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Suddenly stopped receiving work
Thread poster: Chiara Gavasso

apk12  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:06
English to German
+ ...
New project manager with ideas Apr 16

Some fancy new project manager was hired and s/he came with a bucket of new ideas how to hire cheaper.
Will be something along those lines. You might hear from them next Easter or Christmas again, though.

But yes, I would contact, too. With some luck you get someone decent on the phone who will be able to tell if there is something or to ask around. With some luck though because in other cases it's just business as usual, you are freelancer, they are not bound to stay in touch with you and we are all supposed to stay clear from the one-or-two-main-clients-trap (it's not easy though, I know. Sometimes a good main client... I get also lazy then, not with the work I get but lazy in terms of not being in the mood to search for next ones. I enjoy more spare time then and gaaawd, there is much to enjoy. Sunshine is necessary for Vitamin D.).


Elizabeth Tamblin
Kevin Fulton
Andrew Morris
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:06
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Don't ask them for work -- you aren't needy Apr 16

Instead, tell them what they're missing out on. Have you gained some new qualification, tweaked your service offer, added some new software, or anything else? Try to find something that has changed, even if it's just a revamped CV showing some relevant experience that you haven't divulged before.

If you can't find a way to do that, then maybe you could inform them of your holidays during the summer, or let them know that you'll be available all the time. One agency has already asked me the question, so it's clearly a good time. They also came up with a job the day after I replied, and that was after not having worked with them for over a year.


Helen Shiner
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Sabine Braun
Dan Lucas
Lorena Croci
ahartje
sam@fr-uk
 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:06
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Interesting discussion Apr 16

I side with those who have advised to refrain from contacting the now estranged agency, and to instead simply move on.

The same thing has happened to me on a number of occasions, including very recently.

In the most recent case, the “agency” is essentially a “one-man band” that sent me a lot of work every month last year and early this year. And the last two months - nothing.

I assume that the guy found someone cheaper to do the work. I see no point in asking why he no longer contacts me. It looks (and feels) like groveling.

It can be quite a blow to absorb, especially when there isn’t a lot of other work coming in....



[Edited at 2019-04-16 19:10 GMT]


Elizabeth Tamblin
Jane F
Tom in London
Helen Shiner
Tina Vonhof
Dan Lucas
sam@fr-uk
 

Lorena Croci  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:06
Member (2014)
English to Italian
Happy Easter Apr 17

Hi Chiara,
This happened to me too, sometimes. If you really want to contact them without begging for work, I can give you an idea.

It's almost Easter and you could get the chance to wish them a very good Easter and in the meanwhile letting them know you are still willing to work for them.

In this way you are not exactly asking them why they do not contact you, but you remind them of you and maybe they will tell you something about the situation.

It's just a suggestion, though
Ciao,
Lorena


Tom in London
sam@fr-uk
Axelle Hawkins
Sabrina Bruna
Katalin Szilárd
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 22:06
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Interesting discussion Apr 17

I’ve been translating for a long time and it has always been a mystery to me how some customers stick to you and others don’t, when they all seem very happy with your work. Some are one-offs, some come and go, and some disappear all of a sudden to come back after a while or never again. One has to be philosophical about it and be extremely careful not to put all your eggs in just one basket as I did when I was starting out my freelancer career…

Tom in London
Sabrina Bruna
Sheila Wilson
Kevin Fulton
Jane F
Andrew Morris
Josephine Cassar
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:06
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A lot come back, in my experience Apr 17

Teresa Borges wrote:
I’ve been translating for a long time and it has always been a mystery to me how some customers stick to you and others don’t, when they all seem very happy with your work. Some are one-offs, some come and go, and some disappear all of a sudden to come back after a while or never again. One has to be philosophical about it and be extremely careful not to put all your eggs in just one basket as I did when I was starting out my freelancer career…

I had an extremely worrying first quarter that wasn't helped by 5 weeks of holiday in all. I only invoiced three different clients during that time and I really did wonder if I'd have to close shop, as taking frequent holidays as I like to do now means saying "no" far too often. But since then (i.e. in the last 17 days), three more clients have ordered repeat business. They had been silent for 11, 25 and 26 months.

That's why I try not to panic. But Teresa is certainly right about not putting all your eggs in one basket.


Tom in London
Teresa Borges
Jane F
ahartje
Andrew Morris
Rachel Waddington
Melanie Meyer
 

Kathryn Britton
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:06
Italian to English
Feast or famine Apr 17

Recently (last couple of months) I have noticed a huge drop in technical work in my language pair. I have contacted all of my agencies to double check if there have been any quality issues with previous jobs and every single one has come back with the same response....absolutely no problem with previous jobs, simply that things are very slow on the technical front ...lots of other projects are available (legal, financial etc) but not technical (my field) (Brexit effect I wonder ???). Really I suppose it is just the nature of the beast but by contacting them, at least my mind has been put at rest. I do think contacting agencies is a good idea ...I have always had the idea that if a PM has assigned a job to a certain person, that same name will automatically be the first that comes to mind for the next job the PM has to assign - and so sometimes I think we just need to say "Hi" ...and remind them we're here.

Tansy
Andrew Morris
Rachel Waddington
Diana Coada
Jocelin M
 

Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:06
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
bit slow at the mo Apr 17

Imo things are changing and it's a bit slow at the mo, perhaps less work, more translators desperate to grab any job for lower rates, agreeing to rates set by the agency, willing to work nights, weekends, holidays, whatever. Thanks to clients and agencies pushing ever tighter deadlines and "translators" willing to accept them, urgent deadlines have become the norm in many cases so if you're working today you won't be available for another job because they need you to be available now, meaning many jobs go to folks without a steady work flow, who probably have less experience, offer lower quality and work for lower rates, which pushes rates and quality even further down the list and makes even tighter deadlines seem absolutely reasonable and a supplement for urgency a thing of the past. A pro translator who's got work will say "No" more often to unreasonable deadlines, so Pms will end up not contacting them so much because the idea the PM has is they're never available anyway. It looks like quality is no longer so important for a lot of clients and is perhaps taken for granted because they can't understand what's written anyway, what's important is they get the job done any old way by any old one immediately even if the lucky "candidate" can't start the job right now because it hasn't been confirmed yet.
I've had several agencies tell me they first offer jobs to people working for 5-6 cents/word, then try those working for 7 and only contact people working for what used to be decent rates if they have no other options.
The same sort of thing happened when machine translation looked like the best thing since sliced bread, free translations immediately, sounds great right, so I reckon things will pick up again, the monkeys who know a bit of Eeengleesh working nights for peanuts will go find themselves a better job, the customer will notice he's losing money on the rubbish he's stuck with and want a pro mother-tongue to do a quality translation in the time it takes a professional to do the job properly. Things will get better, but it might take a while, just like last time.

For sure, drop these agencies no longer sending regular work a line, Happy Holidays, Available through Easter, Still alive n kickin..............


 

ALPTranslations
Argentina
Local time: 18:06
Member (2017)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Contact them Apr 17

If you are on good terms with the PMs, go ahead and send an email. We have been in that situation, and one timely email led to a conversation that got us more work. Sometimes you need to re-negotiate your contract. Best of luck!

 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:06
French to English
Call them, maybe, just once Apr 18

You might like to call them, just once. I've noticed that agencies go through phases they will work with where freelancers A, B, C, etc. for ages and if they are suddenly unable to accept work, through other commitments, they will look elsewhere and simply start working regularly with the others.

It may be worth calling them or sending a mail. I worked for a few months with one agency keeping other clients ticking over too. As the agency's rate was not great, I favoured other clients and when these other clients started increasing their flow of work for me, I favoured their requests. I work on a first come, first service basis, but also take into account rate. With an agency offering a rate I can double or more with direct client, when the agency pays at 60 days and direct clients within 14 days, would I really want to favour the agency? Of course not. However, as I was no longer available at the drop of a hat, the agency actually called and asked why I was turning work down. I explained why and that was the last I heard of them. It was a shame - almost - as some work was better than none, but only from time to time, given the terms. Apparently, the agency really wanted freelancers who would be as available as employees, which is actually illegal in France.

In the long run, although dependence on one client is dangerous, it can and does happen from time to time. It's difficult to avoid. The real danger is when the one or two clients are the only clients over a long period of time. So yes, go ahead and say your would be happy for them to contact you again, and if you want to be able to work with them over time, you might find it will only be possible if you continue to accept work from them on a regular basis. In the meantime, obviously try to find other clients to take their place.


 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
Aiming higher? Apr 19

I too sympathise with the problem. Going through periods of famine is never a bundle of laughs... however much we tell ourselves to get on with marketing and tidying up our inbox/desktop/accounts, there's a gnawing anxiety that won't go away.

My direct answer to your question would be yes, drop them a line, but not in a needy way, as Sheila points out. I agree there's nothing to lose. Sometimes people just fall off the map, and a reminder can be handy.

But then, in addition to the wise and valuable advice given above about eggs and baskets etc, I would also raise the issue of aiming higher and branching out towards direct clients. I don't know your exact situation, but I too began exclusively with agencies, then evolved over the years to the point where 95% of my work comes from direct clients, and those remaining agencies I still work with are as much for old times' sake as anything else...

And direct clients are constantly coming up with new brochures, projects, terms and conditions of service, publications etc.

What's more, dealing with them is fun most of the time. You still end up with a single interlocutor, just like a PM. The stakes are higher, of course, in terms of quality. But so are the rewards. More money, more satisfying relationships, more sense of autonomy.

The fact is, there is a LOT of translation out there, more than ever before. The global figures back that up. At the same time, mid-size and big agencies are automating processes, becoming more competitive, and yes, at times, playing translators against each other for price. Which is understandable, from an economic point of view, if not enjoyable for us.

As a small agency, however, I've stuck with the same 10-12 translators for years (all of whom I found on ProZ.com, incidentally). And I only evolved into an agency because I couldn't possibly do all the work myself. And that's another option for you if direct clients aren't your bag – gravitate towards agencies run by solopreneurs or couples: small affairs that place a higher premium on quality work, on relationships with known translators. There are lots of us out there. You can run searches on the BlueBoard and check a few websites, going for the personal over the corporate look.

What you're going through could be just the stimulus you need to rethink your position going forward...


Deborah do Carmo
 

Jocelin M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:06
English to French
Hello Chiara Apr 21

I sympathize with your situation, as I am knowing the same thing right now. It's been four months since I've had anything to work on, even though I used to get work regularly, without anyone complaining and even having colleagues telling me I was doing a wonderful job.
Sometimes, agencies can stop asking for your service because of other things than work. In my case, I regularly refuse urgent work where no urgent fee is applied, as it's becoming the norm - so I guess they prefer to use cheaper freelancers instead. One agency turned to "now we're doing 24h-subtitling but we still do regular subtitling I swear" and, after I told them I would not participate in that heresy (well, not in those words, obviously), I never heard about them.
What I did was sending a mail to the agencies I used to get work from, but without saying directly that I want work. For example, I can now propose more services and I used that to show them that I'm still here. Or for others, asking about this or that project. I don't believe it's that subtle, but it's still better than basically saying "Hey, want even more leverage on me?".


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:06
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Opportunity Apr 22

If two major customers have dropped off the radar, this gives you some time on your hands. Maybe this is an opportunity to rethink your business model and work on your own marketing approach (you are a marketing specialist, after all!) Relying on two large agencies for a large proportion of your work has always been a risky strategy, but the translation industry is changing fast and they may well have found someone cheaper or turned to MT. This is the reality of today's translation industry and things are only going to get worse.

How about using your marketing skills to help you move upmarket and target direct clients? If you can really write compelling copy you should always be in demand.


Sheila Wilson
Yvonne Gallagher
 
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