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Big team for large jobs with miraculous deadlines
Thread poster: Jo Macdonald

Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:06
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Sep 22, 2016

Hi folks,

Recently I’ve noticed a growing trend of agencies posting large jobs with very short deadlines.

I’m wondering if it’s worthwhile to set up a big team of experienced, specialised translators to do jobs like this. I’m already part of a tech team of three translators and we can translate 600 pages in 15 days with prior warning. Prior warning is important for us to be available.

Availability imo is the biggest problem with these miraculous deadlines as if the job has to be done by next week with no prior warning I think it’s improbable that a good number of specialised pro translators will be immediately available. Also these are often “potential” miraculous jobs to be done in one particular CAT tool so even if we do have enough translators to do it, we can’t even start yet and may not want to use an unknown CAT tool.

But, being able to tell an agency “Our team of 15 translators can do this job” would imo put the translators in a much stronger position to negotiate things such as, which CAT tool we’re going to use, rates, and possibly the deadline too.

If we can give the agency the choice between, we can do this job for you using this CAT tool, by this deadline, and for this price” or not being able to do the job at all because the agency hasn’t got the resources for the miraculous deadline they’ve accepted, which option are they going to take?

I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have on the feasibility or stupidity of the idea, CAT compatibility, availability, impossibility, etc.

I don’t want to turn into a one-man agency and think perhaps the best thing might be for any team member who is contacted with a miraculous request or sees such miracles posted on a jobs’ board to contact the agency with a message along the lines of….

Hello, I’m part of a team of 15 specialized translators. We’d be happy to take the job. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send you the team’s mailing list so you can contact the translators to organise the work flow and deadlines.
Please note that the team uses Trados Studio and only accepts work for the following rate.

Team rate
Translation: €0,10/word

CAT rates
(Percentage of team rate)
Exact match (100%) + Repetitions -> 30%
Fuzzy match (75-99%) -> 60%
No Match (0%-74%) -> 100 %


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Monika Gromm  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:06
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
only if you know them well Sep 22, 2016

Setting up a team is imo only then worthwile, if you know the people well and are sure that you can count on them.

The problem with such job postings is that agencies split the texts into batches and you normally have no idea, who the other ones are, which can lead to problems. I still remember one of my fellow translators taking part in such a project (I proofread her part). She delivered an excellent job but the remaining two translators did not. The agency "forgot" to inform the end client that they would be splitting the text, which led to the customer being not satisfied at the end of the day and not paying at all. My friend was forced to use a debt collector to get her payment.

I am not saying that all agencies are like this, I work with quite a few agencies and have only had a problem once so far. But such projects can easily turn into a nightmare.

So, all in all, I would only set up a team if you believe you are not too "expensive" (well, it is common that these projects don't pay well) and you can trust the people you work with. Otherwise - a risky business.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 00:06
English to Croatian
+ ...
Will give you an example. Sep 22, 2016

An end client recently contacted me asking me whether I could organize a group of people into other languages for his website (300k words) and for the translation to be finished in 5 business days.

What was I supposed to do? Find people and provide a patchwork translation composed of different styles without any harmony or sense, plus full of errors?

I just said no. If he doesn't respect his own business and website (with a lot of dynamic content), it doesn't mean I don't respect it either. Not sure why the timing was so relevant to him, but he probably found someone else for the job. And yes, the price he was offering was not a generous one, although he is selling machines worth millions $$.


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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:06
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Some questions Sep 22, 2016

Who is going to act as the middleman between the agency and the translators? Are they going to get paid for this service? By whom? How is this different from being a translation agency?

Is anyone going to check the finished job for consistency?

Is anyone going to vet the individual team members to ensure that they can produce the required quality?

If all you are offering is a mailing list of potential translators, what advantage does this offer the agency over simply sending a mass mailout to their own database of translators? What advantage does it offer to the translators?

Why do you want to work for agencies who accept large jobs with unrealistic deadlines in any case?


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 00:06
English to Russian
+ ...
Personally, I wouldn't bother Sep 22, 2016

I don't think it's a growing trend, such clients have always existed, and most of them (I mean end clients rather than agencies) are fairly clueless about the translation profession. Figuratively speaking, they are hoping to deliver a baby in one month by engaging 9 women.

Sure enough, if the job is large and urgent, you can split it between 2-3-4 people, but 15... you will never be able to reconcile the results unless these 15 have graduated from the same translation school and were taught by the same teachers, and even then only up to a point. The result is bound to be of inferior quality, and in the end, you may get some extra money but lose your professional reputation - do you want that? I think not.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:06
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The finished product will necessarily be defective Sep 22, 2016

I agree with the reservations previously expressed in this thread. The finished product in such a scenario will necessarily be defective. Unless, that is, the client (or one of the team members) supplies a comprehensive glossary and imposes rigid rules from the very beginning.

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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 06:06
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
The biggest translation agency Sep 23, 2016

Anton Konashenok wrote:

I don't think it's a growing trend, such clients have always existed, and most of them (I mean end clients rather than agencies) are fairly clueless about the translation profession. Figuratively speaking, they are hoping to deliver a baby in one month by engaging 9 women.



One of the biggest translation agency of the world offered me the large JP>EN job with such miraculous deadlines. One month later they claimed about my translation quality, violation of job requirements etc. They declined to pay me the full amount, and further negotiation came to deadlock.
It is risky to work for unnatural deadlines, I think.

Soonthon L.


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:06
German to English
+ ...
No, it's exploitation Sep 23, 2016

I, too, agree with a lot of the reservations already expressed here, particularly in regard to QA. However, my experience with direct clients and agencies has led me to conclude that it is almost always the agencies who are the ones putting pressure on translators, promising unrealistic turnaround times to clients in order to "clinch the job". Competition is fierce, but we are the ones who are ultimately burdened with unrealistic expectations. And once clients get used to it, where does it stop? It is very rare that any direct clients I deal with have such unreasonable time constraints, so who is really at fault here for perpetrating these inhuman deadlines? I briefly worked with a well-known, prestigious agency who I kept getting rush job announcements from, i.e. we need x number of translators to translate 5,000 words in five hours, and that is no joke. The pay wasn't bad, but not exceptional. Needless to say, I soon told them I didn't think we were a good fit. I refuse to work like that and don't understand translators who are willing to do so. They are being exploited for an agency's greed, and the risk to our long-term health is very real if you do it often enough.

Personally, I would not accept any job under the circumstances that Jo (opening poster) outlines. My clients keep coming back to me for quality, and I require sufficient time to ensure that they get it. If that's not possible, I give the job a pass.


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:06
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Given your detailed explanation Sep 23, 2016

Jo Macdonald wrote:

Hello, I’m part of a team of 15 specialized translators. We’d be happy to take the job. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send you the team’s mailing list so you can contact the translators to organise the work flow and deadlines.
Please note that the team uses Trados Studio and only accepts work for the following rate.

Team rate
Translation: €0,10/word


1) I still don't see how your team of 15 is different to the client's team of 15.
2) You said you don't want to turn into a one man agency, why bother then?


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:06
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
What are "miraculous deadlines"? Sep 23, 2016

I did a Google search and I found only 11 websites across the globe use this phrase. Is this a new phrase?

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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:06
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
What is "prior warning"? Sep 23, 2016

Jo Macdonald wrote:

Hi folks,

Recently I’ve noticed a growing trend of agencies posting large jobs with very short deadlines.

I’m wondering if it’s worthwhile to set up a big team of experienced, specialised translators to do jobs like this. I’m already part of a tech team of three translators and we can translate 600 pages in 15 days with prior warning. Prior warning is important for us to be available.


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:06
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone for contributing Sep 23, 2016

The number 15 is just hypothetical. At the moment I work in a team of three. I was thinking 15 so perhaps three or four of those 15 translators might be available without prior warning (planning beforehand), which is the biggest problem imo with jobs like this. I don’t think quality is an issue if you’re working with three or four people you know and have the time to do a good job.

The problem as I see it is that more and more big jobs are being taken by agencies who don’t have the translators to do them, and have obviously promised their client a miraculous deadline. I think these are perhaps jobs that just won’t get done at all, or will get done late and/or to a very poor standard.

So is there a way to do these jobs properly?

I agree with the reservations many of you have expressed and until now have just avoided jobs like this, but I do think it’s a shame that many big (potentially very good) jobs are made untouchable for us by giving no prior warning, imposing a restrictive choice of CAT tool and miraculous deadlines, amongst other things.

I think a possible solution might be to propose a small team of three or four translators requiring prior warning to plan availability, using our own CAT tool and setting a deadline to be determined.

This would give the agency at least a chance to get the job done properly if they’ll reconsider their choice of CAT and can renegotiate the deadline with their client.


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Markus Nystrom  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:06
Swedish to English
+ ...
I like it Sep 23, 2016

Good initiative Jo. It just takes a few like-minded people to achieve network effects and build some momentum in your favor. Best of luck!

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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:06
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
A different angle Sep 24, 2016

Jo Macdonald wrote:

The problem as I see it is that more and more big jobs are being taken by agencies who don’t have the translators to do them, and have obviously promised their client a miraculous deadline. I think these are perhaps jobs that just won’t get done at all, or will get done late and/or to a very poor standard.

So is there a way to do these jobs properly?

I agree with the reservations many of you have expressed and until now have just avoided jobs like this, but I do think it’s a shame that many big (potentially very good) jobs are made untouchable for us by giving no prior warning, imposing a restrictive choice of CAT tool and miraculous deadlines, amongst other things.

I think a possible solution might be to propose a small team of three or four translators requiring prior warning to plan availability, using our own CAT tool and setting a deadline to be determined.

This would give the agency at least a chance to get the job done properly if they’ll reconsider their choice of CAT and can renegotiate the deadline with their client.


Perhaps "agencies who don’t have the translators to do [big jobs], and have obviously promised their client a miraculous deadline" shouldn't have a place in the industry to begin with, while, offering them a way to "compensate" for their lack of responsibility, reliability and even honesty (in representing their services and capabilities to their clients), you would be helping them to stay in business and keep doing what they're doing.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:06
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A true case, it works! Sep 24, 2016

Some 3 years ago I took part in such a project. A Brazilian friend/client/fellow translator had a translation agency in Florida. AFAIK now she is into a completely different line of business, no longer translation.

She landed a series of immense translation jobs, and assembled teams of about 15-20 very carefully selected translators for each language pair. We'd be working online using MemoQ on the cloud. She'd provide a portable license to any team member who didn't own it (my case - I use WordFast), direct them to online training videos, and personally provide all the necessary support as needed.

I don't know what were my team mates' standard rates, however she was paying about 25% less than my standard (which is not low), with a few differences. First, we were paid that full rate for the entire word count of every file we translated. For the sake of consistency, we were indeed expected to use all repetitions, 100% matches, and as much as possible, the fuzzy matches, getting paid exactly the same rate per word, regardless of how we got it translated or whether the entire segment had been translated already, either by ourselves or someone else in the TM. Second, we were paid in full on the very next day after we delivered each translated file. Of course, she had secured a cash advance from the end-client that made it viable.

Her cloud server was located in Canada. One day a snow storm caused a power outage there, which lasted longer than the UPS could hold. In less than two hours she remotely rented a truck-mounted power generator there, got that server up, and transferred its contents to another one in California. She also had a direct channel with Kilgray's tech support, so any software problem would get handled pronto,

Deadlines were very reasonable, so a late delivery meant saying good-bye to the team. Though we were scattered over several time zones, we had an open channel on Skype where all team members could post queries and exchange ideas on any complex matters.

After a project was finished, she'd issue extensive MemoQ reports on consistency issues and other stuff, which apparently she managed to fix in a few hours before delivery.

It was amazing to see the volume of high quality translation we were able to produce in so little time. Even more amazing, she was often marshaling four or five simultaneous such projects in different language pairs, without any translator being in more than one team. Nevertheless, her support was always immediate on Skype during FL business hours.

Finally, for those who imagine a paunchy spinster wearing a military uniform and roaring orders over a microphone, no! Envision an ever-pleasant Cameron Diaz-type with a husband, a son, and a life; that's more like her.

So it is possible, and it works! However it takes tremendous management and leadership skills, commitment, and integrity.


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