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Poll: Do you negotiate your deadlines with your clients?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 11:46
SITE STAFF
Sep 20, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you negotiate your deadlines with your clients?".

This poll was originally submitted by Monika Coulson

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:46
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Negotiating deadlines is very tricky Sep 20, 2006

It begins by the client writing and asking how soon I can do a translation. If I have plenty of others to do, that are waiting in the queue, I dislike this kind of pressure - and especially as I never know what they mean. I feel that what they want to hear is, "I will start on it right now, Sir/Madam, it is just about 10 a.m. Would 12 noon be fine, Sir/Madam, or would that be too late?" In other words, I think they are trying to jump the queue.

Then I have to scratch my head and think what to say that will not thoroughly offend them, knowing that I am going to be working flat out for the next three days, and I do not want another deadline to follow on immediately after that.

I find, therefore, that usually the best way to deal with the situation is to write back and say, "I have quite a backlog at the moment - but when is the very latest that you need it by?" Usually they then withdraw from their hope of having it within the next hour and suggest a semi-reasonable deadline.

Astrid


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:46
German to English
+ ...
Depends what you mean by "negotiate" Sep 20, 2006

Almost always I have to discuss what deadline is realistic - like Astrid I often have a backlog of work to be done, and some clients try to jump the queue by saying "it's not much text" or some similar argument. Other clients are more realistic and ask me what date is possible.

My private client ranking order often influences my reaction in such discussions. I am most liable to bend my schedule for reliable and regular direct clients, closely followed by a couple of agencies that pay within a couple of days after the invoice. Agencies that pay within three to four weeks are sometimes "lucky" if I have a slack period. Agencies that take more than a month to pay are usually unsuccessful (and I don't even consider agencies that pay low rates).
I usually find a way to help private clients from my part of the city who need official documents translated, although I often have to ask them to be patient. But if private clients live elsewhere, I suggest they look for someone closer (I live right out on the edge of the city).


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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:46
Member (2003)
German to English
Sign of a maturing business Sep 20, 2006

This is one of the biggest differences between the early stages of my freelance career and my business as it is now. When I was first getting started I'd accept any jobs that were within my specialities as long as there was humanly time to get them done, and then just sacrifice sleep to get it all done. I was afraid that if I haggled on price and delivery deadlines, they'd just look elsewhere.

Over time, as my prices rose, I needed less work to achieve the same income and began to question just how fixed deadlines really were. Friday afternoon deliveries seemed particularly suspect, since we all know that very few clients are going to read them until the other side of the weekend. And lo and behold, if you query about it, the majority of clients will end up agreeing to a Monday morning or noon deadline.

Now everything is game. It means I can't take on anywhere near all the work that is offered me, but my hours are much more reasonable and I enjoy the work much more.

Cheers,

Steven


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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:46
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
Often Sep 20, 2006

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

and think what to say that will not thoroughly offend them
It's interesting and surprising to read your opinions. I very often negociate deadlines and never ever thought that what I could say might be "offending". Why should it be offending indeed? I always propose my best deadline, with a little buffer. If a very good client (or a job I do want to take on) insists a lot, I sometimes squeeze a little bit my buffer (I mean if reducing the deadline by 2 hours makes them happy, then I try to squeeze that in).
So I give my best deadline and if the client is not happy with it, he still has 2 options: still accept it or turn to someone else. But I don't think it means being offended. It's just normal business relationships and business negociation.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:46
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It's an important part of educating clients Sep 20, 2006

I tell new clients I cannot start on their job immediately, and how long it will take when I do start.

Serious clients appreciate it in fact. They know that when we do agree on a deadline, then the job will come in time.

Very often their proposed deadline is not that desperate anyway. This idea that everything must be done as fast as possible is ridiculous, and it jeopardises quality. We should in general insist on time to do a good job and proof read after a break.

OK, I have just sat up late to do a rushed job. It happens, of course ... because this was for a client who always tries to give me time. I don't know why they were late this time, but anyone can slip up.

They offered to pay extra, just as long as I delivered or knew a colleague... I delivered of course. Normally they ask me something like:
'Can you deliver by Wednesday?'
- No, but I can on Friday.
OK, Friday morning?
Friday midday?
And we agree that I will deliver as early as possible before then.

This client also calls me in advance and books time if they have a really non-negotiable deadline, and then I do sit up late or whatever if necessary. They want quality, and their business depends on it. So does mine, after all.

I get new clients regularly, though some are scared off when I tell them when I can deliver. I'm happy to help in an emergency, but I don't treat every job as an emergency that should have been dealt with yesterday.

I haven't time to deal with the complaints


[Edited at 2006-09-20 07:31]

[Edited at 2006-09-20 15:44]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:46
Dutch to English
+ ...
Welcome to Air Traffic Control ....... Sep 20, 2006

If I can guarantee a landing spot and subsequent take-off without ANY danger of a mid-air collision or near-miss, I accept the deadline.

Otherwise I simply offer my best alternative.

Those who can wait are generally happy to adopt a holding pattern/circle the airport a few times - after all, it's the service and safety record that counts at the end of the day.

For those that genuinely can't (and who are good clients) I more often than not suggest an alternative and trusted airport (and colleagues return the favour).

Those who stubbornly won't are welcome to try and land their Boeing on a remote and short airstrip, preferably wedged between two imposing mountains


[Edited at 2006-09-20 10:51]


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 13:46
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Often Sep 20, 2006

I am assigned a tranlation quota and sometimes they need some jobs faster than others. When I use the term FASTER I refer to days because I do not work anymore on a hour-basis to deliver translations into 15 minutes.

So, if both parties agree, we can delay some days the deadlines for works A and B in order to translate firstly the C job.


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David Russi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:46
English to Spanish
+ ...
If you don't, you will really have to do everything by yesterday Sep 20, 2006

Most clients have no idea how long it takes to do a good job, and theose that do (or should) are constantly pushing for shorter and shorter delivery times.

I often receive job requests involving completely unrealistic time frames, and if I did not "negotiate", I would never be able to deliver on time.


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Mark Nathan  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:46
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...
Agree with Astrid Sep 20, 2006

Sometimes I think it is like playing poker - you look at your hand and then decide what to do. There is always a risk that you will lose a job by saying that you will need X days more than the proposed deadline.
The bottom line is, of course, how much you need the work.

However, I would not recommend trying to get out of a job that you really do you not like the look of by proposing what you imagine will be an unrealistic deadline.
I did this once and my offer was accepted...


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
bargaining power...try it, you'll like it! Sep 20, 2006

Steven Sidore wrote:

began to question just how fixed deadlines really were.... And lo and behold, if you query about it, the majority of clients will end up agreeing to a Monday morning or noon deadline.



I so relate to Steven's comments. I've figured out that almost everything is negotiable. And I've quit worrying about "offending" clients -- they are more likely to tell me that they will send work on a certain date, and then (on that date) tell me it won't be ready for another month, than I am to miss a deadline.

If I have too many jobs, I have also found that I can simply explain the situation to the client, and together, we figure out how to make it work. When one client has a true emergency, another client can afford to wait a few days.

I'm glad I finally "flexed my muscles" and found out that I have some bargaining power!


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:46
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
What period of time do most people see as a reasonable deadline? Sep 20, 2006

I would be curious to know, because several of my regular clients would prefer to have the translation within an hour, can, however, agree to wait till about 4.30 p.m. if they place the order at 11.30 a.m., but find it extremely arduous to put up with waiting for it until the next morning.

Even if I agree to deliver it the next morning, if they insist on 8 a.m., then I have to get up at 4 a.m. to proofread it, because I dislike proofreading a translation on the same day.

Is this a common pattern, or do some people have regular clients who see 2 to 3 days as reasonable?

Astrid


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Reed James
Chile
Local time: 14:46
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
I aim to please Sep 20, 2006

I try to keep assignments, and agencies for that matter, on a "yes or no" level. That means that if I like what they have to offer, I accept it. If I'm not pleased, I simply pass it up with a polite explanation.

I think that it is up to the client to decide what the deadline should be for their projects. Furthermore, I always set my own deadline, which is one day before the actual deadline. That way, if I am behind, I will still be on time. If I deliver what is on time for me, the client will be satisfied by the early delivery.

The only time that I negotiate is if there is a Chilean holiday during the time that the project is assigned. I've never had a problem with this.

Reed


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:46
English to German
+ ...
It is the professional way Sep 21, 2006

My regular clients are asking first if I am available, then they send me the text and I decide if I want to take it or not (yes, the "not" and "sorry, too busy" happens and they won't hold a grudge). And we definitely negotiate the deadline. You are a business after all, and as long as they know that you will go the extra mile for them dealing with a tough job, they will respect you and your schedule. Emphasis on "you". Nobody expects you to spend your day with your hands hovering above the keyboard, just to be ready for any urgent request.

During my beginner's time, I made some bitter experiences. I usually send my jobs as email attachments w/ request for receipt. Super-rush-jobs were opened many hours later, my personal record: 2 days later. It's not worth the peptic ulcer.

This is about a B-2-B-relation, not slavery.


PS. When you have to bring your car to the garage for repair, who is setting the time frame? ("I want this to be be done within 3 hours!"? I don't think so. The service-provider will tell you what is possible.)

[Edited at 2006-09-21 02:41]


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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:46
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
reasonable deadlines Sep 22, 2006

I'm not sure we can ever find a definition of what a reasonable deadline.
Deadlines are a necessity, but I'm not sure there is any way of calculating them so that they are fair or "reasonable". What is reasonable to you is not necessarily reasonnable to you your client!

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Is this a common pattern, or do some people have regular clients who see 2 to 3 days as reasonable?
Of course! I do at least. We have for example a client who regularly sends what we call "very small assignements" (i.e. maximum 250 words, but the last one was 9 words) and they usually send them about 2 days before the needed delivery date. Another client regularly sends texts of 1000 to 2000 words about 3-4 days in advance, sometimes a whole week. And just 5 minutes ago, I delivered a 450 words-text we had received on Tuesday evening. It's just a few examples. Of course we also get requests such as '18 000 words for tomorrow morning', but then I just refuse them and that's it.

So a deadline is just as reasonnable as you want: if you always accept deadlines that you find too short, then it means they are reasonable. If they were not reasonable, you should not accept them, should you? I think it's just a matter of educating your clients, here.
And Nicole had the best point with the garage.

Reed D. James wrote:

I try to keep assignments, and agencies for that matter, on a "yes or no" level. That means that if I like what they have to offer, I accept it. If I'm not pleased, I simply pass it up with a polite explanation.

I think that it is up to the client to decide what the deadline should be for their projects.
Yes... But on the other hand, deadlines are mostly not that fixed at all, and it also happens that YOU really want to have the job + the client really WANTS YOU to do the job. In that case, if my reasonable deadline is e.g. Tuesday evening and the cleint's deadline is Monday evening, why not try to agree on Tuesday noon, so that everyone is happy?


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