Should I warn clients I have a big job coming up?
Thread poster: Matthew Olson

Matthew Olson
Japan
Local time: 16:51
Japanese to English
Jan 18, 2012

Hello all. I've had some big jobs before now, but one I've got coming will be taking up most of my time for the next month or so, which will be a first for me. A lot of the agencies I get jobs from tend to send me very small projects, but with this big one in the pipe, even 500 character jobs will be an unwelcome distraction, never mind anything bigger. My question is, should I email the agencies I work for and warn them that my schedule will be full for the next month or should I just simply refuse each request for work as it comes in until the big job is finished? I'm not sure what the etiquette is here.

Thanks in advance!


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 10:51
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
No Jan 18, 2012

You should always keep old customers and share your time in order to get the big job done in time but also do the small routine jobs. Otherwise you will be out of work when the big job is finished.

 

Anna Haxen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:51
Member (2005)
English to Danish
+ ...
Make time for good clients Jan 18, 2012

I would make sure the deadline for the big job allowed time for regular, smaller jobs from my best clients. For instance negotiate the deadline so the big job would take up approx. ½ my time.

 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:51
Member
English to French
Letting good clients know you are not available... Jan 18, 2012

Matthew Olson wrote:
...My question is, should I email the agencies I work for and warn them that my schedule will be full for the next month or should I just simply refuse each request for work as it comes in until the big job is finished?...

...will show them you care, although receiving an unnecessary notice is pointless and not relevant for those who will not have work for you.

I usually tell my agency customers about my availability at the first enquiry, so that I kill two birds with one stone and don't add yet another email to their inbox.

Like my esteemed colleagues above, I also try and extend deadlines for large jobs when I anticipate I will have no spare time for several days in a row. More often than not, agencies can live with an extension if you ask before starting, of course. This way you can add small jobs between the large one and better manage emergencies and customer relations.

You can also pad weekends and evenings with bits and bobs from other customers if you feel like it (I usually don't, I like my free time).

I have never lost a client for turning down several offers in a row. Agencies know we are freelancers and not employees, and should have other translators to replace us when we're not available.

Philippe


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Seconded! Jan 18, 2012

Anna Haxen wrote:
I would make sure the deadline for the big job allowed time for regular, smaller jobs from my best clients. For instance negotiate the deadline so the big job would take up approx. ½ my time.

You certainly want to keep regular customers as happy as possible. Big jobs can happen once or twice a year, and you don't want your regular customers to have a sense of uncertainty about your availability, or they will probably look for another, "always-on" resource in the long run.

In my opinion, you should do your best to accommodate the smaller jobs in between the bigger one, i.e. by stretching your working hours and even if it means a bit of a stress in the weeks ahead.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
An important caveat Jan 18, 2012

Matthew Olson wrote:
Hello all. I've had some big jobs before now, but one I've got coming will be taking up most of my time for the next month or so, which will be a first for me.

May I add that you should absolutely refrain from any decision affecting your other customers until the big job in question is in your hand and you have done 10% of it.

The reason I say this is that it would not be the first time a freelancer warned all their main customers about a long period of unavailability... to later find out that the customer the big job came from changed their mind about it.icon_smile.gif


 

David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 09:51
German to English
+ ...
With Tomás all the way Jan 18, 2012

Nothing is certain in the translation industry. Chickens should not be counted until hatched.

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:51
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sensible approach Jan 18, 2012

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

You should always keep old customers and share your time in order to get the big job done in time but also do the small routine jobs. Otherwise you will be out of work when the big job is finished.


Very true. If you have a good, communicative relation with your clients, you might warn them that you will be quite busy during the month or period in question, in case they are thinking of sending you something, so they can take it into account when planning deadlines (if they do "plan" in any real sense). I work with a few direct clients in the same field (market research) and they tend to know each other and what they are up to, so will mention that they are sending me something in case they all coincide.

Agencies are another kettle of fish, and usually I find that it ¡f I am unavailable for a couple of jobs, they tend not to come back, so if you want to keep them happy, you often need to juggle your priorities.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 15:51
Chinese to English
I would lean against making any announcements Jan 18, 2012

For much the reasons mentioned by others:

1) Does an agency need to know? Unless you have a particularly close/regular relationship with an agency, there just isn't any need. They can cope with you turning down a job or two. After all, they don't announce to you when a dry spell is coming up.
For private clients it's a bit different. If there's a client who gives all their work to you, then it is worth contacting them. They've made a commitment to you, so it's a different situation to an agency.

2) Is the work certain? As Tomas says, shit happens.

3) You might need a break! Month-long projects can be a bit wearing. I hope it's a good book you're translating, but even when it's a good book, it can still get dull. Taking time out to do 1000 words of golf club brochures may be just what you want, bizarre though the thought sounds now.

But if you have any clients with whom you have a special relationship, then sure, I'd tell them.


 

Tom Fennell
United States
Local time: 02:51
Member (2010)
Russian to English
+ ...
Better to stretch the Big Project deadline as much as possible Jan 18, 2012

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

May I add that you should absolutely refrain from any decision affecting your other customers until the big job in question is in your hand and you have done 10% of it.



After translating the 10%, you will have a perfect opportunity to go back to the project customer and say that you need to renegotiate the deadline by a week or two.

If it is a huge multi-translator project this should not be a big problem, if it is one big text you are working on alone it may be tougher, but still worth it.

I would say it is no problem to turn job every other job or even two out of three. Even then you can say "oh, I can't deliver by Thursday, but I might be able to deliver by Monday" (of course 9 out of 10 times they need it absolutely by Thursday/Friday. And you really should keep them on the hook with the 500 word things. If you anticipate a couple hours work a day them, they shouldn't be such an interruption, and when they don't appear, it will be a "luxurious day."

But the only time you should be completely unavailable for 2-4 weeks is when you are on a much-needed vacation (and you don't want to waste your vacation time on a big project). Even then best if you have a back-up for direct clients (and take the vacation when clients do).

[Edited at 2012-01-18 18:22 GMT]


 

Daria Bontch-Osmolovskaia
Australia
Local time: 17:51
English
+ ...
re-negotiating deadlines Feb 6, 2012

Tom Fennell wrote:

After translating the 10%, you will have a perfect opportunity to go back to the project customer and say that you need to renegotiate the deadline by a week or two.


I think that re-negotiating deadlines on a project (especially a large one) can look really unprofessional. The client is already waiting for you to finish and planning the next steps - like proofreading, editing, DTP, whatever - and there you are, saying that you are going to hold back the project because you didn't manage to quote correctly in the first place! And delaying the project by 2 weeks is just unacceptable in most industries.

Personally, I always build in a contingency time into the original quote. Since I know my maximum capacity per day, I multiple that by the work days and add 15-20% on top. In practice, that gives me time to either do smaller projects in parallel with the large one, or take an afternoon off and relax in the sun in the park if I really need a break from work, or not worry if I get sick and need a couple of days off.

P.S. And no, I wouldn't warn other clients about a large job - who know what might happen! Besides, I made that mistake once. I said to a good client that I was fairly busy with projects, actually meaning that work is going well and I'm pleased. She heard "I'm really busy" and didn't send me any work for 5 months, until I pestered her and asked why did the steady stream of work stop!icon_frown.gif Since then I never tell any client anything about my workload!

[Edited at 2012-02-06 02:45 GMT]


 


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