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What to do if the deadline turns out to be impossible?
Thread poster: Vanessa Rivera Rivier

Vanessa Rivera Rivier  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 10:46
Italian to English
+ ...
Jul 21, 2005

I received a translation job 2 days ago that I have realised is impossibile to complete. The client wants me to translate 90 chemical terminology filled pages for tonight. I already know that I'm not going to meet tonight's deadline. Do you think this is fair? When the client sent me the files he didn't mention the number of pages he was sending me nor the terminology involved. What can I do about this?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-07-21 19:39]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:46
Italian to English
+ ...
Did you agree a deadline? Jul 21, 2005

90 pages in two days is simply impossible! If you did not agree a deadline for a given number of pages, then you haven't got a big problem - although perhaps you should have contacted the client immediately after realising how much he was expecting you to do in such a short time (something to bear in mind for next time, anyway).

In any case, if I were you I'd contact the client immediately, say that it won't be possible to meet the deadline, send him the pages you've already translated and revised (if you haven't revised any yet, stop translating and start revising!) and then give a realistic deadline for final consignment, with interim consignments if he requires.

Good luck!


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Denyce Seow  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 22:46
Member (2004)
Chinese to English
Inform the client asap Jul 21, 2005

Vanessa Rivera Rivier wrote:

I received a translation job 2 days ago that I have realised is impossibile to complete. The client wants me to translate 90 chemical terminology filled pages for tonight. I already know that I'm not going to meet tonight's deadline. Do you think this is fair? When the client sent me the files he didn't mention the number of pages he was sending me nor the terminology involved. What can I do about this?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-07-21 19:39]


I have a question: why didn't you realise this two days ago when you received the file?

Let's say you agreed to take the project before knowing the content or volume, I'm sure you could have still rejected it after you received the file and realised you would not be able to meet the deadline.

Please do not think that I am putting the blame on you. I am merely saying how I would have personally dealt with the situation. I guess right now the only sensible thing to do is to inform the client. It is only fair because the client can then be mentally prepared or even try to get some help.

Good luck!


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Steffen Pollex  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:46
English to German
+ ...
Sorry but... Jul 21, 2005

...even for 3 days (if you received the job 2 days ago) 90 pages seem to be not very realistic. I wonder how you could accept such deadlines at all. Didn't you have a look through it before accepting?

And, if the client "does not mention" the number of pages - wouldn't the amount of text (words, pages) be the first thing I would ask him about before making a quotation or accepting a job (to be able to, at least briefly, assess whether or not I can do a job)?

Now, I guess, there's nothing to do than to inform the client immediately (that's the minimum of fairness) and to, probably, lose him.

Steffen

[Edited at 2005-07-21 20:23]


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Vanessa Rivera Rivier  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 10:46
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Misunderstanding Jul 21, 2005

The client sent me an initial 30 pages which I thought I could handle. Then he kept sending me more pages. This was the problem. However I talked to the client and am trying to sort things out. I guess I'm new to the Internet thing and didn't know how to handle it. Thank you very much for your help though.

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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 17:46
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Been there, done that Jul 21, 2005

have met such situation. But then, in all fairness, your client can expect from you tomorrow only the initial 30 pages and no your fault about the rest. Which you should tell him.

Uldis

Vanessa Rivera Rivier wrote:

The client sent me an initial 30 pages which I thought I could handle. Then he kept sending me more pages. This was the problem. However I talked to the client and am trying to sort things out. I guess I'm new to the Internet thing and didn't know how to handle it. Thank you very much for your help though.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:46
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Don't get nervous Jul 21, 2005

Do the initial volume carefylly and do not rush. Quality first!
Regards
Heinrich


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French Foodie  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:46
French to English
+ ...
Agree with Heinrich Jul 22, 2005

Yes, do the initial 30 pages as planned, and then work out a reasonable schedule with the client for the subsequent pages.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Time to perform some client education, here. Jul 22, 2005

Vanessa Rivera Rivier wrote:
When the client sent me the files he didn't mention the number of pages he was sending me nor the terminology involved.


It sounds to me that it’s not only the translator who needs a bit of education, but the client too. The client obviously does not realise how long a translation really takes. But, this is something the translator has to catch before it happens. You should tell the client that you can only tell him how long it will take if you have seen a reasonably representative selection of the text and if you know beforehand how much text the total job will be and when you can expect to receive it.

I also agree with other posters here -- if you find that you can’t meet a deadline, inform the client immediately. Try to work something out (even to the extend of not receiving any pay... remember, some jobs are time-sensitive and simply charging less will not help the client in such cases).

In this case it appeared as if you based your initial quote on the 30 pages only. Inform the client, and clear up the misunderstanding. And as Heinrich has said, don’t deliver sloppy work just because you’re under pressure.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:46
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Uldis is right Jul 22, 2005

You estimated on the initial 30 pages.

There are physical limits to consider, even if they're only keystrokes per hour. You think the typist did the 90 pages in two days? (If this question doesn't convince your client, then I don't know what kind of logic he uses).


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Elizabeth Lyons  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:46
French to English
+ ...
You might try a checklist Jul 22, 2005

I use a checklist with standard questions I ask right at the beginning of the job. I agree that completing the 30 is the way to go. For the next time, have stock questions you get answered right up front so you avoid this kind of misunderstanding. It is also quite possible that the client knows what he/she is doing and hoping you will comply. When work is added to a contract, it constitutes a Change Order and a new deadline for that part of the work, to be completed typically at the end of the base contract, is agreed upon. You are a professional service not an indentured slave, you should be treated accordingly.

Good luck with this and don't worry too much!


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 17:46
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
On a lighter note Jul 22, 2005

misconceptions on translation:

10. Anybody with two years of high school language (or a foreign-tongued grandmother) can translate.
9. A good translator doesn't need a dictionary.
8. There's no difference between translation and interpretation.
7. Translators don't mind working nights and weekends at no extra charge.
6. Translators don't need to understand what they're translating.
5. A good translator doesn't need proofing or editing.
4. Becoming a translator is an easy way to get rich quick.
3. Translation is just typing in a foreign language.
2. A translator costs $49.95 at Radio Shack and runs on two 'C' batteries.
... And the #1 misconception about translation and translators:
1. That marketing copy that took a team of 20 people two months to put together can be translated overnight by one Person and still retain the same impact as the original. After all it's already typed.

(c)unknown

Uldis


[Edited at 2005-07-22 20:38]


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cendrine marrouat
English to French
+ ...
So true Jul 22, 2005

I laughed so much when I read your post! Reminds me of my mom who has always thought that translators didn't need dictionaries or to be fluent in the source language!
Thanks a lot for this very interesting post!


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