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Late delivery scenarios with agencies
Thread poster: veratek

veratek
Brazil
Local time: 09:47
French to English
+ ...
Mar 12, 2011

Hello, I would like to know from your experience how the following scenarios would play out with an agency.

You are hired to do a translation over the weekend, to be delivered early Monday morning, but on Sunday, you fall sick or have an accident, whatever. You try to contact the agency on Sunday but there is no one there. What would be normally expected as a reaction from an agency in these scenarios?

1) You call Monday morning and ask if you can have more time, they say no. You only finished half of the translation. Would the agency ask you for the part you've already done and then not pay you at all, saying that you failed to fulfill the contract deadline for the entire translation? Or if you send in a part of the translation, they are obliged to pay for it?

2) You call Monday morning and ask if you can have more time, they say no. You finished the translation, but didn't have time to review it. You send it in and it contains several little errors, but not a lot. Is it usually only in the case where there is a truly large number of errors or very grave errors that they might take action in lowering your pay or not wanting to pay at all, after having received your translation?

3) You call Monday morning and ask if you can have more time. Can they say "if we give you another day, we will accept the translation but at half the pay?" I mean, if you cannot meet the initial deadline, at that point, are the conditions open to be renegotiated with or stipulated by the agency in whatever way possible and acceptable to them?

4) Any other scenarios you can think of related to this topic of late deliveries that could help me get a better idea of how things usually play out in case the delivery is late.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:47
Member (2008)
Italian to English
My answer Mar 12, 2011

veratek wrote:

Hello, I would like to know from your experience how the following scenarios would play out with an agency.

You are hired to do a translation over the weekend, to be delivered early Monday morning, but on Sunday, you fall sick or have an accident, whatever. You try to contact the agency on Sunday but there is no one there. What would be normally expected as a reaction from an agency in these scenarios?

1) You call Monday morning and ask if you can have more time, they say no. You only finished half of the translation. Would the agency ask you for the part you've already done and then not pay you at all, saying that you failed to fulfill the contract deadline for the entire translation? Or if you send in a part of the translation, they are obliged to pay for it?

2) You call Monday morning and ask if you can have more time, they say no. You finished the translation, but didn't have time to review it. You send it in and it contains several little errors, but not a lot. Is it usually only in the case where there is a truly large number of errors or very grave errors that they might take action in lowering your pay or not wanting to pay at all, after having received your translation?

3) You call Monday morning and ask if you can have more time. Can they say "if we give you another day, we will accept the translation but at half the pay?" I mean, if you cannot meet the initial deadline, at that point, are the conditions open to be renegotiated with or stipulated by the agency in whatever way possible and acceptable to them?

4) Any other scenarios you can think of related to this topic of late deliveries that could help me get a better idea of how things usually play out in case the delivery is late.



You keep on working no matter how sick you are. The agency never hears about it.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:47
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
But if in hospital? Mar 12, 2011

Agreed, Tom, whenever possible translators should keep working and not inform clients of personal difficulties, illness, etc. as to do so would look unprofessional.
However, if the translator was actually injured over the weekend and in hospital, it would probably be impossible for her to complete the work or even, perhaps, to contact the client from her hospital bed.
What is she supposed to do then?
Quelle horreur!
Jenny


 

Alistair Ian Spearing Ortiz  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
I wouldn't know, but... Mar 12, 2011

I've never delivered a job late, so I don't have any experience whatsoever in this type of situations. However, I can give you my opinion on what I would do, and what I would expect a decent agency to do, in such a scenario.

First, if the agency in question is one of your frequent clients, I'd expect both sides to make concessions, because it's in their interest to continue the business relationship. I'd probably ask for some extra time to finish the translation and then offer a great discount - somewhere around 50%. The agency gets significant compensation for the delay and you get the assurance that you will get to keep an important client.

Second, if the agency in question is a not-so-frequent client, I'd expect more or less the same thing. If you have consistently delivered on time in the past and they don't want to work with you any more because you were sick on one occasion, that means it's not worth building a lasting relationship with them, since they'll never understand that you may encounter unexpected problems or personal issues once in a while. If they react positively, that's a good sign for you to try and make them loyal to you. If they react very negatively, it's a red flag.

Finally, if it's the first time I'm working with a given client, I'd pretty much write the client off for good. Whatever the circumstances, a client who has never had the chance to work with you before cannot trust you enough, and might think you're looking for an excuse to justify late delivery of your work. In this case, they probably won't call you back.

In short: if you're talking about a recurrent client, I don't think you should worry too much, since they won't put you on their blacklist if they've had a chance to appreciate the quality of your work and service. On the other hand, if you're talking about a one-off client and a translation you can do over a single weekend, then probably it's not going to be a catastrophic loss which destroys your career as a translator.

So relax!icon_smile.gif


 

Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
Keep yourself out of trouble till you've finished the translation Mar 12, 2011

We should try and keep ourselves fit and well as if we have a translation to do over the weekend.

If you cannot deliver a fully finished translation I think that you should may be forget about payment. The fact that the translation needs to be revised may mean late delivery at the other end. In general, time is of the essential with commercial contracts, and you would be in breach. But you never know, the agency may be willing to pay you part of the total balance. You may also have to provide some proof that you were too sick to do the translation, you should bear that in mind too so you don't end up having to compensate the agency.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:47
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Tom is right, but... Mar 12, 2011

... some preventative action is always good.

First, the really good translation agencies I work for always provide me with a cell phone number I can call any time, in case something major jeopardizes the timely conclusion of the project. Aren't PMs entitled to sleep? Yes! However they should check their voicemail upon waking up.

The no matter how sick you are depends. Taking it to an extreme, if the translator rode a motorcycle somewhat faster than their driving skill, they might be plastered from head to toes, unable to type. The sudden loss of teeth and/or swollen cheeks might render voice recognition software useless.

The preventative action includes 'padding' your time estimates, so that unexpected events still make it possible to deliver on time with some extra effort. I prefer to deliver two days early than two hours late. This has been working fine for me so far: 37 years without late deliveries (except when the client changed an order under way).

Another cautionary measure is to have adequate backups that could step in on short notice, as many as possible, since you'll only need one at a time. Fortunately, so far I haven't used any of my backups, however I've been their backup often enough to have accrued sufficient goodwill mileage.

Let's check your cases.

veratek wrote: 1) You call Monday morning and ask if you can have more time, they say no. You only finished half of the translation. Would the agency ask you for the part you've already done and then not pay you at all, saying that you failed to fulfill the contract deadline for the entire translation? Or if you send in a part of the translation, they are obliged to pay for it?


Accidents happen. Trains crash, computers too, flights are cancelled, mail goes astray... Explain the situation, deliver half, get paid for half. It will be their option to let you do the other half or get someone else to do it, and never use your services again (which was and will remain their option, always).

veratek wrote: 2) You call Monday morning and ask if you can have more time, they say no. You finished the translation, but didn't have time to review it. You send it in and it contains several little errors, but not a lot. Is it usually only in the case where there is a truly large number of errors or very grave errors that they might take action in lowering your pay or not wanting to pay at all, after having received your translation?


Deliver it with a warning. Experienced translation agencies also cushion their time estimates. At least they'll feel assurance that you've done it completely. Maybe the end client will be happy to have something theu can start working on. Review as fast as you can, and deliver the final version. If this doesn't become a habit of yours, once in a while it's acceptable.

veratek wrote: 3) You call Monday morning and ask if you can have more time. Can they say "if we give you another day, we will accept the translation but at half the pay?" I mean, if you cannot meet the initial deadline, at that point, are the conditions open to be renegotiated with or stipulated by the agency in whatever way possible and acceptable to them?


Only if you added a 100% weekend rush surcharge. If this was the case, it is fair to waive the rush surcharge, and accept standard rates. Otherwise tell them you are not Domino's Pizza (nor Habib's in Brazil). This is a solid reason for having a rush surcharge.

veratek wrote: 4) Any other scenarios you can think of related to this topic of late deliveries that could help me get a better idea of how things usually play out in case the delivery is late.


It's a matter of both translator and agency jointly taking accountability for timely delivery of the job to the end client. If the agency had a, say, 4-day job, spent three weeks searching for a cheaper and cheaper translator, and suddenly realized that they only had one weekend before the deadline, they must take part of the blame too.


 

David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 14:47
German to English
+ ...
Alternatively Mar 12, 2011

I think the best would be to contact the agency on Monday. Get them to contact the client. My expectation here would be that the job isn't quite as urgent as they claim (I have so often come across cases where the job was "urgent" and then it has clearly been left lying on someone's in-tray for ages). I think an agency - and ultimately their client- has to accept that one is incapable of working from time to time for health reasons. I recall this happening to me a while back and the client just extended the deadline.

However: I have stopped taking on work for the weekend, not because of the problem that arises here, but for other reasons, but this trikes me as yet another reason why I won't start doing it (again)


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:47
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Would ask a colleague for help Mar 12, 2011

I would ask a trusted colleague for help (or ask a relative to help you find a suitable person over the Internet if you could not do it yourself), and would report the matter immediately by email to the company. Most agencies check their email over the weekend, and they will value the fact that you did not want to leave them in the lurch as a consequence of your sickness.

 

veratek
Brazil
Local time: 09:47
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I always do that Mar 12, 2011

Tom in London wrote:

veratek wrote:

Hello, I would like to know from your experience how the following scenarios would play out with an agency.

You are hired to do a translation over the weekend, to be delivered early Monday morning, but on Sunday, you fall sick or have an accident, whatever. You try to contact the agency on Sunday but there is no one there. What would be normally expected as a reaction from an agency in these scenarios?



You keep on working no matter how sick you are. The agency never hears about it.


Actually this is what I did once a few years back. While under general anesthesia for several hours on a Sunday, my unconscious diligently continued to work on the translation from memory and once I came out of the deep slumber, I simply typed everything on my computer and hit the send button to email the finished document two minutes before the deadline. Agency never even faintly guessed I had undergone a heart by-pass operation.

Back to real life, I find it amusing how often I wake up in the morning, and a couple of solutions to translation problems I was dealing with before going to sleep the night before pop right up, on a mental silver tray.


 

veratek
Brazil
Local time: 09:47
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I quite like your approach Mar 12, 2011

Alistair Ian Spearing Ortiz wrote:

I've never delivered a job late, so I don't have any experience whatsoever in this type of situations. However, I can give you my opinion on what I would do, and what I would expect a decent agency to do, in such a scenario.

First, if the agency in question is one of your frequent clients, I'd expect both sides to make concessions, because it's in their interest to continue the business relationship. I'd probably ask for some extra time to finish the translation and then offer a great discount - somewhere around 50%. The agency gets significant compensation for the delay and you get the assurance that you will get to keep an important client.

etc...



I quite liked your approach because you try to be as fair as possible to all involved, given the various complications in these potential situations.


So relax!icon_smile.gif


I wasn't worried. However, thinking ahead of how one would deal with all sorts of problems can go a long way in being proactive and sometimes avoiding grave mistakes when unfortunate circumstances do strike.

I thought some of the comments here, both referring to how one could react as well as what precautions one could take, were very helpful.

An ounce of prevention, etc.


 

veratek
Brazil
Local time: 09:47
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
"Absolutely Urgent" is usually an elastic label Mar 12, 2011

David Wright wrote:

I think the best would be to contact the agency on Monday. Get them to contact the client. My expectation here would be that the job isn't quite as urgent as they claim (I have so often come across cases where the job was "urgent" and then it has clearly been left lying on someone's in-tray for ages). I think an agency - and ultimately their client- has to accept that one is incapable of working from time to time for health reasons. I recall this happening to me a while back and the client just extended the deadline.



I totally concur. "Absolutely Urgent" is usually an elastic label, somewhat exaggerated, not that this would warrant anyone being late regarding the deadline.


However: I have stopped taking on work for the weekend, not because of the problem that arises here, but for other reasons, but this trikes me as yet another reason why I won't start doing it (again)


Well, the weekend setup was just to help me pose the question. Accidents and illnesses can strike during the week as well!icon_smile.gif


 

Anna Haxen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:47
Member (2005)
English to Danish
+ ...
Yes, avoid Monday morning deadlines Mar 12, 2011

I never accept a job offer that comes in late Friday and has to be delivered Monday morning, and none of my regular agencies have ever asked me to.

In my experience, the professional agencies generally buffer their own deadlines to allow room for emergencies.

I'm often promised files for proofreading on a certain date and even at a certain time only to have them arrive a whole day or more later. So apparently late delivery on the part of the translator (not a practice I recommend!) doesn't always come as a surprise.

As for the agencies who have a habit of sending out mass emails on Fridays asking you to deliver several thousand words before daybreak Monday morning, my policy is: don't respond.


 

Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:47
Member (2008)
English to French
Happened to me a couple of weeks ago Mar 13, 2011

Since I work overnight, I regularly book small (under 5000 words) & urgent projects.

I had 4 projects lined up for a particular agency (all under 1000 words and all due by 10pm) so not a huge day but definitely a decent day. By the time I have all my ducks in a row - files, TMs, POs, it's almost noon so I grab a bite to eat, fast forward half an hour and I'm violently ill - I end up staying in the washroom for almost 5 hours, every new movement setting off a wave of pain and retching. Finally, it quiets down and I grab my laptop before retreating to the washroom again from where I send a quick e-mail stating 1) sorry 2) food poisoning 3) must cancel projects 4) pushed deadline won't help since I don't know how long it will last 5) once again sorry - simply could not warn them earlier as was unable to make it to the computer.

The PMs were all very sympathetic even though it was probably a nasty surprise when they got to the office the next morning and I had no blow back from the situation. When you're sick, you're sick and for those who say "the show must go on", remember that in show business there's always an understudy...

@veratek, specifically 1) they ask for the translated part, you ask for an updated PO for the translated word count, you receive the new PO, you send in the partial translation.
2) you ask for the extra time stating that at the moment all you can offer them is a first draft translation, if they are willing to accept that and all it entails they can say so and you can deliver immediately, in which case they can't come back to you over quality since you explicitly stated and they accepted a first draft as a deliverable. I would finish the e-mail by recommending that they allow you the extra time as yourself, the proofreader and the end client will probably all be happier this way.
3) no way. they're abusing a bad situation that is not anyone's fault - illness and accidents happen - it'll either pave the way for further unjustified "deductions" or they'll start hounding you when you're 1 minute late or offering ridiculous deadlines counting on the fact that you can't make them - either way, this is not a client I would ever keep working for.
4) they say yes to the extra time, you make good use of it and deliver a flawless deliverable despite all the setbacks. You are happy, the proofreader is happy, the agency is happy, the client is happy, life goes on...icon_smile.gif


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:47
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Should we describe the symptoms? Cultural issues... Mar 13, 2011

Arianne Farah wrote:
Finally, it quiets down and I grab my laptop before retreating to the washroom again from where I send a quick e-mail stating 1) sorry 2) food poisoning 3) must cancel projects 4) pushed deadline won't help since I don't know how long it will last 5) once again sorry - simply could not warn them earlier as was unable to make it to the computer.


First: Some time last year something overcame me that made it impossible for me to do any work. In fact, it took half an hour to write an e-mail to the client telling him that unfortunately I'm very ill and that he should please get another translator (this was on day 3 of a 5-day job). It was a regular client and he wished me good health, and found another translator. I was also lucky in that I knew that this client typically gives translators a much shorter deadline than their own deadline, so I knew that he would likely be able to assign another 5-day or perhaps 4-day deadline to another translator.

Second: My question to you all is whether you think one should tell the client what your symptoms are (or what illness you have), to gain some sympathy. I'm of the opinion that simply saying "sorry, I'm too sick to work" sounds very lame and may cause you to lose a client, but saying what is wrong with you or describing the symptoms might trigger sympathy and understanding from the client (who would still be annoyed at the situation but may at least be not as annoyed at you personally).


 

Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:47
Member (2008)
English to French
In this case I felt it necessary Mar 13, 2011

to mention what my self-diagnosis was (not to describe the gory symptoms, those were just used for effect in my last post) because a very valid question from the client could have been "If you weren't feeling well why did you accept the projects?" For projects longer than a day, my go to phrase when I'm sick is to say that I'm "under the weather" as it's a nice euphemism. Needless to say if I think it's going to affect my productivity and delivery I notify the client ASAP but keep working on the project. I've also used "nasty bug" and such things with PMs with whom I'm on a "chatty" basis (i.e. we chat about things other than just deadlines and word counts) but have otherwise not given details (flu, fever, etc.)

 
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