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Scheduling strategies
Thread poster: Alvaro Morales

Alvaro Morales  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:05
English to Spanish
+ ...
Oct 20, 2007

Hi everyone!

Today I've been thinking about scheduling strategies. As some of you may know, I work with several regulars (about 15 or 20), probably just like you.

Usually (and this is a sensation I'm sure you know), you pass from not having any project in hand to be swamped in projects, having to schedule about with 5.000 wpd.

Right now I'm passing through the low time (no zero jobs, but quieter) and have been trying to settle some sort of rules in order to try to schedule projects correctly when the rush hour arrives and keep everybody happy (translations agencies, and yourself). While thinking about it I've reached to a crucial question: What is the best way to schedule your projects? And have found two possible answers (consider your regulars actually count on you on a regular basis):

1) Accept projects until your schedule is full and say 'no' to any other coming project.
2) Accept a fixed amount of words per day for each assigner (say 1000), forecasting the possibility of new projects arriving from other regulars.

I have not reached to a clear answer to this.

If you choose the option 1, you will assure your schedule to be full for some time, but you will be in the risk of saying 'no' several consecutive times to the same regular, which could take you potentially to lose the customer.

If you choose the option 2, you will optimize the balance of 'nos' to your regulars (ideally not having to say a definitive *no* to any project because of a lack of time), but you will be in the risk of not filling completely your schedule and potentially lose some money.

I think this is an interesting topic to discuss about, and I will be very happy to hear your thinkings about it, and to receive you tips or ideas to solve this.

Thanks colleagues!

Álvaro Morales Navarro

[Edited at 2007-10-21 09:24]

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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:05
French to English
+ ...
Neither! Oct 20, 2007

Hi Alvaro,

Actually, I strive to not book more than 75 or 80% of my time in advance. There are several reasons for this, such as computer problems, a sudden unforeseen difficulty with a text that takes you more time than anticipated, wishing to leave some time available for "emergency projects" from core clients, or some time to continue the unending process of business development. If I am 100% booked in advance (and it does happen, though I do not like it!), then I leave myself open to the risk of pitfalls. I prefer to build in a safety net to ensure the quality and timeliness of my work.

Moreover, contrary to you I suppose ("Accept a fixed amount of words per day for each assigner (say 1000 words)"), I prefer to finish one large project before starting another. But most of my work are on projects that are rather copywriting oriented (as opposed to translating instruction manuals, for example) and it is a pain to break the rhythm and flow once you've found it.

I guess I leave myself a fair amount of "wiggle room", not so much in setting project deadlines but in how I schedule projects. Perhaps that means there are times I am not working as intensely as I might be able to. But as I recall from my management days, there is a world of difference between what is urgent and what is important.. important being what it is I hand over to a client.

You seem concerned about saying "no" to regulars. If this happens on occasion, I do not think that this is a large problem. In fact, it may play in your favor in that those clients, if they really want to work with you, will strive to give you enough lead time to fit their projects into your schedule. If they always call on you at the last minute and with a short deadline, you would be justified in questioning their project management skills or their respect of your time and competence.

Just find what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. This profession is highly individualized and what works for another translator may not be at all suitable to your circumstances, project profiles and client base.



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Local time: 14:05
French to Dutch
+ ...
"Preferred clients" strategy Oct 20, 2007

I don't forecast and work with very short deadlines. My strategy is to say yes to all regular clients (after all I am in a market niche and they count on me), and to have one or two agencies (maybe less interesting, or less well-paying) to fill in the gaps. To these ones I say sometimes no, especially if I don't like the subject.

Another problem is: what to do with big projects. I am unable to do more than one job at the same time, so I make time, generally overnight or in the weekend, for trying to concentrate on a big job. I once did a 100,000 words job and was very unhappy because I had to divide the work in small parts of three hours a day.

[Bijgewerkt op 2007-10-21 09:23]

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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:05
English to French
First come first served Oct 21, 2007

Strategy 1.
My schedule is considered full after 12/14 kwords/week, but I still can (uncomfortably) accept another 2/3 kwords for cases "you cannot turn down".

As soon as I get a request from a customer when my schedulle is already full, buffer period included, I notify them that I cannot take on any more jobs until such date. I have never lost any customer after telling them that I am zilch available for the next 3/4 weeks (including holiday notice).

Especially with agencies, anybody can be replaced (yes bad for the ego, but good for getting a life). And agencies are well aware that they are not your only customer.

Then it's a matter of feeling whether to go the extra mile for an agency and fill your buffer period, meaning that you're doing your best and every effort to accommodate their requests (that you should balance with your other interests in life, ie cello lessons, walk the dog or anything not work-related).
This is something I willingly do if I am in a position to do so, because I have no "waste" in my customer base (late-payers, disrespectful-do-it-for-me-now-how-come-can't-you-do-that-it's-only-800-words or Friday-night-for-Monday-8am-on-same-rate types).

It consists of a good old mix of large- and small-project outsourcers, made of a long-standing core of 3/4 busy pro agencies and a few other regular and valuable requesters populating any slack time between them.
I can do a small automotive PR to start the morning, carry on with my 3-month-long IT project, have lunch, do this 1-hour machine brochure proofreading for later in the day and come back to the large project. Being able to switch easily and quickly from one topic to another helps keeping most people happy.

Bon dimanche,

[Modifié le 2007-10-21 11:14]

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