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Advice on translation the client won't pay for
Thread poster: Claire Culliford

Claire Culliford  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 25, 2008

Hi all,

I have a query that I'm hoping one of my more experienced colleagues may be able to help me with.

On Friday evening I was contacted by an agency whom I had done a test translation for earlier in the week. I haven't yet received the feedback on the test translation but I was told the job was 'urgent' and required for Monday. As I was at my place of work, I emailed back to say that I needed clarification on the exact time at which the translation was due and what rates the agency were expecting the work to be done at. I mistakenly thought that I had quoted a rate to the agency only for the test translation I had done and consequently said that I would need to charge a higher rate as the work was to be done over a weekend. The agency then pointed out that I had actually quoted a rate for all work for them. I checked this and indeed they were right so I explained I had got a bit confused, apologised profusely and said that I would have the translation and corresponding TRADOS files with them by the deadline on Monday.

Yesterday morning I got up and completed the translation (it was not a long one - approx 700 words). On logging in to my email to send the translation and TRADOS files I found an email saying that they had found someone else to do the work for them. As a gesture of goodwill I sent the files anyway, saying that I didn't want to see the work go to waste. I have received an email today making it clear that I won't be paid for the translation (and I have to add that I was going to be paid an extremely small amount) through the phrase "I hope we may have much projects to work together for recover this cost."

Does anyone have any advice as to 1) what I should do now as far as this agency is concerned and 2) how I can avoid this problem in the future?

I'm very happy to put this all down to experience, but would welcome any thoughts from translators with more experience than I myself currently have.

Thanks

Claire


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:58
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not your fault; not their fault May 25, 2008

In my opinion you might not be able to recover the cost or claim a payment for this. To me, it does look like the agency did try to inform you as soon as possible that they had found someone else. Of course they should have tried to let you know immediately over the phone, and should have told you that they were looking for someone else...

A suggestion that might be useful in the long run is to check your email every time you turn on the computer, and several times while you are working. This way you will get this kind of news before you have invested too much time. The bright side is that it was a small job!

[Edited at 2008-05-25 06:49]


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Claire Culliford  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Lots of learning to be done May 25, 2008

Thanks ever so much for your response Tomas.

Unfortunately, I was on a train yesterday morning doing the translation and hence could only log in to my email once back in a place with internet access. The agency actually knew I was going away for the weekend and so I think you have a real point when you mention them phoning me. They have my number and I don't know why they didn't use it. I think I'll point out that in future if they need to contact me to tell me NOT to do a piece of work a phone call would be appreciated.

On the plus side, I've learnt a lot and that's what it's all about. I've not been put off full time translating yet!

Claire


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not your fault May 25, 2008

I don't this was your fault at all. As far as I can tell you and the agency arranged for you to do the job on Friday evening over the telephone. So that should be that. If the deadline and price were agreed during that telephone conversation, which I am assuming they were.

But then you mention that you were going away for the weekend and that the agency knew that. I think that in telling the agency this you made them nervous and that is why they looked for someone else. If when you logged on you accepted their course of action, then you shouldn't have sent the translation off, even as a gesture of goodwill. Because you did this, it does rather signal that as far as you were concerned a contract had been concluded, leaving yourself the option to claim the money through the courts if necessary. For 700 words as you say put it down to experience, but I would be a little wary of them, have you looked at their BB rating?


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:58
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Misunderstandings May 25, 2008

I agree with the other comments -- sometimes communications break down and misunderstandings arise. We have all experienced this.

The solution is, where possible, to get the agency to send you a Purcahse Order before you go ahead. Or at least a 'go-ahead' e-mail message.

I think in the circumstances that you did exactly the right thing -- sending a translation was far better than not sending a translation. You have at least demonstrated to the agency that you can be trusted to deliver. Write it off to experience, and hope for repeat business in the future.

Glad to see a fellow-IC translator making use of the M.Sc.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:58
Dutch to English
+ ...
Misunderstandings II May 25, 2008

Claire Culliford wrote:

They have my number and I don't know why they didn't use it.



Probably because (i) the size of the job simply didn't warrant the additional expense (calls can tend to go on and on sometimes) - after all in their minds they had someone else and could reasonably assume you'd see your email before starting anyhow (they are not to know you'd do it on a train) and (ii) PMs, like other office workers, are just keen to get out the door on a Friday afternoon.

As you've mentioned Claire, just chalk it up to experience. Lots of little things can happen in this business that can drive you mad if you let them. It's not worth it. Take a deep breath and move on.

They didn't come back to you and actually say go-ahead, so technically are not in the wrong. As far as they were concerned, you might have got stroppy about not getting paid a surcharge for the weekend, the clock was ticking and they decided to get someone else and not risk it. All most agencies care about is placing the job - your personal arrangements for a weekend go in one ear and out the other most of the time.

If I were you, I'd just mention that you're indeed looking forward to further work and see how it goes. It was just a misunderstanding and they may turn out to be a great agency.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:58
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It is no-one's fault May 25, 2008

It seems to me that the agency didn't do anything wrong, since they did send an e-mail to cancel the job. You took a risk of negotiating a job on a day that you know your access to communication was limited.


[Edited at 2008-05-25 17:25]


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Claire Culliford  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Valuable lesson learnt May 25, 2008

Thanks everyone for your replies. They've all greatly contributed to my learning curve and I've just heard from the agency to say that there will be lots of opportunity for me to work for them on the same account in the future. Hopefully they're telling the truth I shall remain optimistic!

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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:58
English to French
+ ...
Lesson learned: don't start without a PO May 26, 2008

One you know an agency, you willk now what it is the "green light" to start the work... For a first job, it's common practice to require a Purchase Order. At least, never work for them again without a very formal agreement beforehand.

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Soizic CiFuentes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:58
Member (2003)
English to French
Confirmation email May 27, 2008

With an agency, I don't get a PO for each job, only one PO toward the end of the month reflecting the total of jobs which matches my invoice as well. But for each job, I sent a confirmation email for the job to the PM who ordered the job and a CC to production.
It happened one time that they cancelled the job but because I had already confirmed and done the job, they paid me anyway.
If you trust the agency, a confirmation email is sufficient. If there is a single doubt, I sent an email to ask a confirmation that the job is assigned to me.
I never had any problems. They also trust me that I have never missed a deadline, they know that if I confirm, they will get the translation no matter what.

In this business, you need to get some sort of easy communication. I get an alert every time I get an email so I can respond right away. You just can't wait. You have to open your doors. Your doors are emails with immediate response, Instant messaging for somes and cells. You need to be easy to reach.

Good luck with this agency,

Soizic


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