Project turnaround time
Thread poster: Elisabeth Purkis

Elisabeth Purkis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:32
German to English
+ ...
Nov 2, 2018

Hello translation colleagues,

I've received some good feedback from this forum, which I'm happy about.
Here's somewhere where I feel I need some guidance. After doing a lot of work on my profile over the summer and getting some of the CAT tool wheels turning etc I've been putting my feet in the water on ProZ etc. I've got a few jobs, and have been offered a few that I couldn't take. Either those were out of my depth, and I couldn't feel confident in delivering the best for t
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Hello translation colleagues,

I've received some good feedback from this forum, which I'm happy about.
Here's somewhere where I feel I need some guidance. After doing a lot of work on my profile over the summer and getting some of the CAT tool wheels turning etc I've been putting my feet in the water on ProZ etc. I've got a few jobs, and have been offered a few that I couldn't take. Either those were out of my depth, and I couldn't feel confident in delivering the best for the client, or the timing was off...I didn't feel confident about a quick turn around time.

I'm just wondering about turn around time for projects. There seems to be a standard rate per word etc, but what is the average acceptable turn around time for a project? Right now, the projects don't tend to be more than 2000 words, but I've had a problem accepting something even that long for the next day. It would mean burning some serious midnight oil, and even then I don't think I'd feel confident in the result. Ideally, I'd like to have at least two days for such a project so I can check and research it very thoroughly. Every client is a new client, so I feel the weight of that, as well as wanting to earn some good reviews. How much leeway is reasonable for a project? And if it involves working overtime or extra intensively when do I think about charging for a "rush" job? What are the guidelines that you use for this?

At the moment depending on the complexity, my average per day is about 1200 - 1500 words max. It seems that the kinds of agencies that contact me are looking for a quick turnaround, as their usual people don't have availability. So, it's often hard to make a decision. Weighing up their "urgency" versus my hesitance about predicting how difficult the text will be/how long it will take/will it be done in time?
I realize that this is often how newbies get their start, stepping in at the last minute, etc. but I feel I need some guidance on what is reasonable so that I can be more confident about bidding/ bargaining."

One more thing, we are asked about turnkey project prices? Can someone define this for me or give me an example? The suggestion is that we might charge more.

Thanks for any hints or advice you might have for me.
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Mirko Mainardi
 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:32
German to English
Sub-contracted jobs Nov 2, 2018

One of the reasons for short turnaround times is that frequently agencies subcontract jobs to other agencies, thus shortening turnaround time. For example Agency A may be charging the end customer $.25/word, but for various reasons may decide to outsource the job to Agency B for $.20/word, and Agency B will outsource to Agency C for $17./word. Each level of outsourcing reduces the deadline, requiring the translator to provide a shorter turnaround time.

Next-day delivery of a 2000 w
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One of the reasons for short turnaround times is that frequently agencies subcontract jobs to other agencies, thus shortening turnaround time. For example Agency A may be charging the end customer $.25/word, but for various reasons may decide to outsource the job to Agency B for $.20/word, and Agency B will outsource to Agency C for $17./word. Each level of outsourcing reduces the deadline, requiring the translator to provide a shorter turnaround time.

Next-day delivery of a 2000 word text seems a little much to me, especially if you're not familiar with the subject matter, although such a request isn't unusual from established customers and the assignment relates to an ongoing project.

I'd caution against rush jobs for a new client. Anecdotal evidence provided here on Proz seems to indicate that such jobs for new clients result in receiving only rush jobs from that client (see first paragraph for an explanation of how normal jobs turn into rush jobs). I do rush jobs for established clients only.

I don't know what a "turnkey" project might be. This suggests that the project might require extensive basic terminology research, setting up terminology databases, managing translation memories and potentially desktop publishing.

Good luck!
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Ricki Farn
Mirko Mainardi
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 11:32
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Hello Elisabeth! Nov 2, 2018

Usually I have no problem translating 2,000 words for next day for some of my long-standing customers, as I’m quite familiar with the subject, but I work a lot in marketing and journalism, where sometimes you really have to be inspired or to research a lot to find the right expression and from time to time I’m unable to produce more than 1,000/1,500 words per day. As a rule, I don’t accept the same amount of words with the same deadline for new clients…

Mirko Mainardi
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Be your own boss - no knee-jerk decisions or cow-towing Nov 2, 2018

Elisabeth Purkis wrote:
Ideally, I'd like to have at least two days for such a project so I can check and research it very thoroughly.

The ideal for any translation is to leave it for a while, preferably overnight, then read it at a fairly normal speed. If you rushed it or were tired, it may read in a rather stilted "translationese" way. But it isn't a rule and if a regular client really has an urgent need then they'll be happy to accept a slightly less elegant translation.

Every client is a new client

I realize that this is often how newbies get their start, stepping in at the last minute, etc.

Jobs that need you to work while others play are perfect for newbies if the deadline isn't too tight. A Friday job for delivery Monday, if it's only 1-2k words, isn't really rush, just highly inconvenient. Remember that you're getting them out of a hole and you're each taking a risk. If you're going to give up your Easter Sunday (or whatever) then extra payment, maybe some in advance, is fair.

I second everything Kevin said about why so many new clients have rush jobs. The same companies post urgent jobs all the time, many of them totally unrealistic. Newbies really don't need that stress! The almost guaranteed failure is risky for their self-confidence and maybe their reputation, not to mention their pocket. With every new client you need time just to check them out - the "due diligence" aspect of the job. Then you need to tie down all the details so that if there's a dispute you have everything in black and white. Don't start work until you've got their full company details, agreement on the job scope (wordcount, rate per word, etc), and payment terms. At that stage, if you can still meet the deadline (with some contingency built in - always!), you can get their authorisation to do the work, and off you go. For a good, regular client, OTOH, you may send back a one-line reply and get down to work.

And if it involves working overtime or extra intensively when do I think about charging for a "rush" job?

Newbies will benefit from being more flexible, of course. For my regular clients, if it doesn't really cause me any problems I'll just do the job asap for the normal rate. But if I have to work "unsociable hours", skip lunch, or reschedule other work (as opposed to just doing it later), then I may charge an extra 25% or 50%, depending on all sorts of things. I don't personally bother about most public holidays as Spain has so many!

One more thing, we are asked about turnkey project prices? Can someone define this for me or give me an example?

I'm not sure that bit of the site ever really got off the ground. I can't remember what it was about.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:32
French to English
Possible meanings of "turnkey (translation) project". Nov 2, 2018

Anything "turnkey" suggests that the project is to be delivered ready-to-go. It should need no finishing touches, the formatting and so on should be exactly as requested. The service-provider of turnkey projects will return the finished project to the client, having taken care of all the details so that the client picks is up and can use it immediately, as is.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turnkey
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Anything "turnkey" suggests that the project is to be delivered ready-to-go. It should need no finishing touches, the formatting and so on should be exactly as requested. The service-provider of turnkey projects will return the finished project to the client, having taken care of all the details so that the client picks is up and can use it immediately, as is.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turnkey

Here are some examples of how this can apply to the provision of translation services:

https://ccalanguagesolutions.com/services/translation/
"A dedicated Project Manager will be in charge of your translation project from its inception to your final delivery. A reliable resource available to you throughout the life of the translation project, your dedicated translator will follow your documents every step of the way, coordinating all the resources involved in your project, ensuring a perfect, complete, turnkey translation project. We feel communication is essential to ensuring a high-quality translation of your materials."

https://lifesciences.welocalize.com/services/project-management/
"Effective project management is key to taking your products and services to global markets. Welocalize Life Sciences provides full-service, turnkey language translation, localization and interpretation project management services for all content types."

http://www.neotranslation.co.in/translation-process.html
"Translation Project Management.

Translation and localization requires the coordination of many people around the globe. Perfecting project management is key to taking your products and services to new markets. Neoplus Translation provides full-service, turnkey language translation, localization, and interpreting project management services. Global project management is complex. Our skilled team streamlines the process.
Many aspects go into a quality translation project, from skilled linguists to software. But one of the most valuable parts of an effective translation project is to have a great translation project manager. Our project managers understand the entire translation supply chain from start to finish. They have experience in the field of translation and localization, in addition to project and account management.
At Neoplus Translation, we take pride in working with you through every step of the translation project. When you partner with us, you benefit from:
- A dedicated, single point of contact, per region
- Our proven track record of successful global project management
- Established relationships with preferred and certified regional linguists

Turnkey Translation Project Management Services.

Your translation project management team starts your project by evaluating the scope of the project and creating a schedule outlining due dates for each part of the project as well as communicating with you to ensure you know exactly what is going on with your translation project at any given time.
The ultimate benefit of using our qualified, professional translation management services is your project will run smoothly and be delivered on time and within budget."
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Kevin Fulton
 

Jean Dimitriadis  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:32
Member
English to French
+ ...
ProZ.com turn-key translation Nov 2, 2018

If this is in the context of your ProZ profile: https://www.proz.com/order-translation

 

Mair A-W (PhD)
Germany
Local time: 12:32
Member (2016)
German to English
+ ...
3k Nov 2, 2018

Elisabeth Purkis wrote:

I'm just wondering about turn around time for projects. There seems to be a standard rate per word etc, but what is the average acceptable turn around time for a project?


Translators and translation types vary hugely, but an "average" translator translating generalish content in their subjects might take 3k words a day as a rule of thumb. Some translators who work on specialist kinds of text do much less. Some translators who work on a lot of "boilerplatey" texts do more. Some texts go quicker. Some texts go slower. Sometimes you get held up for an hour or more on some technical bug. Some translators are just slower. Some translators are just faster.

You can only do what you can do. When an agency enquires about about a 2k word project and you reply that you could deliver it for Wednesday at midday, or Friday at EOB, or whatever, you don't need to justify that. You might be slow - or you might have six other projects on the go, or your mother visiting, or a hospital appointment.

My own preference is always to have a break between my draft translation of a document, and working it up into a final document. So if I were asked about 2k words on Monday morning, I'd give my earliest deadline - if I were otherwise free - as Tuesday lunchtime. But I could also have time for some other work on Monday.

I occasionally get enquiries from agencies who need 10k words translating in 24 hours. These projects usually come with a very low budget. Presumably someone takes on this kind of nonsense, feeds it to google translate or deepl, edits it a bit, and calls it good.


One more thing, we are asked about turnkey project prices? Can someone define this for me or give me an example? The suggestion is that we might charge more.


You can read about what ProZ turnkey translations are in the FAQ https://www.proz.com/faq/5626#5626 but in my two years on the site, I've not seen a single one, so I wouldn't waste too long worrying about it.


Sheila Wilson
Sandra& Kenneth
 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:32
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Specialisations Nov 3, 2018

Since you've just started out, you naturally accept jobs in many fields. We've all been there but it means you are still building up subject knowledge and, consequently, you take much longer to do a job whereas when you specialise, your turnaround time is shorter. You state that you specialise in at least 10 areas at the top of the page which cannot be possible and then you state at the end that you've worked in at least 8 areas. I know that some areas overlap-for example, if you are translating... See more
Since you've just started out, you naturally accept jobs in many fields. We've all been there but it means you are still building up subject knowledge and, consequently, you take much longer to do a job whereas when you specialise, your turnaround time is shorter. You state that you specialise in at least 10 areas at the top of the page which cannot be possible and then you state at the end that you've worked in at least 8 areas. I know that some areas overlap-for example, if you are translating a contract or a financial statement, there will have to be what the contract is about or the company's business which might range from IT to technical or construction. So, as you go along, try and specialise in just and, exclusively, in 1 or, at most, 2 areas if you want a fast turnaround. You also state that you are using CAT tools and some areas you mention are greatly helped by CAT tools (medicine e.g.) while you probably cannot use CAT tools for Tourism/Food and drink. Always ask to see the text before committing as PMs might say it is a medical text but it might not be a medical text at all but that is what they were told by the client and did not check as they might not understand the language. I always find it safer to ask to see the text before I commit. I had an agency which told me it was a medical text but there was absolutely nothing medical in it-it had been a contract which is an area I specialise in but I still ask to see the text before I commit to translating it or say by when.
I do not know anything about turnkey project I'm afraid.
Congratulations on your About Me section.

[Edited at 2018-11-03 07:05 GMT]
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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:32
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
An opinion Nov 3, 2018

Mair A-W (PhD) wrote:
Some translators who work on specialist kinds of text do much less. Some translators who work on a lot of "boilerplatey" texts do more. Some texts go quicker. Some texts go slower. Sometimes you get held up for an hour or more on some technical bug. Some translators are just slower. Some translators are just faster.


I think for a translation specialist, non-specialized texts can be much harder to translate. With a general text, you don't need to spend a lot time cracking the nuts of technical terms, but you may need to adjust your translated text time and again to make it flow naturally. A specialized text is usually straight forward in wording and easy to be reproduced in the target language, if you understand the trade or craft.

Just an opinion.


Arkadiusz Jasiński
Vi Pukite
 

Elisabeth Purkis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:32
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Response to all your suggestions on turnaround time Nov 5, 2018

Thanks so much for your responses,
Kevin, Teresa, Sheila and Mair, your thoughts about what time I need to take to feel confident and the advice not to take on new clients in a rush is reassuring. It's also helpful to remember that prospective clients can't see my calendar/diary/what other projects I have! I notice that when I feel pressured for time/having to take in multiple pieces of info at a time/weigh up a project I often get "brain freeze" or overload! So, in these situations, time
... See more
Thanks so much for your responses,
Kevin, Teresa, Sheila and Mair, your thoughts about what time I need to take to feel confident and the advice not to take on new clients in a rush is reassuring. It's also helpful to remember that prospective clients can't see my calendar/diary/what other projects I have! I notice that when I feel pressured for time/having to take in multiple pieces of info at a time/weigh up a project I often get "brain freeze" or overload! So, in these situations, time is really what I do need.
Nikki and Jean, thanks for the info on turnkey projects.
Jyuan-US I agree about the time taken to get a text to flow. I've been surprised that technical texts with their techno-speak often take less time than something more descriptive/discursive. I notice I spend more time wrangling with the German in the technical texts, and more time wrangling with the English in the more narrative, discursive texts.
Josephine, I appreciate the feedback on my profile. I did have a feedback session with the person from ProZ who does the "Getting New Clients" seminar. I agree that there are too many "specialize in" as well as "also works in". Perhaps I should limit it to four specialties. I think the ProZ pro said the first four are the most important. When I think of specializing I also think of my main focus being on these...based on formal or informal learning. Glad you liked my "About me"!

One more thing...

I guess I have one related question which I'd appreciate your thoughts on. It has to do with contracts. I've thought that Sheila's advice on an email being a contract has been sound, and have used that with EU clients. With one client recently who was not from the US or an EU country, I decided that I wanted to spell the expectations out a bit. So I found a sample contract from ATA for us both to sign. This contract seemed project-specific, which begs the question: is it better to just have them sign one contract and then for future jobs indicate that you are operating under the terms signed for the last, or is it better to just not make it project specific and make the agreement general to the two parties involved? I know that there are regulations in the EU that translators operate under. Can one just refer to these in an email setting out terms? If so, what are they?
Unfortunately, after much prodding the client did not sign, although I did get paid. I was approached by the same client for another project which I didn't get in the end and brought it up again. Should I just not respond to this client again, if I get another offer from them? Or is it pedantry on my part?

Thanks again for taking the time to read this and for your support.
It is much appreciated.
Wishing everyone a smooth start to their week!
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Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:32
German to English
+ ...
my take on turnaround time Nov 5, 2018

When I am contacted by a client, I examine the project, and I determine the amount of time it will take me to complete that project at a professional level, as well as looking at my schedule. This is not something that is determined by the customer. In fact, I don't think a customer can determine such a thing. I do get contacted by agencies who have a preconceived idea of a deadline. At times (often?) they compete with other companies based on faster delivery. I won't accept unrealistic req... See more
When I am contacted by a client, I examine the project, and I determine the amount of time it will take me to complete that project at a professional level, as well as looking at my schedule. This is not something that is determined by the customer. In fact, I don't think a customer can determine such a thing. I do get contacted by agencies who have a preconceived idea of a deadline. At times (often?) they compete with other companies based on faster delivery. I won't accept unrealistic requests. It compromises quality, stresses the translator, and is unfair to the end client. If you end up with errors in your work or late delivery because of tight deadlines, it also does not help in building your reputation. Those are my reasons.Collapse


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Contract or no contract? Nov 5, 2018

Elisabeth Purkis wrote:
is it better to just have them sign one contract and then for future jobs indicate that you are operating under the terms signed for the last, or is it better to just not make it project specific and make the agreement general to the two parties involved?

Most I've seen mention that job-specific terms will be agreed on a per-job basis, in emails or POs. Then the contract never needs to be mentioned again - it just remains in force.

I know that there are regulations in the EU that translators operate under. Can one just refer to these in an email setting out terms? If so, what are they?

The EU issues directives (payment periods, late payment fees, etc) but I believe each EU member state incorporates them into national law as and when they see fit.

Unfortunately, after much prodding the client did not sign, although I did get paid. I was approached by the same client for another project which I didn't get in the end and brought it up again. Should I just not respond to this client again, if I get another offer from them? Or is it pedantry on my part?

You'll probably never know but it sounds as though the client may have been a bit put off by your contract. I don't know why that would be if it was short and fair. Maybe it wasn't in their first language and they didn't feel they understood it sufficiently? Being paid is a good enough sign for me, but you must do what you feel happy with.

Far be it from me to advise anyone against setting up contracts. That would be highly irresponsible and not how I feel about them anyway. If I were an interpreter and travelling for work, I'm sure I'd want to have a "proper" contract. All I can say is that over the last 20 years I've sent invoices to most EU countries and also to India, USA, China, Japan, Syria, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Russia, Malaysia, Ukraine, Lebanon, and Israel. Although I've fallen foul of UN/US sanctions on a couple of occasions and had to resort to cash via Western Union once, the only bad debts I've had have been two local bankruptcies. I did have to take one client to court but that was one of the few occasions where the client had had me sign a very lop-sided contract (I was still rather naïve), and I won because the court rejected their contract in favour of common sense . In place of contracts, I simply expand the terms stated in my email(s) to suit the job. For example, if it's a big job arriving in parts and taking months I'll add in cancellation fees, interim payments, etc.

But I'm no lawyer and you certainly shouldn't adopt my working practices if you don't feel happy with them. Maybe I've just been lucky, plus I've always been quick to run if there's a bad smell about a job.


 

MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:32
Member (2017)
French to English
+ ...
It's not how long it takes you... Nov 5, 2018

...it's how busy you are with other projects. I always tell my clients that though I can get a project done in XXX amount of time, I can't guarantee I'll be available for it if it requires a short turnaround. Beyond that, it's really up to you to figure out what is reasonable for you and what you are able and willing to accept.

Sheila Wilson
 

Elisabeth Purkis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:32
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
More responses Nov 5, 2018

Thanks so much, Sheila, Maxi, and MK2010.
I appreciate your feedback. As with many forum questions, it's often a case of feeling one's way, but also with a sense of ethics and professionalism. Having the perspective and expertise of experienced professionals is really important to a newbie like me. So thanks for giving back to your profession in this way. It will be helpful to go back and re-read your responses when I am feeling stressed or unsure. I know things will improve with time and
... See more
Thanks so much, Sheila, Maxi, and MK2010.
I appreciate your feedback. As with many forum questions, it's often a case of feeling one's way, but also with a sense of ethics and professionalism. Having the perspective and expertise of experienced professionals is really important to a newbie like me. So thanks for giving back to your profession in this way. It will be helpful to go back and re-read your responses when I am feeling stressed or unsure. I know things will improve with time and experience.
Kind regards,
Elisabeth
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