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Client expects me to be at his beck and call...
Thread poster: Hilary Davies Shelby

Hilary Davies Shelby
United States
Local time: 12:35
German to English
Nov 19, 2003

Hi all - I almost feel a bit silly posting this, as I know what I probab ly *should* do in this situation, but just thought I would ask in case anyone has any more constructive solutions ...

I have a fairly regular (but still new, as I am still getting established) client. This is an agency which specialises in quick turnaround, something I am good at. I always deliver on time and he is always impressed by the quality of my work. However, if I do not reply to an email within an hour (my goal is never to be away from desk for longer than this during "normal" working hours) for whatever reason, I get a flood of "where are you?" "I need you to reply immediately", "did you get my email?" -type mails. I always apologise, giving the (genuine) reason for the "delay" and (usually) accepting the job, but this attitude is beginning to bother me, especially as I often work long, late hours on this client's jobs. As I don't have many clients yet, I would rather not tell him to take a hike - was just wondering if anyone else had amy similar experiences?

Thanks for any advice!

Hilary


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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
Member
German to English
+ ...
This is where the mobile comes in ;-) Nov 19, 2003

I think your client's doing very well that you're only ever away for an hour. Personally, it takes me longer than that to get my shopping done

I always tell my clients that if they need an urgent reply, I am always available on the mobile. Realistically, they cannot expect you to be chained to your computer 24 hours a day. Next time he bothers you, just ask him to give you a ring instead!


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Gayle Wallimann  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:35
Member (2001)
French to English
+ ...
I agree with Mary, a phone call is sufficient in time of need! Nov 19, 2003

I sympathize with you,Hilary, I was in the same situation with two clients. I worked for the first one almost exclusively until I built up my clientele. I used to get emails even late at night when I was burning the midnight oil to get jobs done for him. At first it was encouraging to see that someone else was up that late too, but then it started to bother me. I had a second one do it a bit too, until I explained that I had cosen to work from my home because I could plan my worktime around other obligations (chidren, shopping, part-time teaching) and that I could always be reached on the phone for jobs. Especially since at that time I didn't have a DSL connection yet in my village. So I didn't want to go over my internet monthly rate, or I would be charged extra. I never worked online back then. So, do tell your client to use the phone for important work orders, questions etc.
Once I remember that a translation was just sent to me asking me to look at it to tell him if it was alright for me to do it for Monday (sent on a Friday night) My computer crashed that Friday, so I never got the translation, but for some strange reason, the client had found my son's email up in the north of France and sent it there. (I live near Marseille in the south) To make it short, I told him to always call in those cases. I have a feeling that he was learning his job as an agency, just as I was starting out as a freelancer. Things are a lot easier now that he picks up his phone!
Good luck,
Gayle

[Edited at 2003-11-19 22:07]


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Jeannie Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
German to English
+ ...
WAP phone Nov 19, 2003

I suppose it depends how you want to proceed here. "Start as you mean to go on!".

You could either let him know that when you are working and available you will always respond within an hour and if he doesn't hear from you in this time - then you are unavailable. I cannot imagine he will stop using you just because you turn down some jobs - this is absolutely normal.

On the other hand if you really do want to be available during working hours - you could do as I do - and take your mobile phone out with you and check your emails via WAP.
I have been known to go off down to the beach for the afternoon with my mobile phone in tow. This way I have peace of mind to relax. I just check every so often and if there are no emails - I can happily stay longer. If on the other hand there is an urgent email I can either reply there and then - or if really urgent force myself to go back to the office.

So far this has worked well for me.


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Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:35
German to English
+ ...
Freelancing means freedom as the name implies Nov 19, 2003

I agree that the client should 'phone you on your mobile if he needs you urgently. Like most translators, I have days when I don't have much work or none at all, so I'm hardly going to sit by the 'phone or computer waiting for someone to call. I don't see why I should - after all, freelancers are entitled to a life too! The downside of the job is that we are often expected to work evenings and weekends, so it seems only fair that we should have the freedom to plan our day when we don't have any work on!

I have sometimes had regular clients contact me on the mobile and, if there is something urgent, I have no problem with going home to sort it out - after all, I value my clients, but at the same time it's important to get the balance right.

Good Luck!

Sarah


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xxxPaul Roige
Spain
Local time: 19:35
English to Spanish
+ ...
Let's spell "freelance" Nov 19, 2003

Sarah Downing wrote:

I agree that the client should 'phone you on your mobile if he needs you urgently. Like most translators, I have days when I don't have much work or none at all, so I'm hardly going to sit by the 'phone or computer waiting for someone to call. I don't see why I should - after all, freelancers are entitled to a life too! The downside of the job is that we are often expected to work evenings and weekends, so it seems only fair that we should have the freedom to plan our day when we don't have any work on!
I have sometimes had regular clients contact me on the mobile and, if there is something urgent, I have no problem with going home to sort it out - after all, I value my clients, but at the same time it's important to get the balance right.
Good Luck!
Sarah


Exactly. And you must set the limits, no one will do it for you.
P


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OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
English to German
+ ...
You're your own boss Nov 20, 2003

You set your own rules and you set your own rates. In another thread you mentioned your very low rates. I have a feeling this agency makes a huge profit out of your work, especially if the quality is right. That's probably why they keep pestering you rather than contacting somebody else when you're not available. Just tell the agency you're working on a large project for somebody else, take some time out, do some research, contact a few dozen agencies, double your rates and work less. Never give them the impression that you're desperate and always deliver the highest quality. If you're stressed and overworked because you have to make ends meet on low paid jobs the quality of your translations will suffer and you'll never get the well-paying clients. Just forget about the cheapskates.

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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:35
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree with the others Nov 20, 2003

I agree with everything that the others say and if the client still wants you to be at his beck and call, have him set up a specific time with you during the morning (or whatever time is convenient for the both of you) to handle things with you. As much as you are able to, give him your schedule and other convenient contact times.

I sometimes do not take my cell because I do not always want to be a slave to it. But, that is up to you.

If this does not work out, have him put you on a handsome monthly retainer, so that whenever he calls practically in the middle of the night or on your free day, you can envision the handsome retainer and what you do with it and then you will be more inclined to listen to him. I have one client like that and it does wonders for my disposition at 11 PM or on a Sunday afternoon.

Good luck!
Lucinda


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:05
English to Tamil
+ ...
You can have email alerts in the mobile Nov 20, 2003

There are service providers in the internet mail as well as mobile phones combining to give alerts in the mobile about any incoming mail. You can read the mail and reply to it then and there in the mobile itself.
And then there is call transfer. Have your landline incoming calls transferred to your mobile. In that way you can have no misgivings about missing out on calls at home.
Be firm but polite on your rights. You can then do nothing wrong.
Regards,
N.Raghavan


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lien
Netherlands
Local time: 19:35
English to French
+ ...
I think Nov 20, 2003

you got it all wrong. Listen what Olaf says. It is the other way around, you are the boss and you work with who you want.

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mbc
Spain
Local time: 19:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
if they want to ¨work¨ for them 24-7 they can contract you Nov 20, 2003

I have a client who treats me this way as well. I answer my mobile and he says, ¨Where are you?¨ None of his business. He doesn´t pay me to work 9-5 and he certainly doesn´t pay my vacation time or health benefits.
If the client doesn´t guarantee you work then you shouldn´t guarantee them your availability. If I call the plumber and he/she doesn´t answer do I panic? No. Do I call a new plumber? No, because I´m happy with his/her work in the past...I wait patiently and call back without asking where he/she has been...
You have to educate your clients. (And remember that they are Clients not Employers, a fine line but a very important one.)


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Joanne Parker  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:35
German to English
+ ...
Have your emails diverted to your mobile Nov 20, 2003

Hi Hilary,

Not seen you for a while, how are you?!

My domain provider Claranet allows me to have emails forwarded to my mobile. I've set this up so that I receive text messages whenever I get a mail from one of my main clients. That way, you know when they're trying to get hold of you.

If I'm out of the office, I always set up an out of office reply (again, available with my domain provider) saying when I'll be back and giving my mobile number again.

Finally, I always tell people in advance when I'm not going to be around. The combination of these three seems to work quite well.

Drop me a line through my members page if you want a chat!

Jo


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:35
German to English
+ ...
Perspective Nov 20, 2003

I think keeping reasonably regular office hours makes a businesslike impression. Provided you're reachable by mobile, though, you're doing just that. If you answer the mobile in the supermarket, you're reachable. You don't have to tell the customer that you're in the supermarket; you don't have to apologise, or to give any excuse at all. All he needs to know is that you're "out of the office".

I have a mobile and try to keep it switched on when I'm out of the office (not always possible, e.g. I refuse to use it when I'm driving), but hardly any of my customers are willing to call me on it. My regular customers know that I reply to e-mails after an hour or two, and that I tell them if I'm going to be away for a whole day; if they have an urgent need, they call me, and I suspect that if my office phone goes unanswered, they look elsewhere. That's fair enough; if it's urgent and I'm not at my desk, I probably can't help them. For the same reason, new customers never call me on the mobile, either.


I get a flood of "where are you?" "I need you to reply immediately", "did you get my email?" -type mails.


It's nice to be needed.

"Good - fast - cheap: pick any two" is how the saying goes, and I suspect your customer hopes he's found a way of having all three. Being on call to put out someone else's fires is an extra service, and you should expect to get paid for it. That doesn't necessarily mean an urgency surcharge. I never charge more for urgent jobs (this is a personal decision and shouldn't stop you doing so), but I'm much more willing to accept them from valued customers, and the payback is that they pay higher rates generally, reflecting the value they attach to a higher level of service generally. Decide whether you're really charging this customer enough for this overall level of service. If not, wait until you can afford to risk losing him, then raise your prices.

Marc


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 14:35
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
À l'impossible nul n'est tenu Nov 20, 2003

Sorry for writing this in French, there must be an equivalent in English. Anyway it means that when it's impossible you can't be compelled to do it.

I'm like you, you say
However, if I do not reply to an email within an hour (my goal is never to be away from desk for longer than this during "normal" working hours)
, most of the time I'm in front of my computer, when I come back home I check my e-mails immediately. But If I go shopping, to the supermarket or to school, "it's closed". I'm not there and I receive no call. All those who know me (and the clients do), know that I'm very reactive, and I don't need to say that I'm human and have other activities. When they see that I don't answer they wait if they can or I find another e-mail saying "sorry, it was urgent, we had to look for somebody else". I see nothing wrong with that and it happens only with a volonteer work when they usually contact more than one translator and it's the first one who answers who gets the translation.

I had subscribed for a project for which the week before I had to say what was going to be my availability for the next week. I could decide on what I put, and I was given 15 minutes to confirm that I was available. But of course I couldn't put in that schedule 15 min to go to school or that x day I'd decide (because no job on going) to go and buy a dress. Every time I went out I felt guilty, because in some way I had commited myself to be chained to my PC (I felt it like that). After two or three weeks (and no project), I decided to leave. I feel much more free now.


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Mónica Machado
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Mobile phone is the best option Nov 20, 2003

Hi Hilary,

I think the mobile phone is the best option. No need to stress your client if you like the work you do for them, if they pay on time and if you have a good relationship with them.

All my clients know that if they don't get an answer to their e-mail in one-hour time they should call on my mobile. If I don't answer in one-hour time it is because I am either without e-mail or proofreading something (and in a different part of the office). Regular clients know that they will be informed if I go out during working hours. I always keep them informed. I know some people think this is "a bit too much" for a freelancer, but if we work with regular clients and quick turnaround jobs we have to be available at least from 9 am to 5 pm... We are freelancers but if you work with regular clients we are more than that, too.

This system seems to work and never had any complaints.

Hope this helps

Kind regards,
Mónica Machado (MIL)
English into European Portuguese Translator
Member of APT and IOL & Associate Member of ITI
Portugal
E-mail: mfcmachado@hotmail.com
http://monicamachado.planetaclix.pt


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