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Acceptable work volumes
Thread poster: Holger Laux

Holger Laux  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:19
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Aug 25, 2011

I am currently dealing with an agency who apparently has a continuous flow of high translation volumes to assign. The documents are contracts and technical documents, provided as fax image files.

However, I feel a bit ... overwhelmed. Asked how much I can take on, I said 3000 words per day on average. In return, I often get e-mails with a file attachment and sparse instructions, such as "13000 words, delivery by tomorrow, please." Even if I stretch it to an extra day, this sometimes meant I had to spend up to 15 hours en bloc in front of my screen. Obviously, I can do this for day or two, but only in emergencies.

If I overrun a job by more than 24 hours, they tell me to stop and send me another file instead. Apparently, they have several translators in my language combination, but I do not know how many and who they are. I also have no idea how fast they work and how good their quality is. As soon as I finish one file, I get the next one with a similarly unrealistic deadline. The stream does not stop (even through weekends) unless I clearly say that I am unavailable for a few days.

On the one hand, I appreciate the work coming in, but on the other it is just too much. All this makes me feel a bit inferior. (Mind you: no problems with payment and no "telling off" from their end)

My questions: How much work can you take on per day? Do you feel your clients sometimes have unrealistic expectations? How do you deal with that?


Holger


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:19
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
"Sometimes"? Aug 25, 2011

Holger Laux wrote:

Do you feel your clients sometimes have unrealistic expectations? How do you deal with that?


Holger


Seriously, though... ridiculous deadlines/volumes I simply ignore. A more common - and frustrating - scenario is that the deadline is theoretically reasonable (i.e., within the realm of human mental and physical capability), but only on the assumption that you have no other work at the moment and can simply drop everything then and there and work only on that project.


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Dave Bindon  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 23:19
Member (2010)
Greek to English
How much are you charging? Aug 25, 2011

I don't think any of my clients would dare to ask me what I'd charge for 13k words within 24 hours! Normally I'd just say 'no'. As a joke, I'd say 50 cents a word. For a great client I might say 25 cents a word, but I'd demand an extra 24 hours.

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FarkasAndras
Local time: 22:19
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Unreasonable deadlines Aug 25, 2011

Holger Laux wrote:

"13000 words, delivery by tomorrow, please."


I'd like to think I work efficiently and can get a lot done in a day, but 13000 words in 24 hours off of a faxed hardcopy (i.e. no CAT, no TM hits) is pushing it... peraphs further than it will go, especially if that's supposed to be a standard workload on an ongoing basis.
I'd just let them know that X words is the amount I can guarantee to get done by the given deadline, and A) say I can try to squeeze in the rest but make no promises, and/or B) suggest that they hire more freelancers (suggest suitable colleagues if you know any), and/or C) propose to subcontract some of the work and review the translations before submitting them.
I always tend to opt for B over C. I don't want that responsibility.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:19
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Acceptable work volumes Aug 25, 2011

I got no less than six job offers this week from six different companies all wanting 10,000+ words within 24-48 hours or less. For that volume, it takes me an entire day just to do research. In each case I gave them a reasonable time frame (four days to one week depending on the difficulty of the job), but they decided to go with someone else. Some of these were extremely complicated legal documents and I cannot understand how anyone is capable of working at this pace.

Many moons ago, I would have two, three and sometimes four weeks to do a 2,000 - 3,000 word project and could juggle several jobs at the same time and even have room to fit in the odd rush job. Today it is getting harder and harder to overlap jobs because if you are busy, no one wants to wait.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
What a strange way of doing business. Aug 25, 2011

It doesn't sound at all professional - they're just treating you like a machine. If they send you 13,000 words to do in one day, they should at least say something like: "We know this is a ridiculous request, but is there any way you could..."

Do you ever haggle over deadlines? It's possible that you've set a precedent by accepting too much work, and they assume you can always work at four times the speed of the average translator?

Also, how much of your monthly workload are they providing? I would be worried about overdependence on one customer - they may be paying you on time now, but I've found that it's often the most eccentric companies that are the worst payers. You should definitely set a credit limit - once you get to (say) £1,000, ask for an upfront payment.


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Holger Laux  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:19
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
missing the bigger picture Aug 25, 2011

Many thanks to you all for your comments. It is re-assuring to read that I may be not too far off with my 3000 words * 5 days a week average.

Just to answer a few points:

No, I am not over-dependent on them, but I may be soon as I started to turn other jobs away. However, I do make a point of taking a few days off now and then. Otherwise, that technical stuff would do my head in.

The strange thing is, if I say I am not available until Wednesday, they more or less respect that and send me a file Tuesday night. But there is absolutely no comment and no more than necessary communication. I do not even have an idea of the scale of their projects. The files I receive are apparently taken from much larger sets of documents, but I do not know how many, what their overall deadline is etc.

I did try to explain what I do and cannot do, but never got into a lengthy exchange about this and do not receive answers to questions like the ones above.


This agency is not the only one I have a bit of trouble with. I will open another thread with a different problem in a minute...

Holger


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Bilbo Baggins
Catalan to English
+ ...
Burnout Aug 25, 2011

My only comment, with 17 years' experience, is that their demands will simply cause you to burn out.

Assuming you need and like their work, the best way is to find 'clever' ways to avoid this rhythm of work 24/7 (seems like you have already figured out one way to get a breather)-


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Marina Steinbach  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:19
Member
English to German
+ ...
Well, I normally work seven days a week... Aug 26, 2011

Holger Laux wrote:
It is re-assuring to read that I may be not too far off with my 3000 words * 5 days a week average.


Great work you’re doing!
I could probably only accomplish 3,000 words without research.

Sincerely,

Marina


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 23:19
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Outsource yourself Aug 26, 2011

This agency is accustomed to splitting jobs. I know one too. If they pay you reasonable rates without fuss you could play their game and split the 13 K into four parts, do one yourself and the rest send to colleagues.

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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:19
French to German
+ ...
My feeling exactly Aug 26, 2011

Rudolf Vedo CT wrote:

Holger Laux wrote:

Do you feel your clients sometimes have unrealistic expectations? How do you deal with that?


Holger


Seriously, though... ridiculous deadlines/volumes I simply ignore. A more common - and frustrating - scenario is that the deadline is theoretically reasonable (i.e., within the realm of human mental and physical capability), but only on the assumption that you have no other work at the moment and can simply drop everything then and there and work only on that project.


I know this from other agencies too. With hindsight, it could also mean that they are desperate to find someone at the rates they "offer".


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Elena Volkova  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:19
English to Russian
+ ...
"5 000 words" Aug 26, 2011

Hi Holger,

There is a video called "5 000 words" by sharonnsinger on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9KbQyrxSIo

Do watch it, you'll like it!

Elena


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Annett Hieber  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:19
English to German
Ignore them Aug 26, 2011

Hi Holger,

I have learned to ignore offers like that. I am not a machine and I have other things to do as well. There are enough reasonable jobs around. By the way, I prefer to work for direct clients. They are "normal" business people and do know that good work takes time.

Annett


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Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:19
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
Great song! Aug 26, 2011

Спасибо Елена, великолепная песенка))

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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:19
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Just yesterday... Aug 27, 2011

...I turned down a job that to me was unreasonably large for the deadline they were demanding (and it was nowhere near 13,000 words in one day!). I got an e-mail back, begging me to PLEAASSE do it, so I wrote back and said it was humanly impossible and that their clients (this was a company) needed to realize that translators aren't machines!

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