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Managing other clients while doing a big project
Thread poster: Alex Farrell

Alex Farrell  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 10:21
Japanese to English
Sep 13, 2008

Hi all. I just received a big game translation project from an agency, and it'll keep me busy for the next six weeks or so, so I'm wondering what suggestions others have for handling requests from other clients. I have seven other clients I work for, who give me jobs both big and small. I won't be able to take any other big assignments until the project finishes--I think. You see, I'm still in the research phase and haven't started the actual translating, so I don't really know yet what my pace will be and how much other work I can fit in. I know I'll be able to do at least some other stuff and meet the deadline.

So the question is, should I:

A. Not say anything to my other clients in order to not put them off, and deal with each job proposal one at a time.

or

B. Tell them my situation and ask that they only send me assignments of a certain volume (e.g. something I can do in an hour or two) until such-and-such date.

Another option could be to oursource my extra work, but I don't feel comfortable with that since it feels disingenuous to me, and my clients are all agencies anyway. Of course, some of my contracts include clauses that prohibit outsourcing in the first place.

For those of you who have experience working on big projects that take up most of your time for its duration and who also serve several clients, I'd appreciate hearing your advice.

Thanks in advance.

- Alex


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Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 22:21
English to Spanish
What I do Sep 13, 2008

1) I don't tell my other clientes ahead of time; instead, I deal with each aditional request on a case-by-case basis. My usual response if their request is incompatible with the big project (too long or tight deadline) is something like "Unfortunately, I am currently working on another big project which occupies most of my time, so I will only be able to accept smallish or medium assignments until XX." Other times, if I think I can fit it given enough time, I ask if the deadline is negotiable.

2) I never, ever outsource work without my clients' explicit consent, due to both legal and ethical reasons. The legal reasons are the confidentiality agreements. The ethical reason is that all of my clients know that I am a one-woman operation... therefore, if they contact ME it is because they are happy with MY work and want ME to translate their documents. Doing otherwise behind their back would be misleading at best, and extremely unethical IMO.

Greetings!
Andrea

[Edited at 2008-09-13 02:18]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:21
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Option A Sep 13, 2008

Alex, you are a freelancer, you never know what next week would bring.
You are not an employee of any of your clients. They would only be able to expect guaranteed availability if they paid you for "standing by".
Therefore, when you get a request, you assess it, and negotiate a deadline with the client. If the deadline seems impossible, just refuse the job "I am sorry but I am currently fully booked".
This is true even if you don't have a large continuous project, just happened to work on a project that takes up your entire day, and somebody calls with another project that they need by the next day. What do you do? You politely decline.

I would not recommend Option B. You don't want to announce you are not taking jobs for 6 weeks because:
- you never know, you may finish the job early
- you never know, the agency may pull the job in the middle of doing it (do you have an agreement with the client about that, by the way?)
- the agency (PM) may not have a very precise memory (or proper PM tools), especially if dealing with lots of freelancers, and you may end of being dropped altogether


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:21
English to Spanish
+ ...
Slide Sep 13, 2008

I think Andrea and Katalin both have excellent recommendations. I would add that when you take on a big project, make sure that the deadline is loose enough to allow you to "slide" it now and then to fit in that other work you know will be coming in. That is, you try to negotiate a deadline, rather than having it imposed upon you, that may actually be twice the amount of time you would really need to do the job if it was all you had to do.

Obviously when another client comes forth with a one-day job you cannot tell them to wait a month until you get your big job finished. You just slide it in and get it out right now, then pick up on the big one again and they never know the difference.

Never let them see you sweat. But don't think you won't be doing some marathon sessions now and then; you probably will be. But later on the money will roll in.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:21
English to French
+ ...
Whatever you do... Sep 13, 2008

Whatever you do, don't tell your clients that you will be busy over the next month or so. If you do, what is likely to happen is that they will look elsewhere to get even the small jobs done, and they will simply think you are not available. I doubt any of them will put an X on the calendar to mark the date on which you become fully available, so they may not send any work your way long after you are available.

Keep your spot warm!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:21
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Absolutely Sep 13, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
Whatever you do, don't tell your clients that you will be busy over the next month or so. If you do, what is likely to happen is that they will look elsewhere to get even the small jobs done, and they will simply think you are not available. I doubt any of them will put an X on the calendar to mark the date on which you become fully available, so they may not send any work your way long after you are available.


I entirely agree. Make sure you concentrate in the big job and finish it on time, to allow you to take other jobs.

If some other customer sends you a medium-sized or big job you really cannot take, you should tell them then and may be able to move the deadline of the second project a bit to be able to do it all. And with small jobs you might be able to do them by stretching a bit.

But indeed, no need to tell other customers. You will cause concern among them and it might be completely unnecessary.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:21
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Evan a big job you've started on can be cancelled Sep 13, 2008

I agree with the other posts. I recently had a job of about 12,000 words, and I was halfway through it when the agency told me to stop because the client didn't want it any more - he'd found a translation elsewhere. Fortunately I had no difficulty in getting paid for what I had done.

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:21
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Capacity planning Sep 13, 2008

If I take on anything big, I try to plan the schedule so that it takes up no more than half my capacity on any given day, leaving the other half free to deal with other clients. As for announcing that I am "booked out", I do that only with a core group of clients whom I want to help with capacity planning, where I know they'll be calling constantly in hopes of getting work done unless I say there's not a chance until a particular date.

As far as "reserving" capacity is concerned, I view that as utter nonsense. I hear requests like that all the time, but probably 50% of those projects fall through, so as far as I am concerned, my time isn't committed until I get a firm order. The best I'll do is notify a client when another project request comes in and give an hour or two to make an order before I accept the other job. If some agencies get so impatient that they'll send a job elsewhere in the time it takes me to brush my teeth or walk the dog, because I couldn't be "reached", then I certainly won't be waiting around for hours, days or weeks as some do.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
Capacity planning II Sep 13, 2008

Kevin Lossner wrote:
If I take on anything big, I try to plan the schedule so that it takes up no more than half my capacity on any given day, leaving the other half free to deal with other clients.


... similar idea here.

When I have a larger project on the go, I divide my day into three shifts (of three to four hours each), instead of my normal two shifts, and try to only work the first 'early bird' shift each day on the large job, leaving a normal day's capacity free for the rest of my 'inner circle' clients.





[Edited at 2008-09-13 10:40]


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:51
German to English
+ ...
A very pertinent issue Sep 13, 2008

Thanks, Alex, for bringing up an issue which is so relevant.

So far, I've been lucky, and have only gotten smaller jobs when busy with a large job, which have required at most 3 weeks. I've managed to fit the smaller jobs into my schedule at some personal sacrifice, that is, by working more than 8 hours a day and 'borrowing' time from leisure activities. I say borrowing, because all said and done, such circumstances are the exception rather than the rule and I can afford to slack off a bit after a large job, essentially making up for time spent earlier.

I must say there is something to be said for large jobs, because the incremental cost of large jobs is much lower than the incremental cost of multiple small/medium jobs. Large jobs require much less effort overall when compared to multiple small/medium jobs of the same volume. For example, once you've got the terminology down, it's so much easier to sail through a large job than it is to resolve the terminology that is different for each small/medium job.

But sooner or later, the situation will have to be faced head on. I'm reading the posts in this thread with interest, trying to absorb all that our more experienced colleagues have to share.


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Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 03:21
Dutch to English
It just so happens Sep 13, 2008

As it happens, I recently responded to a job ad. It turns out the job is HUGE and would be going on for six or seven weeks. I have decided to withdraw, because it would take up all of my time, meaning I would have to turn down jobs from steady clients. As for taking on such a huge job and then telling your steady clients that you won't be available, say for six weeks? I wouldn't. As Katalin said:
- the agency (PM) may not have a very precise memory (or proper PM tools), especially if dealing with lots of freelancers, and you may end of being dropped altogether. You need to ask yourself whether potentially being 'forgotten' by an agency is worth the money for the big project. IMO


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Daniel García
English to Spanish
+ ...
You can never be sure Sep 13, 2008

My experience with big jobs is that you can never be sure that you are going to be 100% busy as expected, specially software projects.

It might be very well the case that you are busy for four weeks and then there is a delay in the project and you find yourself that you have two weeks with no work (main project is delayed and your customers think you are busy).

As the others have said, do not inform your customers (perhaps very special customers, if doing so is going to help get more work for them in the future) and treat each case separately.

Daniel


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Nizamettin Yigit  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 04:21
Dutch to Turkish
+ ...
Large Job more time Sep 13, 2008

Hi,

I would not take a job that could take my next 10 days, exactly for 10 days. Assume that you get sick for a day or two, than job order is blown.

For a job that could book you for next 6 weeks, it is better to ask at least a half of that time as extra time. So 9 weeks could be good to start.

If you do that, you can help other clients and dont get stuck due to incidents like you get sick, technical problem which may arise, an emergency trip you have to make etc, as well.

Good luck,

Nizam Yigit


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Lynda Tharratt  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:21
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
you also have to consider the cash flow issue Sep 13, 2008

As my colleagues have said, I think that 6 weeks is a long time to keep your regulars on hold. I would do as the others have suggested, put a few more hours in each day, you just never know when you're going to have a dry spell in this business! You can turn down some large projects if you feel you don't have enough time but I would definitely take these on a case-by-case basis rather than tell agencies flat out that you are out of the picture for 6 weeks.
Also, you have to consider your cash flow situation. I find that payment can take longer for larger projects as the agency (depending on the size) may not have enough to pay you until they get paid by the client. If you take six weeks of your time with no other projects you may find yourself in a bind a month or two from now if the agency delays payment.
At the end of it all, treat yourself to a mini-vacation and unplug for a weekend to recharge the batteries!
Good luck!


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:21
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Cash flow? Simple solution... Sep 13, 2008

... it's called payment in advance. On a number of occasions when someone wants to take up more of my time than usual and I have cash flow concerns, I make it clear that advance payment is required. That has never been a problem when the issue has been raised. Sometimes it's offered by the client and I refuse for my own reasons, perhaps preferring a milestone arrangement of sorts or, if I have a lot of receivables coming in steadily, I simply don't care that much. But if you are dealing with an organization that is unable to handle a request for advance payment because of their own cash flow issues, I would be a bit concerned.

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