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State when your quote expires and what constitutes acceptance
Thread poster: Dan Lucas

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:22
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Jan 9, 2016

Suggestion: if you don't do this already, put an explicit time limit on your quotes. Include a statement to the effect that a job is not accepted until a PO is received.

I was reminded of this by a comment in another thread, in reference to requests for urgent work.

In my case I am seldom chasing urgent work but I did have a problem recently after responding to a job posting. The potential client seemed interested so I evaluated his document and sent a detailed quote.

The client still seemed interested and sent an email with some questions, to which I responded. Then the client sent another email with "a few questions before starting". Have you used tool X before? Could you do Y?

No, I said, I haven't used X and I wouldn't be prepared to do that because not using my own tools would make me inefficient. I wouldn't do Y as that is not part of a normal translation project. Maybe, I hinted delicately, I'm not the right translator for this job.

There was no response from the client. He didn't say "I understand, perhaps we should forget about this". He didn't say "Please go ahead with the job". He didn't send a PO. Clearly he had lost interest or had found another translator. I gave a mental shrug and got on with my life. Pity, because it was a nice size: not too big, not too small.

A few days later, some hours after the deadline specified in my quote, this potential client sent me an email asking me why the translation had not been delivered. As you can imagine, I was rather surprised.

As politely as I could, I pointed out to him that there had been no purchase order and that there had been no "please start this job". I also reminded him that my quote made it clear that it was only valid until "HH:MM GMT on XX December 2015" and had long since lapsed.

He was not happy. To be honest, I wasn't happy either. I regret the misunderstanding, not least because I missed out on a decent project for a client who seemed acceptable.

Anyway, from now on all my quotes will include not only a declaration to the effect that the quote lapses at a certain date and time GMT, but also a statement that, until a PO is sent, the job shall not be deemed to have been accepted by me.

What safeguards do you include in your quotes, if any?

Regards
Dan


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 22:22
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
What constitutes acceptance? Jan 9, 2016

I had just the opposite experience very recently! I have been working with an agency since 2011: very regular (every month) and interesting projects, acceptable rates, very polite and friendly PMs, payment always on time! In short, an ideal translation agency…

I was asked last 23rd December if I was available to translate a text to be delivered on the 30th December. I said yes and, though the following e-mail said “You will probably receive the go ahead on Monday”, I decided to go straight ahead translating the 4,000 words as we were getting into the full flow of Christmas and New Year. Wrong decision! A few days went by and when finally I asked for the PO I was told “please consider that job cancelled for the time being”…


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:22
English to Croatian
+ ...
POs Jan 9, 2016

Dan, that's unusual what happened to you, it may be useful to note that some clients take an email as the PO itself (but in that case you will find the PO Number in the email header or subject).

Teresa Borges wrote:

I had just the opposite experience very recently! I have been working with an agency since 2011: very regular (every month) and interesting projects, acceptable rates, very polite and friendly PMs, payment always on time! In short, an ideal translation agency…

I was asked last 23rd December if I was available to translate a text to be delivered on the 30th December. I said yes and, though the following e-mail said “You will probably receive the go ahead on Monday”, I decided to go straight ahead translating the 4,000 words as we were getting into the full flow of Christmas and New Year. Wrong decision! A few days went by and when finally I asked for the PO I was told “please consider that job cancelled for the time being”…


I think this one is on you, since they said "probably". Yes, we have to deal with these "stand-by" situations, so your client is basically buying your "stand-by" time for free until Monday? What if you received a good offer on Sunday, but turned it down due to this situation, then ended up losing both?


[Edited at 2016-01-09 21:23 GMT]


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:22
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Provided they're clear I don't mind an email Jan 9, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:
it may be useful to note that some clients take an email as the PO itself (but in that case you will find the PO Number in the email header or subject).

Yes, that's a possiblity. I just went back to double-check as I was gripped by sudden doubt, but in this case there was nothing.

My Japanese clients tend to use the equivalent to the PO number as a reference in their emails from the initial inquiry stage, and send a formal PO after I have accepted the project.

I have one semi-regular client that does not use POs at all, but they are very clear about what they want. If the project is approved they will say "Please go ahead" and then I reply with a "Going ahead on the terms discussed" and it runs pretty smoothly.

Regards
Dan


[Edited at 2016-01-10 10:16 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:22
English to Croatian
+ ...
Your misunderstanding Jan 9, 2016

So your misunderstanding with that client was centered around the CAT tool to use, right?

Not sure why they were not clear about proceeding with work, but it's not something I encountered before. If they leave the communication without any clear statements to proceed, it usually means it's canceled.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:22
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
A problem of ambiguity Jan 9, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:
So your misunderstanding with that client was centered around the CAT tool to use, right?

The misunderstanding was that he thought he had communicated to me that I should go ahead whereas I didn't get that impression at all. That was partly because he was still asking questions about tools etc., partly because he didn't respond to my last email in response to those questions and partly because he sent nothing like a purchase order. I'm used to clients who make that final step explicit with a "please go ahead".

What it boils down to is that ambiguity is bad for business: this is a universal truth of commerce. If there is a project on offer, the client's offer should be unambiguous and the translator's acceptance of that offer should be equally unambiguous.

Regards
Dan


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:22
English to Croatian
+ ...
Yes, I agree. Jan 9, 2016

Some clients make you go into their system and wait for the final button for every little project. Meaning there is a system that prevents ambiguity, if you didn't run it through the system = it didn't happen.

Although I prefer less complicated procedures that are fully completed in emails, with the final "please proceed" email (without logging into separate systems).


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:22
Chinese to English
Term Jan 10, 2016

Dan Lucas wrote:

What safeguards do you include in your quotes, if any?

Regards
Dan


One good safeguard is to make it expressly clear how long your quote is effective for/under what circumstances it may be terminated, especially if it seems possible a potential job will not go forward. This is especially important when dealing with clients in other time zones.

I just had a client ask for a quote on a rather large job. I replied with the quote, after which the client wrote to say that they had just submitted their own quote (based on mine) to their end client. After a day passed with no news, I wrote back to the client to tell them that my quote would stand unless I wrote to them to indicate otherwise (I made it clear that this was a possibility). This gave me an out if another client offered a job--all I would have to do is write to the first client to tell them the quote was cancelled.



[Edited at 2016-01-10 00:26 GMT]


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Denise Phelps  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Time waits for no-one Jan 10, 2016

Following some steep learning curves, my standard response is roughly "Pending confirmation, at time of writing I could deliver on X date for X fee". Leaves it clear I want explicit confirmation, and I don't commit myself to hanging around for even a nanosecond waiting for their decision.

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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 06:22
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Entirely their fault Jan 10, 2016

I don't know what business they're in, but I don't know any in which you don't have to give a positive confirmation to go ahead with a service.

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:22
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Quote time from PO received, not specified day and hour. Jan 10, 2016

A fairly obvious point, but one that I have forgotten sometimes:
When asked if you can complete by a certain time, and the job is still not a definite order, don't agree to this but say you can complete it within X hours or days of getting the PO with the go-ahead to start it. As the song Kathleen Mavourneen says, "It may be a year and it may be forever..."


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Kristina Cosumano  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:22
Member (2015)
German to English
An explicit "go ahead" is required. Jan 10, 2016

Regarding POs: I have worked for a large agency who sent the PO after my translations were submitted, so that I may include the number on my invoices. However, a clear wording to the effect "OK, please proceed" must be coming from the client before I start, and the PM was very clear about that.

It sounds like your client got a bit ahead of him/herself and assumed the OK had been given when it had not been.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 22:22
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I know i'm guilty... Jan 10, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:

Teresa Borges wrote:

I had just the opposite experience very recently! I have been working with an agency since 2011: very regular (every month) and interesting projects, acceptable rates, very polite and friendly PMs, payment always on time! In short, an ideal translation agency…

I was asked last 23rd December if I was available to translate a text to be delivered on the 30th December. I said yes and, though the following e-mail said “You will probably receive the go ahead on Monday”, I decided to go straight ahead translating the 4,000 words as we were getting into the full flow of Christmas and New Year. Wrong decision! A few days went by and when finally I asked for the PO I was told “please consider that job cancelled for the time being”…


I think this one is on you, since they said "probably". Yes, we have to deal with these "stand-by" situations, so your client is basically buying your "stand-by" time for free until Monday? What if you received a good offer on Sunday, but turned it down due to this situation, then ended up losing both?


[Edited at 2016-01-09 21:23 GMT]


I know it’s my bad and that in this case I’m guilty for having rushed things, but otherwise I couldn’t have delivered the project on time…

PS In over 30 years, I have never received a good offer on a Sunday…


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Many clients don't use POs Jan 10, 2016

I agree with you, Dan, except that I wouldn't require a PO. I actually receive very few, even from agencies. Some put a reference number in the email subject line; others have a different way to identify the job, maybe from the file name.

For a new client, I always end my email with words to the effect that their reply must explicitly agree to my T&C and authorise me to do the work. With some clients, I feel the need to repeat that, albeit less formally, for every job. But for others, we soon get to a very simplified exchange. I might get an email titled "Xxx January n" (Xxx being project name and n being a sequential number within the month) with the text "Can you do this for EOB Tuesday?". All that's required from me is an "OK" or similar.

I imagine that was part of your problem, Dan. You had a good relationship with the client and thought you were on the same wavelength. In that case, I can see that there could be a problem, one that I too could have one day. But you can only cover so many bases. In the end there's always going to be a slight risk of everything going pear-shaped over a misunderstanding.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:22
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Also in emails Jan 10, 2016

Dan Lucas wrote:
Anyway, from now on all my quotes will include not only a declaration to the effect that the quote lapses at a certain date and time GMT, but also a statement that, until a PO is sent, the job shall not be deemed to have been accepted by me.

In addition to the expiry date, which is stated in all my quotations, I try to make a clear statement in emails about the fact that I do not begin work until I get an explicit request to do so. Such statement can take forms like the following:

- I will not begin work on this job until I hear from you in this sense.
- I remain on standby on this job until your final confirmation.
- I will wait for your confirmation of this order before doing any work.

I often ask explicitely, in case I feel there could be any misunderstanding:

- So, I should wait for your confirmation before doing any work, right?
- This is not a final order from you yet, is it?
- I will wait for your explicit order before doing any work. Is that OK?

Even with all these safeguards, confusions happen!


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