Managed Availability
Thread poster: José Henrique Lamensdorf

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:10
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Sep 14, 2011

I developed the "managed availability" concept a few months ago, put it into practice, and was trying to get it explained in words. At last, one real-life case helped me to spell it out.

It's all about the criterion a translator may use to choose among two or more jobs they are offered, when they won't be able to take all (or more than one) of them and still deliver on time.

Regarding background, my standard payment term is two weeks from delivery, yet I accept jobs paying up to 30 days after delivery. No, I won't take anything beyond a 30-day payment. While I specialize in professional translation, I'll always be an amateur in financial services. Professional financial services providers (aka banks) have their interest rates. As an amateur, my interest rates should be at least twice those adopted by banks. Therefore my prices for payment beyond 30 days are so high that they should immediately rule me out as an option in any job offer.

Another piece of the background is the payment method, and few outsourcers know how it actually works from the payee's side. Please bear in mind that I'm in Brazil. Most translation outsourcers love PayPal, because it's simple to operate: they send funds to a nondescript e-mail address, and their duty will have been fulfilled.

In the case today, the agency I worked for guarantees payment within 30 days from delivery, no matter what. Today - three weeks after I delivered my first job for them - they told me that they will be sending an E-check to my PayPal account. They apparently feel 'good' about paying me earlier than promised.

However things from my side look somewhat different. While a funds transfer between two PayPal accounts is immediate, PayPal will hold an E-check for 3-5 business days before crediting its amount to an account there. Last year PayPal set up ops in Brazil. Previously, a funds transfer from PayPal to a Brazilian bank account via Xoom would take overnight, at most. Now PayPal Brazil takes more 3-5 business days to make the transfer from balance in an account with them to a local bank account. This means that it may take up to two weeks for that E-check to turn into credit to my bank account. If we consider Brazilian (bank) interest rates, this means almost 5% added to my cost. Were that not enough, PayPal deducts 7.5% from any amount I receive through them as fees. So I'll be getting about 12% less than I should.

Most translation outsourcers want the best (i.e. lowest) per word rates they can get. I adopt honest market average rates for what I deliver, so I couldn't lower them any further. However I offer my clients the option to pay on my term - two weeks from delivery - via Xoom (costs them US$ 4.99 - only available in the USA) and get a 7.5% discount, which PayPal would otherwise be taking away from me.

In a translator-outsourcer relationship, the translator's duties are quality and speed. Price is mutually negotiable, so it's neither here nor there. The outsourcer's sole duty is payment; clear instructions are taken for granted (otherwise they'll get what they asked for, not what they wanted or needed). As an extra, a translator may offer availability, i.e. going the extra mile to meet that tight deadline when demand is high. All that's left for the outsourcer is to offer speed in payment, so they'll have some priority edge on their competitors, when they want any specific translator to work for them, regardless of all the other job offers this translator may have at the time. "Being nice" - a popular expression on the Blue Board - no longer gives this edge; I couldn't name a client who failed in essential business courtesy, and yet got a second job from me. Until an MBA develops a beter name for it (and makes a bundle from selling their book), I'm calling this "managed availability".

I have some great clients who - due to their very own business setup - cannot pay me in any other term than 30 days after delivery. They have been forewarned that any client with a better "managed availability" rating may overturn their priority, hence I'm not the best option when these slower-paying clients have large and urgent jobs.

So far this has been working fine for all involved. I guess that the fact that I've never delivered a job late in the past 38 years plays an important role here. This "managed availability" ensures that those who need priority will get it, is healthy for my cash flow, and fair to everyone.


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:10
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
How does this work in practice? Sep 14, 2011

The conduct by the agency is outrageous and I can understand your annoyance, if I expect to get 100 I don't want 100 - x amount of fees.

However I'm sorry but I fail to see how this "managed availability" can work in practice.

I've not been translating for as long as you have but I also pride myself on delivering on time.

I've reached a point were I am getting a steady amount of requests everyday from my different clients and in fact nearly everyday I have to turn some jobs down as I don't the availability to fit them in.

However I have yet to receive two job proposals at the exact same time, when I receive a proposal if I have the availability (and obviously all the other conditions are acceptable) I accept the job, if I don't have availability I don't accept the job.

When I get a request I don't wait around on the off chance that I might get a request from a "better paying" client, my clients expect me to let them know as soon as possible if I can accept a job or not.

Once I've accepted a job, that's it, no matter what comes in after the job I accepted is untouchable, it's my bad luck if something "better" comes in after. This has in fact happened sometimes and I've even had clients offer to pay extra to have me drop other jobs, my answer to that is always the same "how would you feel if I delayed one of your jobs because another one of my clients paid me more to do their job instead and drop yours?". I have, if the offer was interesting enough worked longer hours than normal to fit in a job, but I've never delayed one job to fir another one in.

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

I have some great clients who - due to their very own business setup - cannot pay me in any other term than 30 days after delivery. They have been forewarned that any client with a better "managed availability" rating may overturn their priority, hence I'm not the best option when these slower-paying clients have large and urgent jobs.


Surely your not saying that after you accept a job if something "better" comes in you will give it priority over the job you accepted.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:10
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Easier done than said Sep 14, 2011

One important thing for every translator is to know their productivity level. Otherwise, how can they give a time estimate on any job? My standard is 3,000 words/day; I can do that even if reasonably sick, which fortunately doesn't happen so often. My peak so far was 9,065 words in one day, to I have a pretty good idea on my limits. (I also have my benchmarks in video work, however they would cloud the issues here.)

Therefore, I estimate the number of days a job will take me considering 3,000 words/day for that job alone. This leaves me with spare capacity to take other jobs, in an industry where rush is obnoxiously frequent. Most of all, if nothing else comes up, I'll live up to my motto that I prefer to deliver two days early than two hours late.

As a matter of fact, yesterday I delivered a 40K-words job for tomorrow, and yes, I did 4 smaller jobs for other 'prioritary' clients in this meantime, plus postponed 3 jobs for non-prioritary clients (if they find someone else to do it in the meantime, it's their choice).

Regarding payment transfer fees (viz. PayPal) my international rates already include them. Evidence of that is that as sworn translations in Brazil must be done at government-set net rates, my international invoices for such services have an additional item, for the expenses I'll incur upon getting paid by the client's preferred method. Furthermore, if a client proposes any better payment plan than my standard, they usually get a discount.

On the other end, when I sell my full capacity, i.e. some client wants me to deliver more than my rated production, there will be a surcharge for that, covering not only the disruption, but also compensating other worthy clients who won't be able to get immediate service from me.

I wouldn't consider the conduct of that or any other agency outrageous: most agencies that pay via PayPal have no idea on how much is deducted from they payees overseas, unless we (translators) tell them. What is outrageous is some agencies deducting from translators' pay the fees their bank charges to issue a wire transfer. This (and low rates) stems from a long tradition of low-self-esteem amateur translators who will take any job offer, no matter how despicably low, as a blessing. They are not really in the translation business.

The whole thing is a delicate balancing act. I'm looking for inputs to make it more organized, hence transparent.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
ProZ article, perhaps? Sep 14, 2011

Very interesting, José Henriqué - thanks.

I try to run my business in that way, too, although I've never really tried to analyse it. As far as I'm concerned, I only have a certain number of working hours available in a day, days in a year, etc. So it's worth my while organising that time to be (a) as profitable as possible and (b) at worst slightly boring and at best thoroughly enjoyable.

I agree that many clients aren't really aware of the consequences of their payment practices. There's really no call for slanging matches and threats in a business relationship - we cannot be forced to accept prejudicial terms, after all. We simply need to make it clear that our services are worth what we charge, and only if both parties agree to abide by the negotiated terms can we expect to do business.

It seems a shame that your informative posting will very soon be buried under an avalanche of new posts, mainly along the repetitive themes of clients who demand ridiculous terms and/or fail to pay. If you were to submit it as an article, it would be a little more accessible in the future.

Sheila


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:10
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, Sheila Sep 14, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:
I try to run my business in that way, too, although I've never really tried to analyse it. As far as I'm concerned, I only have a certain number of working hours available in a day, days in a year, etc. So it's worth my while organising that time to be (a) as profitable as possible and (b) at worst slightly boring and at best thoroughly enjoyable.


In my ancient consulting days, I presented one specific seminar on time management 76 times. However my audience was strictly 8-to-5 white-collars who had one boss, at most two. The freelancing translator has only one boss (him/her self) and countless clients fighting for that job, viz. the freelancer's "boss". So I was trying to adapt the key concepts.

One of them is that time never stops going by, so we can't save it for a rainy day. Therefore we should sell as much as our time for the best price we can, and if any remains unsold, sell it at a discount to prevent it from being wasted. However there is a limit to that discount. One fellow translator here in Brazil responded to an outrageously low-paying translation job offer by saying, "A dog walker makes more than that. If I take 3-5 neighbors' dogs for a walk, I'll make more money than doing this translation for you."

Sheila Wilson wrote:
I agree that many clients aren't really aware of the consequences of their payment practices. There's really no call for slanging matches and threats in a business relationship - we cannot be forced to accept prejudicial terms, after all. We simply need to make it clear that our services are worth what we charge, and only if both parties agree to abide by the negotiated terms can we expect to do business.


The problem is that too many translators fail to consider that too. They take 2¢/word, 60-day paying translation jobs as manna from heaven. It is true that these often deliver crap from hell in return. Yet it does exist, and some outsources tend to believe that this is a standard in the trade.

I consider it every professional's duty to educate their clientele. My web site is living evidence of this, especially the Articles section. However several clients see me as a troublemaker when I point these unknown facts (about payment methods) to them, because nobody else does.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
It seems a shame that your informative posting will very soon be buried under an avalanche of new posts, mainly along the repetitive themes of clients who demand ridiculous terms and/or fail to pay. If you were to submit it as an article, it would be a little more accessible in the future.


You guessed my intent. As you probably noticed, I'm trying to cross the Ts in this whole thing. It took me long enough to put together the ideas as I wrote them at the outset of this thread. In other words, I'm flying without having invented the aircraft. Now I have to explain to myself first what are wings, flaps, etc. before attempting to write an article.

[Edited at 2011-09-14 21:34 GMT]


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 17:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Please explain Sep 14, 2011

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote (with my emphasis):
...
On the other end, when I sell my full capacity, i.e. some client wants me to deliver more than my rated production, there will be a surcharge for that, covering not only the disruption, but also compensating other worthy clients who won't be able to get immediate service from me.
...


How does your making clients who want more than your rated production pay a surcharge 'compensate other worthy clients'?

You surely not passing on that surcharge as a rebate on those worthy clients' next jobs... are you?

MediaMatrix


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xxxkalap
I think I can answer Sep 15, 2011

mediamatrix wrote:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote (with my emphasis):
...
On the other end, when I sell my full capacity, i.e. some client wants me to deliver more than my rated production, there will be a surcharge for that, covering not only the disruption, but also compensating other worthy clients who won't be able to get immediate service from me.
...


How does your making clients who want more than your rated production pay a surcharge 'compensate other worthy clients'?

You surely not passing on that surcharge as a rebate on those worthy clients' next jobs... are you?

MediaMatrix


My situation: I have a steady workflow, and the "managed availability" means that I am really doing everything for my "preferred clients" (who accept my upper middle class rates and in which I have confidence). A kind of reward scheme. I have a second range of clients (less confidence for some reason, payment issues, weaker communication) who fill in the gaps. One of my preferred clients sometimes asks me too much, then I choose on an interest in the subject basis, another kind of reward scheme.
If the clients manage to find me jobs which suit me, they have absolute priority with these jobs. (I insist: I am not charging more, this would be dishonest - they are well organised!). José has a kind of reward scheme solely based on money: payment time and Paypal, this is the same thing, but I do not agree with the criteria. And sometimes I take a business risk because the subject seems interesting or opens another door. A translator has to be curious, after all.

[Edited at 2011-09-15 07:49 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:10
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Again, easier done than said Sep 15, 2011

mediamatrix wrote:
How does your making clients who want more than your rated production pay a surcharge 'compensate other worthy clients'?

You surely not passing on that surcharge as a rebate on those worthy clients' next jobs... are you?
MediaMatrix


I have some first-class clients (agencies) who count on me for some sudden, out-of-the-blue urgent jobs from some specific end-clients of theirs that come up every couple of weeks or so. Let's say that they've earned, over the years, the right to be able to count on me always.

If a less-prioritary client demands a deadline short enough to eat up all my available time, I'll be doing their work on overtime. That's when the surcharge steps in.

The concept is explained on my web page on deadlines. In practice, I'm quite a zealot on ethics. Though the client has no way to verify it, I only charge extra for urgency when the imposed deadline really causes disruption to my schedule; most of the time I waive the surcharge, whenever I can.

Otherwise I'd work round the clock from Friday evening through Monday morning, because fewer colleagues do it, and have much less to do on Monday through Friday.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:10
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Unilateral compliance to agreement by the translator Sep 17, 2011

Many - if not most - translation clients impose strict deadlines. Now and then I get one who says "as soon as you can do it within a reasonable time", but they are rare.

Some translation agencies have sophisticated online systems where, upon logging in, you'll see a clock ticking on your current project, telling exactly how many days, hours, minutes, and seconds you have to deliver it. Some of them, in their T&C, even impose pecuniary penalties if you deliver late.

Okay, I have good time management skills, so I never delivered late. However the outsourcer - no matter how polite, helpful, and pleasant so far - may, after the agreed payment date has gone by, become suddenly unresponsive to e-mails. A couple of days later they may apologetically try to explain some unusual and/or farfetched circumstances, tell the translator that this is a thoroughly dependable end-client, that they will pay for sure, just have a bit of patience. Some two or three more days go by, maybe a week, and they'll write to tell the translator that the end-client has indeed mailed them a check; the very moment that check clears, the translator will be paid without further delay. What do they mean by further delay??? There has been enough delay already, if the translator met the deadline as agreed, doesn't s/he deserve exactly the same treatment?

This is a good case for "managed availability" in the future: if the translator has anything else to do, brush'em off!


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