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Poll: What would you do if a regular client insists that you do a job outside your specialization
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 09:53
SITE STAFF
Aug 2, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "What would you do if a regular client insists that you do a job outside your specialization".

This poll was originally submitted by Ma. Fernanda Blesa

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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RHELLER
United States
Local time: 10:53
French to English
+ ...
Don't let yourself be pressured Aug 2, 2006

This has happened to me in the past and I have learned to be firm.

Working outside one's specializations has 2 drawbacks: it may result in lower quality and is usually more time consuming.

Clients should not tell professionals how to run their business.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:53
German to English
+ ...
Falling between all stools (yet again) Aug 2, 2006

Yet another poll with no fitting answer.
I plumped for "Accept, talk about field", meaning that I would point out that it is not my speciality, and for an agency I would suggest (or occasionally insist) that they find someone who specialises in the field.
The same applies when the client wants a brand of English different from mine (e.g. American or "mid-Atlantic").
The outcome is that sometimes I do the job after all, but the client has explicitly noted that I am not a specialist. And sometimes they do find someone else.


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 13:53
Portuguese to English
+ ...
It depends... Aug 2, 2006

If it's something I know I'm really not good at, like finances, I just say NO. But if it's topic I can deal with, knowing I'll have to do a little more research, I say YES. But I make sure they know where I stand.

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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:53
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
Reject it Aug 2, 2006

My clients usually write back saying they understand and that it's not a problem. If I can recommend someone else, then I do.

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Enrique
Local time: 13:53
SITE STAFF
Uncompressed options Aug 2, 2006

Since our quick polls demand very short texts, in particular for the options, I had to compress Maria Fernanda's suggestions.

Just in case I made things confusing:

Accept, talk about field = Accept the job but telling the customer this is not your field of expertise

Accept, no disclaimer = Accept the job without telling the customer this is not your field of expertise

The other options are clear enough, I hope.

Thanks to Maria Fernanda for her suggestion, and to all our members for supporting this, your site.

Kind regards,
Enrique


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Enrique
Local time: 13:53
SITE STAFF
I think the option describes your case Aug 2, 2006

Victor Dewsbery wrote:

Yet another poll with no fitting answer.
I plumped for "Accept, talk about field", meaning that I would point out that it is not my speciality, and for an agency I would suggest (or occasionally insist) that they find someone who specialises in the field.
The same applies when the client wants a brand of English different from mine (e.g. American or "mid-Atlantic").
The outcome is that sometimes I do the job after all, but the client has explicitly noted that I am not a specialist. And sometimes they do find someone else.


Hi Victor,

I think you selected a good alternative. You accept the job and talk about the fact that this is not your field of expertise.

You don't reject the job (sometimes you do it) but you give the customer the option to select a specialist.

Regards,
Enrique


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Reed James
Chile
Local time: 13:53
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
Huge market Aug 2, 2006

Since my language combination is Spanish-English, and my fields of expertise are mainly business and law, jobs abound. There is no reason for me to take on anything else.

Reed


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Paola Prodan  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 13:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
Several Cases Aug 2, 2006

I had two different situations: in one case I accepted the job after explaining it was not my field of expertise, and in other two cases I rejected the job.

Once a regular client had a technical text about cars to translate, which is not my field of expertise. I explained this to my client and they told me they had a very complete glossary of terms and a lot of reference material to help me. I used the glossary and the reference material and I was able to deliver a good translation. Besides, my father helped me a lot because he knows everything about cars.

Then, two different clients asked me to do a translation outside my fields of expertise. One of them had a technical text about construction, and the other had a text about biochemistry. No glossary, no reference material this time. And I know that I don't have enough knowledge to translate texts in those fields. I told my clients so, and rejected the job politely.

Greetings to all from Argentina!
Paola


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:53
Flemish to English
+ ...
Not an egotripper. Aug 2, 2006

Tell the interested party that I am working together with a specialist : A friend of mine is an engineer specialized in construction and hydraulics. He is the only one I know who can draw a building, buy materials and built the building himself. In short, he is obsessed by technical things.
I am not an egotripper and when necessary we can always work together.


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Victor Potapov
Russian Federation
Local time: 19:53
English to Russian
+ ...
We have our reputation to protect... Aug 2, 2006

... and therefore we should be extremely wary of situations that may lead to consequences we all know too well: a client, frustrated with getting a low-quality document (moreover, previous jobs were done very well - so poor quality came as a complete surprise) says "Well, you know these translators (or interpreters) - they'll grab any work we throw at them, and that's the result- poor quality!" You'll agree that such unhappy clients probably will not bring their further business to the translator/interpreter who let them down in such a way.

How can we avoid this nightmare?

I believe that we all have to specialize for a number of reasons (without false modesty, I am using a couple of examples from my professional experience):

1. competitive advantages - better quality, better productivity,

2. higher rates - you can justify above-market rates because you are an expert in your area.

3. more interesting, high-profile, challenging work (I work with 7 of the top 10 investment banks active in Russia - because I have a financial background, I specialize in financial translations and I make that known to investment bankers).

Suggestion: do not start specializing in areas that do not motivate you (or that you do not like) and in areas that you do not want to spend your working career in!

4. you can actually get more work this way. This may sound counter-intuitive - but it is actually true. When your target clients learn about your capabilities, expertise, quality level - they will outsource a lot more to you than you previously thought possible! (of course, BEFORE they learn about you and come to you, there will be a lot of generalist work - actually, when I just started, I had 2 small clients in the financial field and to earn a living I had to translate all kinds of stuff - including an "Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds", for God's sake!)

David Maister, an expert in strategy/management of professional services firms (www.davidmaister.com), once said: "What you do NOT do often defines your strategy better than what you are going to do".


And this is true - in order to specialize in an area (or to have a good strategy) everybody - interpreters and translators included - must have a clear understanding of what they will not do. Having these "no-go" areas only improves your strategy by forcing you to concentrate on your main areas.

Otherwise a translator may spread him/herself too thin trying to cover it all - and, regrettably, denying him/herself a vital chance to build a profitable specialist practice.

A good regular client will understand it perfectly well if you tell them "for translations/interpreting in my subject areas of XXX, YYY and ZZZ I will be glad - as usual - to accomodate all your requests. But for this one in the area of AAA, I regret to mention that I do not work in this area. I know a very good interpreter/translator Mr. CCC, who has a lot of experience in this area and actually specializes in AAA. I believe he can be of help to you - please find his contact information below".

This example shows an interpreter/translator trying to become "part of the solution" instead of being part of a problem by a) doing a poor job in an unfamiliar subject area, or b) only saying "sorry, I do not work in AAA - now go and find your translator elsewhere".

What about taking the job - and than subcontracting an expert to do it?

I do not think this is right. If I'm not an expert in the subject area, I have no means to ascertain whether the text makes sense to the experts in the field (and you'll agree that with interpreting this is even more dangerous).

I would not risk my reputation this way. It is always better for the client to have direct relation with the other interpreter/translator.

Hope this helps.

Victor.


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Ma. Fernanda Blesa  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 13:53
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I'd reject the job Aug 2, 2006

The worst that's happened to me is being asked to work with texts slightly out of my fields, so I mentioned that and was able to do them anyway with a little more effort (and time of course, but I mentioned that before accepting the job as well).

However, I suppose if I were asked to translate a document on cars, e.g., way way outside my expertise, I would have to reject it, since I wouldn't probably be able to finish even the first paragraph

I'm undecided as to whether I would hire or recommend a specialist, it might be easier for my client if I took care of that, but I suppose I'd have to charge a "service fee" or something, and I wouldn't be able to check the quality of the finished translation...

Regards,
Fernanda.


PS: Thanks Enrique for providing the full versions of the first two options although they are actually reduced versions of the original options! Sometimes it is difficult to be concise and clear, but well, they wouldn't be *quick* polls otherwise I guess


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 11:53
English to Russian
+ ...
Reject Aug 2, 2006

I did the opposite twice long time ago. Both after begging and grouling of my close fiiends claiming that the situation was at a stage of "better than nothing would be a life-saver". Both were real-time events - people actually sitting in the room and expecting something to continue on after lunch and on the next day. Everybody kept their promise - the end client and the agency both showered me with thanks and love, claimed that they have been able to understand everything, never a bad word afterwards even though I still believe that the quality was... not too far from "better than nothing"...

However, remembering my sweaty hands, heart rate and followed loss of sleep over the cr...p I delivered - no, thanks!


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:53
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
My sentiments exactly! Aug 2, 2006

IreneN wrote:
However, remembering my sweaty hands, heart rate and followed loss of sleep over the cr...p I delivered - no, thanks!


That's exactly why I say "No, sorry!"
Catherine


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
one in 1 in 3 would say yes......... Aug 2, 2006

Of those who say they would accept the job, how many said yes knowing they can post a sizeable chunk on Proz? And how many would have said no if there were no Kudoz to help/bail them out?
These numbers confirm what has been said in forum discussions about Kudoz abuse and Kudoz limits, namely that some people accept work they can't do and rely on site colleagues to get them through it.
Imo, rejecting jobs one can't handle is the only sensible, professional -and honest- thing to do.

[Edited at 2006-08-02 23:22]


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