When should we start charging for small changes/additions in jobs already finished?
Thread poster: Pundora

Pundora  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 08:27
English to Hindi
+ ...
Jan 31, 2008

Has any colleague considered the concept of “after-sales service” in translation? Means, taking care of additions/changes for an uncertain period, after finishing translation and having been paid for the job.

This is what an agency says. I finished the translation four months back (some 9000 words) and got my payment. They have been sending additions or changes every month in the same files like 113 words, 01 word, 20 words and sent me today 09 more words. They have offered to add up all these words and pay me on per word basis which doesn’t add up to my minimum rates even. Actually, I didn’t want to charge till now but today when they offered this formula, I told them that in such cases minimum charges should apply each time. Their reply:

“As for your concern about the payment, I am sorry that you are unhappy with a per-word basis for any additional translations to the work you have completed and already been paid for. For a project of this size, I do not think it is unusual to have additional translations that need to be done; indeed, most of the other translators have told me that they consider this "after-sales service" and do not expect to be paid, although I fully intend to pay them anyhow.

If this were a translation unrelated to the work already done, I would understand the need to have a minimum charge applied. I do not think, unfortunately, that I would be able to convince my company to pay a minimum fee for each additional translation, especially when one request was for the single word "notes," and the total additional translations/revisions add up to fewer than 140 words.”

I was wondering what other colleagues would reply in such a case. Thanks in advance for sharing your valued opinion.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:57
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
To keep a valued client... Jan 31, 2008

If this is a valued client and they paid you a decent rate the first time around, I would indeed consider this after-sales service and gracefully accept their per word pay. Is it worth losing the client over a few extra words?

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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:57
French to English
+ ...
Hmmm, difficult one... Jan 31, 2008

This is a tricky question, I wouldn't normally charge for the odd word here or there, but if they keep coming back with minor changes, then obviously it's disrupting your workflow and you have to charge a reasonable amount. Would you be able to add up the actual time you've spent on the changes and charge on a monthly basis for the time spent? Just because it's only a couple of words, it may involve you in checking the original context, ensuring consistency with what you've written in the first place, further research, etc., so just charging for the words would not be fair.

I did have a similar case a few months ago and I proposed applying my minimum rate - it was for several paragraphs. The agency queried it as I'd translated the text in the first place (albeit several months previously), but I pointed out that I would have to re-read my original translation in order to translate these two paragraphs consistently and that the time involved more than justified my minimum charge. They took the job elsewhere, which was their prerogative, but I would take the same stance again. I can barely remember the last job I've done once I'm on to the next project, let alone jobs I've done weeks or months ago, so each new item should really be considered on its merits.

Good luck!


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Pundora  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 08:27
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I thank you both... Jan 31, 2008

Tina and Claire for your advice. Whereas Tina, is perfectly right and I understand that valued clients don’t come easy and we cannot afford to lose them over a few extra words. But, actually it was not a matter of a few extra words. It was like what Claire has said. The job was divided into two files, total no. of pages was about 40 and there were scores of text boxes and illustrations. The font size as small as 7. So, I had to go through the files each time for checking consistency and even for recalling and understanding the things. I have to spot on which page a particular sentence is and in which file. And then, in the changed sentences, the agency didn’t count the whole sentences but just the changed words in the sentences. Whereas I had to work on the whole restructured sentences!

Anyway, I didn’t intend to charge for these changes so far but they continue to trickle in even after four months the job was delivered. That’s why I felt that per word rate in this case was becoming increasingly unfair.

Regards
Pundora


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:57
Italian to English
Hi Pundora Jan 31, 2008

I agree that this sort of thing is annoying but if you warn your agency clients that you have a minimum charge for any intervention of whatever kind and use a CAT tool for text management, it shouldn't cause you any serious problems.

I have plenty of publishers in my customer portfolio and some of their authors are so psychologically insecure that they would still be correcting their work when it's on the bookshop shelves if they could

Post-delivery authorial tweaking is something we just have to live with, I'm afraid, so try to make it work for you.

Cheers,

Giles


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Gregory Flanders  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:57
French to English
+ ...
Just ask for an hourly fee Jan 31, 2008

I run into this problem with legal translations -- by the time I'm finished with a translation, the client has already made additions or changes to the document, which also need to be translated. My solution has been to charge an hourly rate for proofreading/editing after the translation is finished, in addition to the difference in words.

Given, this might not be useful for small changes that take only a few minutes, but perhaps you could set a minimum amount of time, say a half-hour. That way, you're paid for your time and for the slight changes you make. Of course, you need to clear this with your client before starting working in the first place.

best,

gregory


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 04:57
French to Dutch
+ ...
Has an invoice been made? Jan 31, 2008

As long as the invoice hasn't been made it is part of the preceding job, but as soon as you invoiced (at the end of the month, for instance) it is a new job. Tell your client that your accountant told you to do so.

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:57
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree with Gregory re time Jan 31, 2008

I specialise in legal translations and having also practised law, I know updates and amendments are par for the course. I used to draft and redraft, driving my poor secretaries insane - but tough, it had to be right.

By way of example, I finished and was paid for a 200+ page tender document in December and tomorrow I have to implement the sixth set of updates to the source text.

I use time tracking software (ExactSpent) and invoiced today for the first five sets of updates that I completed during January, together with all my other jobs for this client. Adds up to just under 27 hours this past month, as the first set of updates were quite extensive. Luckily I use a CAT tool, essential if you're handling these types of jobs.

Now the lawyers are down to the "tweaking" stage and I'll be surprised if tomorrow's efforts take me half an hour.

However with the program, I open it as a new job for February, and just click on it again next week when the next set comes in. At the end of the month, I round it up to the next half hour, with the client's approval, and charge again.

The program can create a log, so you've got something to use as a record.

If it was an one-off job, I'd charge my word rate or one hour's work, whichever worked out better for me. That said, if it was just a few words or couple of sentences, and a regular client, I wouldn't bother charging at all. Put it down to creating goodwill.

Try the program, or something similar, in the future. You can use it on a trial basis for 30 days and it's cheap - less than USD 20.00 if I remember correctly. Beats scribbling on scraps of paper. http://www.exactspent.com/

Best of luck
Debs

[Edited at 2008-01-31 21:59]


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Pundora  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 08:27
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you so much Feb 1, 2008

For your kind suggestions. It really was enlightening, like always.

Best regards,

Pundora


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 05:57
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Follow-up min charge Feb 1, 2008

Pundora wrote:Has any colleague considered the concept of “after-sales service” in translation? Means, taking care of additions/changes for an uncertain period, after finishing translation?


Of course Tina is right and the importance of a particular client to one's overall business doesn matter. At the same time, there's a good solution to that.
The min charge is applieв to odd unrelated jobs. That's OK. I also agree on a "follow-up min charge" with most of my clients. It's usually less than "min charge" - basically because it's an ongoing project, the wordcount is frequently tiny (or sometimes it's a request to check if the Slavic fonts are displayed correctly in the final DTPed PDF file) that takes very little time. Still, it's a job that should be paid for. Translating a single word will involмe much more handling time than translation proper; reasonable clients understand that.

Cheers,
Oleg

[Edited at 2008-02-01 21:15]


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