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Difficult Direct Client (Follow up to to my last post)
Thread poster: Eric S.

Eric S.
Taiwan
Local time: 20:19
Chinese to English
Feb 20, 2017

Previously, I wrote about a 'potential client' who was using non-native editors, who, quite frankly, had very poor English comprehension skills.

http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/311617-dealing_with_excessive_counter_productive_editor_feedback-page3.html

In summary, they kept asking me to justify translations that I didn't feel needed justified, such as how the word "hail from" is another way of saying "come from," etc.

In the end, after hours of text-chat negotiation, the client finally said that I could ignore the 'false edits,' which I did when I got my latest feedback report.

Wouldn't you know it, the client still insisted on having long conversations about them one by one. I responded to two (in text chat), but then I reminded the client of everything we'd discussed:

-the fact that the edits were clearly a result of poor English comprehension
-the fact that we'd already spent hours discussing the fact that I wasn't going to have to respond to the 'false edits'
-the fact that its a huge time drain and beyond the scope of normal translation processes
-the fact that he *still* wasn't giving me high enough workloads to meet my minimum work requirement, which are in place, by the way, so that I can justify the unprecedented amount of time I was spending on this 'feedback' issue
- and I even revisited the idea that we could limit the amount of false edits I respond to per week.

His final solution: We need to agree to a solution... But we already did, I reminded him. His answer: he still isn't ready to trust me, basically. Apparently he thinks I might be lying or stretching the truth when answering the feedback from the false edits. A most recent example of which would be me explaining that "B being known by A as" = "A referring to B as," in other words basic English grammar.

I'm kind of at my wits end here, but I'm reluctant to cut my losses as if we are able to come to a reasonable solution there's the potential for US$15,000+ worth of work, and when (and if) the client finally (i've already done about 7000 words of translation) begins to trust my responses to his editor's feedback it could a good source of income and likely a good repeat client.

At the same time, I feel like I've done my best to :
1. Do what I'm supposed to do as a translator (high quality translation, response to reasonable feedback)
2. Explain my limits (minimum workload - which still hasn't been met nor has he formally agreed to meet it, limit for false edits)
3. Go above and beyond (hours chatting with the client talking about the same old issues, and even responding to a lot of false edits for >1000 word projects each, meaning not very much money at all for the large amount of time spent)

But no matter what I see the client just says he understands, but they need to be sure that my translations are accurate enough. That is totally reasonable, of course, but their methods obviously an issue and thats up to them to resolve, as they've rejected every single one of my solutions (ie. payment for response to all 'false edits' calculated based on time/wordcount/etc.)

I could really use some more advice if there's something I'm missing, especially from those in the ChineseEnglish language pairs; Is this somehow not considered unreasonable in our language pair(s)?

Thanks


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Bryan Crumpler  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:19
Dutch to English
+ ...
I feel your pain. Feb 20, 2017

Think of this: would you go eat at a restaurant if you already didn't trust the chef to make good food? And even if you did trust the chef, is it normal for you to hire food testers to verify the scrumptiousness of the dish before you bite into it? This isn't ancient Rome.

Next time, keep it simple.

State: "I'll be happy to have an independent expert / native speaker verify the correctness of the idiom for you. Be mindful, however, that additional charges for that will be reflected on your next bill."

...and leave it at that.

If you require up-front payment (as I do for direct clients), adjust the last sentence to something to the tune of this: "First, however, I will need an additional deposit of $XXXX to retain an editor/reviewer for that purpose."

That should make it clear that you're serious about providing quality assurance without putting the client on the defensive about his/her (poor) language competency.

In the future, don't do business with clients who don't operate on the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. If they don't trust your work, then they need to do better due diligence during the hiring phase.


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:19
Romanian to English
+ ...
Keep it simple Feb 20, 2017

Bryan Crumpler wrote:
Next time, keep it simple.

State: "I'll be happy to have an independent expert / native speaker verify the correctness of the idiom for you. Be mindful, however, that additional charges for that will be reflected on your next bill."

...and leave it at that.


That's very sound advice.
Don't continue to work for this client, unless you want this experience to be repeated every single time you deliver something. This is the client's modus operandi or personality or whatever - he will question every one of your less common word choices and you'll spend a lot of time trying to convince him. That's just too many unpaid hours.
If you're letting him do this to you and engage you in these futile conversations, he will know that he can. And it will be very difficult for you to get out.
It's like in any other relationship - if you see alarming signs right from the start, don't hope that it will get better. It won't.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:19
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
They need to get a "native English" reviewer Feb 20, 2017

What a drag for you!
I agree with Annamaria and Bryan. It's clear from what you say that the client's problem is not you but his reviewer who is obviously not a native speaker of English.
In a final message on the subject, tell him (politely) that for future projects, if any, he must appoint a different reviewer, someone who is a native speaker of English. After that, don't engage in any further discussions about the correctness or otherwise of your past work which has already been analysed ad nauseam.
Best wishes.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:19
English to Croatian
+ ...
Is the client a native English speaker? Feb 20, 2017

If they are not, they may have their own perception of what sounds good or not in English. You chances are slim in case your client (aka decision maker) is an overconfident non-native English speaker. Or another option may be that they are causing a chaotic situation just to make everything complicated hoping you may give up and they can avoid the payment eventually.

Best of luck anyway.


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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:19
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Difficult Direct Client Feb 20, 2017

After all the trouble you have gone to and given the wishy-washy attitude of the client, do you really think there is potential for $15,000 worth of work down the line?

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Eric S.
Taiwan
Local time: 20:19
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Excellent advice Feb 20, 2017

Bryan Crumpler wrote:

Think of this: would you go eat at a restaurant if you already didn't trust the chef to make good food? And even if you did trust the chef, is it normal for you to hire food testers to verify the scrumptiousness of the dish before you bite into it? This isn't ancient Rome.

Next time, keep it simple.

State: "I'll be happy to have an independent expert / native speaker verify the correctness of the idiom for you. Be mindful, however, that additional charges for that will be reflected on your next bill."

...and leave it at that.

If you require up-front payment (as I do for direct clients), adjust the last sentence to something to the tune of this: "First, however, I will need an additional deposit of $XXXX to retain an editor/reviewer for that purpose."

That should make it clear that you're serious about providing quality assurance without putting the client on the defensive about his/her (poor) language competency.

In the future, don't do business with clients who don't operate on the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. If they don't trust your work, then they need to do better due diligence during the hiring phase.



Excellent advice! I'll be sure to follow it if I can, but what I really fear is that all potential direct clients in my target language (China, Taiwan) will be like this, so I'd really love to hear from some translators who work with clients from these countries.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:19
English to Croatian
+ ...
I don't, but... Feb 20, 2017

Eric S. wrote:
Excellent advice! I'll be sure to follow it if I can, but what I really fear is that all potential direct clients in my target language (China, Taiwan) will be like this, so I'd really love to hear from some translators who work with clients from these countries.


I don't work in your pair, however, I was contacted by Chinese agencies on a few occasions. I never ended up working with any Chinese client because in the initial stage of our correspondence, I knew we were not and would never be a good fit.

Yes, some would send me samples to translate (without me asking them to do so), of source texts - I translate from English, but their source texts were in indecipherable Chinglish. They must have decided it sounded "just right" in English (like the OP's client does) and they just leave it as an official document - sending it further for translation in other languages! And they wanted this Chinglish-Croatian translation done at 0.02-0.03 per word. Other than that, their attitude, tone of correspondence, their system of work, etc. were all extremely unprofessional.

I am just curious whether their "offers" for translations into English pay any better? Even if they do, based on my experience, you will end up working with a very high-maintenance client one way or another.



[Edited at 2017-02-20 11:19 GMT]


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Eric S.
Taiwan
Local time: 20:19
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Rates vary Feb 20, 2017

Lingua 5B wrote:

I am just curious whether their "offers" for translations into English pay any better? Even if they do, based on my experience, you will end up working with a very high-maintenance client one way or another.



[Edited at 2017-02-20 11:19 GMT]


Lack of professionalism is rampant, at least from what I've seen, and I can't pretend like I'm surprised.

That being said, I don't think anyone expects a decent translator to accept 3rd world $0.02-$0.03 per word offers like you mentioned. Of course, there are tons of those out there, but I still find that there is enough work at the $0.06 per word mark with agencies, and from what I hear the normal range for direct clients is about $0.10-$0.15 per word (though I got this from a thread on here with EN-ZH translators working with US clients.) The highest rate I've personally gotten from a direct client is $0.13 per word, because the work was highly time-intense.

That being said, I've heard that Chinese companies (translators and direct clients alike) don't care about quality, and its all about 'connections' (from a ZH-EN worker who spoke very poor English, nonetheless), and I can't pretend it doesn't worry me. The price I quoted this current client is $0.10 per word, but I would really feel better if I was seeing more competence and professionalism as I'm kind of desperate get away from agencies due to their low rates (and also lack of professionalism) in my pair.


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:19
French to English
"False edit" Feb 20, 2017

False edit is a false argument, a non-starter. It means going round in circles; the whole problem is that the proofreader in question and you will never agree about what is a false edit. If you did agree, it would not be a moot point.

I'd drop 'em like a hot potato.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:19
English to Croatian
+ ...
It may be different cultural perception but... Feb 20, 2017

One time a direct client asked me to manage his project into 12 languages. One of the languages was Chinese, and of course I found a Chinese translator.

My payment terms/NET was 15 days max.

I pay the Chinese translator for the first batch of text after 3 days (for specific management reasons I could and had to do it like that that time).
I pay the same translator for the second batch after 4 days, and so on several times within 5 day frame.

Next batch I didn't pay so fast but was of course planning to meet my 15 day NET (see above), and then I receive an email from the said Chinese translator, after 7 days, screaming out in caps:

WHERE IS MY PAYMENT??

What to say?icon_biggrin.gif Of course their payment arrived in 14 days, but it seems I was guilty for meeting my initially set time frame.

I mean no translator out of 12 translators did it, only they did it.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:19
German to English
Some jobs not worth the effort Feb 20, 2017

You mentioned that this job might result in $15,000 of income, but potentially you might be putting in time equivalent to $30,000. Every job has opportunity costs, i.e., you might make the same amount or more doing something else, but in this case, it seems that you would be better off not pursuing this one any more.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:19
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
USD 15,000 says nothing on its own Feb 20, 2017

Eric S. wrote:
I'm kind of at my wits end here, but I'm reluctant to cut my losses as if we are able to come to a reasonable solution there's the potential for US$15,000+ worth of work

What is important, seeing as the day only lasts 24 hours and you need to sleep, eat and relax, is how much you get paid for your time. If you spend 500 hours or so on this work, you may consider this client a good source of income if you get the USD15k without hassle. If the work takes five times that long, because you're busy justifying every word in this way - as seems highly likely - is that really such a good client and a good rate of income per hour? I'd say not. IMHO, this client would be a ball and chain for you, keeping your nose to the grindstone month in, month out while paying very little per hour, and leaving you no time to market yourself and find better clients. You'll likely even lose your other clients through having to devote too much of your time to this one. "High maintenance" doesn't even begin to describe this nightmare client.

Annamaria Amik wrote:
Don't continue to work for this client, unless you want this experience to be repeated every single time you deliver something. This is the client's modus operandi or personality or whatever - he will question every one of your less common word choices and you'll spend a lot of time trying to convince him. That's just too many unpaid hours.
If you're letting him do this to you and engage you in these futile conversations, he will know that he can. And it will be very difficult for you to get out.
It's like in any other relationship - if you see alarming signs right from the start, don't hope that it will get better. It won't.

So, so true. If the client is willing to pay as much for your time in the editing phase as in the translation phase, then you might want to be a willing partner in a somewhat frustrating project. If the client is NOT willing to pay, then it's simply an abusive relationship. If you don't want to be abused, get out of the relationship.


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:19
Chinese to English
Some thoughts Feb 20, 2017

Sorry to hear about the experience Eric. In my experience, a problematic client like this one is likely to remain problematic (either because of their own reasons, or because the end client is being unreasonable). So you have a couple of options:
1. Keep working with them, trying to improve the process, but expecting that these efforts are likely to be largely futile. If you do this, the main question is whether the amount of time you're spending is worth the monetary reward (as Sheila pointed out, don't think of the 15,000+ by itself, but rather about whether the opportunity losses needed to gain the 15,000+ are worth the trouble).
2. Write a polite email telling the client that you will not be able to work with them until their processes improve, and then step away until they or the end client beg you to take them back. I'd say that this approach gives you about a 20% chance of radically improving the situation, but there's of course also an 80% chance you lose this client completely. I have done this successfully with one (Chinese) client, though the circumstances were quite odd: Basically, the agency was doing the same thing you've been reporting. I eventually told them I wouldn't work with them again, after which they pleaded and I said no. A couple of months passed and the end client somehow found my info and contacted me directly and asked to work with me through another agency. I did not have any sort of non-solicitation or no-contact agreement with the first agency that prohibited me from working with their clients, and so I accepted the invitation, laid some very strict ground rules with the second agency, and have had a great working relationship with them since then. There have also been plenty of times this sort of approach has not worked--indeed, my overall income only increased marginally last year because I cut ties with my biggest Chinese client and spent most of the year trying to make up for the lost business (although it's important to note that this decision is finally paying off in 2017, as I've replaced one bad client with six or seven new good ones at higher rates)

As I'm sure you know, agencies like this are unfortunately common in China (I think it's a result of the English to Chinese market being a buyer's market, along with the fact that many agencies do not hire the best and brightest as their PMs). There are also some very good Chinese agencies and PMs out there, and it's a shame that the market doesn't seem to be encouraging these to rise above the rest.

So take a step back, and look at this objectively--can you afford to take a chance on losing this client? Are they too much of a hassle to deal with for the compensation provided? In general, I've found that long-term business improves when you move on from bad clients, but there are certainly times when short-term needs outweigh long-term benefits, so much of this will depend on the exact financial importance of them to your business/livelihood at present.


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Eric S.
Taiwan
Local time: 20:19
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Hopefully Feb 20, 2017

Preston Decker wrote:

Sorry to hear about the experience Eric. In my experience, a problematic client like this one is likely to remain problematic (either because of their own reasons, or because the end client is being unreasonable).


Thanks for the response, then I suppose you also find it unreasonable? Hopefully I can take this as a clue that there's still hope in our market?

[Edited at 2017-02-20 17:14 GMT]


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Difficult Direct Client (Follow up to to my last post)

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