise my advice would be to dump the client.
I've encountered a couple of end clients like this, who seemed to think that having a translation done entitles them to come back for additional services such 'a few small revisions' (several hundred words) and proofreading of their editorial changes at no charge (these were PR jobs, and working on the fly may be relatively common in that branch). I refused, they took their business elswhere, and I for one have never regretted it.

On second thought, there's a lot to be said for Nicole's first suggestion: increase your rate for this client to a level that you think will cover the extra work, based on your experience. You may lose the client if you do this, but then you probably haven't lost much in the long run.
Whatever you do, you shouldn't take the approach of including statements such as 'poor input = poor output' in your conditions of business, since this will only provoke the client (and your opponent here is clearly a master of this sort of one-upmanship). And getting back to my initial comment, forget about trying to change how the client works.

[Edited at 2007-03-20 08:59]

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