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Impossible deadlines
Thread poster: Emily Scott

Emily Scott  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2018)
French to English
+ ...
Nov 6

The more agencies I work for in the medical specialism, the more I seem to be expected to be able to meet extremely tight deadlines. As medicine is quite technical and can have drastic consequences if translated incorrectly, I find I'm having to reject quite a lot of work as I don't feel as if I would be able to produce a quality translation in the time that I am usually given. On top of that, a lot of the files I receive are PDF scans that can't be fed into a CAT tool with useful glossaries/ter... See more
The more agencies I work for in the medical specialism, the more I seem to be expected to be able to meet extremely tight deadlines. As medicine is quite technical and can have drastic consequences if translated incorrectly, I find I'm having to reject quite a lot of work as I don't feel as if I would be able to produce a quality translation in the time that I am usually given. On top of that, a lot of the files I receive are PDF scans that can't be fed into a CAT tool with useful glossaries/term bases which makes even more work to fit into an already tight deadline. I love translating medical documents as I find it so interesting but honestly, I spend most of the time being stressed that I can't meet these deadlines. Does anyone else feel this way or is it just me? If so, how do you manage these deadlines?

[Edited at 2019-11-06 15:02 GMT]
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Annamaria BERGOMI
Andrea Sartori-Griffiths
 

Agnes Fatrai  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:00
Member (2018)
Chinese to German
+ ...
OCR tools Nov 6

Dear Emily,
As to the problem with PDFs: There is a variety of OCR tools (some of them free such as "FreeOCR") which work very well and help you to feed texts into a CAT tool.
I do not accept jobs with tight deadlines, as it's the same with me - texts on medicine, pharmaceuticals and patents have to be translated carefully. You should only work for agencies which are aware of this, anyway. Persist, persist ...
Regards,
Agnes


Sylvain Lefèvre
Annamaria BERGOMI
 

Emily Scott  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2018)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Agnes Nov 6

I wasn't aware there were free OCR tools available, thank you for this. It seems fewer agencies understand the time it takes to produce a good medical translation (at least while also having some sort of a work-life balance) but as you say, I will persist.

 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Step back Nov 6

Emily Scott wrote:
I love translating medical documents as I find it so interesting but honestly, I spend most of the time being stressed that I can't meet these deadlines. Does anyone else feel this way or is it just me? If so, how do you manage these deadlines?

Emily, I cannot comment on medical documents, but generally I have found that very challenging deadlines are the hallmark of bad clients. I don't mean malicious or deceptive clients, but firms that are disorganised and perhaps working with similarly disorganised end clients.

If rates are also low, then these agencies are probably not working at the high end i.e. their end clients are not too fussed about quality and are not prepared to pay top-dollar. If all your clients are like this, then either it's a low-value added part of the medical sector, or the sector is fine but it's time for you to look for new clients.

In the short term, the only thing you can do is reject ridiculous deadlines more frequently to give you some mental space, and take the hit to your income. You say you are rejecting work already. If that is the case, then you sound quite busy. Are you charging enough?

Maybe you should try an experiment. Take the client you like the least and find most difficult to work with, and tell them you're putting up prices by 10%. See what happens. At worst, you lose the client and that gives you more of a breathing space. At best, they accept the increase. (Also - you are charging for OCR and DTP work, right?)

Anyway, as a practical issue, if you don't reject more often you'll just grind yourself into the floor, with adverse impacts on both physical and mental health. It's important to learn how to say "No" as often as necessary (albeit clearly and politely) and to explain why.

Perhaps a medical specialist can give advice more tailored to the medical area.

Regards,
Dan


Christine Andersen
Vi Pukite
Philip Lees
Vadim Kadyrov
Daniela Slankamenac
MollyRose
Inga Petkelyte
 

Emily Scott  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2018)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Dan Nov 6

Dan Lucas wrote: In the short term, the only thing you can do is reject ridiculous deadlines more frequently to give you some mental space, and take the hit to your income. You say you are rejecting work already. If that is the case, then you sound quite busy. Are you charging enough?


I wouldn't say overly busy, more swamped with these impossible deadline jobs which I mostly keep batting away. Whether I'm charging enough is a completely different issue, I struggle to negotiate anything higher than 0.07 GBP in this field - I assume there are a lot of translators willing to work for less which is a shame.

Dan Lucas wrote: Maybe you should try an experiment. Take the client you like the least and find most difficult to work with, and tell them you're putting up prices by 10%. See what happens. At worst, you lose the client and that gives you more of a breathing space. At best, they accept the increase. (Also - you are charging for OCR and DTP work, right?)


Do you mean adding a fee for translating PDFs? If so, I think if I asked for this they would give the job to someone else! I seem to be up against translators who don't ask many questions (can the deadline be extended etc.) and so end up losing out to them.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2008)
Italian to English
You specify Nov 6

Emily: it should be you, the translator, who specifies the deadlines based on your experience and knowledge of what's involved. Don't allow your client to impose deadlines on you - because they don't know anything about the task of the translator.

All you need to do is to be polite about it !

[Edited at 2019-11-06 16:13 GMT]


DZiW
Katalin Szilárd
Philip Lees
Vadim Kadyrov
Viviane Marx
Merab Dekano
 

Emily Scott  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2018)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I do! Nov 6

Tom in London wrote:

Emily: it should be you, the translator, who specifies the deadlines based on your experience and knowledge of what's involved. Don't allow your client to impose deadlines on you - because they don't know anything about the task of the translator.

All you need to do is to be polite about it !

[Edited at 2019-11-06 16:13 GMT]


Trust me Tom, I try every time! Sometimes I get a bit of movement but most of the time I'm told that the deadline can't be moved and therefore have to reject.


 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:00
Member
Italian to English
Stop working for them Nov 6

Emily Scott wrote:

On top of that, a lot of the files I receive are PDF scans that can't be fed into a CAT tool with useful glossaries/term bases which makes even more work to fit into an already tight deadline.


Your post makes me suspect you are working for a certain high-profile medical translation agency, who I stopped working for for the very reasons you describe.

Emily Scott wrote:

how do you manage these deadlines?


Simple. I no longer accept deadlines that are too tight. Deadlines can often be negotiated, however, always worth a try.

[Edited at 2019-11-06 16:35 GMT]


 

Emily Scott  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2018)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Advice? Nov 6

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

Emily Scott wrote:

On top of that, a lot of the files I receive are PDF scans that can't be fed into a CAT tool with useful glossaries/term bases which makes even more work to fit into an already tight deadline.


Your post makes me suspect you are working for a certain high-profile medical translation agency, who I stopped working for for the very reasons you describe


These seem to be the only type of agencies that want to work with me, I'm really unsure how to find best clients - do you have any advice?


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
A little something extra Nov 6

Emily Scott wrote:
These seem to be the only type of agencies that want to work with me, I'm really unsure how to find best clients - do you have any advice?

Success in crowded markets is all about differentiation. Do you have any explicit qualifications or experience to which you can point that would make you stand out from the crowd a bit more?

I would direct you to Fiona's own profile for examples. I'm not suggesting you can immediately equal that - she is an exemplar rather than a typical practitioner - but that's where you need to be headed. She represents the level at which you need to be able to compete over the long term.

If you don't have such qualifications/experience, there may not be much you can do immediately other than market yourself more effectively. (Meanwhile, look for courses or conferences to attend.) For a start, I would say that your profile isn't as punchy as it could be. There are hints of interesting stuff there, but you don't seem to be fully leveraging what you appear to have. Some people have different experiences, but my profile on ProZ has been crucial to attracting clients.

Also, are you a member of any associations, such as ITI or CIOL?

Dan

[Edited at 2019-11-06 17:02 GMT]


 

Emily Scott  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2018)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not yet Nov 6

Dan Lucas wrote: Also, are you a member of any associations, such as ITI or CIOL?


I'm not a member no, but I am considering it. Just trying to see if the benefits equal the cost.

Fiona's profile is definitely something to aspire to, I have been taking courses for continuous development but maybe I need to showcase them more on my profile. Thanks for the heads up Dan!


 

Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 14:00
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Avoid these agencies Nov 6

Dan Lucas wrote:

I have found that very challenging deadlines are the hallmark of bad clients. I don't mean malicious or deceptive clients, but firms that are disorganised and perhaps working with similarly disorganised end clients.


Agree. Plus some translation agencies accept any jobs (with impossible deadlines, with bad source language etc.) just to make profit. They lie to the end-client that they can do it with their professional translators, meanwhile they have no clue whom they can assign the job, and they are desperately looking for any translators in that field... mainly cheap translators. And if they are in big trouble due to bad quality, they look for professionals to fix up the mess. For me they are in the "No!" category.


Amarda
Inge Meinzer
 

Joseph Tein  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:00
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don't give in to unrealistic deadlines Nov 6

Hi Emily,

It's good to read that you care about doing a careful job with medical translation. I definitely agree that we need realistic deadlines in order to do good, accurate work. I think all you can do is tell them "I can deliver by ____, not earlier." Then they decide. As you've said, working under pressure leads to stress for us (not healthy!) and poor-quality work for the client. Try to get a reasonable deadline when offered a project you want to work on, and move on when t
... See more
Hi Emily,

It's good to read that you care about doing a careful job with medical translation. I definitely agree that we need realistic deadlines in order to do good, accurate work. I think all you can do is tell them "I can deliver by ____, not earlier." Then they decide. As you've said, working under pressure leads to stress for us (not healthy!) and poor-quality work for the client. Try to get a reasonable deadline when offered a project you want to work on, and move on when they say No. We just can't sacrifice quality or work under stress (not continually, anyway).

I receive lots of spontaneous job offers through my ProZ profile ... I think that's because I've gathered a lot of KudoZ points by answering terminology questions over the years. You have very few! One way to attract job offers is to build up that point count by answering questions ... it's also a nice way to support colleagues.

I received my first real translation offer through my ATA profile, and then that certain "high-profile translation agency" reached out to me through my ProZ profile. So having a good, complete profile will also help attract offers from new clients (add any experience and training you haven't mentioned yet.) Your current profile looks great by the way: impressive education and experience, and positive feedback from clients. Consider joining the ATA and see if it helps, although at this point I've been busy enough that I let my membership lapse.

Bonne chance and buon lavoro!
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Amarda
Michele Fauble
Sylvain Lefèvre
 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:00
German to English
Very short deadlines often the result of multi-level outsourcing Nov 6

It's not much of a secret that agencies outsource to other agencies. Some agencies with limited resources and no sales force thrive on this type of outsourcing. This is true for a number of enterprises, not just LSPs. Agency A may get an engagement from direct client A at a rate of 25 cents/word, with a deadline of 10 days. This agency, in turn, may sell the job to agency B for 20 cents/word and a deadline of 7 days, thus making a profit of 5 cents with little effort involved. Agency B may, in ... See more
It's not much of a secret that agencies outsource to other agencies. Some agencies with limited resources and no sales force thrive on this type of outsourcing. This is true for a number of enterprises, not just LSPs. Agency A may get an engagement from direct client A at a rate of 25 cents/word, with a deadline of 10 days. This agency, in turn, may sell the job to agency B for 20 cents/word and a deadline of 7 days, thus making a profit of 5 cents with little effort involved. Agency B may, in turn, sell the job to agency C for 15 cents/word with a deadline of 5 days. The consequence for the translator is lower rates and shorter deadlines as these jobs descend down the spiral.

I agree with other posters – you're better off working for clients that are higher on the food chain who can offer more reasonable deadlines and rates.
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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:00
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Impossible deadlines for medical documents Nov 7

I specialize in this field and I reject out of hand unrealistic deadlines for medical translations. The translator has a duty towards the end-users of these documents which are inevitably the patients.

KateKaminski
 
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