Dispute over time spent on project
Thread poster: spokenhere

spokenhere
United States
Local time: 16:52
Oct 8

We are an agency with lots of experience and a solid reputation among our clients and vendors. We recently completed a proofreading project that, because of the way it was set up by the client, had to be paid by the hour and not based on a word count. Anyway, we posted the project and stated specifically the tasks and the area of expertise needed. One person who replied and accepted took MANY more hours to complete (11), whereas all of the others in the 6 other languages too 3-4 hours each. The ... See more
We are an agency with lots of experience and a solid reputation among our clients and vendors. We recently completed a proofreading project that, because of the way it was set up by the client, had to be paid by the hour and not based on a word count. Anyway, we posted the project and stated specifically the tasks and the area of expertise needed. One person who replied and accepted took MANY more hours to complete (11), whereas all of the others in the 6 other languages too 3-4 hours each. The task did not involve research or a lot of digging; it was basically making sure spacing was correct and no words were missing. When we questioned the one who took so much longer, their reply was "it wasn't my area of expertise" (despite the fact that we sent the material in advance with all other requirements, which they accepted before starting). We always want to be fair and equitable, but we find it hard to justify this person taking more than 150% more time than 6 other people. Any suggestions on what we should do to handle this situation fairly for everyone involved (including us)?Collapse


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Spoken Oct 8

spokenhere wrote:
When we questioned the one who took so much longer, their reply was "it wasn't my area of expertise" (despite the fact that we sent the material in advance with all other requirements, which they accepted before starting).


Well, you *did* promise to pay him by the hour.

On the other hand, I believe that if a translator is paid by the hour, and there is something about the work that leads the translator to suspect that he is going to take much longer than the average translator, he is required to warn the client about it. I also believe that if a client specifically asks for X or Y experience, and the translator does not have it, he is required to tell the client upfront. I feel sorry for the translator who worked so many hours on this job, but he was not entirely honest about his qualifications (having just assumed that the fact that you contacted him meant that you were satisfied with his level of expertise).

Usually, when clients of mine ask me to work on an hourly basis, the agency also tells me what they consider to be the average and the upper limit of the amount I should charge. This enables me to determine in advance whether a job is taking much longer than what the client might expect, so that I can figure out why, and/or warn the client in advance.


Teresa Borges
Thayenga
ahartje
Jocelin Meunier
spokenhere
Katya Kesten
 

Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:52
German to English
No agreed maximum? Oct 9

I too am surprised that you didn't agree a maximum number of hours with the translator beforehand. As a translator, I would expect to see the job before quoting and then to agree an expected number of hours and a maximum. The most I can then charge is the agreed maximum, even if the task takes me longer than this.

It looks as though you have landed yourself with this problem by not telling the translator beforehand that you couldn't pay for more than (say) 4 hours - if the translato
... See more
I too am surprised that you didn't agree a maximum number of hours with the translator beforehand. As a translator, I would expect to see the job before quoting and then to agree an expected number of hours and a maximum. The most I can then charge is the agreed maximum, even if the task takes me longer than this.

It looks as though you have landed yourself with this problem by not telling the translator beforehand that you couldn't pay for more than (say) 4 hours - if the translator is then slow, you obviously run the risk that he/she won't complete the task in that time, which is a different problem.

If you really didn't agree an upper limit in advance, than I think you have to pay the translator for the number of hours they say they took - and then you can not work with them again!
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Christine Andersen
Sheila Wilson
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:52
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Agree on a maximum another time Oct 9

I always ask to look at the text first, and then give an estimate for the job. I try to set it high, as I know jobs like this tend to take longer than I expect! I then tell the client that is a maximum, and I usually invoice them for slightly less if I have taken less time. Even though the difference is often quite symbolic! If, in fact, it takes longer, then I finish the job and let the client know, but I do not charge more.

If the subject is outside my expertise, I turn down proof
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I always ask to look at the text first, and then give an estimate for the job. I try to set it high, as I know jobs like this tend to take longer than I expect! I then tell the client that is a maximum, and I usually invoice them for slightly less if I have taken less time. Even though the difference is often quite symbolic! If, in fact, it takes longer, then I finish the job and let the client know, but I do not charge more.

If the subject is outside my expertise, I turn down proofreading and editing jobs.

In theory it is possible to do a purely linguistic check, but if the proof-reader is not certain of the special terminology and collocations, it can be very difficult. I myself have wrongly altered expressions which, as I later found out, were perfectly correct, and I have had others alter my translations when I knew they were correct…

If the translator needs extra time to check that kind of thing, he should be learning in his own time, not charging you for it. But it would have been better to agree on a time limit in advance.

You should also agree in advance that if the text really needs re-translating (which is not the case here), then the proof-reader must let you know before spending too much time on it, so that you can decide what to do.

You could try asking the translator to compromise - and pay a couple of extra hours, but not all of them.
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Kay Denney
Sheila Wilson
Katya Kesten
 

Daryo
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:52
Serbian to English
+ ...
Not so simple Oct 9

someone overstating / overestimating their own capabilities shouldn't expect to be paid more for being slower.

Someone being slower because of being thorough has all the rights to expect to be paid for the effective time.

Someone being pressurised into biting off more than they can chew (because the agency couldn't find anyone better suited for the job / couldn't be bothered to even try ...) => whose fault it is?

In some language pairs for some subject mat
... See more
someone overstating / overestimating their own capabilities shouldn't expect to be paid more for being slower.

Someone being slower because of being thorough has all the rights to expect to be paid for the effective time.

Someone being pressurised into biting off more than they can chew (because the agency couldn't find anyone better suited for the job / couldn't be bothered to even try ...) => whose fault it is?

In some language pairs for some subject matters specialised translators are few and far between, so the law of offer and demand is in favour of less / non-specialised translators.

... etc ... etc ...

Yes, "general rules" do not fit nicely for all and any situation...
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Sheila Wilson
Tradupro17
 

mroed
Local time: 23:52
Italian to German
+ ...
150% Oct 10

From 3/4 hours to 11 is about the triple i.e. 300%

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Second opinion needed? Oct 10

spokenhere wrote:
One person who replied and accepted took MANY more hours to complete (11), whereas all of the others in the 6 other languages too 3-4 hours each.

But was this because that person was slower, or was it because the translation into that language was poorer? The time taken to do an editing job depends entirely on the quality of the target text received. You say:

The task did not involve research or a lot of digging; it was basically making sure spacing was correct and no words were missing.

Well, I'm sure it involved many other tasks related to the quality of the writing, such as word order, tenses, and so on. Could it be that the translations into the other languages were almost perfect, whereas this translator had poor writing skills in the target language? And when it comes to checking to see if words are missing, that can only be done by understanding which words should be there and where they should be. It could be that the proofreader found the source text difficult; it could equally well be that the translator found it difficult and so produced an inaccurate and/or incomplete translation.

Obviously, the solution for the future will be to give a time limit and also encourage editors to voice any concerns they have about quality early on (but that would only really apply to bigger jobs). Like others here, I also expect to come to an agreement about maximum time spend before starting a job for a new client.

IMO, the next step in this dispute is to ask for a second opinion. I imagine you have translators in the pair whose opinion you rate highly? Pay one of them to spend, say, an hour or even 30 minutes, either critiquing the work done by the proofreader or proofreading the text up to the time limit. See what they think about the quality and/or how long it would have taken them to do the job.

If/when you're sure the proofreader charged more than was fair, you can present the evidence and ask them to consider a discount. Meeting halfway might well be considered fair and could be achieved without loss of face, temper or future business. I even did that once for a good client when my work wasn't in question at all -- the agency simply hadn't realised it would take anything like 22 hours and had already given the end client a firm quote for about half that. I've done the same job every year since then and always get paid for how long it takes.


Christine Andersen
Viviane Marx
Cristina Bufi Poecksteiner, M.A.
Stepan Konev
Katya Kesten
 

Tradupro17
United States
Local time: 17:52
Member (Jun 2019)
English to Haitian-Creole
+ ...
Target Language Oct 10

One very important factor to consider is the target language.

 

spokenhere
United States
Local time: 16:52
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Oct 10

Thank you all for some very good insights and feedback! Despite having many years of experience, we can still learn something. You all have helped us see some things from a different angle, and we are taking steps to improve how we conduct business with both our vendors AND our clients.

 

Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:52
German to English
+ ...
General idea on arrangements Oct 11

I don't do it often, and only if the translation is good enough quality that retranslating wouldn't be faster. I will want to see the entire document before accepting the revision job. At that time I'll estimate how long it will take and be on the generous side (more hours than I think it will take) - the resulting quote will be the maximum fee. If the work takes less time, then I charge the client less. There are no nasty surprises.

As others have pointed out, if it was transla
... See more
I don't do it often, and only if the translation is good enough quality that retranslating wouldn't be faster. I will want to see the entire document before accepting the revision job. At that time I'll estimate how long it will take and be on the generous side (more hours than I think it will take) - the resulting quote will be the maximum fee. If the work takes less time, then I charge the client less. There are no nasty surprises.

As others have pointed out, if it was translated into several languages, the revisions won't necessarily take the same amount of time, because it depends on the languages and the quality of the translations.
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David GAY  Identity Verified
Dutch to French
+ ...
key metrics Oct 11

I would say the key metrics to justify the (over)time spent is the number of corrections carried out by the proofreader.
That's why it's useful to use change tracking.
The 2nd question is: were these corrections necessary/useful?

[Modifié le 2019-10-11 08:59 GMT]

[Modifié le 2019-10-11 09:01 GMT]

[Modifié le 2019-10-11 09:06 GMT]


Christine Andersen
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:52
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The quality of the translation is important Oct 11

I too thought of the point raised by Sheila, that the translation that took so much longer to edit might have been much poorer quality than the others.

However, if a translation is poor, the first rule in my book is to stop and ask the client what to do about it.
A good translation can become excellent with a little expert polishing, but if a lot of corrections are needed, the final result is often patchy and inconsistent, even when it is strictly correct.

Some ye
... See more
I too thought of the point raised by Sheila, that the translation that took so much longer to edit might have been much poorer quality than the others.

However, if a translation is poor, the first rule in my book is to stop and ask the client what to do about it.
A good translation can become excellent with a little expert polishing, but if a lot of corrections are needed, the final result is often patchy and inconsistent, even when it is strictly correct.

Some years back a respected colleague on this site suggested as a rule of thumb that proofreading/editing takes a quarter to a third of the time the original translation took - so the time this translator has spent is approaching the time needed for a new translation.

If tracked changes or the 'Compare documents' function shows a lot of changes, the extra time may be justified in a way, but probably the translator should have contacted the client before spending so much time on the job!
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Sheila Wilson
ahartje
Daryo
Cristina Bufi Poecksteiner, M.A.
Stepan Konev
Katya Kesten
 

Tony Keily  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:52
Italian to English
+ ...
You're an honest bunch Oct 11

Just the fact that you're on here asking what you should do says a lot about you. I would say pay a little more than you paid the others and leave it at that. The translator doesn't sound sufficiently experienced to take on the task.

I do have a little quibble with the use of the word 'proofreading'. If these texts required comparison with a source, then this is 'revision'.


 


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