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Job with insanely tight deadlines - feedback needed
Thread poster: Whitney Maslak

Whitney Maslak
United States
Local time: 10:02
German to English
Jul 5, 2013

Hi everyone, I'm currently working on finishing up a professional certificate in translation (German to English) and I've been searching for work on here and other sites. I was wondering if anyone else thinks that some of the tight deadlines on the jobs are a little ridiculous. I understand I'm still new to the industry, but is it normal to only have 8 hours to complete a 3000 word text? I really dont trust myself to do a good job with such a short amount of time. Is this something i just have to get used to? Thanks for your feedback!

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:02
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi, Whitney. Jul 5, 2013

This is really an average daily turnover for an 8-10 hour day, for a medium difficulty text, for quite an experienced translator, however, this does not mean that anybody can expect you to hand your work in the following day. You need at least another day, or even two, to slowly read the text, look for any mistakes and omissions, which are usually impossible to see after 10 hours of translating, and not to be totally stressed out for no reason. So for a 3,000 word text a translator, who is not busy at the time, needs three days. The deadline should never be shorter than three days, unless the document is below 500 words.

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
More haste, less speed Jul 5, 2013

Unfortunately, about 90% of clients seem to be in an unseemly hurry 90% of the time. Very few ever factor translation time into their planning, at least in my pair (ES-EN). Perhaps our northern European neighbours are better organised...

Eight hours doesn't seem too little time to do 3000 words if there are no issues with unwieldy formats etc and the translator is experienced and familiar with the area and vocabulary, etc. That is, as long as you aren't interrupted every 10 minutes by other clients with "urgent" requests...


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:02
English to German
+ ...
agree with Lilian's points Jul 5, 2013

Insanely tight deadlines can turn into quality issues raised by the end-client and/or agency.
Don't accept a job that you know you can't finish without compromising the quality of your work. We all have accepted rush jobs because we needed the work but it is never a good thing.

One point I want to make is the need to do a thorough review of the text to be translated. Just because the agency was given a tight deadline by its client doesn't mean that that's the time it takes to do a through and satisfactory job.

Another point: Especially when you use CAT tools or have to do a lot of editing, there can be technical issues, and so you need to have enough time to react to those. Make sure the TM the client sent you is complete, for example.

You have to be confident to be able to provide an excellent service. Otherwise, the agency or end- client can always come back and criticize your work or, worse, refuse to pay.
Better reject a job than rush into problems.

It never hurts to be too careful.


Bernhard

[Edited at 2013-07-05 18:40 GMT]


 

Whitney Maslak
United States
Local time: 10:02
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Good advice, everyone Jul 5, 2013

Thanks, everyone. I don't think it would be quite so difficult for me if I wasn't already working full-time (non-language related, to pay the bills). Another part that's hard is when i get an email from a different time zone, because most of the time the email comes in the middle of the night for me and then by the time i get it i only have 3 or 4 hours till the deadline. Sort of frustrating. Thank you for your feedback!

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:02
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Wait for better ones Jul 5, 2013

Hello Whitney,

Welcome to ProZ.com and the world of professional translation.icon_smile.gif

Although jobs with crazy rates and deadlines are to be found everywhere, there's absolutely no reason to go along with either. There are still decent clients out there who realise that our skills need to be fairly compensated, and that we need to be given time not just to typeicon_rolleyes.gif but also to research terminology, review our work, go for a pee...

The problem is that jobs are often posted either by agencies who don't have a solid base of translators to call on (the "bottom-feeding" agencies or those who've got so big they've lost sight of the fact that we're not sweatshop pieceworkers), or by worthy agencies who have contacted all their translators in turn, only to find that they're all at the same ProZ.com conference or whatever, so they're now desperate. This happens a lot over Christmas and to a lesser extent every weekend.

It's true to say that most of the better jobs are never actually posted on the job board here on ProZ.com. Outsourcers and end clients peruse the directory and contact the translator(s) who best meet(s) their requirements. Hence the need to make sure you're right up there at the top of the directory when clients search for your specialisations. Not easy in the common pairs, but I suspect you're already working on it.icon_wink.gif

If you reckon you can turn in a quality 3000-word translation in 8 hours, as some translators here claim to be able to do, then go for it - but at least charge "rush" rates. And remember you'll also need time to check out the client's record, gather all their contact details in case of non-paymenticon_frown.gif, check that you don't land yourself with an impossible job (badly scanned PDF, handwriting, subject outside your "comfort zone", hellish DTP requirements, etc), and... prepare the invoice!


 

Whitney Maslak
United States
Local time: 10:02
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Sheila! Jul 5, 2013

That's a good idea to charge rush rates. Does anyone charge extra for badly-scanned PDFs? They are so much more difficult. Even worse is when there's illegible handwriting scribbled on it, too!

 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:02
German to English
3000 in 8 hours a little much Jul 5, 2013

Whitney Koontz wrote:
(snip)
I was wondering if anyone else thinks that some of the tight deadlines on the jobs are a little ridiculous. I understand I'm still new to the industry, but is it normal to only have 8 hours to complete a 3000 word text?


An experienced translator can translate/check that much in 8-10 hours if the subject matter is familiar. However, this does not account for power failures, sick babies, troubled relatives, doctor's appointments, etc. Although I can translate much more, I promise 2500 words/day, counting personal review of my work. Agencies that demand much more than that usually pay proportionally lower rates, believe it or not.

It will take some time, but you will need to establish good relations with agencies that respect time zone differences, offer sensible deadlines and pay a decent rate. Don't hesitate to inform an agency regarding your life circumstances (other employment, children, etc.). A good agency will take this into account. Good agencies appreciate honesty.

NEVER take a rush job from a new client. You will regret it if you do!


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 18:02
English to Polish
+ ...
Doable by the right translator Jul 5, 2013

Whitney Koontz wrote:

Hi everyone, I'm currently working on finishing up a professional certificate in translation (German to English) and I've been searching for work on here and other sites. I was wondering if anyone else thinks that some of the tight deadlines on the jobs are a little ridiculous. I understand I'm still new to the industry, but is it normal to only have 8 hours to complete a 3000 word text? I really dont trust myself to do a good job with such a short amount of time. Is this something i just have to get used to? Thanks for your feedback!


I'm not implying any sort of elitist vibe with the 'right' translator or that other translators are 'wrong'. But if you're a fast typist, fast thinker, ready to tackle extreme challenges and face extreme exhaustion, then 3000 words within 8 hours are perfectly physically doable. In fact, I can do that in half the time in some fields and types of texts that I'm particularly familiar with. In an extreme situation perhaps three hours, two would be very close and very rare.

This said, such tempo clearly indicates a rush job. Rush jobs are not pampered daughters of the translator and polished crown jewels of the client. They are extreme solutions. They involve corner-cutting. They miss above all the time and rested mind to revise carefully before marking the translation as final. The client should not complain about insufficient levity of translation (or excessive, depending on whichever results in a faster turnover), insufficiently researched terminology, or anything to do with striking the right balance between competing demands.

Also, I see about four grounds of charging additional fees:

– more than 1500 words per day (the first threshold of urgency in my neck of the woods),
– in fact, more than 2750 (another traditional subsequent threshold where I live),
– in and out on the same day,
– ... not only that but also the work probably starts right a way.

Traditionally, a Polish agency would charge about triple the base rate. If not more. Doesn't mean the translator would see much of that.


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 19:02
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
One's daily output is an individual measure Jul 5, 2013

...and therefore no one can really tell you how much you can or cannot do, it is learned through experience, although there are certainly some logical limitations, but even what once was considered the golden rule of 2,500 word per day is no longer valid as many of the reseller type of agency clients try (and sadly succeed) to roll more and more of the responsibility for "envelope/engineering" type of tasks to the translators, and make things more difficult due their lack of any professionalism (such as what is usually referred to as a 'tag soup' when working in a translation environment software).
If I may say so, the fact that you didn't rush into anything and looked at the opportunity from a logical and professional (i.e. you won't take something that you are not comfortable with) is exactly how a professional should carry him or herself.

Also, as an independent translator you are a business owner. Part of being a business owner means that you cannot afford to spend 8 hours (i.e. your entire business hours) a day only "translating", you need to allocate time to administrative work, including bookkeeping, developing your business and your own skills, etc.

And lastly, I completely agree with Sheila's advice.


 

Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:02
French to English
Exactly Jul 5, 2013

Kevin Fulton wrote:

However, this does not account for power failures, sick babies, troubled relatives, doctor's appointments, etc. Although I can translate much more...


Whitney, remember that you can set your own pace by accepting only the projects that fit your schedule. Personally, I try not to take on more 1500 words/day, although I might translate much more than that, I factor in extra time for family issues... for example, just in the last 6 months, my 9 year old son sprained his ankle twice, meaning that I had let everything slide for a few hours to deal with that. On a tight deadline, that kind of event would spell disaster. This kind of unexpected event is a very regular occurrence in my household - we also have a 3 year old toddler. In addition to unexpected events, I do some other work on the side, which usually takes up an average of 2 days a week, not counting the occasional lengthy conference call or urgent matter that requires my immediate attention.

So all of the above means that I only say "yes" to certain jobs... when I am sure I can do it. On average, I probably only do a few hours of really focused work each day, and during those focused periods I can reach up to 400-500 words/hour in comfortable subject areas. When circumstances allow, I can of course work for longer periods. My rules are no more than 1000 words with same-day turnaround. I try to get minimum 2 or 3 day deadlines, even for small jobs, that way I can fit several small jobs into my complicated schedule. For bigger projects, I only say yes when the deadline is at least 150% of the actual time I really need to complete the work.

My customers know this, and generally know which type of projects to send me.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:02
English to German
+ ...
Same day delivery of 3000 words within 8 hours - absolutely not. Jul 6, 2013

This has nothing to do with being slow or lack of experience or how fast you can type (for whatever reason, some people tend to compare translators to secretaries). Note: Good grief, to this very day I am waiting for a translation job that can be managed by "typing really fast". Sounds like vacation for my brain.)

Professional translators have more than one client at a time. Each and every day, communication in terms of writing estimates or replying to clients' requests might take up to 30% of your day. Not to mention administrative work such as invoicing and bookkeeping. Only following a client's request to please reserve the full day in advance for a particular project I will be available at my full translation capacity.

Other than that:



 

Whitney Maslak
United States
Local time: 10:02
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
I love the cartoon, Nicole! Jul 6, 2013

You have no idea how many times I've wanted to say that to people! It makes me kind of nervous when I see a job with such a short deadline, because it makes me wonder if that company is really unorganized as is going to "forget" to pay me....

Thanks for your advice, Lori. It's nice to know that there are some translators out there who have kids at home. I don't have any kids right now, but I hope I will in a few years...as if my life isn't crazy enough!

Right now, I don't translate as quickly as I'd like to, but I know that will come with practice. If I ever did several thousand words in 8 hours, I would like to be able to have another day to look it over and make sure it is all correct. I'm not sure if I'd trust my fried brain to do a perfect job the first time around, and I would hate the feeling of sending something off that wasn't my best work.

Thanks again, everyone, for your great feedback! I learn so much from these forums, it's amazing.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:02
English to German
+ ...
People who forward jobs with tight deadlines Jul 6, 2013

Whitney Koontz wrote:

You have no idea how many times I've wanted to say that to people! It makes me kind of nervous when I see a job with such a short deadline, because it makes me wonder if that company is really unorganized as is going to "forget" to pay me....


Usually PMs who "think" that they sit on the other side of the desk. They do not. They don't know that the 12-page brochure took two months to be developed. They don't know that the technical manual for this new machine took a full year to be written. They only think within their little, narrow-minded parameters of possible "translator output per day", which apparently starts at the very moment after they hung up the phone with their end client. Once their naive, ignorant and [insert synonym of your choice for "kissing butt"] promises are made, the pressure is forwarded to the translator. You know, translators, those people who are always so desperate for work and who don't have any other clients. "What??!? The translator is not available right NOW? Must be a lazy bum. Or an alcoholic. Drugs, maybe? Something must be wrong with this unreliable person. Eek!"

I have written websites that were incredibly "urgent", only to receive an email from the client five (5) months later, that the IT staff has now finished the formatting and if I could please check the entire thing quickly (!), before the website goes live.


 

564354352 (X)  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 18:02
Danish to English
+ ...
Not all that insane Jul 6, 2013

Turning over 3,000 words in 8 hours does not sound insane to me, and for regular clients I would accept jobs like that without hesitating, provided I was actually available. My regular clients would not ask me to do such jobs within a limited time frame if they did not need to.

It all depends on the job and your actual availability, as Lukasz says. If the text is within a field that you are very comfortable with, then 8 hours should be ample time to do a good translation of 3,000 words and check the translation twice.

Having said that, I would much prefer to have a full working day for a 3,000-word job, leave the job and my brain to rest overnight and then do the double check the following day.


 
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