How to deal with a pestering agency PM who sends three word jobs?
Thread poster: Mark Sanderson

Mark Sanderson  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 08:37
Chinese to English
Sep 3, 2015

Hello,

There is an agency PM who always contacts me with jobs. Imagine my excitement when the email pops up in my inbox stating: “Dear Mark, we have a translation project in need of your help as attached”. Then picture the annoyance when I open the attachment and it contains three words. That’s right – 3 words!

The above is one of the more extreme examples as most of the time it is a sentence or a few strings in Trados. Nevertheless, this is still a PITA to deal with. Most of the time there is no context, or if there is it's related to a case that I completed many moons ago that has since been forgotten all about.

This is becoming a pain because it is interrupting my flow, and this PM also has a tendency to both email and Skype at the same time which can feel like bombardment. As for the payments for these little snippets – the agency uses an online payment system that is slow and troublesome because each case has to go through three stages of confirmation and acceptance by both me and the PM. I also regularly have to chase for these jobs as I think the PM is expecting me to do them for free.

In an ideal world I wouldn’t waste my time with this PM as I’ve got better things to do. However, he does sometimes send worthwhile cases and his colleagues also send work my way so I think it would be hard for me to blacklist this one PM without blacklisting the whole agency.

What would you do if you were in this situation?

All replies are appreciated.

Thanks,

Mark


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 07:37
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
My policy Sep 3, 2015

Mark Sanderson wrote:

This is becoming a pain because it is interrupting my flow, and this PM also has a tendency to both email and Skype at the same time which can feel like bombardment. As for the payments for these little snippets – the agency uses an online payment system that is slow and troublesome because each case has to go through three stages of confirmation and acceptance by both me and the PM. I also regularly have to chase for these jobs as I think the PM is expecting me to do them for free.

In an ideal world I wouldn’t waste my time with this PM as I’ve got better things to do. However, he does sometimes send worthwhile cases and his colleagues also send work my way so I think it would be hard for me to blacklist this one PM without blacklisting the whole agency.

Mark


I set my policy to accept big volume jobs, urgent fee, minimum fee and advance payment.

Many PMs disappear after my reply like this.
"I expect due respect as a professional linguist."

Soonthon L.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:37
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Minimum charge Sep 3, 2015

I think the solution is always to make a minimum charge (£20, for example) so that, however tiny the job, it's just about worth the time it takes you to do it and invoice it. Be absolutely firm about this. The PM will either agree to the minimum charge because he really needs those three words translated or he'll stop sending these silly little bits.
I've no objection to translating a few extra words free of charge for a good, reliable client if it happens only rarely, but not if it happens regularly as in your case.
Best of luck.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 01:37
Danish to English
+ ...
My thoughts exactly Sep 3, 2015

Jenny Forbes wrote:

I think the solution is always to make a minimum charge (£20, for example) so that, however tiny the job, it's just about worth the time it takes you to do it and invoice it. Be absolutely firm about this. The PM will either agree to the minimum charge because he really needs those three words translated or he'll stop sending these silly little bits.
I've no objection to translating a few extra words free of charge for a good, reliable client if it happens only rarely, but not if it happens regularly as in your case.
Best of luck.


Well said


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Two solutions Sep 3, 2015

1) You do as Jenny suggests and charge a minimum fee. You should be doing that as a matter of course. Personally, I have two minima: an hour for writing an invoice, and a quarter-hour for regular clients who I invoice monthly (so they can order several small jobs during the month).

2) "I'm sorry, I"m too busy at the moment. Would next week be OK?" Even a thick-skinned PM will get the message after a while.


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David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:37
Member (2009)
French to English
Minimum fee Sep 3, 2015

Setting a minimum fee will solve this problem within minutes. But it could also lead to the end of offers for decent-sized jobs. You'll have to judge how important this particular agency is to you in the overall scheme of things.

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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:37
Member (2014)
English to German
Explain the problem Sep 3, 2015

and suggest a solution, e.g. invoice monthly and a minimum charge of 10 or 15 min for tiny jobs, like Sheila does?

It is not so time consuming to just ad 5 or 10 Euros to a monthly invoice and you might not alienate the PM and possibly the whole agency with a hefty minimum fee for tiny jobs, but then, maybe you are the only one who doesn't charge a minimum fee, that's why they choose you for these jobs?


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:37
Member
English to French
Reminder: charge a min fee Sep 3, 2015

Tiny jobs really are a PITA for any service provider. So all service providers charge min fees. And it's not stealing, it's common sense.

I do charge a min fee for each and every bit that needs translating, because:
1) Flow interruption: I estimate at 15 minutes the time to handle a job request from a known customer all inclusive, besides the 30 seconds of actual translation.
And 15 minutes is worth money, because I sell my time, not words.
In your case, if you have to mess about with online management systems, CAT tools and 2 replies to the PM from different media, it would be even more.
2) Communication: e-mail to say that you're available, accepting; etc.
3) Admin: one line in your Excel sheet or management program and all subsequent follow-up steps, opening files/programs, renaming, etc.
4) Retention: every time I feel like offering a freebie, the customer is happy. Every time you charge 2.31, the customer is laughing.
5) Translation: you may have to browse the net for reference, even for 3 words.

Finally, I find that line amounts lower than 2-digit figures in an invoice for a service are esthaetically ridiculous, laughable, mean and cheap. It looks like you've added the cost for the Post-it you spent to make sure you don't forget about the deadline. Or the two fags you smoked while swearing at the PM.

Philippe


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 18:37
German to English
+ ...
Your end of things Sep 3, 2015

I am guessing that you are charging per word, which means you are receiving almost nothing for these tiny jobs, and that you are trying to do them according to their timing rather than yours. As some other colleagues have said, have a minimum charge for small jobs. My own for agencies is CAD $35.00, which is close to what I have seen quoted here in Euros. It is not that unreasonable, since each separate job entails administrative work on your part as well: discussing / acknowledging the work (esp. this double trouble of Skype being added), filing it in your system, the communication in delivery, creating and sending an invoice.

Time-wise you need to fit it into your schedule. If you find what time is best to squeeze this little job into your schedule of other jobs, as well as knowing you are getting a proper and generous fee for the work, then you might feel differently about these little jobs. Otoh, the agency may decide better about sending off these tiny things if they no can expect to pay next to nothing for them.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:37
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Two types of minimum charges Sep 3, 2015

Depending on your preference, you may select two types of minimum fees:

a) Minimum per job
In your case, this may be a deterrent for this client to seek you when they have worthier assignments.

b) Minimum per month
If you want to keep this client, this could work, if they are willing to pay you COD.
You take their first "teaspoon assignment", charge them, say, $50~100, and they'll have the next 30 days to use that amount, or the remaining balance will be forfeited. Any excess will be charged when incurred.

I have a client that has kept a one job per week yearly average over the past 9 years this month. Their jobs vary - in US$ digits - from 1 to 5, but they want one invoice per job. I have issued an invoice there for USD 2.54. Of course, considering the client, I'd give that for free, but they insist in having it duly invoiced. Overall, it's well worth the occasional hassle, as their usual invoice is 3 digits in USD.


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