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Is it quiet or is it just me? Do clients complain or give they just up on you?
Thread poster: Carmen Grabs

Carmen Grabs
Germany
Local time: 15:06
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
Jan 26, 2013

I don't mind a bit of freedom and peace after the holiday season, but ... it has been really quiet lately.

What do the others say? Is it just me? Do I need to speak to my clients to see where I did something wrong so they just don't come back to me?

Do you generally notice clients not coming back to you if something was wrong in your previous job? Or do they always tell you your faults and give you a second chance?

Sorry, this seems to have been two topics in one post, hope that you can help.

Carmen

[Edited at 2013-01-26 20:22 GMT]


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Roy OConnor
Local time: 15:06
Member (2009)
German to English
Quite normal Jan 26, 2013

Hi, Carmen,

January is often quiet, because many customers are either skiing or in hospital nursing their injuries! Also many hurry to spend their budgets before the end of the year and this leads to a period of quiet in the New Year.

In my experience agents usually tell you if something is wrong. But with direct customers often you don't find out if they are dissatisfied. Changes in personnel or responsibilities, cuts in budgets, changes in the customer's products/services or markets - these could all be reasons for not ordering translations. They may of course have found a cheaper source. Continue to tell them when you are on holiday or otherwise not available and send them a Christmas card, just to remind them that you are still there.

Otherwise, I wouldn't speculate too much, just move on and find other customers.

Roy


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sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:06
English to Russian
+ ...
Thanks for the post, Carmen Jan 26, 2013

So, it in not only me who is having those January blues.. I even saw somewhere that Jan 23 (?) is considered to be the most depressing day in the US when holidays are over and December/holiday bills start to arrive in the mail.

Yes, very quiet since before Christmas and yes, this is a very rare occasion when something was wrong with the last job.

What I normally do about quiet periods, after 3 or 4 weeks I usually send a brief message stating that I am back in town (although I might not have left at all) and am available for projects. In most cases the friendly PMs I work with would reply and even thank for the notification. However this does not necessarily mean that a project would come my way immediately.

Good luck. Hopefully we will be back to normal busy life soon enough.

[Edited at 2013-01-26 15:02 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 15:06
French to English
my main point! Jan 26, 2013

When I was a PM, I kept careful notes on all translators. If there was a problem, I would note it and try to avoid the translator in the future. An otherwise reliable translator would be excused for a one-off problem, like one who didn't manage to deliver on time because of marital problems - she was too good to lose, I just made a note to leave a bit more leeway for delivery until her husband actually left home. Or the translator who made a hash of a technical translation will have a note "avoid giving highly technical stuff".

I would only take the risk of annoying a translator if our client complained, in that I always preferred the devil I knew


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:06
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Even long-standing clients can just fade out without a word Jan 26, 2013

I worked for a company regularly from 1965 to 2010. They sent me work every week. For many years this was more than half my freelance income. The work got less and less over the last few years and then dried up altogether. I phoned them a couple of times and only got a vague response. In the end I just had to get used to managing without them.
The company is within its rights, of course, but an explanation and maybe a "Thank you" would have been appreciated.
Reminds me of that cartoon in which an officer cadet is commanding a platoon in a drill exercise. The men are marching towards a cliff, and he panics and cannot think of the commands "Halt" or "About turn". The drill sergeant instructor shouts to him: "For Christ's sake say something, even if it's only Goodbye!"


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Carmen Grabs
Germany
Local time: 15:06
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you everybody, your replies give me peace of mind, Jan 26, 2013

and thanks Roy, for reassuring me about what can be the reason for clients not needing your services sometimes.

It's a pity we don't get much feedback (or any) to see whether or not the clients are happy with our work. I assume coming back to us is the onlysign of appreciation we get.

And good to know I am not the only one with the "January blues" ... Good idea about a note saying you are back

What I did first is write all invoices that needed to be written. Need to look for another project, keeping busy is the best receipe for being ready for the next job

Sorry to hear that your client did not have the decency to inform you, Jack. It's always dangerous when one is dependent on one company, but happens to me, too.


[Edited at 2013-01-26 23:12 GMT]


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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:06
German to English
+ ...
Incredible story Jan 26, 2013

Jack Doughty wrote:

I worked for a company regularly from 1965 to 2010. They sent me work every week. For many years this was more than half my freelance income. The work got less and less over the last few years and then dried up altogether. I phoned them a couple of times and only got a vague response. In the end I just had to get used to managing without them.
The company is within its rights, of course, but an explanation and maybe a "Thank you" would have been appreciated.
Reminds me of that cartoon in which an officer cadet is commanding a platoon in a drill exercise. The men are marching towards a cliff, and he panics and cannot think of the commands "Halt" or "About turn". The drill sergeant instructor shouts to him: "For Christ's sake say something, even if it's only Goodbye!"


Speechless! This one takes the cake (or perhaps, biscuit)!

*You are such a gentleman, Jack*
You are right, though: a thank you note after 45 years of work would have been nice.


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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 15:06
English to German
+ ...
You never know Jan 26, 2013

You never know, what happens in this business. An agency, that tens of years ago was my main client with tenthousends of CHF per year and then dropped out gradually, sent me a new job recently after more than two years of absolute zero.
Rolf

[Bearbeitet am 2013-01-26 21:20 GMT]

[Bearbeitet am 2013-01-26 21:20 GMT]

[Bearbeitet am 2013-01-26 21:21 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:06
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My two cents Jan 26, 2013

Carmen Grabs wrote:
What do the others say? Is it just me? Do I need to speak to my clients to see where I did something wrong so they just don't come back to me?


January is always awkward. It could be terribly busy or very quiet, and no two years are alike when it comes to January.

If you are always very busy and have been in business for a number of years, this is just a coincidence, but if your workload usually feels "fair enough" and has dropped to very little work this January, I reckon it would do no harm to increase your marketing efforts to gain a bigger customer base and avoid this kind of worries next year. Use this free time towards this goal.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:06
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Indeed - A customer survey? Jan 26, 2013

Carmen Grabs wrote:
I assume coming back to us is the onlysign of appreciation we get.

That's right. Think of your favourite coffee shop: do you always tell them how wonderful their coffee tastes, how great their scones are, how beautifully arranged is their shop? You simply keep going there and hope they do not close, but do not express anything else.

If customer impressions is something that keeps tumbling in your head, it could be an idea be to prepare a very concise customer satisfaction survey (rate with 1-10 and a space for open comments), with no space for personally identifiable data and 5-6 questions about things like overall quality, responsiveness, reliability as a business partner, availability, etc. etc. and send it to all your usual customers. Simply say that you want to pinpoint any areas of improvement. This is usually a valued attitude since our customers do need good business partners as part of their success. If you are lucky, you will get direct, clear feedback that will help you improve... if there are reasons, that is...


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:06
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Peculiarities of translation Jan 27, 2013

If you run a restaurant and some long-standing clients disappear, either they moved to another neighborhood, or perhaps something went wrong with your service.

Translation services is not something people need every single day, unless it's a part of a(n end-)client's core business, e.g. a foreign books/magazines publisher, a news agency, a video dubbing or subtitling studio, perhaps a distributor. Otherwise they'll have plenty to do on their own before and after any translation is outsourced.

Translation agencies, like us, live on end-clients' needs. They cannot "invent" translations of their own, unless it's an overpayment scam.

So a translator's business is often like a roller coaster ride, with ups and downs. Murphy's Law thrives... either you call your office from the cell phone to test whether your landline is really functional, or half a dozen clients - on scattered time zones around the globe - will demand your full attention at the same time.

Customer complaints may be wide and varied. Actual clients never complain, once in a while these politely ask me about some minor improvements, which I do immediately, at no cost.

Each translator should have a true assessment of the quality they deliver, both overall and on each job they've done, e.g. if any complicating factors (deadline too short, poor source material, etc.) made it deviate from standards. As I was able to clearly identify five specific areas of human knowledge where my translation of technical material was truly despicable, I openly declared (on my web site) them as off-limits for me.

Actual customer complaints, I never hear them, 'customers' vote with their feet. Some resent my intolerance to late payments, or perhaps my attempts to convince them to do things right and more cost-effectively than their own sweet way. Some want to force me to use one specific CAT tool that I don't and won't have. Others discover that my quality (and therefore cost) is far beyond what they need and switch to cheaper vendors or machine translation. Possibilities are endless.

I've given up on predicting high and low demand seasons. For over 20 years, one local client represented 50-80% of my income. Due to a paradigm shift, now they are doing the job internally, just like they did before they met me. So I painfully learned the lesson and spread my coverage so wide that no shift in a specific niche is able to rock the boat any longer.

My general advice for translators is, if at all possible, spread your offer over a varied number of areas/services. If any of them goes down due to a paradigm shift, chances are that others may go up on a completely different paradigm upheaval.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
Customer satisfaction surveys... Jan 27, 2013

Personally, I wouldn't go there. Coffee and translations are not comparable products. Coffee is a product and a translation is a professional service. With the exception of technical translations, the end client isn't really in a position to judge the quality of your work. If it's not broken don't fix it...

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Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:06
Portuguese to English
+ ...
It is a great suggestion, Tomas. Jan 27, 2013

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

it could be an idea be to prepare a very concise customer satisfaction survey (rate with 1-10 and a space for open comments), with no space for personally identifiable data and 5-6 questions about things like overall quality, responsiveness, reliability as a business partner, availability, etc. etc. and send it to all your usual customers. Simply say that you want to pinpoint any areas of improvement.


Not for asking about the quality of our translations, since most customers can't judge that, but I reckon this can be a great way to contact a customer that has forgotten about us The questions can be just about response time, timely delivery, professional conduct, etc. Three to five questions would do the trick and won't bore the customer.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:06
German to English
Sometimes its the project manager Jan 27, 2013

At larger agencies, the PMs frequently have their own favorite translators whom they call first when they have work. For months I didn't hear from the agency that provides me with the most work, then I learned at a conference that my PM had been seriously ill.

On the other hand, sometimes PMs take the contact details of suppliers with them. I've seen this happen a few times. For example a PM I worked with left agency A, then a few months later, I heard from her again; she was at agency B. I never heard from agency A again.

I suspect that when a PM dies or otherwise leaves the agency, the favored translators go to the bottom of the list of suppliers. There's never an explanation.


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Richard Hill  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 09:06
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
Do get in touch Jan 27, 2013

Carmen Grabs wrote:

Do I need to speak to my clients to see where I did something wrong so they just don't come back to me?

Carmen

[Edited at 2013-01-26 20:22 GMT]


It might be worth getting in touch, perhaps not to ask if you did "something wrong", but just to say hi and explain that you're getting in touch as you have some availability and are interested in continuing the relationship, or something like that.


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