Received job then lost it?
Thread poster: riceyboy

Local time: 12:34
Japanese to English
Aug 31, 2010

This is my first time posting in these forums. I think this website is amazing, and I'm glad to be a part of it. Here is the problem I faced this morning.

I am a JPN - ENG translator, and I responded to a job on this site yesterday. I did the sample translation, and sent in my rate. According to my e-mail this was about 13 hours ago. I received a response from the company 5 hours ago (8 hours later) stating:

"Congratulations! Your test translation satisfied our client’s requirements.

Enclosed please find the whole text of Book Review. Is your rate of US$0.10 per English word or per Japanese characters (no space)? We can only accept the target rate of a maximum US$0.10.

I will issue a PO to you immediately upon receipt of your confirmation.

My time is GMT+7, and my client keeps reminding me of the critical importance of meeting the deadline September 1, 2010@0100 GMT (i.e., 8 am in Beijing Time)."

I received this e-mail about 3 hours after it was sent out, responded accordingly, and started working on the project. An hour later, I receive an e-mail from the same person stating that the job has already been offered to someone else.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see anywhere in my confirmation e-mail that this has been offered to multiple people and it is first come first serve. I get that he wanted to confirm the rate, and I realize the delay in my response may have been a little scary, but it was only because of our time difference. I responded to him at 7am New York time which is technically before business hours begin.

Anyway, I responded and he responded back explaining:

"I don’t know why you proceed with the translation without a PO. Always make sure to undertake a job with a PO at hand.

I must apologize to you for any trouble I may have caused you.

In addition, we cannot accept the rate of US$0.10 per Japanese character. What I need is a target quote, which I specified in the Proz.

I really hope we will be able to collaborate in the coming future."

I am new to this and incredibly disheartened right now. Is there something I missed here? When someone sends me a project, tells me I have the job and it needs to be done ASAP, I typically try to get it done as quickly as possible... Hence starting right away.

Anyway, what can I do to remedy this in the future? Am I an idiot? Clearly I need a PO next time. Please let me know, experienced members of the site. Thank you!


Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:34
Member (2004)
English to Polish
I cannot see the job here... Sep 1, 2010

I am sorry, but I cannot see anywhere in your client's mail a confirmation that you were awarded the job?

He just confirmed that you meet the end client's expectations toward the sample, then asked you to confirm the rate they offered... Looks like you were in the middle of negotiations to me at the point of your mail.

You have to remember that he could not consider the job to be "assigned" until he received your confirmation. After all, you could not respond at all or just refuse the rate after several hours... Searching for a new translator then might be a bit late, don't you think?

Maybe three hours was a bit short to wait for your message, but I understand the client was pressed for time...


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:34
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Does look like a job to me... Sep 1, 2010

Well, maybe the client did not say "Please proceed with the translation and I will send you the PO immediately", but the customer's email did give the idea that you were awarded the job.

I reckon this could be a good lesson for you in the future. In any communications with a prospect, you could make a clear statement that you never start a job from a new customer before you have a PO in the hand. This is something all customers understand. If their job is urgent, let them take care of issuing a PO quickly. By insisting in receiving a PO, you will avoid this kind of troubles with ambiguous emails (as well as payment problems).

Edited to add this: And no, you are not an idiot!icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2010-09-01 18:25 GMT]


Local time: 12:34
Japanese to English
I see... Sep 1, 2010

This is why I posted this on this website - I wanted to know if there was a misunderstanding, or if I missed something.

I see your point, Jabberwock, that he didn't explicitly say "here's the job". I do believe, however, that a congratulatory e-mail with the project attached to it is indicative of receiving the job. Also, if the job was offered to someone else, why didn't he send a second e-mail sent stating that the job had been taken? This is all moot, of course. I'm new to entrepreneurial translation work, I want to make sure that I don't do anything stupid in the future.

I'm glad to read that the e-mail is indeed ambiguous, being that there are conflicting opinions, and I'm not just crazy. I just want to know what to look for. I will definitely be sure to insist on a PO before anything gets done. Thank you for your responses!


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:34
Member (2007)
+ ...
Would you have been happy with the payment? Sep 1, 2010

It seems you hadn't actually agreed on a rate, let alone how and when your invoice would be paid. You, for your own security, cannot start work until these matters have been decided in writing to your satisfaction.

From their subsequent email it looks as though it was a good job they pulled the plug as they were not willing to pay your rate.

It's a hard lesson to learn and I hope it didn't hurt too much.


Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:34
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Experiences Sep 1, 2010

I understand that this all depends on personal experiences, as some clients are more inclined to formalities than others.

Getting the source document is not an indication of the job at all - trust me, I've seen much more source materials than I've translatedicon_smile.gif

If the rate is not agreed upon, the deal cannot be considered settled, as this is exactly the point where most negotiations break, isn't it?

Also, I am curious what have you written in response to his mail? The following message suggests that there was a difference of opinions concerning the rates: "we cannot accept the rate of US$0.10 per Japanese character"???

[Edited at 2010-09-01 19:23 GMT]


Local time: 12:34
Japanese to English
Thoughts Sep 1, 2010

To be honest, as unprofessional as this sounds, I probably would've been thrilled to receive 20 dollars for the translation as it would've been my first project on my own.icon_wink.gif

I don't know much about choosing a rate, so I went based on the rates listed here on and picked the lower end. I also had no idea if it should be based on the source material or the translation, so I went with what I found scouring google - the source material. Hence "we cannot accept the rate of US$0.10 per Japanese character."

I actually was confused by the statement: "We can only accept the target rate of a maximum US$0.10" What does that mean? Cause later he said they can't do $.10.

My response to his first e-mail was:

"The rate is based on the source materal (so the Japanese text - no space). My time is GMT - 4 (New York) so I will rush to get this done in time. Thank you for the opportunity!"

I think the "no space" thing was confusing, too, 'cause I wasn't planning on charging for spaces - just the characters.

Anyway, thank you again for the responses! They are incredibly helpful! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?icon_smile.gif


Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:34
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Misunderstanding Sep 1, 2010

Well, it seems that a misunderstanding also played a role here...

The client proposed a rate based on the target wordcount. I.e. they would pay USD 0.10 for every word of the target English text. In fact they have stated they cannot pay more...

To that you have responded that you want to be paid the same rate for the source word, i.e. Japanese character. (I assume this gives a higher amount as otherwise they would not be so fussy about it...).

In other words: they have made you a very specific offer, to which you have responded with what looked like rejection of their offer and proposal of your terms (which was very likely to be refused - note "we can only pay the target rate...")... And then you went ahead and started working on the project without their confirmation of those new terms...

No wonder the client was a bit surprised icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2010-09-01 20:09 GMT]


Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:34
French to English
+ ...
Clarity required both sides? Sep 1, 2010

riceyboy wrote:
I will issue a PO to you immediately upon receipt of your confirmation.

This was really the clue not to start the translation until you'd received the PO. The client could have been more explicit and said "Do not start the translation until you receive the PO", but I think this was more or less implicit. You'll find that formal POs are not necessarily involved in all jobs, but for clients that do issue them, you should generally wait for the PO before starting, or explicitly agree otherwise.

If there's no PO, then I would try and make sure you get an e-mail from the client clearly stating "Please go ahead with the translation. I agree to the time and deadline you specified" or something similar. You should also make sure that *you* respond saying "I've received your instruction and am beginning the translation" or something to that effect.

On the other hand, the client could also have been more communicative. It's perfectly normal to wait some acceptable amount of time before offering the job to another translator if you don't hear anything. After all, if the job is urgent, there's only so many hours you can wait for confirmation that the first translator has received your e-mail before you have to just assume they're on holiday/had an emergency etc. However, they should have sent you an e-mail saying "As I haven't heard anything, I'm allocating the work to another translator".


Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:34
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Lessons learned - summary Sep 1, 2010

A few things to add to the list:

1. Job acceptance:
Rates, payment terms, delivery deadlines and formats must be agreed by both parties before starting the job. It is best done via a properly issued and accepted PO.
Sometimes it is challenging to "disambiguate" the communication coming from the clients (especially from agencies in non-English speaking countries), that's why simple and clear communication is necessary, along with verifications and confirmations.

2. Unit rates for Japanese to English translations:

2.1 Specifying the rate based on the source Japanese text: In this case the rate is quoted as $X.XX per source character. (Mentioning spaces does not make much sense as spaces are not used in Japanese text, unless someone uses spaces instead of tabs or other formatting tools to tabulate tables or text...) If this quoting method is used, the exact price of the translation can be calculated before starting the work, so usually this method is preferred.

2.2 Specifying the rate based on the target English text: In this case the rate is quoted as $X.XX per target word. If this quoting method is used, the exact price of the translation cannot be calculated before finishing the work. This option is used when the source text cannot be counted automatically, such as a non-editable, non-scannable PDF (faxed hardcopy, handwritten documents, etc.).

2.3. Conversion of unit rates:
There are various ways of estimating the target wordcount based on the source character count, such as dividing by a "magic number" that is usually 2, 2.5 or 3 (depending on the nature of the text). You can read about it in the Japanese forum, there were multiple discussions about this.
Example: In this specific case, a rate of $0.10/source character would correspond to approx. $0.25/target word (or somewhere around that) and frankly, I would seriously doubt that any agency in China would be willing to pay that rate. (I assume it was a Chinese agency as they were talking about Beijing time.) $0.10/target word is more likely (and this is what they actually confirmed) and I can tell you that is a pretty low rate.

3. Rates displayed on ProZ:
When you look up rates here on ProZ, please be aware that the profile page does not allow for specifying whether the rate is per source, or per target, and there is no way to specify rates per character, per page, per line or other units, only per word.
So, due to this deficiency, when you see that somebody's rate is 0.08/word, you would not know if it is actually meant to be $0.08/source character (corresponding to approx. $0.20 per target word - which is a fairly good rate), or $0.08/target word (corresponding to approx. $0.03/source character - which is a very low rate).

4. Receiving the source files before the PO:
Receiving the source files does not mean you have the job. The agency/client may be sending the files for you so you could assess the content and give them an exact quote based on that. The general agreement among professional translators is to never accept a job without seeing the actual files, as nobody wants to find a surprise (such as a pharmaceutical patent, while the job was described as "business document"). Rates may vary depending on the content and format, too, so it is very important to see the file beforehand. So, they were actually being nice, sending you the file along with the request to clarify the rate. (Sometimes you need to separately ask for the file and that is wasting time on both sides.)

I hope this helps.


Local time: 12:34
Japanese to English
Helpful Sep 1, 2010

Wow, everyone. Your comments have been incredibly helpful! I am looking at this e-mail exchange in such a new (and non-ignorant) lighticon_wink.gif.

@Jabberwock I feel like such a jerk! I would never have purposely offered something that wasn't acceptable and just started a job on my own terms. I didn't understand what "target rate" meant, so I just assumed that $.10/word in whatever language was relatively equal. Of course, now that Katalin has explained the difference, I realize that it is not the case at all!

@Neil Again, it was the tone of the e-mail that really threw me, and his saying that my confirmation would more or less directly result in sending me a receipt . To my inexperienced eye, there was no doubt that he would've gone with anyone else. I now know better!

@Katalin Your post was invaluable, and I will be using that for my guideline from now on. Thank you! I had rushed to respond to this job when I saw it, so I just went with what little information I had to make the offer. Next time, I will really know what's going on!


Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:34
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Non-native English speaker: job coordinator Sep 2, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
I reckon this could be a good lesson for you in the future. In any communications with a prospect, you could make a clear statement that you never start a job from a new customer before you have a PO in the hand. This is something all customers understand. If their job is urgent, let them take care of issuing a PO quickly. By insisting in receiving a PO, you will avoid this kind of troubles with ambiguous emails (as well as payment problems).

Many translation agencies hire job coordinators with poor communication skill in English even a big one in New York. We usually use English in our job-related contacts. The job coordinators'e expressions are not obvious in many instances. I usually asked them again about job confirmation, PO, dlivery, QM, payment etc. Their weird words of contacts can be interpreted skeptically, but their desire to do business is vital.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


Christina Paiva  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:34
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Lesson # 2 Sep 2, 2010

First of all:

Welcome to riceyboyicon_smile.gif

I have a question that might be useful

I got this job offer from I was tempted to submit a quote, but given I’ve only worked for end-clients I wasn’t sure what this means:

… translation experience into the target language for which the bid is made equivalent to at least 1,000 pages (one year's full-time work) (one page = 1,500 characters, excluding spaces)

For a number of reasons, I decided not to send a quote.

But I’m curious… I can interpret this in at least 3 different ways…

Wondering which the correct version would be.


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