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Why do I find it so hard to say no?
Thread poster: Olga Koepping

Olga Koepping  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:34
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
Sep 9, 2014

Here is a typical day for me: I plan out what I need to do from my rather long admin list (things like sort out tax return form, update my profile, get the Pro certification done that proz has asked me to do for ages), as well as my personal stuff. I make a list. I put times against that list, and feel quite happy about it. Then I get some work in from my favourite and priority client. That's fine, that's the whole definition of freelancing, being flexible within a framework. So far, so good.

Then... I get an email from a slightly less favourite client. I agree to his work, as the deadline doesn't clash with my first client. Then I start work on my job for first client. Here is where I wonder what's wrong with me: I get an email, when i'm halfway through my work, thinking this is great, now I can fit in a run before dinner, then proofread and send off. The email is from my lowest-paying client, who is also usually rude, extremely demanding in terms of deadlines, and has dull, very formatting-heavy jobs. I ACCEPT her request for help with an urgent job. Why? Why do I want to make a client happy at all costs? She never even says thanks either.

Now I am tired for my priority job, will get it done of course, but I subordinated all of my plans to a request from someone who does not seem to respect my work or my time, and who I know from experience is not even grateful. Does anyone else do this?


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:34
English to Polish
+ ...
... Sep 9, 2014

Because matching up with clients is much like dating. It's difficult to say no to dark and handsome, the femmes fatales and the other bad ones.

[Edited at 2014-09-09 22:03 GMT]


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Olga Koepping  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:34
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
brilliant! Sep 9, 2014

Well, that made me laugh! quite true probably, too!

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Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:34
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
A constant struggle Sep 9, 2014

I try to embrace the philosophy of "work when there's work" but yes that sometimes means having my plans completely dashed.

One thing you can do try and make your situation better is carefully consider those questionable clients and think about setting them loose. Maybe your time would be better spent doing a little advertising or just taking some R&R and then being refreshed to do good work for your good clients when they come calling?


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Caroline Lakey  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:34
French to English
Me too Sep 10, 2014

I'm afraid I don't have a solution to offer Olga, but if it's any consolation I'm exactly the same!

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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:34
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
The run is part of work too! Sep 10, 2014

One thing that helped me this past year is that I started looking at exercise not as a fun hobby, but as part of my job as a freelancer. Doesn't make sense if you're thinking short-term, but if you're planning to freelance for the next 20-30 years it makes perfect sense, as being in good shape will lead to better health, lower blood pressure (can't get much done work wise if you're in the doctor's office), etc.

So maybe next time that last, low-paying client writes with a project, write back and tell them you're busy with a project without explaining that this project is in fact your run. Don't feel guilty about this either, maintaining one's body and health for the future is just as legitimate of a project as any translation project.

[Edited at 2014-09-10 08:51 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Could it be... Sep 10, 2014

Olga Koepping wrote:
Now I am tired for my priority job, will get it done of course, but I subordinated all of my plans to a request from someone who does not seem to respect my work or my time, and who I know from experience is not even grateful. Does anyone else do this?


Sounds very familiar.

Every now and then I seriously consider trimming from my list of clients those who give short, low-paying jobs with immediate deadlines. Two things prevent me: 1. There is safety in numbers, and one should therefore not reduce one's agency list by too much. 2. These low-paying, immediate deadline, small job clients sometimes send large, easy jobs that suddenly raise the bank balance by a welcome amount.

About two years ago I started reducing the type of work that I offer, as well as refusing same-day deadlines. This has resulted in a reduced work-load and also in a somewhat lower income overall, but generally I'm less stressed. Having made a firm decision not to do such work makes it easier to say no when the work arrives, even from an otherwise very prolific client.

There are a number of clients for whom I will deliver by 5 PM as long as they send the [short] job before noon, but one has to repeat the requirement quite a bit before they catch on. In one such case, I'm afraid that I ended up being replaced as "the translator" for most jobs.

Not accepting same-day deadlines from regular clients for tasks in the future has reduced my work (and income) a bit as well, but overall I find that clients who know me are willing to extend the deadline to the next day at "start of business" if I communicate my request swiftly. By "same-day deadlines" I'm referring mostly to proofreading or back-translation jobs in which I have to wait for the translator to deliver, and I don't know exactly when he'll deliver it, and so I can't plan my day properly if I'm supposed to be "on standby" for the subsequent task, even if it's a small job.

I also started refusing jobs that have lots of instructions or many complex steps. Again, this has impacted on my income a bit, but it makes my life easier. In many such jobs, not all of the steps are necessary, or not all of the instructions apply to me, but it happened too often that I would miss one of the instructions or not realise that I must do one of the tasks, and this lead to lots of e-mailing back and fro in subsequent days, which increases the work but not the pay.

But for the problem you mention -- saying no is difficult, because although you may have planned your day with various activities, paying jobs tend to override any other task, don't they?

Samuel


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:34
German to English
If you are earning enough money overall ... Sep 10, 2014

just raise your price for undesirable clients until they either go away or the pay is good enough that you are happy to work for them again.

You don't have to say "no", it's much easier to say "yes, but ...".


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:34
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I agree with Michael Sep 10, 2014

I had a client in Rome who was somehow always persuasive even though she never paid without multiple reminders and was always very late about doing so.

The last time she asked me to do a job for her, I said OK on condition that she pay me within 30 days without me needing to remind her, and that if that didn't happen, a daily rate of interest would accrue beginning from the 30th day.

I never heard from her again

[Edited at 2014-09-10 08:29 GMT]


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Alison Sabedoria  Identity Verified
France
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
We always have the choice... Sep 10, 2014

...whatever the consequences, however costly, whatever anyone else may think: the power to choose is always in our hands. But the journey to freedom and self respect is often a long one.

There are very few people in this world to whom we owe an explanation
"No" is simply an expression of choice. There's no need to feel guilty, no need for "No, because...", it's just "No". Learning that can be very liberating. It also frees us to say "Yes" and really mean it, or "No, not that, but how about this?"

This was a battle I had with myself many years ago. There was a particular conductor in the local Early Music circle who possessed far more infectious enthusiasm than skill. He put on ambitious programmes of little-known music which would be dangled like a carrot in front of good musicians. He used to plead until I gave in, but I always kicked myself afterwards. The concerts were badly managed, stressful and one was a complete nightmare.

Aware that my reputation was at stake and determined to harden my attitude, I made myself a poster on yellow paper in big, fat letters to put on the wall by the phone: If XXXXX phones, the answer is NO! Soon, other names appeared. It took about a year to feel comfortable, but I learned to say "No!" and expect it to be heard. I was amazed at how other people treated me with respect once I began to show more respect for myself.

As a translator, I still need to remind myself regularly: lips slightly apart, tongue against top teeth, hummy sound in throat, let jaw drop, mouth into round shape, bring lips forward into tube, increase breath pressure and volume... there! Not too difficult, was it?

Now, all together, say it with me, slowly and firmly: NO!


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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:34
German to English
I know exactly what you mean. Sep 10, 2014

I do it too. My default position is to say yes. It's nice to be wanted. It's nice to be appreciated (by some people). It's nice to feel useful. I enjoy being busy. I enjoy being seen to be busy. I like proving to myself that I can do this translating thing. I like presenting nice big income figures to my accountant at the end of the year.

But sometimes I have to remind me that actually none of this matters. The world doesn't actually care how busy I am. Or how much I earn. It's only my pride that cares, and sometimes that needs to be recognised for what it is - just pride. If I earn a bit less this year than last, so what? There's nothing wrong with taking a day off to do other things occasionally (but I still find it quite hard to do).

I suspect that women are particularly prone to fall into the niceness/helpfulness trap that tends to make us say yes to requests. Being nice is good for our self-esteem. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we are OK as we are - not simply because of what we do, who we help or what we achieve.


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Agnes Lenkey  Identity Verified
German to Spanish
+ ...
Thank you. Sep 10, 2014

Thank you for your post, Armorel. And to all of you for sharing your thoughts. It seems we are all coping with the same issues during our work...

Struggling to find enough time for my projects, plans and my way of earning my living (my two little ones are quite demanding, kindergarten & school is far away, I ride a bike, so I need to take the bus to fetch them, etc., etc.) – like Armorel says, me too I need to remind myself something that I really tend to forget during this struggle: "Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we are OK as we are - not simply because of what we do, who we help or what we achieve." I will put this with big letters on my fridge today!

For me it isn’t hard to say no, I do it often, reminding myself of my limits in terms of professional knowledge and in terms of my limits of bearing the stress. I find it much more harder to follow the suggestion of Michael and raise my rates, I find that the most difficult thing to do, knowing that so many charge so little here in Spain. I say often no to projects that do not fit into my time-frame; the reason I give to the client is that I am working on another project and I cannot accept this deadline or fulfil his requirements right now. Usually this is true, as well. Because caring for your kids or running or doing what each one needs in order to maintain his/her balance is equally important to translating. Like Samuel says, the difference will show up on your bank account and you will earn less - but as Lukas says, "matching up with clients is much like dating": no lover is perfect, there are always positive and negative aspects to accept and live with.

Best regards to all of you and have a nice Wednesday,

Agnes


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Olga Koepping  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:34
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Sep 10, 2014

Armorel, I think you have hit the nail on the head there, about pride, and proving that I can do it. It's not particularly about money, as that client now contributes very little to my income, but as you say, being busy, being needed. And loth as I am to admit it, it may indeed have something to do with being female.

Michael and Tom made very good suggestions for ways that I can say yes while actually saying no, thank you! Next time she writes, I can write back a really enthusiastic email, saying, "Yes I'm certainly available, and would be very pleased to help, at my rate of [twice what you are offering]".

Thank you to Alison too, quite right, I owe explanations to very few people.

I shouldn't be accepting same-day deadlines, ever, because it just means it's a bad agency that over-promises their clients things they can't necessarily deliver at the appropriate quality. It also makes me feel like a machine, the avoidance of which is half the point of being a freelancer and being in charge of my business.

Now for a LONG RUN!


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Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 03:34
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Stop using the term and consider yourself as a freelancer Sep 10, 2014

I apologize if this might come across as rude, it is really not my intention, but I have to be direct here.

From my experience, the crux of the matter is how one perceives one's position and role in the market.

My advice, stop calling and thinking of yourself as a freelancer. The term freelancer has a somewhat negative connotation in the many spaces in the business world. It is perceived as equivalent to day workers, someone who is not really professional or specialized, and someone who is quite desperate and eager to pick up any gig thrown their way while being dictated the terms. Nothing the creates or promotes trust or respect.

You provide a commercial professional (and hopefully specialized) service, usually in a B2B environment. I would argue that most serious businesses seek to partner up with other trustworthy businesses. The fact that you work "alone" doesn't matter. Every business out-there deals with business issues, time of high demand and low demand, and so forth; yet, many of them - and certainly the successful ones - have a structure (business hours, terms of service, etc.), follow business best practices, know where they are headed (or at least what is their desired destination), and overall understand that not all opportunities are born equal, and some enquirers that walk through the door or land in your inbox are not opportunities at all. They control their operation and set limits. They do not let themselves be carried away to wherever the wind blows.

So, if to sum up, stop consider yourself a freelancer and instead start thinking of yourself as a business. Then, conduct yourself as a business, and this entails a very important (although not always pleasant as it sometimes confronts you with things that are easier to avoid) exercise in which you will have to sit down and define you goals, business terms of service (including business hours), what is your service offer (and if you are not yet specialized - i.e. still a generalist - start to think seriously about a specialization), what type of clients you want to ideally work with, and the type of clients you want to work with - and many times it is easier to start by compiling a list of the traits and characteristics of the types of client you DO NOT want to work with.
This can later be adjusted as necessary according to the accumulated experience and changing needs, as your career develops. You don't have to get it to be perfect the first time (you won't even if you would try), you just have to get it done as a baseline policy and plan.

[Edited at 2014-09-10 14:49 GMT]


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njweatherdon
Canada
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Some clients aren't worth the headache. But in patchy times it's hard to say no. Sep 11, 2014

You could be quite direct to the second client, saying something like "I'd be very happy to get to that as soon as possible. Unfortunately, someone else who has high regard for my work and pays twice as much as you asked first, and on both counts you are second. Please send a PO and confirm that you would like me to fulfill your translation needs and I will deliver asap x2, a period of time which will begin in approximately (enter number of hours or days here)."

But I get it. If you know the better client will wait, then you might like to try to squeeze in a little extra work.

A couple weeks ago I did one low-paying job for a guy. A few days later he sent another one, and by the time I'd worked on it for an hour he'd passed it off to someone else before I could say "yes, it is realistic to immediately do that in one day for almost no money", ok, it would have earned me somewhere in the range of minimum wage while making use of software knowledge, multiple languages and a background in several scientific fields.

Well, needless to say that was the last time I lifted a finger for the new client. But on the same day I got a rush job from a valued client, for whom I will practically psychoanalyze every letter of the document, and who paid me for a few hours work what would take days to earn working for the client who never needs to be mentioned again.

Soon enough, you will find yourself focused on the notion of finding clients that are worth having. Some clients aren't worth having. It will be a pleasure to ditch them eventually, and they will be lucky to find someone half as good.


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