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Are there inconveniences in accepting huge translations?
Thread poster: Marie Hélène AFONSO

Marie Hélène AFONSO  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:51
English to French
+ ...
Jul 19, 2013

Hi everyone,

On the one hand, I am prone to think it is good news because it guarantees steady amount of work over a period (two months for instance).
But it comes out often that clients pay 60 days after date of invoice (and of course the invoice is sent once the job is finished).
Besides, if you have a couple of good clients who regularly send you requests, you will have to refuse over this period. They might replace you by other translators and by the time you finish your huge project, you might have lost your former clients.
What is your view on the matter?


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:51
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
You don't lose clients because you're busy Jul 19, 2013

I've always wondered why people think this. I'm sure that clients expect good translators to have plenty of clients and be busy and are all the more happy when they are available for work. I often tell clients "I'm busy until X date" and all they do is contact me after X date.
I personally like long jobs because they reduce down time but would expect a long enough delivery time to be able to intersperse the long job with several smaller jobs. This is not for fear of losing clients but to prevent boredom with the subject matter. When you come back to a long project refreshed after a small break, you are likely to work more effectively.


 

xxxS P Willcock  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:51
German to English
+ ...
get an advance! Jul 19, 2013

I like to tell people that I am a literary translator, though if I'm honest I probably get about half my income from novels and half from the other, smaller jobs that cross my desk.

like Marie-Helene I would say that it is usually possible to include smaller projects even during the time-frame of your larger commission, and I'll add that an client giving you a really large job that will take two months of your time to complete really out to be giving you an advance as well.

my two main fiction publisher clients give me advances, either as 50% down on signature of contract or 30% - 30% - 40% with the second payment half-way through the contracted time frame.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:51
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Have you been offered a biggie? Jul 19, 2013

First of all, the deadline should leave you leeway to fit other stuff in. You can take a look at the work given you by direct clients or prized agencies, the ones you really do not want to lose, see how much time you need to do their work and factor it in to your deadline for the biggie.

Next, if it's going to take more than a month, you need to schedule staggered payment. You can promise staggered delivery too, but it might be worth adding the proviso that you'll give the entire job a final proofread once you've finished, so they don't go and publish the first part before you've finished the last. Explain that you might just change your mind about the translation of a key term in the course of the translation, as new information is revealed and you uncover new sources of terminology.

Another issue is that the client might expect a discount. This has been discussed here countless times: there are those who consider that after some initial spadework, the rest requires less research, and those who don't give discounts because a word is a word, and those who apply discounts for repetitions, and those who consider that savings due to investment in software to take care of repetitions should be theirs not the client's...

One thing that frightens me (I have a biggie looming in fact) is the boredom factor. I love variety, going from a press release on upmarket perfume to an article about an upcoming photographer in Cameroon to a catalogue of babywear to a website to lure tourists to a place I've never visited. Working on a huge project, however interesting it might be, can start to feel like routine.

Then there's the terminology you need to keep track of. I'm not very talented at CAT tools so I need to put together my own glossary. And changing my mind in part 5 about a term that crops up all over the place then gives me nightmares, I'm that afraid I might overlook an instance where I need to change it, if there's a spelling mistake in the source word so the search function doesn't find it for example.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:51
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
You can lose some clients when you refuse work Jul 19, 2013

Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:

I often tell clients "I'm busy until X date" and all they do is contact me after X date.


That works for agencies but not always for direct clients, who may not come back if they find someone better or cheaper as well as being more available. The key to this obviously is to work with a trustworthy colleague who will stand in for you while you're unavailable then gracefully hand the client back to you when you're back in the loop.


 

matt robinson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:51
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Bread and butter... Jul 19, 2013

I would never put my regular sources of work on hold for a large short-term payment. I think they (my regular clients) understand this, and it is one of the reasons we have built solid working relationships. If you can fit the job in around your regular work patterns then it may lead to a long-term relationship or recommendations, so for a short period of time I would consider working very unsociable hours in order to satisfy the requirements of both.

I tend to agree with MHB. If you are usually busy (as I am) then that should be a positive signal for responsible PMs.


 

Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:51
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Get an advance and take small things alongside Jul 19, 2013

I've just accepted my first 'long' job (ie the first thing I've taken that would take more than a week full-time to do) and the client was very happy to agree to partial payment in exchange for partial delivery midway through the job. I've also been taking other small jobs at the same time - partly to help out my main clients if they have something urgent - but mainly to avoid me getting sick of doing the same text day in day out for over a month.

 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 03:51
English to Russian
+ ...
Define "huge" Jul 19, 2013

If this project is for one month, there is nothing to worry about - it's not any longer than a vacation, so you are not going to lose clients; on the other hand, as it has been discussed here multiple times, 60 days payment term is a highway robbery, and even if you agree to it in general, you may want to renegotiate the terms for this particular job. Just give the same arguments to the client, stating that 60 days + project duration would put you in a financially precarious situation.
On the other hand, if the prospective project is, say, a year long, you should obviously negotiate monthly invoicing, and probably also give yourself a relaxed work schedule, so you'd be able to squeeze other clients' short-term jobs in.


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:51
Member
English to French
Hugeness Jul 19, 2013

For some agencies, hugeness means over 10k, so that that can require "volume discounts" for less-than-a-week jobs!

To me the main drawback of working on the same subject for more than a month is boredom.
I find it always exciting to start a large job when I know I will learn about the subject inside out (eg a machine, a situation, an event...), but after reaching the 54th chapter about eg. steel grades for various shapes of gaskets, this momentum has somewhat faded. Hence more care needs to be taken to ensure continued consistency and quality.

This added effort and looming boredom offsets any benefit related to gradual speed increase due to gradually reduced research and fixed overhead dilution. So for me, it is crystal clear that "volume discounts" have no material justification whatsoever and only mean that I accept to earn less per hour than usual. However, this issue is all part of the negociation process and should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Philippe


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 02:51
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No! Jul 19, 2013

There are no inconveniences if you:

1. Ask for an advance;
2. Negotiate a deadline large enough to enable you to accept other jobs;
3. Establish how many pages/words you will need to translate per day and... stick to it!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:51
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
One client is not a solid client base, IMO Jul 19, 2013

Marie Hélène AFONSO wrote:
if you have a couple of good clients who regularly send you requests, you will have to refuse over this period. They might replace you by other translators and by the time you finish your huge project, you might have lost your former clients.

I would say it's quite likely that clients will find other translators if you are unavailable for more than a month - loyalty in business goes only so far. But surely you wouldn't be spending all your working hours on just one project? Aside from what others have said about boredom, you'd be putting all your eggs in one basket and leaving yourself (and any dependent family members) totally at the mercy of this one client. What if that client never pays? Not a situation you want to have to face, of course, but spare a moment for it. At best, if you devote all your energies on a 2-month full-time project with an end-of-job invoice, you'll have no income for 3 months, probably longer. That's an investment on your part, as you have to use what savings you have to tide yourself over. It also represents a major risk of loss if either there's high inflation or if you could be adversely affected by exchange rate fluctuations. That's on top of the risk of having no work at all from the day this one large project ends.

Personally, I wouldn't feel I was in a safe position if I didn't send invoices to at least 3 clients in a calendar month. That's the minimum of eggs I'd want in my basket.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:51
Member (2008)
Italian to English
60 days - I wish.... Jul 19, 2013

Marie Hélène AFONSO wrote:

Hi everyone,

On the one hand, I am prone to think it is good news because it guarantees steady amount of work over a period (two months for instance).
But it comes out often that clients pay 60 days after date of invoice (and of course the invoice is sent once the job is finished).
Besides, if you have a couple of good clients who regularly send you requests, you will have to refuse over this period. They might replace you by other translators and by the time you finish your huge project, you might have lost your former clients.
What is your view on the matter?


60 days? Count yourself lucky ! Some of the agencies I work with only pay after 90 days (but they DO pay, otherwise I wouldn't work with them).

As for very large jobs: yes, you're right, these are excellent. All you need to do is to advise your client that your work on this job may be interrupted by other jobs, but only from your most trusted regular other customers. Take this into account when giving a deadline for completion. All agencies run by human beings will have no trouble understanding this.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:51
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends on the deadline Jul 19, 2013

Unless you have a very flexible or open delivery date, it could mean you'd need to refuse work from other clients while dealing with the "huge" project.

I'd be very wary myself, as I have about half a dozen regular clients who I try to be available for at all times, so need to weigh each offer up carefully to make sure I'm not biting off more than I can chew through in the time available.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Define "huge" Jul 19, 2013

To me, a huge translation is 100,000 (new) words or more.

A huge translation should not replace regular work. If you have to stop work for your regular customers because of the huge translation, it is clearly not a good idea. Huge translations should be for times when you are low on regular work or feel like stretching to make extra money.

And... I would never do a huge translation for a new customer without an advance payment and staggered payments for equally staggered deliveries.


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 04:51
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Another opinion Jul 19, 2013

In addition to what others have already said, I think that there is another aspect pertaining to a little different type of 'long term' arrangement.

During the course or my career I have encountered, myself or by hearsay from colleagues, offers for long projects (4-12 months) in which the independent translator had to commit to he available a certain amount of hours per week (usually 20-45), as well as to some others aspects, while the outsourcer usually doesn't commit to anything except the hourly (or other base unit) fee and payment terms. That is, one is expected to make 40 (or other amount) hours available per week (i.e. be available on a moment's notice), but there is no guarantee from the outsourcer to fill these hours with work. If out of these X hours the translator worked only half (or none) he or she will get paid only for this number.

This is very abusive practice that should be warned about and condemned. This is actually agreeing to work full or part time for someone, but on a freelance basis, and this is dangerous from a business standpoint.
First, working like this means that one is actually working as an employee for someone, only without the social benefits or the protection of the labor laws.
Secondly, time is money, as the say goes, and therefore "availability" hours - in which one commits his or her time and cannot take other projects - should be charged in full. Otherwise one will end up hemorrhaging money and clients.
Thirdly, for the viability and sustainability of one's business it is never a good business practice to put all the eggs in one basket, the risks and disadvantage outweigh the alleged advantages (most fall into what I call 'this trap' under the false sense of work and income security).

Early in my career, when I was inexperienced and looked at things the wrong way, I agreed to something like this. Luckily, I quickly understood how destructive it is to the health of my business and managed to opt out of the arrangement after two weeks, swearing never to repeat this mistake. I've also seen colleagues agreeing to this arrangement. One particular colleague worked a full year like that, only to find out at the end that: 1) He earned less compared to his income the previous year. Mainly due to the volume discount that he gave and the (quite a few) hours in a week in which he was supposed to be available but didn't work; 2) He returned to a dead business, having to start again almost from scratch.

Therefore, dealing with long project is a special case with special and specific consideration, under the umbrella of running a business. It should not be taken lightly or rushed into.


 
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