How do you handle the "non-management" of large projects by agency customers?
Thread poster: Sara Freitas

Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 14:12
French to English
Aug 13, 2004

Here is an all too typical situation:
An agency has a 100,000 word project. You know that you will only be able to take on 50,000 words. The PM sends you the whole project, very disorganized in a number of folders and files with meaningless folder and file names (like "presentation1.ppt" for PowerPoint slides, etc.!) including the documents to be translated, source files for imported objects, etc. asking you to "analyze" the project and let them know which parts you would like to handle.

How would you handle this situation? The last time this happened to me, there were literally dozens of files, and it would have easily taken me a whole day to "analyze" the project. Do you consider this a part of the cost of doing business or do you draw the line? I personally consider it part of the *agency's* cost of doing business, i.e. time spent analyzing and managing large projects, but I am curious to know what others think!

Thanks for your opinions!

Sara


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Graciela Carlyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
me too Aug 13, 2004

Sara Freitas-Maltaverne wrote:
I personally consider it part of the *agency's* cost of doing business, i.e. time spent analyzing and managing large projects,


It seems to me that the agency is just passing the ball.
It could be acceptable that they give you the whole project for you to choose what part to do, BUT they should also give you a full and complete analysis and description of every file as well as the files and folders well organised for you to make a quick decision.

I would politely ask for the above because to organise the project will take you some hours (that will need to be charged), reminding them you're paid for translating (if that was the deal).
It all depends on the terms you agreed with the agency beforehand.

My two pennies
Grace.


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Pat Jenner
Local time: 13:12
German to English
+ ...
I agree Aug 13, 2004

If the agency is passing on activities that they ought to carry out, then you should be paid for it. I've had situations like this in the past, and have usually managed to avoid getting bogged down in what basically amounts to assigning my own work by (a) making it clear that I would charge for this and (b) telling the agency 'I can take 2,000 words a day, starting on such and such a date'. It can also be helpful with large projects to specify the type of text you are happiest with (for instance, if a project has both financial and medical components I would prefer to take the medical files).

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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Questions to the agency Aug 13, 2004

Hello Sara,

I find that very formal responses work well here. For example, "I have received all the files you sent. Kindly indicate which files you would like me to translate as you have sent me the entire project and you agreed that I would be doing half of it."

That puts the ball in their court. In other words, I try to never overdo any willingness on my side until the agency starts acting professionally. This puts them in the position of having to define the project at little more neatly. Another way is to send a series of numbered questions. 1) Which files should I translate 2) How should they be named 3)What is your deadline etc.

My two cents. When I see the agency is ''impossible'', then I just say so in so many words such as: "Thank you for assigning me this job to me. Unfortunately, due to time management issues, I won't be able to fulfill this assignment on your behalf."

That's vague but unless they are super dense, they'll get the point.

Best of luck
J.


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:42
English to Tamil
+ ...
This is the way I handled it Aug 14, 2004

It was a direct client and not an agency. He was overwhelmed with a plethora of files and his budget was limited. He requested me to help him. I went to his place and gave a rapid rundown on the files as and when they were being displayed on the screen, giving a brief idea from the contents page as to what was being dealt in the various files. I took 2 hours (my minimum billing period) and to give him his due, he extracted the maximum benefit from my visit with shrewdly and rapidly marking the files meant for translation. He happily paid me my bill for the 2 hours and both were happy with the outcome. Now I am getting the files sent to me one by one.

Hope this helps.

Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2004-08-14 13:50]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:12
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Problems of split jobs Aug 14, 2004

I have just finished proofreading one of these.
It started with the agency sending me one part of a 60,000 word job split four ways (Russian-English, electrical engineering). Great pressure to get it back quickly, allegedly from the customer, but maybe the agency was just trying to impress. Sent it in. Mine was the first part including all the chapter headings with page numbers. Of course I left the numbers out apart from my own part, as the page numbering in English was bound to be different and I had no idea what it would be in the other parts.
After receiving all the parts, customer complains about lack of page numbering. I'm asked to do this for all parts. They are sent to me in about ten files, in no logical order. I finally sort them out (working on a payment per hour basis) but am greatly hampered by the fact that two of the translators, instead of numbering headings and subheadings as in the original, just started automatic numbering from 1 in their own parts. Finally got this sorted out and got the chapter headings numbered. I then asked if I should go on and correct all the subheadings too, but was told, no, there was no time for this, so sent it in as it was.
Customer then complains about the meaningless subheadings. I'm asked to sort that out too, and do so, on the same basis.
I then heard no more for about a month, apart from being paid by the agency, which to its credit, is a very prompt payer.
The agency then says the customer wants a complete proofreading on the whole thing (no wonder, as it turned out) and I am asked to give a price for this in advance, which I do. I then proofread it, which takes much longer than the estimate, because it turns out that of the other three translators, only one is a native English speaker. The other two are very good on electrical engineering (probably better than I am), but their English is so weird as to be incomprehensible in many places (for example, one of them thinks that the noun form from affect/effect is affection, so writes about the "affection" of the controls on a process). One of them obviously tried to set up "provided for" in AutoCorrect to print out with a key combination, probably pf, but failed to notice that he had made an error in the autocorrect entry so that it came out as "provide ford" every time (about 40 times!) Anyway, I finally finish it in about five times the time I had estimated, but feel obliged to stick to the agreed price. At least it is now in a form I am not ashamed to be associated with. I send it off to the agency (157 pages) late at night, and check early the next morning, just after opening of office hours, to make sure they have it. Yes, they have, they're very grateful, they've already sent it off to the customer (who has now waited about five weeks for what was supposed to be an urgent job). This shows how much checking the agency itself does of work coming in to them, i.e., none.
One wonders how some of these people stay in business.


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Jason Willis-Lee  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agreeing Sep 13, 2004

Dear Sara:

Project management is indeed the job of guess who, the project manager! I wouldn't spend hours organising the project for an agency but at least they are giving you the whole project so you have the opportunity of selecting the files you feel of most interest for you to work on.

This is a problem with large projects and the grey area of who does the extra work, as freelancers we have to very careful not to be pushed around by agencies. The more clearer you set up exactly what work you will do, for how much and when you expect to be paid, the better I find things work out. I now try to set things up like this as a general rule before taking on any new projects.

Good luck
Jason

Sara Freitas-Maltaverne wrote:

Here is an all too typical situation:
An agency has a 100,000 word project. You know that you will only be able to take on 50,000 words. The PM sends you the whole project, very disorganized in a number of folders and files with meaningless folder and file names (like "presentation1.ppt" for PowerPoint slides, etc.!) including the documents to be translated, source files for imported objects, etc. asking you to "analyze" the project and let them know which parts you would like to handle.

How would you handle this situation? The last time this happened to me, there were literally dozens of files, and it would have easily taken me a whole day to "analyze" the project. Do you consider this a part of the cost of doing business or do you draw the line? I personally consider it part of the *agency's* cost of doing business, i.e. time spent analyzing and managing large projects, but I am curious to know what others think!

Thanks for your opinions!

Sara


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