The contemporary way of outsourcing translation globally
Thread poster: José Henrique Lamensdorf

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:40
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Feb 17

Let's name this client XXX, as it must remain nameless here.
They are located 3 time zones ahead of me. All times mentioned here are MY local time.

Checking now, I worked for XXX once, did a 300-word translation for them. Nothing spectacular to justify going the extra mile, however absolutely no complaint after this first experience.

I woke up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, one hour later than I do on weekdays.
While having breakfast, as usual, I turned on my smartphone. The people who are entitled to call me in case of emergency have my landline number, so I turn my cell off during the night.

I saw two SMS messages from a XXX PM, both sent at 7:14, as the seconds are not recorded:
  • Message 1: We have a new assignment for you.
  • Message 2: The invitation to tender is closed.

I alternate between using Windows XP and Windows 10 on my computer, depending on what I'll be doing. Win XP is for high productivity, Win 10 is when new software demands it. As each one is on a separate SSD, rebooting to switch takes just a few seconds.

Before breakfast, I got my computer to boot Windows 10.
As I returned, I checked my e-mail.
There was a message from XXX, that same PM, sent at 04:40 AM, saying they had a new assignment for me. I didn't bother to cross-check the job# with the SMS. As there was no second e-mail cancelling it, I used the link provided in the message to access their jobs portal.

Login is required. Dammit! My password is stored within the browser under Windows XP. So I clicked on "forgot", entered my e-mail and - praise when it's deserved - I immediately got an e-mail with a link to reset my password. As I tried a new password, a pop-up showed me the requirements: at least 8 characters, at least one digit, at least one lowercase letter, at least one uppercase letter, and at least one special character! Of course, no human should be expected to remember such an insane password.

Okay, I got in, to find that there was NO job invitation for me inside.

If I had, say, ten clients like this, it could take me most of an entire morning merely to realize than none of them needed my services anymore.

I understand that some translation agencies offer and deliver 24/7 customer service, however they shouldn't expect individual human translators to do the same.

Another client of mine, let's call it YYY, seems to have fully mastered the technique. On any specific job, I might deal by e-mail with a series of PMs named (fictional names here, but they always sign their messages) Maggie West, Akio Hiroshi, Yang Ling, Patel Gupta, Yuri Popoff, Malgorzata Smigolski, Pierre Vincent, and perhaps Margareth East before Maggie West comes up again. They all use the same tone, and each one of them is fully aware of the entire project. So it IS possible! (I think it's highly unlikely to be one same person working 24/7 and changing their name according to the time of the day where they are, however from my stance it looks like it.)

So I wonder whether the general trend points to XXX or YYY.

What prompted me to do it was a phrase on the XXX PM e-mail sent at 4:40 AM: "I'll be around from 8:00 to 9:00 AM on Sunday to answer any questions." That's from 5:00 to 6:00 AM here, and I intend to be sound asleep.

Which side should be made flexible to accommodate different time zones - translator or PMs?


Cristiana Coblis  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:40
Member (2004)
English to Romanian
+ ...
Some ways work better than others Feb 17

Hi, José. Hope you are doing well.
I would definitely say I find the second case (YYY) more frequent than the first one (XXX).
Some of my older clients work using the first method, but I rarely even bother to click on the links, because I know that they will be going out to many people. Answering such e-mails very fast is a good strategy for beginners or people who have a lot of free time in their schedule. I prefer to focus on clients that want to work with me on the project, instead of just placing it with the fastest clicker. I like clients to even send a heads-up about upcoming projects and this is something that I really appreciate. It means they/their clients like working with certain people and take extra steps to ensure their availability in advance.
I would say that for a smooth cooperation between agency and freelancer both parties have to be somewhat accommodating. I find that trading in your sleep to accommodate something like that is just not worth it, in fact very few things are worth sacrificing sleep. You cannot be expected to work at 100% if you don't have enough sleep, particularly in our profession.
Have a nice weekend.


John Fossey  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:40
Member (2008)
French to English
Developing a clientele Feb 17

Cristiana Coblis wrote:

I rarely even bother to click on the links, because I know that they will be going out to many people. Answering such e-mails very fast is a good strategy for beginners or people who have a lot of free time in their schedule. I prefer to focus on clients that want to work with me on the project, instead of just placing it with the fastest clicker.

I agree. Translators need to focus on developing a clientele that suits them, wants their particular expertise and will accommodate things like time zone differences, rather than getting stuck in the impersonal job mill where the first person who hits the Accept button gets it.


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:40
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
yup Feb 18

I don't reply to emails where it's the first to answer that gets the job. They don't want me, they want just any guy. So they don't deserve me. I offer high-end translation, often transcreation, and that kind of client is not appreciative of my efforts. Also they don't tend to pay well, the rate will be that of "just any guy".


Teresa Borges
Local time: 14:40
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Is there a trend? Feb 18

All of my regular clients belong to the second category. I work mostly with European clients and they know my work schedule. Quite recently I asked a British occasional client to delete my name from their database because they offered me a job after midnight and when early next morning I accepted it the answer was that the job had been given to someone else…

P.S. I used to get a lot of phone calls and emails after "office hours" when I worked as a sworn translator, but I don't any more since I decided in 2016 to move back from Belgium to my home country (there are no sworn translators in Portugal).


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