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Do you go with your gut feelings about potential clients?
Thread poster: Juliana Starkman

Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 22:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jun 7, 2007

In my case, I am in discussions with a writer whose ginormous first novel needs a severe grammatical re-haul, as well as major editing in terms of continuity (characters whose names change their spelling half way through?), etc. She claims that it was already proofread, but judging by its current state, the reader must have been typing with the keyboard behind his back.
Although my bank account is smiling at the thought of all this work, my gut is sending me signals that this may be someone who will not be happy to pay when the time comes. She is already obviously confused about the role of a proofreader, and is not great with her own calculations. I offered to do the job by the hour, and she insisted she would rather pay by page, although it would cost her about 8 times more!
Anyone have a cautionary tale to convince me that it is not worth the headache? Thank goodness, business is good at the moment, so I don't NEED this desperately. It is a nice chunk of cash though...


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:28
Italian to English
+ ...
Yes I do Jun 7, 2007

I've been approached by various agencies who have an excellent BB record on the whole, but with 2 or 3 very negative comments. To me, this is a possible indication of a client which is great when things go right - but who dumps on you in a big way if anything goes wrong. I had this happen to me early in my translating career, and it was horrible. So my gut feeling is to steer clear: I offer my clients my full professionalism in all situations, and I expect the same from them.

And I think in your case, if you don't need the money, I'd be inclined to steer clear too.

[Edited at 2007-06-07 12:24]


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:28
Dutch to English
+ ...
Gut feeling should be trusted Jun 7, 2007

Agree with Marie-Hélène.

If you do not need the money, I would say no. You'll probably be offered more jobs anyway.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:28
Dutch to English
+ ...
Yes ... Jun 7, 2007

... coupled with a decade of mainstream legal experience in the area of bankruptcy law (where you hear ALL the excuses), so I can really smell a rat a mile off

However, you could also just consider ways of limiting your risk if you're undecided but not entirely put off - discuss delivering the job in instalments and don't continue with the next instalment until you've been paid.

Especially when working wth a direct client, there is nothing untoward about asking for progress payments on delivery like this.

Also, make sure if you take on the job you're not devoting all your time to it and taking yourself out of the marketplace in the process, i.e. negotiate a relaxed deadline - jobs like this are normally a one-off and it's far more important to concentrate on repeat clients.

Best of luck
Debs

[Edited at 2007-06-07 12:38]


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Jim Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Hungarian to English
+ ...
One way to protect yourself somewhat Jun 7, 2007

is to ask for payment of 50 % in advance on book-length projects, and the rest upon completion. That gives you some cushion - and it's also a good way to find out if the person is earnest and reliable.

Good luck!


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 22:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I like the idea of installments, Jun 7, 2007

perhaps per chapter...I'm going to give myself (and the author) one more e-mail exchange and see if my feeling gets stronger or goes away. If it eases at all, i.e. if the author shows some sign of lucidity, I will probably do it chapter by chapter. If she keeps dragging her heels I'm off like a shot!

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Alicia Casal  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 23:28
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree with JIM Jun 7, 2007

Ask for an upfront payment. the author is not an agency, right?

A.


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:28
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
What comes next? Jun 7, 2007

I get the impression that you're dealing with the author directly, not going through a publishing house. I imagine that the author eventually intends to publish this. Is it going to be self-published, or is it going to be submitted to a publishing house later? If so, are you going to have to deal with the publisher?
This is the sort of issue to be straightened out before you start.


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 22:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No, she is not an agency Jun 7, 2007

Frankly, I am not sure I should even call her an author...but that's another story!
I will definitely ask for part up front.


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
If they don't inspire confidence... Jun 7, 2007

I developed a system a few years ago when I started having those nagging doubts about a certain client or job. I’ve found it to be foolproof. The simple question I ask myself is: “Does this person inspire my confidence?”
I’ve learned the hard way that when someone gives me a bad impression from the start, it’s probably not going to get any better as the contact progresses. It’s part of that “sixth sense” that was mentioned in the quick poll a few days back.
If you want to give someone the benefit of the doubt, I definitely agree with those who say you should get paid in instalments or get advance payment. You say you're in a good position financially, so play it tough and play it safe.
Trust your instinct!!
Good luck Juliana!

PS: I also use this system when choosing doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, etc.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:28
English to Spanish
+ ...
Part up front Jun 7, 2007

Then stay ahead of her on the $$$.

That way if she starts to balk, adiós...


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 22:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone Jun 7, 2007

for making me feel like I'm not just paranoid...It was pretty clear to me that things were getting hairy when she got upset when I explained that her previous (supposed) proofreader had not actually proofread or edited anything, as far as I could see...Don't shoot the proofreader/translator, I'm typing as fast as I can!

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business idiom  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:28
Italian to English
+ ...
Sixth sense about failing businesses? Jun 7, 2007

I agree with John, Jim, and Alicia about the need for partial payment in advance, if warning bells start to go off about a potential clients inability to pay.

Does anyone here also consider inordinate delays in payment to be a sign of poor business practices? e.g. When a translation agency (outsourcer) promises to pay only after 60 days (2 months delay!), shouldn't that be time for one's sixth sense (as a vendor, in need of getting paid)?

How many consider payment only after 30 days delay, to be a sign of lack of liquidity?

How many consider failure to pay on delivery, to be a sign of lack of liquidity? i.e. failure to pay net cash due, upon completion of job


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xxx1279
Local time: 22:28
bad original = ugly translation Jun 7, 2007

There is yet another drawback to this job that hasn't been mentioned. If the orginal work is as ugly as described, a "perfect" translation of it should come out equally as messy.

People will read your translation and assume that you are just a poor translator, which could kill business in the future. Turning out work of poor quality can also be a real emotional downer for translators. Translate things that you feel good about!


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
immature writers Jun 7, 2007

Juliana Starkman wrote:

for making me feel like I'm not just paranoid...It was pretty clear to me that things were getting hairy when she got upset when I explained that her previous (supposed) proofreader had not actually proofread or edited anything, as far as I could see...


I think that you're working with a very "unseasoned" author, and still, it might be worth it, but only if she is (a) going to pay and (b) have deep gratitude for what she can learn from you.

Several years ago, I took on the editing of first book for an academic. From the start, I asked myself--and her, too--why she was hiring me out of pocket to edit a book that had already been accepted by a major university press, one that would provide her with a copy editor. She insisted that she needed the book to "be perfect" and was willing to pay.

So, I did a sample; and she said, "It's wonderful!" And we agreed on a price.

We started, and at each step, she was very defensive. Finally, we got to the chapter that contained the sample I'd done. I sent it to her with queries and the changes tracked; she returned it to me, having undone a lot of the changes I'd made in the sample! These were changes based on rules in the Chicago Manual of Style, which was the guide her publisher followed. I tried to explain that I had to follow the rules, because how would I know which ones to break and which ones to respect? She got hysterical and wrote me a blistering letter--it was so horrible, I couldn't read it. In the end, she paid me half, which covered what I'd done, but what a terrible experience! It really shook me up.

With wonderful 20-20 hindsight, I realized that she was clueless about what was needed and very insecure (she was very young). That's a combination to avoid at all costs. So if your "gut-level" reaction is that this author is an insecure person, I'd avoid her.

I hope it all works out for you!


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