Are your video clients as uninformed as mine?
Thread poster: José Henrique Lamensdorf

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:49
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Mar 16, 2013

All the sales training courses I've translated were successful in driving home the message, that a good services provider is one that meets or exceeds the customer's needs and expectations. I really believe that, since it makes sense! Why should it be otherwise?

Well, I've had plenty of trouble in doing it with video clients, because all too often they haven't got a clue on their needs and desires, and even a virtual corkscrew wouldn't be able to draw these out, because they are simply not there.

A few cases...

Case one:

Frequent-flying local translation agency PM e-mails me: "Can you transcribe a video into a script?"

The answer should be obvious, as I've been translating and subtitling their videos for years. Nevertheless, I answer, "Yes, I do."

That PM's next message contains a link to download a 4-minute video in English, and the question, "Can you get this done by tomorrow COB?"

Before any effort is wasted, I phone her, to ask, "Do you mean your client wants the integral script transcribed, in English?"

"She said she wants a Word file, but I'm not sure on the language. I'll check with her, and get back to you in 5 minutes."

Five minutes later, she calls me, "The client wants the video transcribed into Portuguese".

"That's not transcription, it is translation. Do you happen to know if she wants the complete text, say, for publishing, a web site, etc? Or does she intend to have that video dubbed or subtitled?"

Same 5 minutes subroutine.

"The client said she'll have it subtitled. So she wants the transcript and the subtitles in Portuguese."

"What does she need the transcript for? Does she want the subtitles time-spotted?"

5 minutes subroutine...

"Yes, she wants the subtitles time-spotted, but she doesn't want us to do the subtitling. She is here in Brazil, but she'll get it done in the USA. She is not sure about why she needs the transcript, but wants it anyway."

"All right, then I need to know which subtitles file format her subtitler needs, how many lines per subtitle, one or two, and what's the max number of characters allowed per line. Let her know that if she wants me to subtitle it, I can do the entire job."

The 5 minutes subroutine enters a never-ending loop, the day ends, and I don't get answers, so I don't get started on it.

On the next day, about 11 AM, that same PM calls me on another job we had going. After we are done with it, I casually ask her about that video client.

"Oh, I think she gave up on that. Too many questions she couldn't answer."

Case two:

A friendly translator calls me on Skype. We've met personally a couple of times, we've been together in countless projects where a translator got together a large team to share a massive and urgent translation, and we both suffer from the same 'disease' (German surnames, but we only work EN-PT, and speak no DE at all).

A good client of his sent him a 1m30s video to translate for subtitling. As the host was quite verbose, he managed to translate the script into a much more succinct text. Video being outside his skills, he asked me if I could break that into subtitles, and time-spot them into an Excel spreadsheet, a Word table, or any other kind of table. The client would hire a studio for the subtitling work.

I imagined all the work someone would have to convert that into a subtitles file or, more likely, insert each subtitle as onscreen text with either Final Cut or Sony Vegas.

He was concerned with how much I'd charge him. Nothing! He'll buy me a beer when I visit his town, some 100 km from here.

So I did it, converted an SRT file into a docx, so he'd deliver what his client had asked. I also took the chance, generated an SSA file, subtitled that short video; took me 5 minutes, and sent him. Why not?

Case three:

An unknown to me, yet highly regarded, translation agency in the USA posted a job on Proz: 30-min video translation EN > PT-BR.

I contacted the PM,and asked if she wanted it verbatim, for dubbing, or for subtitling. Never got an answer to that.

This list could go on and on. While I can do everything, even get the dubbing outsourced to a professional studio, I can't do anything unless they know what they want.

Is that widespread, or am I just unlucky with the creatures who select me to do it for them?

(Of course, I also work for video professionals who know exactly what they need, but these are few, in numerical comparison to cases like the ones I described above.)


Monica Paolillo
Local time: 07:49
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Unfortunately it happens quite often Mar 17, 2013

José it's terrible, I know what you're talking about and I know how you're feeling. It's awful. I have the same problem with one or two clients that don't ever seem to know what they want. That's very frustrating because it's impossible to meet the needs of a client who doesn't know what they're looking for but still expect to get the job done for yesterday. They don't seem to care if they are not able to articulate reasonable requests or tell you exactly what they need or even take time to find out why you're asking those questions. They will end up telling you what they wanted after completion of the job because that's when they'll find out the result is not what they had in mind, if there was ever anything on their mind. I don't know if there's a recipe to avoid this. If you find it, please share it!!! Luckily enough in my case I have to say this is the exception and not the rule but when it happens, it hurts...


Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:49
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Not just video clients Mar 18, 2013

I just rarely work with video content so I cannot attest to that, but my experience with other types of projects and uninformed/clueless clients is very similar.
When it is a direct client it is sometimes expected, although not less frustrating, because they are supposed to be less informed then a professional. Sometimes they just do things because they think they need to (everyone else is doing that...) or reluctantly forced to (when following some kind of standard for example), and as a result can't even define their expectations, or worse, don't even care.
But when an agency of some kind is involved, it is a lot more annoying because that agency should know the business and what information the end client needs to provide in order to facilitate an efficient and effective process, and work with and educate the client in case they don't. It is quite discouraging to find out that the alleged professional agency is not more than a reseller/broker of skilled services, not to mention the fact that now one has to deal with two uniformed and clueless clients (and the quite likely miscommunication they create when conveying one's questions to the client and the client's answers to the professional who is actually doing the work).

[Edited at 2013-03-18 21:40 GMT]


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Are your video clients as uninformed as mine?

Advanced search

memoQ translator pro
Kilgray's memoQ is the world's fastest developing integrated localization & translation environment rendering you more productive and efficient.

With our advanced file filters, unlimited language and advanced file support, memoQ translator pro has been designed for translators and reviewers who work on their own, with other translators or in team-based translation projects.

More info »
Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search