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Agency asking me to shorten a translation - should this be billed separately?
Thread poster: Mark Sanderson

Mark Sanderson  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 12:45
Chinese to English
Jul 21, 2015

Hello,

I recently completed a project for an agency that was accepted and billed for successfully. The agency has now come back to me and asked if I can shorten the translation by around 200 words (total no. of pages = 6).

Should this be included as part of my original translation service, or should I bill this separately as editing or another after service?

The agency hasn’t said that the client was unhappy with the work; they have simply asked me to shorten it to a target length and send it back to them. They have not mentioned a separate fee.

What should I do?

Thanks,

Mark Sanderson


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Paulinho Fonseca  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:45
Member (2011)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Shortening sentences Jul 21, 2015

Hi Mark,

I have a regular client and I ended up offering this service free of charge to them, of course I previously informed (written doc.) that I would not be charging them for a limited number of words on a monthly basis.


It is not that much, and I managed to increase my translations and proofreading with them.

icon_smile.gif


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Marius Reika  Identity Verified
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
no way Jul 21, 2015

Do not do it for free, charge them an hourly fee. You can shorten a translation by two words for free, but not two hundred. Are they kidding?!

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Ewa Olszowa  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:45
Polish to English
+ ...
Extra work -= extra pay Jul 21, 2015

Be careful. Are you able to shorten the translation without omitting or distorting something? I would require more info, are there any particular parts they prefer to have shortened? What is the purpose, are they trying to fit it into template substituting the text in the original language – then it would help if you could see that before deciding where to take the cuts or do modifications.
Whatever you do – it is an extra work at extra charge – for example per hour.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 12:45
Chinese to English
Need more instructions Jul 21, 2015

I would be wary about doing this at all. You can't just cut 200 words out of a text. that's two substantive paragraphs. It's bound to change the meaning.

I would tell the client that you're happy to do some editing, but you will need explicit instructions from the client on how to edit, and you will be charging for your time.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:45
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I agree with Phil Jul 21, 2015

Yes, you can't successfully shorten a text by 200 words without knowing what the client considers important and what he/she considers can be omitted. Ask for detailed instructions and charge by the hour.

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Mark Sanderson  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 12:45
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
No further details were provided Jul 21, 2015

In the end I just shortened it in the following ways:

1. Taking out "please" from instructions. Old, "Please use the designated charger to charge the...". New, "Use the designated..."

2. "Smart device" (smartphones, tablet computers etc.) all became "device".

3. "You can use the XXX to project the contents of your mobile devices to enjoy and share with others at any time or place." - I got rid of the "to enjoy and share with others".

All of this was performed blind without looking at the source text.

Payment terms have still not been agreed upon, but I stupidly carried out the work first. We'll wait and see.


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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:45
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
I do it for free for direct customers Jul 21, 2015

Well, I think you'll have to shorten sentences. For direct customers this is a service I provide for free if I did the translation and if it is not too time consuming.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Are they complaining about your style of writing? Jul 21, 2015

If so, maybe you need to do it for free to keep the client, and bear it in mind in future jobs for them. But if the client had a restriction on the number of words, but didn't say so before you started work, then the client pays. And if the agency failed to pass on the instruction, then they pay.

Why do so many translators agree to do so much for so little? If you pay to have a kitchen installed, are they going to come round and put the pans in the cupboard, or cook the first meal? Not a useful analogy, I know, but IMO some of the work done free by translators is just as absurd. It's a business decision to offer a sample for free (or not); it's only right to improve our work for free, where we acknowledge that it could/should have been better; anything else must be paid for, surely.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:45
German to English
Should I charge for my work? Jul 21, 2015

I couldn't agree more with Sheila.

If the need for shortening stems from something you did or from something you knew or should have known, then the extra time should be included in your original fee (you should "do it for free").

If that is not the case, then why wouldn't you charge for it? (Unless it is so little work that it makes sense to throw it in as a freebie like Andrea than to take the time to invoice it.)


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:45
Dutch to English
+ ...
Hear, hear! Jul 21, 2015

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Why do so many translators agree to do so much for so little? ... It's a business decision to offer a sample for free (or not); it's only right to improve our work for free, where we acknowledge that it could/should have been better; anything else must be paid for, surely.


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Aakash5555
India
Local time: 10:15
Member (2014)
English to Hindi
+ ...
If Client is Regular, then you can consider it doing free. Jul 21, 2015

I think if the particular client is regular and you are getting frequent work from them, then you can do it without charging. I understand that this little Job is not easy, but it could be beneficial for your relationship with the Client.

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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Atención comercial Jul 21, 2015

While “kitchen man” analogy is illustrative, there is a tiny detail which makes the case different. More specifically, we usually install the kitchen every, say, 10 or 15 years. However, we do work for regular clients if not on a daily, for sure on a weekly basis.

Charge, charge, charge, is fine, but there is something we call in Spain “atención comercial”. I’m sure everybody understands what I am talking about. If not, I’ll explain:

If my regular customer asks me ex post: “would you mind shortening the title as it does not fit in the customer’s database? I could go this way: “sorry, that was not within the scope of the project, my minimum rate is xxx. Please send me a separate PO”. Or preferably this way: “Sure, no problem. I will have to sacrifice the word xxx, but it is perfectly clear from the text anyway, so no harm done. Please advise if for future projects this client of yours will have the same requirement, and I will keep the headings within the character limit.”

Now, shortening the text is highly unusual request. This either means that the style is too “wordy”, or it simply does not fit in whatever box. If the former is the case, she customer needs to be honest and say so. If the latter is true, the customer should ask the translator how much it would cost and then, and only then, it is up to the translator to either quote or have the “atención comercial” with the customer and do it for free.

Now, a perfectly polished text, at least in Spanish, cannot be shortened much unless the style was on the “wordy” side. Therefore, it is not about whether the translator should charge or not for this work. Rather, it is about if the translation can be shortened without producing a telegram-style prose.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:45
German to English
specific situation Jul 21, 2015

While I'm the last one to support a no-frills, not-my-problem approach to being a translator and am willing to jump through a lot of hoops (as well as to make anything right that could reasonably be seen as my own fault) to make sure that my clients get the satisfaction and service that they are paying good money for, the case here seems open and shut.

Reducing the number of words in a six-page document by probably close to 10% (or more if the "pages" aren't filled with text) not only represents a significant amount of work, it also represents work that is likely to require follow-up service and is not without risk in terms of the altered text being (rightly or wrongly) criticized - and all that without a proper briefing about what should be cut out and why.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:45
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
What to cut Jul 21, 2015

You can cut words (usually (!) adverbs) which are redundant, such as "very" and "really" and the ever popular "obviously" and "basically". However, I doubt that they would total as many as 200 words. Only the client can know what is important to him/her and what is padding - how could you be expected judge?

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