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The extra mile
Thread poster: Andrew Morris

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
There is another way Apr 30

I prefer the approach taken by solicitors, accountants and other professionals.

I am available only during normal office hours. I rarely agree to work outside those hours, and then I charge at least double. I have a minimum charge of one hour for anything that takes me more than about a minute. And I'm not cheap in the first place.

My clients know and respect this. It's what they expect from a professional supplier.


Andrew Morris
Teresa Borges
Jo Macdonald
Ivana UK
 

Andrew Morris

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There is. Apr 30

It’s certainly another way. But I don’t necessarily agree it’s more professional.

Accountants deal with annual accounts, solicitors with whole cases. And they don’t have to deal with clients rushing between flowers, caterers or sound systems.

“Professional” means different things depending on whether you are a doctor, a dancer or a footballer.

While on nomenclature, I personally prefer “service provider” to “supplier” as we are not mere
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It’s certainly another way. But I don’t necessarily agree it’s more professional.

Accountants deal with annual accounts, solicitors with whole cases. And they don’t have to deal with clients rushing between flowers, caterers or sound systems.

“Professional” means different things depending on whether you are a doctor, a dancer or a footballer.

While on nomenclature, I personally prefer “service provider” to “supplier” as we are not merely delivering widgets.

But I am delighted to learn you are reassuringly expensive.
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Chiara Foppa Pedretti
P.L.F.Persio
 

Baran Keki  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 06:54
Member
English to Turkish
+ ...
You'll have to Apr 30

Turn down the client's request and you run the risk of losing them for good. It happened to me before. As somebody said here it's 'no-brainer'.

Andrew Morris
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
To clarify Apr 30

Andrew Morris wrote:
I don’t necessarily agree it’s more professional

I'm not saying it's more professional. I'm saying it's how professionals - the professions - operate. Plumbers too for that matter.

While on nomenclature, I personally prefer “service provider” to “supplier” as we are not supplying widgets.

That kind of sums up our different approaches. You provide a service. I supply a product.


Andrew Morris
 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 04:54
Member (2016)
English to German
It's part of the premium package Apr 30

Being available at unusual hours and for quick turnarounds is part of the premium package. I don't call it premium package, but I try to position myself in a sort of a premium segment. I want my agencies and PMs to see me as an asset they would not want to lose even if I ask higher rates than others. "Going the extra mile" is part of that image. But it has to work both ways - when I go the extra mile for someone, I also pay close attention to the reaction I get. And when I feel that my efforts a... See more
Being available at unusual hours and for quick turnarounds is part of the premium package. I don't call it premium package, but I try to position myself in a sort of a premium segment. I want my agencies and PMs to see me as an asset they would not want to lose even if I ask higher rates than others. "Going the extra mile" is part of that image. But it has to work both ways - when I go the extra mile for someone, I also pay close attention to the reaction I get. And when I feel that my efforts are not appreciated (for example, by trying to haggle over rates at the same time) or even taken for granted, my "extra miles" will get shorter and shorter down to extra feet or inches.

By the way, "going the extra mile" is also a very good strategy when you are just starting out. Being available when others are not can be a door opener, a way to show a new client that you are exactly the one they were waiting for all the time. For example, my clients have learned that they can approach me with jobs outside my original fields of expertise, because I was available when their usual experts were busy, and I delivered what they needed so that they could deliver it to their clients in time.

Which leaves me with the problem that I have now always more work than I can handle. I can only solve that by driving my rates up and it seems that cements my "premium" image even more. A vicious circle…
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Elizabeth Tamblin
Andrew Morris
ahartje
Teresa Borges
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Andrew Morris

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Double take Apr 30

Chris S wrote:

That kind of sums up our different approaches. You provide a service. I supply a product.



Did we just agree on something?

Waiter! Bring me your finest champagne!


Gloria Teixeira
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:54
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I had a funny one late last Friday Apr 30

Just as I was packing up for the weekend, I received a job from a fairly young agency who I'm working with on an on-going project. What they were after was the "translation" of just three words, into many languages, and they'd sent the email to many suppliers. The quote marks are there because my own role in this project is in the AmEng => BrEng pair. Had they just asked if I'd have a moment some time, I'd have delivered the "translation" and not thought about invoicing for it. They've been more... See more
Just as I was packing up for the weekend, I received a job from a fairly young agency who I'm working with on an on-going project. What they were after was the "translation" of just three words, into many languages, and they'd sent the email to many suppliers. The quote marks are there because my own role in this project is in the AmEng => BrEng pair. Had they just asked if I'd have a moment some time, I'd have delivered the "translation" and not thought about invoicing for it. They've been more than fair to me in the past, so I'd have been happy to do it. But instead, the email contained the words: "0.5 minutes are allocated for this". WHAT???

I was really crestfallen -- another good client going down the "peanut" route? I nearly dashed off a reply that would have effectively ended our collaboration for good. But I've learnt a good few lessons the hard way in my long life, and I put it aside until Monday. When Monday came, I just did the work, which did actually involve "translation", plus I had to check the TM for consistency, etc. I then delivered and queried the budget, politely but firmly. The reply came back: "Thanks! 0.5 only as searching for usage and suggesting translation is pretty much it for the task".

I typed out an immediate reply, then deleted it, had a think, and finally sent "But 0.5 minutes? As in 30 seconds?" and followed it with the steps that had to be gone through.

When it came, the reply changed everything: "Hi Sheila, sorry about confusion!! 0.5 = half an hour!!!." Phew!

But I couldn't leave them thinking I'd been confused all on my own, being a woman in her dotage and all that. I drew her attention to her first email, and to the weird fact that nobody else seemed to have queried it. Five minutes later, the penny had clearly dropped and she wrote "So sorry, Sheila. That will teach me to send a handoff at 5.55 pm on a Friday… Xxxxx’s ethos is such that we would never ever do that and we encourage linguists to tell us if they need more time if whatever we allocated is not enough – we will never ask you to work for free. Thanks and again so sorry for the confusion."

So, what I've learnt from that is that it isn't a good idea to automatically assume that a client is trying to pull a fast one (unless they have a poor history). Some really do value our role in their business. Oh, and don't rely on fellow suppliers to query anything. Quite what they made of it, I'll probably never know.
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Elizabeth Tamblin
Andrew Morris
Teresa Borges
Christine Andersen
Zeineb Nalouti
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Off topic Apr 30

Sheila Wilson wrote:

.....the penny had dropped...



I wonder if non-English speakers know the origin of that phrase?


Andrew Morris
Sheila Wilson
Matthias Brombach
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Is this the wrong discussion? Apr 30

The more I think about this, the more problems I see with tales of how we went the extra mile for free, probably while in labour, and the client was so grateful they'll now keep coming back.

Chances are, if they come back they'll want more extra miles for free.

So, rather than holding them up as examples of successful relationship-building, how about - for the sake of discussion - we view them as failures?

Failure to toilet-train the client. Failure to char
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The more I think about this, the more problems I see with tales of how we went the extra mile for free, probably while in labour, and the client was so grateful they'll now keep coming back.

Chances are, if they come back they'll want more extra miles for free.

So, rather than holding them up as examples of successful relationship-building, how about - for the sake of discussion - we view them as failures?

Failure to toilet-train the client. Failure to charge properly for our work. Failure to enjoy our evening/weekend/holiday. Failure to find clients who don't require the extra mile. Failure to stand up for ourselves and our profession.

And then look at what we can do about this.

So much of what I read about freelance translation is about bending over backwards to accommodate clients. I get it as a strategy when you start out. But in the long term?

Why is the discussion not about how we educate and train clients and get them dancing to our tune? Aren't those the real success stories?
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Michael Wetzel
Jo Macdonald
Jan Truper
Christine Andersen
Gareth Callagy
Ivana UK
 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:54
German to English
Trying to get at the crux of the issue Apr 30

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:

Which leaves me with the problem that I have now always more work than I can handle. I can only solve that by driving my rates up and it seems that cements my "premium" image even more. A vicious circle…


This is the point that I was trying to get at: You can also solve the problem by taking back some of that flexibility, possibly driving your rates (and very probably your annual earnings) down some in the process. That can be a good deal or a bad deal, depending on your situation.

And part of the issue here really is semantics: What some people consider common courtesy or common sense may be considered going the extra mile by others. In fact, what Kay described in her post is actually required by the civil code (BGB) in Germany: Even in B2B contracts you can't exclude a client's right to question your work and demand appropriate changes.

And, yes, last Thursday evening I got an e-mail with a small, last-second addition to something I had already done, with the hope I could deliver it the next day (Good Friday = holiday in Germany) or first thing on Tuesday morning (the next business day). She is lucky that another project had me working on that particular holiday, and so I happened to get her message. If I'm working anyway, then I might as well help, and she had her translation the next day. The difference is that I see my behavior in this situation as more or less a vice and also, in general, a well-intentioned road leading to hell (setting up expectations I will fail to meet at some point and stealing my own free time).

And I also charge for almost every little bit of work, not because of the money, but because it's important not to encourage damaging behavior.

In other words, I've only been at this for ten years, so I'm not as far down the road as Chris, but if I wasn't still moving in that direction, I couldn't imagine doing this another 25 years.


Gareth Callagy
 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:54
Member (2012)
French to English
Good will Apr 30

I'm happy to translate a few sentences if the client adds something on after I've finished, and I'm happy to answer any brief queries too. It would actually be an insult to receive a purchase order for such small acts of good will.

Andrew Morris
Teresa Borges
 

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Not so black and white Apr 30

Chris S wrote:

Why is the discussion not about how we educate and train clients and get them dancing to our tune? Aren't those the real success stories?





Well let’s have that discussion by all means.

It’s like politics, or Brexit. People who see the world in fundamentally and irreconcilably different ways. Who is right? Both are, in their own eyes.

I just don’t see this, ten years in, as an adversarial zero-sum game, in which someone has to lose. Win-win, anyone?

Besides, the whole point of this anecdote is its exceptional nature. Generally speaking, my clients are just as flexible, accommodating and respectful as I try to be.

They don’t, to continue your interesting metaphor, dump on me, and so are beyond toilet training.

Edited to add:

This approach doesn’t preclude client education of course. I’ve often given light-hearted mini-lectures, in the case of ridiculous deadlines or having to put up with corrections by a reviewer whose only claim to knowing English is that they worked in Starbucks in Piccadilly for 6 months in 2003.


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:54
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Toilet-training Apr 30

Chris S wrote:

Failure to toilet-train the client.



Yep... I once did a translation sitting on the toilet... it wasn't free and I felt better afterwards.

[Edited at 2019-04-30 11:37 GMT]


Andrew Morris
Chris S
P.L.F.Persio
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Drawing a line Apr 30


I just don’t see this, ten years in, as an adversarial zero-sum game, in which someone has to lose. Win-win, anyone?

Neither do I. But many freelance translators seem to be in a pupil/teacher relationship with their clients where they're too frightened to stand up for themselves on pretty much anything and end up being walked all over.

You don't go into Tesco and start haggling over the price of their custard creams. Or ask for them to be gift-wrapped. Or tell them you'll pay at the end of the month. Or ask them to chuck in a free Mars bar if you promise to do your weekly shop with them next time. Or ask them to stay open late for you, or use a particular brand of trolley.

It's not about being adversarial, it's about boundaries and respect - and common sense. Obviously we can and should be flexible from time to time, but we are running a business, not a charity.

I think the elders of the profession should be preaching a more assertive approach.

So many of the problems afflicting our industry would disappear if we just collectively said no.


Robert Forstag
Jan Truper
Jo Macdonald
P.L.F.Persio
 

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Elders? Apr 30

I’m a mere sapling at 54.

I think all of us, young or old, should be preaching an approach based on common sense, intuition, and judgement.

I don’t think assertiveness and flexibility are mutually exclusive either.

In this case, I wanted to make an effort. At other times I might say “That’s the third bit of ‘extra’. In this case, my €xxx surcharge applies. Hope that’s ok with you.”

All depends on a million variables.


Robert Forstag
Chris S
P.L.F.Persio
 
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