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Agency's end client not going to pay
Thread poster: xxxLucyPatterso
xxxLucyPatterso
English
Aug 2, 2007

I recently completed a translation in two sections (17000 and 3000) words in 7 days. The agency is well-respected and the client is a small government-funded organisation.

The agency sent the 3000-word document straight to the client without having it proofread. The client picked up on a couple of typing errors I had not spotted, e.g. "an" instead of "and". They also noticed that I had missed out a short sentence in the translation, among a couple of other errors. I fully apologised and said that although it was done over a weekend in a rush, this was no excuse for inaccuracy. The client also complained that the English was poor and inaccurate.

Some of the client's criticisms made no sense. They corrected sentences which were right in the first place. They argued that I had translated the name of a German organisation wrong - even though I got the English version of the name from the organisation's OWN website...?!

Now the client has stated that the (proofread) 17000-word translation is also unacceptable and barely makes sense when compared to the original. I have been in touch with the proofreader who said they could see nothing wrong with the translation (of course, they are also worried they will not be paid).

The agency is sending the translation to a second proofreader for quality control before making a 'decision' and said they have never dealt with a more angry client on the phone. oh dear...

I have a few questions:

1. If they client does not pay, will not be able to use my translation? How about if they pay 50% of the agreed fee?

2. IS a client justified in refusing to pay because of their objections to style and a small number of typing errors?

3. Has this happened to anyone else? It makes me worry I am not fit to be a freelance translator, either in terms of skill or nerves. I will probably lose £1000 because of this!


[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-08-02 21:25]


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 19:59
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
It's between you and the agency Aug 2, 2007

You worked for the agency, not for the end client. Any problems with the end client are not your problem, it's the agency which gains its money for dealing with the end client.

If the agency has no claims to your translation, directly, I cannot see any reason why your fee should be less than agreed before the project started.


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Stuart Dykes
Local time: 18:59
German to English
Hold your nerve Aug 2, 2007

If you AND the proofreader think you've done a reasonable job, then you probably have.

I've had one or two irate clients in the past but they've always backed down when asked to provide specific examples of the alleged mistakes and an explanation of why they are mistakes. It's usually a case of a client with an exaggerated sense of his own English language skills trying to get a discount.

The mistakes you mention, while regrettable, aren't that serious and can be rectified. If they are complaining about the 17000 word job, get them to give a list of the worst mistakes you are supposed to have made (if they haven't done so) and point out, politely, why the complaint is not justified (as with the translation of the organisation's name) and admit your mistake if you have made one.

Don't let the agency agree a discount without your permission!

Hope things work out for you!

Best wishes,

Stuart


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
20 000 words in 7 days? Aug 2, 2007

LucyPatterson wrote:

I recently completed a translation in two sections (17000 and 3000) words in 7 days.


This isn't a daily rate that is likely to ensure quality, unless the text was extremely straight-forward. OK, it's only 3000 a day, but one thing is an odd day of 3000 words, another thing is 3000 a day for 7 consecutive days.


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:59
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It can happen Aug 2, 2007

If you want to be in this or any other business you will run into these kinds of disputes.

You may have done a good job but your client is not happy for one reason or another. Quality is a very subjective thing.

Based on the details you have given, you might consider negotiating a discount. You might diplomatically offer a discount of 20%, 50%, or whatever the situation calls for.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Getting paid Aug 2, 2007

1) As previously mentioned, your agreement is with the agency, not the end client. Whether the end client pays the agency or not is the agency's problem. In any case, you have no way of verifying claims that the end client did not pay.

2) If the agency is unhappy with your translation and wants a discount, require that they either supply you with the final revised translation or else a specific report explaining (with concrete examples) why it is unacceptable. If they do this and almost all the changes are matters of personal stylistic preference, push for the full amount. If there are real quality problems that even you can see, then consider negotiating.


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Jan Sundström  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 18:59
English to Swedish
+ ...
Terms & Conditions! Aug 3, 2007

Steven Capsuto wrote:

1) As previously mentioned, your agreement is with the agency, not the end client. Whether the end client pays the agency or not is the agency's problem. In any case, you have no way of verifying claims that the end client did not pay.

2) If the agency is unhappy with your translation and wants a discount, require that they either supply you with the final revised translation or else a specific report explaining (with concrete examples) why it is unacceptable. If they do this and almost all the changes are matters of personal stylistic preference, push for the full amount. If there are real quality problems that even you can see, then consider negotiating.


I totally agree with Steven.
Most agencies have a T&C document versus the end client, and I wish that more freelance translators would have enough foresight to sketch their T&C when working with agencies too.

In most T&Cs, the agency has a loophope saying that they will correct any mistakes within 30 days, and no discount will be given for poor quality unless the agency has had a chance to correct the mistakes first.

If you had a similar T&C, you could claim that the agency (and the end client) must give you a chance to correct your errors first, rather than slamming you with a no-payment without any notice.

Easier said than done in hindsight, but worth thinking about til next time...

/Jan


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xxxcmwilliams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:59
French to English
+ ...
agree with Steven Aug 3, 2007

The agency is your client. Surely they are responsible for the service they provide and should check the translation before it is sent to their client.

You may be interested in this previous discussion:

http://www.proz.com/topic/69444


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Client psychology Aug 3, 2007

LucyPatterson wrote:
The agency sent the 3000-word document straight to the client without having it proofread. The client picked up on a couple of typing errors I had not spotted, e.g. "an" instead of "and". They also noticed that I had missed out a short sentence in the translation, among a couple of other errors. ... Some of the client's criticisms made no sense. They corrected sentences which were right in the first place. ... Now the client has stated that the (proofread) 17000-word translation is also unacceptable and barely makes sense when compared to the original.


The client received the 17000 word file without comment and was probably not unhappy with it. Then the 3000 file came along, and someone noticed some glaring errors in it. From there onwards, it is a domino effect.

The client decides to take a more critical look at the 3000 word file, and discovers more errors. Having discoverd more errors, he now has such a low opinion of the translation that he expects to discover even more errors... and when he sees things that are just slightly weird, he immediately regards them as errors. He then turns to the 17000 word file to see if he can find errors in it, and... it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. He and his team of trusted selfappointed linguists find more unusual things in it, which they promptly regard as more errors.

The end-client is now very emotional (and acts irrationally). Your only hope is that the dust will have settled by the time the client gets the second proofread text back. And hope that the agency will have learnt its lesson.

By the way, I see no problem with doing 20 000 words in 7 days, but you obviously didn't proofread the text before you sent it to the agency. Remember, an agency's proofreader is simply an *extra* layer of quality control -- it is not intended to replace a crucial part of the the translators own quality control procedure.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:59
Dutch to English
+ ...
What's the big deal about 20,000 words in 7 days? Aug 3, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:

By the way, I see no problem with doing 20 000 words in 7 days, but you obviously didn't proofread the text before you sent it to the agency.


Precisely Samuel, you've pinpointed the problem: a lack of quality control (by the translator AND the agency).

I consistently translate around 20,000 words a week - in my case, mostly legal texts and therefore not always straightforward - and all of my clients are repeat clients, mostly law firms that don't tolerate mistakes.

Frankly, I wouldn't be able to earn what I regard as a decent living if I wasn't doing so and would go back into mainstream law or find something else to do.

But that's me - the point is some of us can consistently and quite easily churn out 3,000 + words a day without any quality issues.

We need to identify and understand our individual limits, not generalise.







[Edited at 2007-08-03 11:39]


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:59
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
Some comments Aug 3, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Samuel Murray wrote:

By the way, I see no problem with doing 20 000 words in 7 days, but you obviously didn't proofread the text before you sent it to the agency.


Precisely Samuel, you've pinpointed the problem: a lack of quality control (by the translator AND the agency).


Sorry, but why have you both assumed that the translator didn't proofread in this case? It is actually quite easy to overlook sentences and see things that should be there rather than what is actually there in the reading through stage, that's why someone else should have a look at it before sending it off to the client. I'm sure we all strive for quality and zero mistakes with every job we do, but realistically, this is not going to be possible 100% of the time.


We need to identify and understand our individual limits, not generalise.


I fully agree with this. I recognise that many people can even cope with over 20,000 words per week. They are no doubt better at time management than I am!


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Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:59
Finnish to English
Agency's responsibility to revise the translation Aug 3, 2007

Most of the comments made are valid, especially:

1. your client is the agency, not the end client

2. comments are invalid unless they are specifically alluded to

The agency should put in place a revision process to correct slips, which EVERYONE makes. Many agencies do not seem to realise this. Perhaps you should let the agency in this case know.

Best of luck


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xxxLucyPatterso
English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for all the advice and support! Aug 3, 2007

I have always thought it is better to stick to deadlines and not let your agency down. I have now learned that in some cases, it is better to just let the agency know you will need an extra day.

For example, if you are unwell for a day and know you are working slowly and at a sub-normal standard (as was the case for me with this project), it is better to give yourself extra time rather than panic and return a translation late.

This is a problem with freelance work - you don't get any days off when you're ill (unless you had no work anyway)!

I do not understand why the agency did not have the 3000-word document proofread, as they themselves knew the client was particularly "fussy". However, this is not really any of my business as I should have returned a perfect document to them in the first place.

You are right about the client getting VERY emotional. I think it is a special pet project they wrote themselves and they have been a little over the top about the whole thing .. maybe I'm just too laid back, who knows!


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Nicole Martin
Local time: 12:59
German to English
I agree with a lot of things being said here Aug 3, 2007

I agree with the others who say we can't make judgements based on our own abilities. For example, I translated a special project for my manager yesterday afteroon (4 hours of work) that had just over 2000 words, and it wasn't my normal, repetitive repair manuals I'm used to. I wasn't rushed, didn't feel stressed and I still had time to proofread it before I sent it back to her. I tend to work quickly, so 20,000 words in 7 days doesn't sound bad to me at all. Just because we see those numbers doesn't mean we can assume it was too much to ensure quality or there was no proofreading.

Secondly, I agree with Nikki about not seeing our own mistakes. I remember that subject from some of my cognitive psychology classes, how we have a hard time finding the mistakes in our own work. The problem is, we know what something SHOULD say (especially right after we've spent a lot of time working oni it) and that influences the way we interpret what we see. In this case, we know the sentence should say "and" so our mind processes the word "and" even if our eyes actually saw "an". If you want to avoid that, it's recommended that you put aside what you've written for a few days and then come back to it and check it again. Our mind will have cleared out all the ideas of what the work 'should say' and we will notice what it actually DOES say instead. It's something I do myself when writing papers or if I have a really important translation, and I have noticed a difference.

Unfortunately, as translators with deadlines, we don't often have time to set our work aside for a few days to let our minds forget it in. That's why there's a proofreader. I agree the translator should always check his or her own work before delivering it, but if I was proofreading and found some minor errors, especially typos, I wouldn't chalk it up to a bad translation or lack of checking by the translator.

In terms of the original subject, I haven't been in this situation myself. But I agree with the others who say to hold your ground! If you and the proofreader are both confident in the translation, it's pretty likely that it is good. Even if it wasn't, I would think the agency ultimately has to take responsibility for it. See what mistakes the client is reporting and if they're justified. Look over your translation again. And if you see your work is not of good quality, maybe it is time to offer a discount. But without proof of bad quality, I would expect the full amount promised to you.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It is a reasonable assumption Aug 3, 2007

Nikki Graham wrote:
Lawyer-Linguist wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
...but you obviously didn't proofread the text before you sent it to the agency.

...you've pinpointed the problem: a lack of quality control (by the translator AND the agency).

Sorry, but why have you both assumed that the translator didn't proofread in this case? It is actually quite easy to overlook sentences and see things that should be there rather than what is actually there in the reading through stage, that's why someone else should have a look at it before sending it off to the client.


I think it is a reasonable assumption that the translator did not proofread [adequately] in this case (give the information she gave in the first post).


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