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Is it risky to turn down jobs?
Thread poster: Whitney Maslak

Whitney Maslak
United States
Local time: 00:16
Member (2010)
German to English
Jun 13, 2015

I've been freelancing on a part-time basis for about a year now. In the past few weeks, I've been getting more job requests than ever before, which is so exciting. However, I do have to turn some down here and there, because I don't want to get overwhelmed and not have enough time to submit a quality translation. I will also turn down a job if it's a highly technical subject matter with which I'm not familiar.

I was wondering how often some of the more experienced translators on this forum have to turn down jobs. I worry that if I turn down too many jobs for a particular agency or client, they will just think I'm unreliable and stop contacting me. Thoughts?


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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Quality focus Jun 13, 2015

As long as you maintain upmost quality in your work and tell the clients the real reason why you cannot take their jobs, you should still maintain a good standing with them.

A lot of the jobs that I refuse these days end up coming back to me as proof reading jobs anyway, which pay well and can be fitted in easily.

So, to sum up, as long as your quality is high, you'll stay atop the lists of reliable linguists.

Good luck!

DJH


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:16
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I agree with DJ Hartmann Jun 13, 2015

I'm glad to hear you're doing so well so soon.
I think you're quite right to turn down jobs which are way outside your field of expertise or jobs for which you won't have enough time because of your existing work load, and to explain truthfully why you've turned them down. When I decline a job I give the reason and say something like "please contact me again (after date) when something suitable comes in".
Most clients will respect you for it.
I've been translating for decades and always decline jobs that are seriously outside my scope such as medical documents in which physicians call legs "lower limbs" and arms "upper limbs" ☺, chemistry, marine and other engineering, and so on, as well as illegible handwritten stuff. The risk of error is too great.
Best wishes.


[Edited at 2015-06-13 08:35 GMT]


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:16
English
+ ...
Is it risky to Jun 13, 2015

get overwhelmed and not have enough time to submit a quality translation or to accept a job that's highly technical subject matter with which you are not familiar?

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:16
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Always Jun 13, 2015

Always turn down a job if the payment offered is less than what you think is reasonable.

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:16
Russian to English
+ ...
Almost every day. Jun 13, 2015

A few offers a day, sometimes. Reason—usually too low rates, or when the job looks like the company does not know anything about translation, and it seems pretty rude in addition to all of that; Jobs like: English-mother tongue, highly specialized, $0.02/word. Please send… (about five copies of different documents and certifications)

Some of these people may contact you directly as well.

[Edited at 2015-06-13 10:02 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:16
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Offered??? Jun 13, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Always turn down a job if the payment offered is less than what you think is reasonable.


I always turn down a job when I am 'offered' any amount. I think the proper way for a client to approach a professional translator is to explain/show what is required and ask how much they would charge for it. This is the standard procedure in any other trade, possible exceptions being handymen and prostitutes.


On other counts, if I don't have the speed or time available to do it as quickly as they want, I'll tell them by when I can get it done. If that's not sufficiently fast, they'll have to seek somebody else. If the reason is that I'm already too busy, I might suggest a few colleagues that I know and consider reliable.

If I don't have the necessary expertise to do it, I'll refer them to a colleague who, IMO, has it, and wish them all good luck.


I think the other option is risky, i.e. accepting jobs...
... at a rate lower than what the translator has adopted;
... requiring to extend working hours beyond reasonable;
... outside a translator's expanded comfort zone of knowledge/skill.


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Neil Ashby
Spain
Local time: 08:16
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's riskier to take on too many jobs. Jun 13, 2015

Taking on too many jobs and handing them in late or at substandard quality is much more damaging than turning them down because you're "too popular". Being in demand is good! If your clients know you're in demand and are happy with your work, i.e., they're repeat/returning clients, it also gives you more room for levering up your rates.
However, having said that, when it's a smallish job for a regular client one should probably make an effort to fit the job in by working a few extra hours... but without losing quality.

I could probably do about twice as much work as I do, i.e., I turn down half the offers I receive at times. Plus I only take an interest in new clients if I know they are going to pay more than the ones I've already got, another good method for gradually working at higher rates.

José makes a good point - informing clients you are busy but interested and offering them a realistic alternative delivery date is a good idea. Many can actually delay a few days without any fuss....then you've got jobs queued up for you.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:16
Russian to English
+ ...
Exactly. Jun 13, 2015

You do not offer a professional any amount of money for their service—you ask their price, and then perhaps negotiate, if you have to. If you offer too little, you will simply look cheap, one of the worst impressions, usually associated with a certain type of narrow- mindedness and lack of literacy as well. Reference—Çharles Dickens.

No exceptions, I think handymen and all other trades also state their fee, or price. The only exception is employment—working in the capacity of an employe, where the employer offers a salary, and the employe either agrees or does not agree to it.

In fact, the title of the job section should be: 'Services Needed" rather than 'Jobs".

[Edited at 2015-06-13 11:58 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What's the alternative? Jun 13, 2015

Should a busy, successful, specialist translator take on jobs s/he doesn't have the time or expertise to handle correctly? I guarantee that that translator will have a tarnished reputation before long.

At least if you keep your good reputation intact you'll always appeal to potential clients. Just take the next one in the queue, as long as they have potential to be good clients.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:16
German to English
Good for you! Jun 13, 2015

Many translators would love to be in a position to turn down work. As others have stated, better to do a quality job in an area you're familiar with, at a rate you deserve.

There is some risk, however, that a potential customer will give up trying to contact you, especially if they haven't worked for them before. If you have a steady stream of work, this isn't a major problem. Repeat business is one key to financial success in the words for money business.

I do wonder, however, whether the number of inquiries may be due to a rate that may be too low. Make sure you're being adequately compensated commensurate with your abilities.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 08:16
English to Polish
+ ...
Depends Jun 13, 2015

Whitney Maslak wrote:

I've been freelancing on a part-time basis for about a year now. In the past few weeks, I've been getting more job requests than ever before, which is so exciting. However, I do have to turn some down here and there, because I don't want to get overwhelmed and not have enough time to submit a quality translation. I will also turn down a job if it's a highly technical subject matter with which I'm not familiar.

I was wondering how often some of the more experienced translators on this forum have to turn down jobs. I worry that if I turn down too many jobs for a particular agency or client, they will just think I'm unreliable and stop contacting me. Thoughts?


Some may think that, especially if you refuse a lot or a couple of times in a row when they send you texts from your own stated specialization areas, but in most cases they understand you can't and won't take every job they have.

By contrast, normally, they'll be more upset if there are errors in your translation or if you don't meet the deadline.

Also, beware problem jobs. Very large volumes, short deadlines, corrupt files, uncooperative end clients. If anything looks fishy, investigate, think again. Don't repeat the same mistakes twice or especially more than twice with the same agency.


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Whitney Maslak
United States
Local time: 00:16
Member (2010)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
I feel much better now! Jun 13, 2015

Thank you so much, everyone, for your replies and advice. I feel like I will be able to become a better translator if I am able to accept only the jobs I feel confident with, instead of accepting anything out of desperation for work. I figure that it is much worse to turn in substandard jobs and ruin my reputation right at the beginning of my career. Thanks again!

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Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:16
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Too many job enquiries = rates too low? Jun 13, 2015

Whitney Maslak wrote:
I was wondering how often some of the more experienced translators on this forum have to turn down jobs.


I used to turn down jobs several times a day. I put up my rates.
I used to turn down jobs several times a week. I put up my rates again and posted them here.
Now I only turn down jobs a few times a month.

I worry that if I turn down too many jobs for a particular agency or client, they will just think I'm unreliable and stop contacting me.


Yes, clients will end up looking elsewhere if you turn them down too often, so make sure you give top priority to your high-paying clients with interesting work.

[Edited at 2015-06-13 15:20 GMT]


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