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When (and how) to drop a client?
Thread poster: Sharon Sideris
Sharon Sideris  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:34
German to English
+ ...
Jul 6, 2007

I am having a huge problem with one of my German clients. They insist they know English better than I do and every translation I have done for them comes back with strange stylistic changes to it that they insist I spend a lot of time going over and evalutating. They basically change regular English back into something you can tell came straight from German. I change 99% of the changes back to what I originally had, in fact I can only think of 1 or 2 changes that have ever had any value whatsoever. I have tried explaining to them that I am a native speaker of English and they aren't, but they still insist on making these changes. So then I said if you are not happy with my translations, let's stop working together. This really upset them and they said they were relying on me because this is an ongoing project and they don't want the translation to be inconsistent.

The changes still keep coming though and I can't take it any more. Their rate is pretty low and they aren't speedy payers so there is no reason to keep working with a client who is eating into my time like this and also causing me a lot of stress for no reason. I have never made any promises to them to stick with them throughout this project, so I think the time has come to cut them off. My concern though is how to do this and still get paid for my outstanding invoices. I also would not want to somehow get a reputation for being flakey or not able to defend the quality of my work.

Does anyone have any similar experiences?


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Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Mexico
Local time: 19:34
English to Spanish
Listen: Jul 6, 2007

(I'll try to explain myself.)

When this type of client gets this stubborn, please stop worrying and getting upset. Do they want their translation with a cute blue chignon? Give'em the blue chignon. Do they want it red? Give'em red!

I know you feel awful seeing how others smash your work, but, after all, it's theirs...

Just tell them "Hasta la vista, baby", and change the soap opera.

Don't ever accept any more jobs from them.

Don't worry, be happy. Your state of mind goes first.

O'key?


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Now. Gently. Jul 6, 2007

When to drop a client?


As soon as you start wondering if you really want to continue working with/for them. In your case, Sharon, that means NOW.

How to drop a client?


GENTLY and FIRMLY. Clients are your revenue source. Clients do have changes of personnel. With different staff to deal with you might want to work for them again, sometime in the future. Don't write off that chance by displaying anger.

And if they don't pay the outstanding bills, don't bother suing them. Just for once take peace of mind as ample reward for your efforts and forget the cash.

MediaMatrix


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:34
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Drop them as soon as reasonably possible Jul 7, 2007

Could you be "busy with other jobs" until they have paid the outstanding invoices? When the final payment has been made, gently explain to them again that a) you are the native English speaker, and b) with the changes they want you to make you can no longer stand behind the quality of your work and you feel that your professional integrity is being compromised.

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Rosa Diez Tagarro  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:34
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree with Tina Jul 7, 2007

The solution she proposes is what I would do.

If they really insist that they need you for this project, then you'll be forced to explain that the changes they suggest are no good and they are a waste of time for everybody (but gently).

Best of luck!

Rosa


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:34
French to English
Let them down gently Jul 7, 2007

Tina has said something quite similar to what I was going to suggest. Scale back your work with them so that:
a) if you do drop them and they get all petulant & refuse to pay your outstanding balance, you won't lose as much
b) it gives you time to see who else you could be working for.

Scaling back is easy at this time of year, you could just say you're on holiday for 2/3 weeks.

Personally, I've only ever "dropped" clients by not taking any more work until they stop asking.

Another way of dropping clients is, of course, to put your rates up to a level that you know they won't pay. In your case, sounds like you could justify it by saying that each translation takes longer than it should becos of correcting the corrections (!). Who knows, this alone might even make them stop doing that. Altho' your tone suggests you don't actually just want them to stop correcting your work, you now want out.


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Michaela Sommer  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:34
Member
English to German
Typical German Jul 7, 2007

Hi Sharon,

What you are describing sounds so typical of the way a lot of agencies over here work (we call it 'Besserwisser' in Germany - being a German myself I can afford to say this).

Since moving back to Germany from the UK a few years ago, my (British) husband and I have often come across this kind of thing. My husband teaches English at the local adult education centre and is regularly being told how to say things in English - by his German students!

Yes, do drop them; I agree with Tina's suggestion of letting them down gently. I've worked for a client in Germany for about 7 years and was getting more and more unhappy with the way they worked, but felt I had to keep going and in this case the money wasn't too bad either. But last year, when they queried one of my bills after an extremely stressful job, in which I was under a lot of time pressure, I finally had enough and decided to stop working for them. I had also been pushed into a corner of work I didn't really enjoy doing (financial).

I had thought about this move long and hard and was quite worried about it, particularly with regard to my financial situation, since this was one of my biggest clients. But you won't believe how good I felt once the decision was made! I made so many new and interesting contacts and enjoy such a varied array of subjects now, it's wonderful! Money isn't better than before, but not much worse either, and I can live with that. I've also found that I enjoy working with agencies in the UK or US much more than with the German agencies, not sure why that is, maybe I've been in England for too long, but everything goes so much smoother and friendlier with the non-German agencies and at the same time more professional (I'm generalising here - of course, there are some good German agencies as well!).

To cut a long story short: Yes, do drop them gently, no need to fall out, by making yourself unavailable to them, either by raising your rates, changing your subject areas or something similar, whatever which fits your particular circumstances. Taking advantage of the holiday period is a good idea, it will give you the chance to think about how to approach it and then let them know about your decision. It's only fair to them to be quite clear that you're no longer available, because that way they know where they stand and can go and look for another translator to work on the project.

I wish you all the best!

Michaela


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:34
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
What I did once Jul 7, 2007

A customer returned a text with "suggestions" for things I'd spent ages researching, and changes that were just plain wrong! They wanted me to comment on each item.
So I wrote back and said I'd take a look but would have to charge by the hour for the time it took to examine their suggestions and comment on them.
I sent the bill, which they paid, and I haven't worked for them since!
I bet that if you start billing for the unnecessary revision work, they'll either stop doing that or stop calling you. Either way, your problem is solved!
Catherine


[Edited at 2007-07-07 12:47]


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Beatriz Galiano
Argentina
Local time: 21:34
English to Spanish
+ ...
The wish is father to the thought. Jul 7, 2007

Or the wish is father to this question. It all depends though. What Michaela said is interesting, so you'd better do some ethnic research as to why they are trying to make you feel uncomfortable. Do you already have a contract? Keep it and charge as agreed.

But I would suggest that if you leave them, you should state very clearly the reasons. First, because it is the truth and second, because that person who is trying to change your native version might not be in the company in the future.

It is hard to work that way, good luck.

liliana


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Happens here too Jul 7, 2007

Michaela Sommer wrote:

My husband teaches English at the local adult education centre and is regularly being told how to say things in English - by his German students!



It´s not just a German thing. The same exact thing happens to me in Spain. When I work with or for any native English speaking person (some with PhDs) they never question my work, but as soon as I start dealing with a native here the red flags go up and they start "suggesting" that my use of English could be improved!!

It´s what I call the one dimensional approach. They're people who have studied English as a foreign language and have perhaps reached a fairly high level, but they lack the 3-D depth of a native speaker. They assume that the way they learned it, or the specific grammatical structure they were taught, is the "official" or "best" way to say or write something.

It is sometimes a test of patience to work with them, but I generally humor them as long as I don´t believe that the final quality of my work is comprimised. As they say in Catalan, "Qui paga mana". (The one who pays is the one who gives the orders)


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casey
United States
Local time: 20:34
Member
Japanese to English
Happens in Japan, too. Jul 8, 2007

Wow, I'm actually surprised to hear about this. I thought it was a phenomenon unique to Japanese agencies.

Fortunately, I haven't had any stressful projects where an ongoing job is handled like that. Personally, I like cbolton's suggestion of informing them that you will have to charge for such work.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:34
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The setup is weird Jul 8, 2007

Sharon Sideris wrote:
I am having a huge problem with one of my German clients. They insist they know English better than I do and every translation I have done for them comes back with strange stylistic changes to it that they insist I spend a lot of time going over and evalutating.


Sharon,

Assuming it's not a book that will be published with your name as the translator, if they are soooo sure that they know English better than you do, what is the point in them sending you the translation back with their comments? I mean, are they paying you money to translate, and then working on the translation just to prove to you that they could have done it much better on their own? So instead of paying a shrink, who should be more realistic, they are using a translator to falsely boost their self-esteem?

They basically change regular English back into something you can tell came straight from German. I change 99% of the changes back to what I originally had, in fact I can only think of 1 or 2 changes that have ever had any value whatsoever. I have tried explaining to them that I am a native speaker of English and they aren't, but they still insist on making these changes.


This is the amazing thing. If, for instance, they hired a painter to paint their walls, it's none of the painter's business if, after his/her job is finished, they want to graffitti it all over. What's the point in calling the painter back to show him/her that the graffitti is the korrekt way of painting, to have him paint it all over again? If they want the graffitti after it has been painted, it's their problem, not the painter's.

So then I said if you are not happy with my translations, let's stop working together.


IMHO this is not working together, it's working one against the other!

This really upset them and they said they were relying on me because this is an ongoing project and they don't want the translation to be inconsistent.


The consistency is theirs, they are the client. If they want to rename your bolts as threaded nails for konzistenz, it's none of your business. You'll have done your part already.

The changes still keep coming though and I can't take it any more. Their rate is pretty low and they aren't speedy payers so there is no reason to keep working with a client who is eating into my time like this and also causing me a lot of stress for no reason. I have never made any promises to them to stick with them throughout this project, so I think the time has come to cut them off. My concern though is how to do this and still get paid for my outstanding invoices. I also would not want to somehow get a reputation for being flakey or not able to defend the quality of my work.


This is what makes the least sense. What is the actual purpose of hiring you to translate? To have it translated, or to create grounds for an endless argument with you?

Maybe the way out for you is to state that the agreed rates are for you to deliver a finished translation, done to the best of your ability, period. It does not include your going over someone else's proofreading to proofread it. Matter of fact, it does not include you receiving such files, ever! If they want you to do so, a price must be set for this kind of work, if you are willing to do it.

Maybe they are unaware that it's a common practice to hire a translator, and a proofreader afterwards. Some outsourcers make them work in a sequence, 1-2-1-2; while others don't even let them e-know each other.

Regarding payment, if this is a continuous work relationship and they often forget to pay you, one solution (for the next job, of course) is to have it agreed that any delay in payment will cause an immediate "freeze" on your side. If they don't pay you on the due date, you'll simply stop working on their stuff until they do, and all the deadlines will be automatically postponed by the same number of days.

Does anyone have any similar experiences?


I had once. I simply raised my rates for them. They probably moved to some desperate translator or wannabe who would put up with that.


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Sharon Sideris  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:34
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all the suggestions! Jul 8, 2007

It was nice just to hear from people who have had the same experiences! I've been so frustrated I've been venting to non-translators who just cannot understand but have to put up with my complaining!

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xxxLucyPatterso
English
I've experienced the same Aug 18, 2007

with a German customer; one sent back "corrections" which were wrong, and told me my English is poor.

Jose, your comments made me laugh! They are very insightful.


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xxxzsuzsa369
Local time: 01:34
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Sometimes it's just not worth the bother! Aug 19, 2007

I've just sent away a potential private client, because he had unrealistic expectations. I had done a short test translation for him and he sent it back with two pages of detailed explanations as to why my translation was not good enough. (I must mention that the text was completely out of my comfort zone and I'd told him so.) Interestingly, and somewhat alarmingly, he still wanted me to do the translation for him. I suggested that he should translate the document himself, as it would actually take twice as much time and effort to correct a bad translation instead. He thought I was taking the "easy way out"! I told him it was the "rational" way. Now, I'm glad I didn't get involved. It would have been too much hassle, and quite frankly, not worth the bother.

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