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Urgent v Standard translation - how quickly do you submit your work?
Thread poster: Marionlam

Marionlam  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:11
English to French
+ ...
Mar 20, 2012

Hi all,

I am a part time freelancer and I am coming across this dilemna more and more often:

My price list has two tiers: Standard, and Urgent (48 hours) with an extra charge and a word limit.

Having said that, if I'm not too busy I would often be in a position to submit small projects back to the client within the 48 hours period anyway, but I normally try and hold back for a bit as I feel it would defeat the point of offering an urgent service at an extra cost...

Most customers happily accept that, but an increasing number of clients try and insist on getting the translated text back within a few days at no extra cost and I'm not sure how to handle this without losing the work. I want to be competitive, but I also realise that clients who have paid the 'urgent' charge may not appreciate me doing the same for free with other customers....

What do you think? Do you offer an urgent service at all?


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:11
Hebrew to English
Every case is "urgent" in my experience Mar 20, 2012

I used to differentiate between standard/urgent cases, but it soon became abundantly clear that every case was "urgent" to someone at some point, so I have just given up trying to classify them as different (not that I was charging more anyway - I merely said that any urgent cases may be treated differently in rate negotiations).

So now I take the view that I can either do a project in the alloted time or I can't. If I can't then I turn them down or refer them to a colleague.

When I was at University, there was a sign with one of those platitudes and a little cartoon in the printing department (where you got thinks bound, laminated etc)...there are a few variations of it but it basically goes:

Poor planning/Procrastination on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine


Agencies would do well to heed this advice. I don't know what has transpired before a translation has come to me, but if the people involved have been too busy faffing around (agencies love to faff around) rather than planning a proper timescale, including a reasonable translation deadline then why should I stop up all night and lose sleep over it or work into the early hours to meet a ridiculous deadline (other than for a few measly extra £££ - which is never worth it)...simply because of their lack of organization and foresight.

I'm sure there are instances of real "urgent" cases but of all the "urgent" cases that have ever crossed my desk I can guarantee that 99% were only urgent because the agency promised the end client an unrealistic turnaround time or merely failed to plan properly.

I've even had "urgent" cases that I delivered and then I was asked to approve/refute the proofreaders comments a week later. The mind boggles.

I still get "urgent" cases but they are the ones where the urgency is on their part and the deadline won't mean me staying awake till 3am looking and feeling like a zombie.

[Edited at 2012-03-20 16:37 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:11
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
All work tends to be urgent Mar 20, 2012

Among my clients, about 70% of jobs are delivered within 48 working hours, and the larger ones have longer deadlines that, in relation to their size, would also fall within your "urgent" category.

In my opinion, the simpler the better, so I don't have an urgency rate: if I can take care of the job in my usual working hours (very many hours already every day), I take the job, or reject the job/try to get an extension otherwise.


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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:11
Member (2004)
German to English
I only charge extra for inconvenient working hours Mar 20, 2012

Charging different prices for "standard" and "urgent" work seems a bit of a minefield to me. What do you do if you have nothing on the go and a "standard" assignment comes in that you complete the same day? - it seems unhelpful to delay returning it to the client because they haven't paid the "urgent" rate.

Personally I do everything "as soon as possible" - the specific interpretation of that will obviously vary according to my workload, but I will always be clear about what the client can expect when the order is placed (or the client will say "I need it by XX" and I say "Yes, I can do that"). Short jobs (say less than 500 words, or less than 1,000 if straightforward) usually get done within a couple of hours, because I can slot them in among work on a larger project without detriment to the bigger task. I don't charge extra unless I am going to be seriously inconvenienced (e.g. being approached on Friday afternoon for a job to be delivered on Monday morning).

Since - as Ty says - speed usually matters to clients, I wonder if you might be better off setting just one rate (at a level you are comfortable with) and just telling clients how many days it is going to take for them to get their translation.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:11
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
48 hours is a very long time for agencies Mar 20, 2012

Many agencies promise their clients 24-hour turnround. In that time they have to accept the work, match it with a translator then get it proofread (I hope) and returned. They will probably allocate 8 hours maximum to the translator - and that isn't a rush job!

Armorel Young wrote:
I don't charge extra unless I am going to be seriously inconvenienced (e.g. being approached on Friday afternoon for a job to be delivered on Monday morning).


I agree. Urgent is when you agree to drop everything else, including walking the dog, reading the paper, making a coffee, posting on ProZ.com and just work, work, work until it's done.

I only have one rate because I'm not prepared to live my life that way (or rather, I'm lucky enough not to have to live that way). On the other hand, if there's nothing else on when they call, they can have it very quickly.

I find direct clients much more amenable to MY delivery times than agencies. Even "I can't deliver this 3-page document for 3 weeks" (when I'd just left for a holiday) was met with "just get it to us when you can". I like that type of client!


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:11
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Just reflective of the state of the profession Mar 20, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

I'm sure there are instances of real "urgent" cases but of all the "urgent" cases that have ever crossed my desk I can guarantee that 99% were only urgent because the agency promised the end client an unrealistic turnaround time or merely failed to plan properly.


True enough. Witness the typical contract in the tens of millions of dollars or euros that has probably been in negotiation for months, if not a year, and the lawyers have surely spent several weeks drafting and amending it, but the translation MUST be done - you guessed it - tomorrow. Right.

Surely not every client of an agency is so disorganized that they do everything at the last minute, apparent evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. When I was a technical writer I would occasionally have to outsource translations of equipment manuals. I would have been embarrassed to tell my agencies that I needed this 50k document back tomorrow or within whatever unrealistic deadline, so I just planned accordingly, with knowledge of the build/shipment schedule, and set things in motion with sufficient time. And I at least had the benefit of knowing what typical productivity for a translator is - most direct clients don't, and just accept whatever the agency tells them.

The situation is just reflective of the state of our business and the commodification of our work products. Most agencies don't care how long it will take YOU to do the job - they've already presold it to the end client for a set fee and turnaround based on whatever magical formula they use. By the time they contact you to ask if you're interested/available, they're just trying to pigeonhole you into those pre-set conditions. Since everybody and their brother is a "translator" these days, they know if you're unavailable or unwilling to meet their requirements, somebody else surely will be.

Not all agencies are like that, of course, but an increasing number are.



[Edited at 2012-03-20 18:32 GMT]


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Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:11
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
Agree with Sheila. Mar 20, 2012

By the way, delaying the project's delivery simply because it's not urgent would come into conflict with my professional guidelines and code of conduct.
As for small ruch jobs, I either deliver them the next morning (I usually email them to the client at the end of my working day, as soon as the files and comments are ready to be delivered) or decline them.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:11
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I'm thoroughly with Armorel on this Mar 20, 2012

Armorel Young wrote:

Charging different prices for "standard" and "urgent" work seems a bit of a minefield to me. What do you do if you have nothing on the go and a "standard" assignment comes in that you complete the same day? - it seems unhelpful to delay returning it to the client because they haven't paid the "urgent" rate.

Personally I do everything "as soon as possible" - the specific interpretation of that will obviously vary according to my workload, but I will always be clear about what the client can expect when the order is placed (or the client will say "I need it by XX" and I say "Yes, I can do that"). Short jobs (say less than 500 words, or less than 1,000 if straightforward) usually get done within a couple of hours, because I can slot them in among work on a larger project without detriment to the bigger task. I don't charge extra unless I am going to be seriously inconvenienced (e.g. being approached on Friday afternoon for a job to be delivered on Monday morning).

Since - as Ty says - speed usually matters to clients, I wonder if you might be better off setting just one rate (at a level you are comfortable with) and just telling clients how many days it is going to take for them to get their translation.


Precisely. I've explained the three possibilities at http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/time.html . If I work faster than the client needs, there is no 'urgency' involved.


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Vitals  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 14:11
Member (2008)
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Sometimes it is evident Mar 20, 2012

Often the PM is a translator who deep in his/her heart knows that this job s/he is giving you is "urgent", i.e. can hardly be done in this particular deadline. In such case I always press on this "lever" and say "Hey, you know full well, this is really tight, so how about a higher rate?" In most cases the negotiations end up with a benefit on my side.

In other cases, I tell the client that URGENCY means that I have to delay/postpone my other translation projects to do this one within this tight deadline (of course, when I know that the other client can delay that other project, or when it is only my agenda that dictates the timeframe for it). And for this reason I may ask for a higher rate, as ithe delay of that other project can cost me something.

Nighttime, weekends - as someone mentioned above - are a very fair reason for higher rates, too.


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:11
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
"Postone other projects"? How does that work? Mar 20, 2012

Vitals wrote:

In other cases, I tell the client that URGENCY means that I have to delay/postpone my other translation projects to do this one within this tight deadline


This is often cited as one of the justifications for rush fees. However, I've never been able to figure out how exactly one manages to do this, unless the rush job is very small. For one thing, projects are so tightly scheduled these days (as abundantly detailed here) that the idea of being able to put off working on one for anything more than few hours without jeopardizing other deadlines strikes me as rather - fantastical?


(of course, when I know that the other client can delay that other project


That's the other option. But I don't see doing that. Personally, I don't think I could bring myself to tell a client, "Sorry, I got a better deal so I'm going to be late with your project, if that's OK with you" - even if they could potentially swing it, I've made a commitment to them to deliver on time, and I should adhere to it.


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Dave Bindon  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 14:11
Member (2010)
Greek to English
A mistake, in my view Mar 20, 2012

I think it's a mistake have set terms and conditions for 'urgent' jobs. As others have said or implied - and as you yourself have implied - 48 hours is not at all urgent if it's a small job and/or you have little other work at the time.

I'm similar to Armorel. I'll charge extra if the job will inconvenience me by requiring long days or weekend work, or by delaying other projects which already have tight deadlines. If, however, my current workload allows me to accept a project and complete it within a few hours, then I'll just charge my standard rate. The potential for more work from a happy client outweighs the 'loss' of the few Euros I may have earned from an 'urgency surcharge'.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Charge extra (where appropriate) Mar 21, 2012

Vitals wrote:

... "urgent", i.e. can hardly be done in this particular deadline. In such case I always press on this "lever" and say "Hey, you know full well, this is really tight, so how about a higher rate?" In most cases the negotiations end up with a benefit on my side.

In other cases, I tell the client that URGENCY means that I have to delay/postpone my other translation projects to do this one within this tight deadline (of course, when I know that the other client can delay that other project, or when it is only my agenda that dictates the timeframe for it). And for this reason I may ask for a higher rate, as the delay of that other project can cost me something.

Nighttime, weekends - as someone mentioned above - are a very fair reason for higher rates, too.


I don't know about "48 hours" - whether I would charge extra depends on what I am being asked to accomplish within 48 hours and what I already have on my plate, but basically I agree with Vitals and this is how I do business.

Translation requests can come in at any hour of the day or night. I may or may not be checking my eMails, but just because I see an eMail doesn't mean that particular project would also fit into my normal working day. If I'm going to change my schedule - work "evening" or "overnight" or "rush" (extra volume) or whatever, damn straight I will charge extra for it.

And *yes*, you can "postpone" other projects - for example, pushing the work that is due next Tuesday (that you planned to work on this week) to the weekend, in order to deliver a newly requested project due sooner. Or finishing up a project during the evening/night that you had planned to work on tomorrow, because you will now have to work on the newly requested project tomorrow.

Some people have "tightly packed schedules" - but IMHO, schedules that are too tightly packed are disasters waiting to happen. I charge appropriate rates for my services, I allow myself leeway with my delivery deadlines whenever possible (which is almost *always*), and yes, I charge extra for rush/urgent jobs!

---
"As soon as possible" - I do not subscribe strictly to the "do everything as soon as possible" philosophy. This is not to say that I would deliberately delay a translation to go and watch TV simply because I have a little extra time in my schedule, but if a client says they need the project in five days and I know the project will take five hours, I may not start right away, or may start and then move on to other matters for a while.

There are always other things to take care of in the business day, and plenty of eMails to answer - which may yield requests for other projects more "urgent" than the one due in five days. A healthy balance may result in a project that arrives first being completed last, with everyone still happy in the end.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:11
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Them and Us Mar 21, 2012

What really bugs me is that whilst the translations are always required urgently, payment is never urgent at all.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:11
Spanish to English
+ ...
On time Mar 21, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

I used to differentiate between standard/urgent cases, but it soon became abundantly clear that every case was "urgent" to someone at some point...

So now I take the view that I can either do a project in the alloted time or I can't. If I can't then I turn them down or refer them to a colleague.

br>
[Edited at 2012-03-20 16:37 GMT]


I had always assumed it was simply a standard modus operandi here in Spain, where, judging by experience, unless you classify something as "urgent" it won't get done, or at least not on time. So, I now tend to take the "urgent" tag with a pinch of salt and just try to deliver all my work by the deadline agreed and refuse anything I don't think I can hand in on time.

The idea of a special "punishment" rate for "urgent" jobs is appealing, but I found it was usually a waste of time and I rarely end up applying it nowadays.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:11
Hebrew to English
Mar 21, 2012



[Edited at 2012-03-21 17:01 GMT]


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