Pre-booking availability for free
Thread poster: sailingshoes
sailingshoes
Local time: 03:41
Spanish to English
May 10, 2016

In recent years I've noticed an increase in those annoying requests from agencies that go: "When would you be able to deliver the job from the time of confirmation by the client?"

The answer is obviously along the lines of "How long is a piece of string?"

Sometimes the question may simply be the result of naivety, but in the case of one agency the practice has become borderline abusive. I've explained on countless occasions that I can't pre-book availability (unless it's paid for upfront), but I still get daily (or almost) requests to pre-book availability, possibly in the hopes that one fine day I'll crack. (This won't happen: there's a football stadium down the road and I'll buy a hotdog franchise before pre-booking my time for nothing!) Despite the hassle, I'm still fond of the agency and don't blame the individual PMs, who I'm sure are being browbeaten into asking this silly question.

Obviously I have made some exceptions in the past (for extra pieces of a long project floating in late, etc.) but it's almost always ended up costing me money.

What about everybody else? Is the practice on the rise with you too? How do you respond?


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:41
English to French
+ ...
My standard answer: May 10, 2016

(because I've long ago lost the patience to explain) is along the lines of: "Thank you for your interest. Feel free to contact me when you have an actual for me to consider."

Here in the USA, it has been, not really "on the rise" but rather quite common from fly-by-night agencies (those which regularly send messages late at night) and those whose PM names never appear twice at the bottom of a message.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 03:41
English to Croatian
+ ...
Have you addressed your concerns to them? May 10, 2016

Tell them it costs you time and money and if they can pay for this type of booking (eg. $X per week as base rate + the project earnings).

What stops you from discussing this with them, if you haven't already?


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Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Requested by user.
sailingshoes
Local time: 03:41
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for that May 11, 2016

Thanks for your responses. I'm closing the discussion from my end.

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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:41
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
It won't cost you much time May 11, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:

Tell them it costs you time and money and if they can pay for this type of booking (eg. $X per week as base rate + the project earnings).


I don't think the client is booking/reserving your time slots when they ask "When would you be able to deliver the job from the time of confirmation by the client?"

The client is simply getting some sense so that he can make a better plan time-wise. So, it is not quite appropriate to tell your client "it costs you time and money".


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:41
German to English
possible solution May 11, 2016

I have a standard number of words that I offer per day, regardless of my given workload. It is about 1/3 of a normal day's work and 1/4 of what I can do without going to any kind of extreme lengths. Clients who want things faster can get more if I have the time and they pay a rush fee.

That works very well for me and it gives clients the dependability they need. It is occasionally unpleasant, but generally works just fine.

Now if the client wants you to keep the whole next week free to complete a 10,000 word project in 48 hours at some point during that week (but without any compensation if the project never materializes), then that is their problem. There are plenty of translators out there living in the parallel universe where this kind of thing makes sense: Let them take care of it and find better clients.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 03:41
English to Croatian
+ ...
Agree. May 11, 2016

jyuan_us wrote:

Lingua 5B wrote:

Tell them it costs you time and money and if they can pay for this type of booking (eg. $X per week as base rate + the project earnings).


I don't think the client is booking/reserving your time slots when they ask "When would you be able to deliver the job from the time of confirmation by the client?"

The client is simply getting some sense so that he can make a better plan time-wise. So, it is not quite appropriate to tell your client "it costs you time and money".


I wouldn't take it as an implication that we have an "employment" kind of relationship either. I would simply accept any first favorable project that I am offered meanwhile, and clients who work with freelancers should already be aware of how freelancing works.

And yes, it can cost you money because some clients don't make things easy with time planning. It can range from slow communication to overly complicated negotiation processes, but they can indirectly cost you money.

[Edited at 2016-05-11 07:53 GMT]


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:41
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Not always a bad thing May 11, 2016

sailingshoes wrote:
What about everybody else? Is the practice on the rise with you too? How do you respond?

Maybe my clients are unusually organised, but my regulars often book me several weeks in advance and then give me updates closer in. I provisionally set that time aside - 4,000 characters of XX content arriving on YY date for delivery on ZZ date - and it is unusual for me to have a cancellation.

One thing that does sometimes happen for certain types of project is that with one or two clients a job estimated at 4,000 characters may come in at 2,000 characters. I have learned to allow a little scheduling leeway by assuming that 4,000 is an absolute maximum and that it will likely be lower.

Overall, I far prefer to work with clients who discuss their schedule well ahead of time and ask me to take that into account if the alternative is working clients who have little idea of their work flows from day to day.

Regards
Dan


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sailingshoes
Local time: 03:41
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Let's re-up the question May 11, 2016

Sorry I'd closed the discussion because my initial post obviously didn't make the essential point clearly enough, to judge from some responses.

This practice by agencies (obviously not end clients) is aimed at obtaining an upfront commitment and not information (every agency is aware how long standard translation takes). This is presumably so that they can keep you on hold (an unpaid option) while they put in a bid for a job after receiving an invitation to offer.

I'm a full-time and usually fully booked translator, so staying on hold would lose me money every time a deal of this nature doesn't go through or doesn't go through as scheduled. This really seems a no-brainer for any professional.

I don't need to be offered ways to answer this question . it's very simply and I have my own formulae - but it's interesting to hear how you respond. As clearly stated at the outset, I've discussed this question with the offenders, which is why I view their insistence as particularly irritating (although as also explained, the relationship has its upsides, which is why I'm hanging onto it).

The question is (or should have been) whether this practice is on the rise and what your take on the meaning of this trend would be. I imagine one possibility is the increasing recurrence to multiple invitations to offer/bid on the part of client companies thanks to the internet and the increasingly lengthening of subcontracting chains.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:41
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
They're just asking... May 11, 2016

sailingshoes wrote:
In recent years I've noticed an increase in those annoying requests from agencies that go: "When would you be able to deliver the job from the time of confirmation by the client?"


My answer: "generally, I can translate 2000 words per day per client".

I do not consider such a question to be "pre-booking" at all. If a client asks that question, and later sends me the job and PO, but during that time I had accepted other tasks that fill my schedule, then I simply reply and explain the situation, and offer an alternative delivery date/time.


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Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:41
German to English
Agree with Dan May 11, 2016

Dan Lucas wrote:

sailingshoes wrote:
What about everybody else? Is the practice on the rise with you too? How do you respond?

Maybe my clients are unusually organised, but my regulars often book me several weeks in advance and then give me updates closer in. I provisionally set that time aside - 4,000 characters of XX content arriving on YY date for delivery on ZZ date - and it is unusual for me to have a cancellation.

One thing that does sometimes happen for certain types of project is that with one or two clients a job estimated at 4,000 characters may come in at 2,000 characters. I have learned to allow a little scheduling leeway by assuming that 4,000 is an absolute maximum and that it will likely be lower.

Overall, I far prefer to work with clients who discuss their schedule well ahead of time and ask me to take that into account if the alternative is working clients who have little idea of their work flows from day to day.

Regards
Dan


I completely agree with this. I have one agency and one direct client (together they make up about 40% of my freelance income) who regularly "warn" me in advance that a project is coming and ask about my availability. Honestly, I appreciate it.
Unlike you, Dan, mine tend to underestimate - the worst was once being asked if I could translate 16 PPT slides and then getting 60... But that was an exception and their estimate is usually pretty close.

I can see how it would be very annoying if you had an agency who continually asked you to reserve time and then a project never materialized, but in general I think that the practice of asking you whether you can reserve some availability in 2 weeks time falls into the category of good communication practices.

In turn, if I know I'm going to have a period where I'm not available (vacations), I let my clients know several weeks in advance and tell them I'll be happy to do projects before or after that time. Once or twice it has gotten them to move a project forward to make sure they could get it to me before my vacation.

In your situation I would say talk to the agency, but in general I don't think "pre-booking" is a bad thing, and as long as the jobs actually do materialize, I don't charge for it.


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sailingshoes
Local time: 03:41
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Enough already! May 11, 2016

I'll leave you guys to it!

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 00:41
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Availability calendar May 11, 2016

Many translation agencies have an "availability calendar" attached to your vendor profile, where they expect you to update your current workload. If the translator works for a bunch of these, by the time s/he has finished going through hoops to log in at each one and updating them, the status will be no longer current.

So I chose the neutral-ground Proz availability calendar as the one and only to be updated, and I have a special page (unlinked - I provide them the direct URL) on my web site where I explain exactly what I mean by each color there. A link there, when clicked, will cause my Proz calendar to pop up.

I keep it updated all the time. Green doesn't necessarily mean that I'm idling. It means that anything scheduled for that day may be postponed, so a new job can fit in.

When they consult me on a potential job and give me approximate metrics, I tell them that I'll probably need 'X' days to do it, and give them the URL. It's just a matter of clicking and checking in real time for my next 'X' days available; no time wasted with e-mails back and forth.


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