Proofreading translations by non-native speaker/non-professional
Thread poster: PB Trans
PB Trans

Local time: 22:28
French to English
+ ...
Jan 31, 2006

Here's my dilemma. What would you do? I have a client (she owns a small translation agency) who gives me a lot of steady work. She is not a professional translator and has never studied translation. Her English is very good but she is not a native speaker. Several times now, she has asked me to proofread English translations she has done herself. They are usually short letters but most of the time they are CVs. For the CVs, I think she does favours for her friends and probably doesn't charge them much. For the letters and other short texts, I think she is trying to save money by translating them herself and then paying me to proofread them (usually a flat rate or per word... but the rate is low). I should mention that for other proofreading (large projects, reports, websites), she pays me a very good hourly rate. She also pays me a good rate (per source word) for my translations.


The problem is that her translations are not very good. Sometimes I spend a lot of time re-writing what she has translated... in essence, practically re-translating the text. So basically, I end up doing a translation for a very low rate, which is not worth my time and money. And to make matters worse, she gives me a very tight deadline. As a professional, I take a lot of pride in doing a good job so I don't like to just give the text a quick once-over or not bother researching terminology. I have politely mentioned a few times that I had to re-do her translations and casually mentioned how much time it took.

I have been accepting these types of jobs for her as a favour because she does give me a lot of work. But lately I feel this is happening more and more frequently. What should I do?

1. Say nothing and keep doing the favours. After all, why bite the hand that feeds you?
2. Tell her that I will no longer accept to proofread documents translated by non-native speakers and non-professional translators (without singling her out) ?
3. Say nothing right now and every time she sends me these types of jobs, give her an excuse that I can't do it (too busy, etc)?
4. Do the work, but put in only the minimum time and effort.
5. Tell her I will only accept the work at a higher rate.
6. Any other advice??

P.S. As I am writing this message, she has sent me two more of her letters to proofread.

Thanks!


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Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:28
English to Spanish
I´m not an expert but... Jan 31, 2006

Hi Pina,

My only suggestion to you is that you´re honest about the fact that you have to re-translate what your client sends you.

Not only will you look and sound professional, but I also think you´ll give your client the chance to decide whether she wants to accept the following terms : you spend extra time working on her stuff, therefore you have to include extra charges.

There is nothing wrong with giving her your opinion about her translation work, because it affects YOUR work. You can prove to her that it´s not a one-off, but a constant excess of work that you´re not charging her for.

This last point - the fact that you have been quiet about it so far and not applying extra charges - will also render you a very honest translator.

Good luck !


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 14:28
English to French
+ ...
Another type of favor Jan 31, 2006

Hi Pina

If she gives you a lot of work and she pays you a good rate, have you considered offering to *translate* those smaller things for free? Certainly, translating from scratch would be less of a headache.

Of course, you would have to be diplomatic about it, tell her you know how busy she is, so forth. And you could set a limit on the volume, frequency or whatever for those favors.

My two cents.

Sarah


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 00:28
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
How many friends does she have Jan 31, 2006

Surely the cv-translations for friends have been done already and she is charging normal fees. You should start charging according to your work.
Its not good to be dependent on a few vendors. That means trouble in the long run.

Regards
Heinrich


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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:28
French to English
Been there, done that! Jan 31, 2006

Hi Pina,

I so know where you're coming from and I feel your pain! It's happened to me on many occasions, and all the clients were native Francophones. It seems to be a syndrome with them that they think they have great English when the total opposite is true!

With one client, I ended up not working for them any more because the work was just too frustrating. They also had a budget for each text and I would never have been able to revise the whole text for that amount. I gave them feedback about the quality of the English, but they didn't really take it. I just stopped accepting work.

I have another client who thinks he's really good in English. I would say he's OK. For some texts, his translations are pretty good, but others are not at all. To save money, he sends me texts that he translates into English, and oftentimes, I have to rewrite. I have given him feedback as well, often repeating the same tips because he makes the same mistakes over and over. I think he's realized that it's easier for me to translate it than to revise it because he seems to give me more translation than editing.

What I did to deter clients from sending me garbage English texts is establish a really high hourly rate for editing, and then I retranslate the text. If a client gives me a text for a quote, I give an estimate in time at that hourly rate, as well as an estimate to translate the text (which is usually less than the editing amount).

In your case, I would either come clean with the client and diplomatically tell her that the editing is taking a great deal of time, giving her examples of mistakes she makes, or you could continue editing the small texts, but for the big texts, you could refuse them, or tell her it'll take X hours for a total of $XXX or you could translate it for $YYY (ideally the YYY should be less than the editing amount). I hope that's clear!

Good luck!


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Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:28
German to English
+ ...
Phase out editing as part of "business plan" Jan 31, 2006

I've been in a similar situation and have had good luck framing it fairly neutrally, as a "professional decision" / business development. I was on close personal terms in these cases so I went to lengths to explain how translation was my real passion, this editing (in my case also teaching) work was preventing me from going where I wanted to go career-wise and pursuing what I really wanted to do with my business, etc. You could even "blame" your tax consultant, business advisor, etc., i.e. he/she recommended this career move.

You may or may not want to get that personal. Perhaps it would suffice to send an email saying "As part of my new business plan for 2006, I will be dedicating myself 100% to translations and unfortunately will not be able to take on any more editing work at this time." You might consider recommending colleagues, but you may then be more likely to lose her as a customer.

About your proposals:
Clearly you cannot just say nothing; you are dissatisfied, so it cannot go on like this. Telling her you will no longer edit non-native translations is sure to be taken personally. Saying nothing now and just being "busy" when those jobs come in seems sort of passive-agressive to me. Only doing the minumum work is problematic, because your reputation is on the line, isn't it? You could certainly suggest an hourly rate but I think ultimately you are probably dissatisfied doing this work. I would try to get out now by convincing her that your heart is simply elsewhere, business-wise, and that you hope she understands.


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:28
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Go with number 5 Jan 31, 2006

Hi Pina,
I was in that situation a few years ago. The more favours you do; the more favours you’re asked.
The way I solved the problem was to start charging a 30% supplement for urgent jobs, a 10% supplement for faxes, and MY hourly rate for proofreading.
I presented these conditions to all my clients while maintaining my normal rates so there was no discussion, and as if by magic all those time-consuming jobs for free just seemed to disappear.

I still do favours for clients, advice on the phone, one-line flash translations, a quick proofread over a short translation by another pro, and stuff like that for free, occasionally, and always with an eye out for favours turning into habits.


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:28
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Have 3 rates Jan 31, 2006

Use different rates for translating, editing and proofreading. If you have to proofread a document that requires editing instead of proofreading, quote your higher editing rate.

Regards,
Gerard


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Sormane Fitzgerald Gomes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:28
Member (2004)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
I agree. Jan 31, 2006

Erika Pavelka wrote:

In your case, I would either come clean with the client and diplomatically tell her that the editing is taking a great deal of time, giving her examples of mistakes she makes, or you could continue editing the small texts, but for the big texts, you could refuse them, or tell her it'll take X hours for a total of $XXX or you could translate it for $YYY (ideally the YYY should be less than the editing amount).



I agree with Erika. I think this person is taking advantage of you, Pina.
In fact, this has been happening quite often lately; to hire a real professional translator to clean up the mess for a lot less.

Sormane


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:28
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
You are allowed to refuse to work for a client Feb 1, 2006

Pina Nunes wrote:
The problem is that her translations are not very good. Sometimes I spend a lot of time re-writing what she has translated... in essence, practically re-translating the text. So basically, I end up doing a translation for a very low rate, which is not worth my time and money. And to make matters worse, she gives me a very tight deadline.


Tell her the truth, and hike your rate.


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Dyran Altenburg  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:28
English to Spanish
+ ...
Respect & Consideration Feb 2, 2006

Good clients *never* take advantage of you this way.

I suggest that you kindly, but firmly, draw the line.

--
Dyran


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PB Trans

Local time: 22:28
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Feb 6, 2006

Thank you all for your advice!

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