Agency wants me to dicuss translation with the client on the phone
Thread poster: LucyPatterso (X)

LucyPatterso (X)
English
Feb 8, 2010

I recently did a translation for a German company assigned to me by an agency. It was proofread and sent to the client, who then spent a week analysing each word.
The client then sent back a copy to the agency saying he was happy with the translation, but has some points he wants to double-check ... could he have a conference call? The 4000-word document is covered in highlights and tracked changes - it looks like a nightmare. The proofreader made excuses and is not available so I have been asked to take this call with the client.

I told the agency I would prefer if the client wrote comments in the document so I could review them in my own time, but of course they are keen to please their new client. The agency claimed it would be a "10-minute call", but I do not see how we can get through all that highlighted text in such a short space of time ...

I am wondering if other translators would be happy to do this. Do you consider it to be part of the translation assignment? Would you charge any extra>


 

Celine Gras  Identity Verified

Local time: 18:48
English to French
+ ...
I did that twice Feb 8, 2010

for two different clients, and actually it was me who was happy to have the direct client on the phone. We managed to solve issues really quickly, and it is always nice to have someone from the end client willing to discuss your work. On one instance I charged my client because the call lasted 1,5 hours and I made the call, and on the other instance it only lasted 10 minutes and they called me so I did not charge them.

HTH


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:48
German to English
Not completely unusual Feb 8, 2010

>The proofreader made excuses and is not available so I have been asked to take this call with the client.<

This strikes me as a red flag. Potentially some of the issues arose during the checking phase of the project. A translator or editor should be prepared to defend/justify his/her work.

You should work out some sort of compensation arrangement with the agency. There should be one hour minimum charge, even for the 10 minute conference call, as you will have to prepare. The highlighting and track changes should be able to give you an indication of the end client's concerns. Make sure tyou have a copy of your own -- unchanged-- document handy for comparison purposes.

There's nothing to be afraid of!


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:48
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
If regularly, then paid Feb 8, 2010

LucyPatterson wrote:
I am wondering if other translators would be happy to do this. Do you consider it to be part of the translation assignment? Would you charge any extra?


If it is a non-free or non-cheap call, then I'd tell the agency that the call charge is extra, and explain to him that the call are not free for you. As for the time spent doing this, my attitude would be to comply if it is less than 20 minutes, if it is a once-off occurrence. If it becomes a regular thing, you should charge for it, even if you're only charging for your time.


 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Good question Feb 8, 2010

On the one hand, a professional needs to be prepared to deal with (potential) complaints and criticisms and to defend the quality of the work.

On the other, time is money, and a lot of agencies and/or clients will ask questions ad nauseum given half a chance (especially the ones that think they know the target language as well as you do).

It would probably "look" better to take the call, but as mentioned by others, either
a) Set a minimum fee ("this will take time away from my other work") and/or hourly fee, or
b) State in advance that you are willing to hold a discussion for xx minutes for free, but that if the conversation goes beyond that time, you will be charging by the hour at your hourly rate of xx, and will bill the agency by the quarter hour

I think this makes it clear to everyone that you are willing to hear what the client has to say, but that this is "above and beyond" your original work and that you need to be compensated.

I hope this works out for you - let us know what happens!


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:48
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Telephone conferencing Feb 8, 2010

This happens all the time with legal translations. There have been many times when a team of lawyers would place me on speakerphone in order to go over the translation.

LucyPatterson wrote:

I recently did a translation for a German company assigned to me by an agency. It was proofread and sent to the client, who then spent a week analysing each word.
The client then sent back a copy to the agency saying he was happy with the translation, but has some points he wants to double-check ... could he have a conference call?


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 22:18
English to Hindi
+ ...
It has happened to me too, twice Feb 9, 2010

The first instance was a brief one lasting for a few minutes. The end client requested the agency to allow him to speak directly to me, the translator. This was a personal letter and he wanted to clarify some points that I had asked. Instead of communicating the information to the agency which would then communicate it to me, with the risk of the information getting distorted in the process, he requested direct access to me. I didn't charge anything extra for this one.

The second instance was a more complicated issue. A translation completed by an agency was returned by an end client's Indian representative with a lot of comments and corrections, which the agency felt were unjustified.

The agency requested me to intervene on their behalf and on behalf of their client to play ombudsman and resolve the issue. The intervention took several days and innumerable calls to the Indian representative and considerable persuasion and tact to convince them that the translation was good and acceptable, which it actually was. The Indian representative had sent the translation for reviewing to a person who was not exactly aware of the specific terminology that the highly technical translation involved and had made many unwarranted changes to the translation which really did not improve the translation. In many places it completely changed the meaning.

In this case I charged the agency on an hourly basis for the time I had spent plus costs such as that of phone calls, internet costs and printing and xeroxing of documents.

So it is not unusual for agencies to make such requests. If these requests take up too much of your time or efforts, you should ask for compensation. At the same time, if you find it inconvenient or don't want to do it or are busy with other things, you have every right to politely refuse.


 

LucyPatterso (X)
English
TOPIC STARTER
Well it appears the agency lied to me Feb 9, 2010

Thank you for your replies. I talked with the client last night - he was very professional and good to work with but it soon emerged he wanted to discuss a large number of points in great detail. After 30 minutes we were on page 4 of 15. He did not have complaints, just wanted to discuss minor points like "Is it better to say partnership rather than cooperation?"

The agency had assured me the phone call would be 10 minutes. They also appear to have told the client he could do a "detailed review" of the text with the translator. Unfortunately I had to cut the phone call short as I did not have time to talk for another hour ... we rescheduled for tomorrow to finish and the client was OK with it, but I am annoyed at how the agency has handled this! I told them what happened and told them I would have to charge for the time of the calls ... no response yet.

The strange thing is this client wants to build up a relationship for ongoing translation work with the agency, and preferably the same translator. The agency seem to have shot themselves in the foot as I won't be accepting any more work from this particular client (I have baby and taking long conference calls on a regular basis is practically impossible!). I also like to know what a job actually entails before I accept it.


 

sailingshoes
Local time: 18:48
Spanish to English
I wouldn't do any of this at all Feb 9, 2010

Lucy, I would say never accept this kind of thing again.

If there are issues with the quality of your translation, the agency should take them up with you in a timely fashion. Everything else is new work and should be paid for as such.

If my agencies ever even mention 'the client', I cut things short and point out that they are my client and I don't want to hear about third parties (unless they want to step aside and provide me with a new direct client). I have TWO kids (!) and no time for bullstuff.

Other translators may think otherwise, but I do things this way. After the agency has accepted my work, I don't talk about it, defend it, substantiate it, or argue in its favour.

And those agencies just keep coming back for more.


 

Grayson Morr (X)  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:48
Dutch to English
Depends on your services Feb 9, 2010

I once flew to England for a weekend to discuss a project with a client.icon_smile.gif (That was a special case, though; we stayed at the client's home and had a lovely weekend outside working hours.)

One of the reasons my rates are as high as they are (€0.13 per word) is that I know I will agonize beyond the beyond about my word choices, will reread the finished document at least twice over and niggle on it until it's "perfect," and will go back and forth by e-mail, phone, or face-to-face visit with the client until they are perfectly happy with the end result. (After all, it's their writing; they need to feel they own the words, even in translation.) In short, I will spend scads of time on "invisible" tasks not included in that per-word figure. It's just the way I work. I never charge my clients extra for any of this; I consider it part of the translation package.


 

Charlie Bavington (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:48
French to English
Just for clarification Feb 9, 2010

LucyPatterson wrote:
After 30 minutes we were on page 4 of 15.

The agency had assured me the phone call would be 10 minutes.

(I have baby and taking long conference calls on a regular basis is practically impossible!). I also like to know what a job actually entails before I accept it.


Leaving the baby aside for a moment, we all like to know exactly what's involved before we start. But as a matter of interest, is it the likelihood of spending 2 hours going through your work per se that bothers you? Or just not knowing in advance that was going to happen? I mean, if you and the agency and the client can agree that this work should be paid for, but that the precise amount may not be known in advance when the source text is first delivered, would that be OK for you?

If so, the baby issue is then a minor logistical inconvenience, if the end-client truly wants to build a relationship with you and just you, it is possible they will agree to calls in the evening, say, when the kid is (supposed to be!) asleep. Or whenever you think best.

Many translators frequently moan about how little feedback they get. I suppose it is one of life's ironies that one of the few end-clients who appears to care enough to want to review translations appears to have ended up with one of the few translators who doesn't want to hear about iticon_smile.gif


 

Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:48
French to English
+ ...
Added value Feb 9, 2010

It strikes me as odd that you want to dump your agency now that the client is talking about building a long-term relationship and having a preferred translator (i.e., you).

As Grayson mentioned - and to a certain degree, within limits, etc. - it is often worth investing a little time and effort for a worthwhile return on investment.

If you are the translator that the end client wants, you are in demand and can negotiate your rate accordingly with the agency.

Being in demand is a good thing - it allows us to be picky. That sometimes involves a bit of give and take, but, in my experience, is generally well worth it in the long run.

Best,
Jocelyne


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:48
German to English
Communication issue Feb 9, 2010

LucyPatterson wrote:

He did not have complaints, just wanted to discuss minor points like "Is it better to say partnership rather than cooperation?"

The agency had assured me the phone call would be 10 minutes. They also appear to have told the client he could do a "detailed review" of the text with the translator.
[snip]
The strange thing is this client wants to build up a relationship for ongoing translation work with the agency, and preferably the same translator. The agency seem to have shot themselves in the foot as I won't be accepting any more work from this particular client (I have baby and taking long conference calls on a regular basis is practically impossible!).


One of the things that never fail to surprise me is that although translation agencies are ostensibly in the business of communication, they often don't communicate well to either the client or supplier.

In all honestly, I don't think the PM lied to you. It's possible that the end client said that he'd like to "discuss a few points," and the PM interpreted that to mean a short discussion. The end client may be an inexperienced buyer of translations and may want to make sure that everything is OK. It is also possible that the agency didn't convey much confidence when they took on the project, so the end client was understandably anxious about the translation.

I've found that some end clients are troubled when a translation doesn't correspond to the terminology they had in mind when commissioning the translation. I remember going around with a client whose German brochure made a big deal out of the company being a KG, a concept that may be a selling point in Germany, but to be honest, industrial purchasers of products in the US aren't interested in corporate structure. I translated the term as "limited partnership." They were unhappy about both "limited" and "partnership", the latter, in their opinion represented a relationship between two companies doing business with one another. I suggested "closely held company" and they couldn't get their mind around that at all. The company eventually reverted to having their principal secretary provide their translations, with the expected hilarious result.

On the other hand, if the end client sounds reasonable, it might be worth an investment in time, as this could potentially produce an income stream. The PM may learn something during the process, with the result being three satisfied parties.

In the end you have to go with your gut feeling. If you expect to go through this with every job, it's probably not worth it.


 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
My condolences Feb 9, 2010

Jocelyne S wrote:
It strikes me as odd that you want to dump your agency now that the client is talking about building a long-term relationship and having a preferred translator (i.e., you).


I understand what Jocelyne is saying, but usually at that juncture, the agency is unable to renegotiate the price for their sought-after service (i.e. translator). And once the client has had their way the first time, there is really no putting the genie back in the bottle.

That means that Lucy could (potentially) be stuck with hours and hours of "extra work" for every assignment with no extra compensation - and I think I'm not alone in saying I don't necessarily consider that a benefit of being a preferred translator.

Kevin Fulton wrote:
If you expect to go through this with every job, it's probably not worth it.


I remember a project where the client had the same kind of issues, and luckily we didn't have a teleconference, or at least I didn't (the agency fielded the calls, I wrote out the explanations)... Both the agency and myself ended up spending several extra hours in dealing with this client's comments. The end result: Neither myself nor the agency wanted to accept this client's business ever again!

So I can fully understand if Lucy happens to decide she will not work for this client again.icon_razz.gif


 


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