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Agency asking me to talk directly to client. What do you think
Thread poster: laure claesen

laure claesen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:55
Member (2005)
English to French
Jul 19, 2011

Hi,
I am seeking your advice in a matter that I cannot decide alone.

In the last few months, I was approached by an agency to translate business studie/white papers s in the field of IT. They were satisfied with my general experience apparently and did not insist that I be proficient with the subject matter. Myself, whilst I found those papers pretty difficult, not so much because of the subject but because they were extremely repetitive on the one hand and the describing IT market and consumptin habits in general terms with very few examples that left much ground for interpretation. However, the first papers were accepted with no discussion, some were returned with a few corrections, which I found reasonable and I completed three orders with no difficulties.

Until last month, when the last paper came back to me with what they called a "quality issue". What they had done was a thorough editing, which could be acceptable (one can have their stylistic prefernces and none of the syntax or grammar was faulty apparently) but instead of just picking a few words now and them, they had completely crossed out the paragraphs and retyped them below. So the file looked as if it were completely and utterly wrong.

When I checked with the agency, the PM agreed that the translation was certainly not faulty and that most of this editing was more like rewriting since new concepts or ideas had even been inserted in the paper.

Then, eventually, the PM told me that the client was not going to order any further work unless they were able to talk to me directly (and they want a Skype conference).

Now I feel extremely reluctant to do that. In all the years I have been a freelancer, no agency had never resorted to such a way to solve matters. In fact, I have been signing a number of NDA forbidding to approach the client (somehow assuming that the reverse would also apply).

But my reluctance also comes from the fact that I really don't see what the client would want to say or to make me do. I don't understand why they cannot list issues and discuss matters by emails, or give me a set of guidelines instead. This is against my instinct as a freelancer.

Have you ever been in such a position? Even if you have not been in my shoes before, what do you feel I should do?

I am well aware that by not responding, I am putting my client (the agency) in a difficult position and cannot just get away.

Thank you for your contributions.


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Paula Hernández
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not such big of a deal Jul 19, 2011

I guess as long as you are prepared to defend your translation, if it even comes to that, you should be alright.

Do not worry, you know your work and you know how to defend it!


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xxxhazmatgerman
Local time: 12:55
English to German
Direct Jul 19, 2011

contact to clients is a useful way of achieving customer satisfaction, in general. In your case, however, the procedure does look funny. One, the way your work was "edited" is not compatible with your previous performance. Two, all linguistuic discussion profits from calm reasoning rather than heated debate. Perhaps you can clarify why the need to talk to you personally, and on which points exactly.
Regards


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:55
Member
French to English
+ ...
Trying to offload the hassle onto you, perhaps? Jul 19, 2011

The cynic in me wonders whether the agency is simply tired of dealing with a client who seems determined to find fault and suggested this idea to the client as a way of washing its hands of the matter! What is it that the end client wants to say to you that's so important, I wonder? Assuming it's the client who completely rewrote the translation you did previously and then claimed your work had a "quality issue", I've a feeling they're not going to be happy with anything that you (and possibly anyone else) will produce, so it sounds as though dealing with them directly could be a hassle you don't need. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to ask the agency what the client wants to talk to you about, just out of curiosity, but I would be wary of going ahead and doing it because the client's honesty already seems questionable.

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Michal Glowacki  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:55
Member (2010)
English to Polish
+ ...
Chinese whisper Jul 19, 2011

I really can't see what the problem is here. Even more so, I'd say it's a great idea. Has anyone ever wondered how much information gets lost and how it gets delayed because you can't contact the client directly but have to go through an endless number of intermediaries?

This is an opportunity for you to talk to the client, ask what they require and tell them what you think. I really think this is a good idea. And talking the load of an agency? Maybe, but it's still great for you.


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Dave Bindon  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 13:55
Member (2010)
Greek to English
I wouldn't have a problem Jul 19, 2011

I'd be more than happy to discuss the situation directly with the client.

"most of this editing was more like rewriting since new concepts or ideas had even been inserted in the paper"

Please explain this. Have you and the "editor" seen different source texts, maybe?


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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:55
Member (2008)
English to French
I'd welcome it Jul 19, 2011

Especially if you can talk to the person responsible for the target text. I'd charge the agency for the time though (anything longer than 15 minutes) and make it clear to both the client and the agency that should the client contact you directly (by phone) again it would result in you billing for your time since it's only fair.

I've found clients quite open to the ideas of glossaries (don't start talking about TMs, matches, concordance, etc. their eyes glaze over and they're lost). Explain that you can either create one as you translate at no extra charge and you can submit it with the project with any modifications to the glossary being applied GOING FORWARD (don't want to have to redo a pile of translations every time the client flip flops on a term) or you can go back and create one from the already translated material for an hourly fee (you don't want them to say ok for the free glossary now that you've done the work and then they turn around and use it someplace else with another translator - offering it for free WITH the next translations will ensure you get assigned said translations and giving it a price/value for the glossary ALONE will let the client know that you're offering a value-added service IF you receive future work). If you're extra paranoid, I would give the client the glossary in PDF format with a Watermark clearly indicating your name/website, etc. This way they'll think twice before distributing it to all and sundry

Everyone loves a deal. Offer them one. Retain and loyalize (not a word but can't remember what "fidéliser" is in English) your clients.

Just remember don't get sucked in to discussing "problems" or "issues", no one wins when you play the blame game, what's done is done. (ie. "Thank you for your comments, they have helped me determine what your specific translation needs and preferences are, going forward, I think the creation of a glossary could be advantageous to all parties involved. Of course, creating such a reference document requires time, it would be my pleasure to create one on the fly as I translate the next documents, etc.) What you are offering are solutions and value-added services.

Good luck


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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:55
German to English
+ ...
Your advantages Jul 19, 2011

You may be nervous, and even exasperated at having to deal with the "editing" that has occurred, but your advantages is this situation would appear to be:

1. You seem to be the only one "at the video-conference table" who has a very good knowledge of both the source texts and target text.

2. You are doing the agency "a favour"; no question about that. The agency has failed to "protect you". (You may even like to suggest that the agency pay you an hourly rate for the time spent dealing with this matter, since it appears to be outside the bounds of your original agreement!)

3. You have the opportunity of impressing the direct client with your desire to "look after" his business, and your linguistic professionalism. If you and the direct client manage to establish a productive dialogue, you may well finds that the agency becomes "surplus to requirements" in future.

4. If you do not already know, find out exactly WHO did the editing of your translations, and request their CREDENTIALS before the meeting. He/she/they also need to be present at any meeting.

One disadvantage:
The video conference could turn into a "two against one" situation, with you in the losing seat.
If you had anyone proofread your work before sending to the agency, I would suggest that your proofreader (or any suitable on-sides colleague) be present at that meeting too (even if it is "observer status").

Despite the one possible disadvantage, the more clarity you bring to the situation, the better it will be for you in the long term.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2011-07-19 19:27 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 19:55
Chinese to English
They like you Jul 19, 2011

I agree with everyone else here - talking to a client never hurts.

You seem to be worried that the client is going to have a go at you, and somehow blame you for the fact that they revised their texts. But it doesn't look to me as though that's what's happening. Rather, the client has suddenly found that they want to revise texts, and they think discussing the texts through a third party (the agency) is a big hassle. Lots of people prefer talking to writing emails, so don't worry about it too much.

Of course, if you do talk to them, you might have to be firm. If they're the kind of client who sends you a text, waits till you've translated it and then starts revising, then you will have to tell them that that costs money. But you are in the happy position of always being able to shift them back to the agency. If they ask you to be understanding about rewrites (i.e. do the translation twice for the same pay), you just say, thanks for your suggestions, but that matter has to go through the agency. Simples!


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Sarah Swift  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:55
German to English
sounds promising - but tread carefully Jul 19, 2011

If the end client has texts are frequently open to interpretation, it makes perfect sense that they want to establish a direct line of contact.

If the end client is interested in severing its relationship with the agency and dealing with you directly, you will probably want to advocate on behalf of the agency. Jumping ship could be lucrative in the short term, but could come back to bite you.

So don't worry about justifying yourself; marshall arguments that show the client how the agency adds value to your work (without demeaning the quality of your work, of course - this bit is tricky if the agency doesn't perform desktop publishing services, co-ordinate several language combinations etc).

If you manage to "save" the client for the agency - and make sure the agency knows in advance that this is your aim - then you should negotiate a higher rate for future projects with that particular end-client.


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:55
Member
French to English
+ ...
Other factors to consider Jul 19, 2011

If the client thought that your last translation needed to be entirely rewritten and told the agency that there was a "quality issue" (was that the client's view, or the agency's?), why do they want to work specifically with you again? I might have expected them to request a different translator or go to a different agency. If they had certain unusual requirements that they wanted you to meet, that's fine, but they should have made them clear in the first place rather than simply complaining about poor quality. Most clients are only too happy to tell an agency what their requirements are, so why not this one? Finding out exactly what the client wants is all well and good in normal circumstances, but the fact that they've given the agency an ultimatum rather than simply asking seems very odd. They'd be better off hiring a freelancer direct, that would save them money.

If you decide to talk to them directly at a videoconference, I would advise you to keep some kind of record of what is said - partly so that you can remember whatever it is that they want you to do, and partly to cover yourself in the event of a dispute. If they later tell the agency that you've gone against their instructions and refuse to pay for your work, you may not be in a position to prove that you did as they asked if there is nothing in writing (and of course, the agency, having been bypassed, will have no way of knowing who is right). So far, it seems that the agency has been willing to see things from your point of view (and good on them for that - not all agencies would be so reasonable!), so personally I would prefer to keep them involved in the process. The client is now putting you under a kind of moral pressure to comply, because if you say no, the agency will lose the client and the agency may be disappointed in you for not helping it to keep the client. To my mind, the client's approach doesn't augur very well.

Whatever you decide, do let us know what happens!

[Edited at 2011-07-20 09:43 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I would do it Jul 19, 2011

I had a similar situation many years ago, and when I talked to the client I realised that they did want to work with me but were just not fully OK with some of the terminology I chose based on my own research.

After they explained some things over the phone, I was able to prepare a glossary with the discussed terms, and from that moment produce a much better version of their texts.

So I would take this as a good opportunity to understand the end customer. If you are prepared to listen to what they want to tell you, I am sure the outcome will be a very positive one in the long run.

Another thing I must say as well is that if you found the texts very difficult, it could be because you still don't have full insight of the matter at hand. Talking to them and asking questions might help you lots in understanding their industry and market.


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:55
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Take a deep breath and be calm Jul 19, 2011

You seem to be expecting the worst which will only set you up for the worst.

Be positive and calm and you will be able to face any situation the client can come up with.

Don't think of this as having to defend yourself, that will only put you on the defensive.

If the client does start out confrontational, listen to them, let them finish what the want to say (take notes while they talk), be calm, don't get upset, let them know you understand what they are saying (by repeating part of what they said to you, that's what your notes are for), ask questions, make sure you understand what the client really wants, dig deep, often people will tell you one thing is really bothering them when in fact it is really something else, you can find out by asking questions.

Don't defend yourself, if you agree with what they say tell them, if you don't tell them why, explain your choices, find areas of agreement, and above all be calm and honest.

This could be an excellent chance for you, all it takes is calm.


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christeld  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:55
Norwegian to English
+ ...
I'd be happy to do it Jul 20, 2011

Like several previous posters I would view it as a chance to get to know the needs of the client better and as an opportunity to ask questions.

One of the agencies for which I frequently work "allows" direct communication with the end client (the basic agreement is simply that I don't solicit the end client for work and discuss with the agency should the end client contact me for work) and it is by far the agency I enjoy working with the most, in no small part due to the fact that I can communicate directly with the end client. It allows for discussing any queries I may have, it allows them to raise any queries they may have regarding the translation.. without the added delay of waiting for an already busy PM to forward questions and answers!

I certainly feel that being in a position to communicate directly with these clients have allowed me to provide a much better end product!


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 11:55
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I was asked once Jul 20, 2011

some 20 years ago, because of a slight terminology problem. I explained my position over the phone, listened to what they had to say and we agreed on a term (a different one). They still are one of my regular clients...

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