The beginning of this year turned out so hectic for me that I just cannot but share some of my experiences. I racked up a lifetime worth of stories in just two months. Internet freelance is not very widespread in my country, so once you tread on the path, many things just come as a complete surprise. I have been here for about a year only, but I think there are people who may need my experience. Today I would like to talk about one of the unpopular topics in translation, and that is Recommendations on when not to accept the translation order.
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A piece of the puzzle. Do not accept the order if you do not see the whole picture. A fellow translator sent me a part of the book. My task was to translate it into my working non-native language. The fellow colleague then had to proofread it, put all the pieces made by about a dozen of other translators (as I found out later) together and lick the book into shape. The task seems impossible from the start once you know all the details. I didn’t. The fellow translator failed the project by submitting it a month late and never got paid for it. As it turned out – he had about half a year to produce a good quality translation, while he addressed me about a week before the deadline. Problem: lacking pieces of the puzzle.
Impossible deadlines. Even if you work in a team and can actually translate just about anything – do not accept jobs with impossible deadlines. These are most vulnerable as far as quality is concerned. The example may be the job of 5 000 words to be submitted in 5 hours. Especially if the job is in 1 piece, or if it is several related files. However well you know the topic, however well you proofread everything – you will not be able to put together the product of 5 minds into one good shape.
Greedy clients. If you get a job offer from the client who asks you to provide your very best rate for a huge project of say 100k words with a year-long potential collaboration – think twice before even considering the opportunity. First of all, respect your time. It is much better to work at the upper rates, i.e. to take lesser job but for higher rates. You will not run out of steam and you will be pleased with the goods you deliver.
Hazy accounting. If the client speaks about problems every time it is time to pay your invoice – something is not exactly right. Either their accounts department is a mess, or they are just trying to find ways to postpone your payment date. This, in its turn, may mean the client has financial problems or himself has problematic clients and is not able to cover up with own financial resources.
Blue Board – Straight A’s? Listen to what other people have to say. It is always better to learn on someone else’s mistakes. Even if the Blue Board rating is above 4, take your time to read what those dissatisfied said about your potential client. Once you agree for the project, there will be no way back. Blue Board is an excellent reflection of the company’s condition. Even if there are few dissatisfied, remember that many people prefer not to leave negative feedback, as it also shows their lack of analytical skill, negotiations abilities, etc. At least you will be aware of what to expect.
Clean bill of health? Sometimes the potential client has no or limited presence on the Internet. That is also a criterion for assessment. The Client may be a total novice to Internet freelance. Then you will have to teach him many things. Or the client may have deleted the profile from directories because of poor record. Then you will ‘learn’ a lot from your cooperation.
Miscellaneous. I love this word for being an umbrella term for just about anything. To sum up, I would like to make a point that you can never be 100 per cent sure in your client, there is always a risk. Forewarned is forearmed.
I had a client for almost a year. She sent me jobs on a daily basis, paid regularly, and fair rates, gave me excellent references and we both were very happy. Until one day she went bankrupt and failed to pay the last invoice.
I had another client who belonged to novices in Internet freelance. He practically learned everything from me, had to solve a lot of issues before he was able to pay me, kept repeating that he will pay on Tuesday – and one day after three months of promises THE Tuesday arrived and I got paid.
I had still other client who had problems with their direct client on a huge project. The direct client failed to pay and the company was too small to cover up with their backup funds. Surprisingly for me, after the litigation with their direct client, they did pay, even though with six months delay.
It is always a share of risk – that is business! And it is up to you to decide which share is acceptable and how far you can actually go.