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Cancellation of a very big job - any compensation?
Thread poster: Milen Bossev

Milen Bossev  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:25
Member
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
Jul 23, 2010

Hello,
I'd like to share this unfortunate experience with you and find out how other translators have dealt with similar situations.
One of my regular clients is a well-established agency that provides translations for various UK government departments. One Friday I got a call from them asking me about my availability over the following 3 weeks because they would be getting this very large translation job (700+ pages) for the UK courts which needed to be done within the following 3 weeks. They told me that the source document would be made available to me on Tuesday the following week. I said to them that I would be available to take on as much as I could but I wanted to see the text before I could say how much. They were very eager for me to take as much as possible in view of the large volume and short deadline. I said that I would commit myself to this job for the time till the deadline which was about 2 weeks from the time when I would get the job.

The following Wednesday (rather than Tuesday as they had said) I got the text. Having looked at it I called the project manager at the agency and told them that I could do a part of the text which was about 220 pages. I was given the go ahead and was even asked whether I could take on a bit more, which I declined. So, the next morning, I started working on the translation. About midday I got a call from the agency. I was told that the client (which is the UK government) had cancelled the job and that I should stop working on it. They said to me that they would pay for the work done so far. This came so unexpectedly that I was lost for words and didn't voice any objections on the phone.

However, after the phone conversation finished I felt it was so unfair - the amount of words I had translated in the couple of hours before I got the call was so low that it just seemed ridiculous to get paid a few pounds for a job which was supposed to be over 200 pages (40,000 words by a conservative estimate) and to which I had committed myself for the following 2 weeks, declining other opportunities for work. So I wrote them an e-mail asking if I could get any compensation for this. Two days passed and I didn't get any reply. Then I sent them a reminder to which I got a reply that they would deal with it the following day. They didn't. Then I wrote another e-mail to which I didn't get a reply at all. Finally, after a further phone call and one more e-mail, a week after the job had been cancelled I got a reply that I would be paid 20 pounds on top of what I had already translated. It felt like a smack in the face!

As of this moment I have neither accepted nor declined this. I just wonder what to do - it seems so unfair. Considering that the agency is a big one and has this government contract, I think they would probably have some cancellation clauses in their contract with the government. Am I being short-changed by the agency? I would very much appreciate to hear other translators’ experience in similar situations. (Sorry for the long post but I think that the details are important in this case).


 

Sandra& Kenneth  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 19:25
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Government contracts... Jul 23, 2010

... often contain clauses that the project may be canceled for any reason whatsoever, including for convenience, at no extra charge. In order to get the translation rights, the agency probably had to sign one of those.
They acted correctly.
As long as they paid you for the work done (which was probably just a first draft anyway) and an extra 20 pounds, I would move on with my life and look forward to my next job.
The 20 pounds did not come from the profit the agency made on this job.
FWIW


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:25
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just normal business Jul 23, 2010

Unfortunately the situation you describe is quite normal. The loss of the jobs you had declined in order to make room for the bigger job is part of the risk you go into being an entrepreneur (which is, after all, what we all freelance professionals are).

A delay of one day in the supply of the translatable to you is quite normal and happens to me several times a year. Just normal, when your customer depends on when the translatable is supplied to them by the end customer.

They called you as soon as they learnt about the change or cancellation, offered you to pay the part you had done already, and --in my opinion of course-- they acted in a fair manner. There is little else you can do.

Good luck!


 

Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:25
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
I believe that we must consider realities of agencies' work Jul 23, 2010

Hi M,

I am sorry for your situation. Unfortunately it is quite common in freelancer's life.

I am convinced that Sangro is right and that the agency most likely had to sign a contract allowing the government agency to back off at any time. It is not an exceptional situation - it's simply how it works.

I believe that, as a freelancer, knowing that my only chance of getting a shot at a job involving translation of 40k words is agreeing to possibility that the job may be cancelled, I would go for it.

After all certainly there will be another job shortly and even if you have a few hours off it won't do any harm to have some time to relaxicon_smile.gif

Cheers
Stanislaw


 

Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 18:25
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Government behaviour Jul 23, 2010

I tend to agree with Sangro.

One should bewary of BIG JOBS and BIG CUSTOMERS
and arm oneself with negotiating tools.

From what you told us, you took a 'go-ahead' as an order.
You shouldn't have, you should have asked for a written order.

Without it your negotiating power is close to zero, ALTHOUGH
it shouldn't be (an oral agreement has (theoretically) the same
legal value as a written one. In practice, though, the oral
promise can always be denied/disputed and if one does not have
a recording of the conversation, one is helpless)

So: Learn and move on.

Best regards

Mats


 

Luca Ruella  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
no compensation Jul 23, 2010

you can't ask for a compensation but, in these situations, I ask the project manager to please send me other jobs in place of the one I've lost. They're usually symphatetic.

 

Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:25
English to Dutch
+ ...
What's in your terms and conditions? Jul 23, 2010

If you don't have a cancellation policy set out in your terms and conditions, then I'd say learn from the experience and add it. Then let your clients know about it so that next time this happens (it most likely will happen again, like other posters have said cancellations aren't uncommon) you can still send an invoice part of the time you set apart - unless the agency can indeed send a suitable replacement job.

IMHO, the agency indeed acted in a fair manner, though they could have probably replied faster to your e-mails.

Good luck sorting things out with them!


 

Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
German to Spanish
+ ...
Cancellation of a very big job - any compensation? Jul 23, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Unfortunately the situation you describe is quite normal. The loss of the jobs you had declined in order to make room for the bigger job is part of the risk you go into being an entrepreneur (which is, after all, what we all freelance professionals are).

A delay of one day in the supply of the translatable to you is quite normal and happens to me several times a year. Just normal, when your customer depends on when the translatable is supplied to them by the end customer.

They called you as soon as they learnt about the change or cancellation, offered you to pay the part you had done already, and --in my opinion of course-- they acted in a fair manner. There is little else you can do.

Good luck!


Agree. Governement's behaviours in not the agency's responsability and I think too it was fair from the agency to offer you to pay for the job done so far.

Most probably it is a lose of income for the agency, but this is precisely what business risk mean. As we are not only translators but businessmen too, we must also assume certain risks or try to minimize them.


 

Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
German to Spanish
+ ...
Do you really think that... Jul 23, 2010

Susan van den Ende wrote:

If you don't have a cancellation policy set out in your terms and conditions, then I'd say learn from the experience and add it. Then let your clients know about it so that next time this happens (it most likely will happen again, like other posters have said cancellations aren't uncommon) you can still send an invoice part of the time you set apart - unless the agency can indeed send a suitable replacement job.

IMHO, the agency indeed acted in a fair manner, though they could have probably replied faster to your e-mails.

Good luck sorting things out with them!




Do you really think that any government (or any government collaborating agency) will accept your cancellation policy conditions...? I am afraid, but I fear that this is a very unrealistic thought.





[Editado a las 2010-07-23 14:25 GMT]


 

Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:25
Dutch to English
+ ...
Terms of agency's contract with the government are irrelevant Jul 23, 2010

Your contract is with the agency. Period.

As already suggested above, agree on an acceptable cancellation policy prior to accepting such jobs in future.

Acceptable means acceptable to both parties, the terms would have to be reasonable. In my case and language pairs, I know I can drum up replacement work very quickly, so I'd probably accept what I'd done plus average output for one or two further working days, depending on the length of the job.

Anyone in your position would be peeved, that's understandable. However, there is precious little you can do about it now.

Best of luck
Debs



[Edited at 2010-07-23 14:35 GMT]


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
What risk? Jul 23, 2010

If an agency asks about your availability for a large job, but cannot give you an order, then there is no need to take any risk at all.

If you are currently available then the answer to a 'are you available' question should be always 'yes'. However, you should never cancel or refuse another job during the waiting period. If the agency eventually comes back to you with the job, they will not be surprised to hear that you are no longer 100% available.

Turning away 'real' business in order to wait for 'maybe' business is a little naive.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:25
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Entirely agree! Jul 23, 2010

John Rawlins wrote:
If you are currently available then the answer to a 'are you available' question should be always 'yes'. However, you should never cancel or refuse another job during the waiting period. If the agency eventually comes back to you with the job, they will not be surprised to hear that you are no longer 100% available.
Turning away 'real' business in order to wait for 'maybe' business is a little naive.

Completely agree. And also my approach. In Spain we have a saying you probably know quite well: "Mejor pájaro en mano que ciento volando." (Better a bird in the hand than a hundred flying far."


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:25
English to Spanish
+ ...
Saying Jul 23, 2010

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" is how we say it.

And how true it is.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:25
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Hm.... Jul 23, 2010

Henry Hinds wrote:
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" is how we say it.
And how true it is.

I reckon there's just more birds in Spain...icon_wink.gif Have a lovely weekend!


 

Cathy Flick  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:25
Member (2003)
Russian to English
+ ...
charge for hours spent, not words Jul 23, 2010

Charge them for all the hours spent on the job until the cancellation point, including negotiating time and reviewing the text etc. since it was such a large job and that takes a lot of time. We set our per-word fees to cover ALL time spent on a job, including all those aspects. But we are actually providing our time. We are not just typists.

I don't usually start "translating" the job until I have done considerable other work, but I keep track of all time from start to finish (when the job and invoice are shipped off to the client) so I have no illusions about my real income per hour. For instance, on one job - I had received their purchase order and a fuzzy hardcopy, and had spent several hours preparing a legible typed copy of the source text and doing some preliminary term research and reading in the field (my work usually requires that - chemistry, physics). When they cancelled, I just charged them for the time spent. There weren't even any "words translated" to show for it, although I told them that if their client decided to do the project later, I would give them a discount for text preparation time already spent.

Peace, Cathy Flick


 
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