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The extra mile
Thread poster: Andrew Morris

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
Apr 30

Been working recently on a magazine for the local tourist office where I used to live in Provence.

Hundreds of articles, snippets, maps etc, for a fairly big-budget item. Tourists from China, Brazil and the USA, as well as Europe of course.

And now, just as I am packing my bags for Bologna, folding my shirts and counting my socks (as you do), an urgent message pops up on my mobile: "Can I use the words 'Tourist Magazine' in the title?"

Now to be honest, I'm
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Been working recently on a magazine for the local tourist office where I used to live in Provence.

Hundreds of articles, snippets, maps etc, for a fairly big-budget item. Tourists from China, Brazil and the USA, as well as Europe of course.

And now, just as I am packing my bags for Bologna, folding my shirts and counting my socks (as you do), an urgent message pops up on my mobile: "Can I use the words 'Tourist Magazine' in the title?"

Now to be honest, I'm in off-mode right now. It's been a busy few weeks, and I could do with a mini-break.

But this is an important client.

What's more, I'm GLAD they ask these questions as it shows trust and they don't spoil the whole shebang with a mistake or an infelicity on the glossy front cover.

So fish the computer out of my bag, open it up, write a little paragraph on why "Travel Magazine" is infinitely preferable to "Tourist Magazine" (Tourists are always other people, we are travellers, travellers 'experience' while tourists merely spend etc etc), complete with a few links to classy publications.

And all for free of course, even if it's 20 minutes' work.

Result, one immensely grateful and rather hyperbolic client ("You've saved my life!")... and almost certainly a guarantee of the same work next year.

Thoughts?
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Elsa Alexandra Fernandes
missdutch
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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:36
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You happily do that for some clients, but... Apr 30

There are certainly clients who go the extra mile for me when I need them, and I happily do my utmost for them, one-liners for free and so on.

But please excuse my cynicism: I usually try to keep away from the keyboard when it shows. There are other clients, nevertheless, who take that kind of thing for granted. They even get sulky if you try to explain that you are actually in business for the money, and sometimes at least, they have to pay for your services.

Luckily i
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There are certainly clients who go the extra mile for me when I need them, and I happily do my utmost for them, one-liners for free and so on.

But please excuse my cynicism: I usually try to keep away from the keyboard when it shows. There are other clients, nevertheless, who take that kind of thing for granted. They even get sulky if you try to explain that you are actually in business for the money, and sometimes at least, they have to pay for your services.

Luckily it is fairly easy to tell the difference, and I am in the privileged position that I can simply drop troublesome clients and tell them I'm retiring!
The art is to cherish and support the best clients, so they can survive in the business, and avoid the others!
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Andrew Morris
missdutch
Philippe Etienne
Jo Macdonald
Teresa Borges
Sheila Wilson
Chris S
 

Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
You what?? Apr 30

20 minutes to write an Email??
You need to speed up your messaging skills daffyoh

Yesterday, regular client comes up with a 1-liner, need it in an hour, no problem, for free too, but this weekend I drew the line when a client who just loves to haggle sent me one page late Friday night they needed first thing Monday. Now usually I'd just say "No" straight up but I'm trying hard to be a lil bit more flexible in me
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20 minutes to write an Email??
You need to speed up your messaging skills daffyoh

Yesterday, regular client comes up with a 1-liner, need it in an hour, no problem, for free too, but this weekend I drew the line when a client who just loves to haggle sent me one page late Friday night they needed first thing Monday. Now usually I'd just say "No" straight up but I'm trying hard to be a lil bit more flexible in me old age so I said "no problem for Monday afternoon for a min. fee" but no they need it first thing Monday, OK but I do apply a supplement for weekend work because I'm really NOT working this weekend you know. Anyway client wants to spend Saturday haggling over the price, basically leaving just Sunday to do the job for 20 bucks, sometimes you just gotta draw the line.
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Andrew Morris
 

Andrew Morris

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ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Whose line is it anyway? Apr 30

Haha, did I mention I type with my nose?

Of course, we all draw lines. Depends on the client, our history, the budget, the prospect of repeat work etc.

I would simply say that 95% of my clients fall into the category I would be willing to help in this way.

Rather than having to refuse the bad ones all the time, I tend just to get rid of them...


Elizabeth Tamblin
Jo Macdonald
Karine Gantin
 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:36
Member
English to French
Just yesterday Apr 30

I sent 6 words of infotainment interface for free within 20 min. I had just done a previous batch of the same, but nevertheless they thanked me profusely for being quick and dirt cheap.
They don't take anything for granted, and I like to be nice to nice agency clients.
As Christine mentioned: "The art is to cherish and support the best clients, so they can survive in the business, and avoid the others!"

Philippe


Andrew Morris
Jo Macdonald
Tina Vonhof
 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:36
German to English
Not going the extra mile Apr 30

I'm not questioning your business model. I think it is one viable option and fulfills an important need. However, I think it is important to keep in mind that it is one specific and very (personally) costly option among many.

Firstly, at some point I realized that I often produced crap under the kinds of circumstances you are describing, particularly in the late afternoon when I was in the process of picking up my kids (some people are not good at multi-tasking and experience almost
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I'm not questioning your business model. I think it is one viable option and fulfills an important need. However, I think it is important to keep in mind that it is one specific and very (personally) costly option among many.

Firstly, at some point I realized that I often produced crap under the kinds of circumstances you are describing, particularly in the late afternoon when I was in the process of picking up my kids (some people are not good at multi-tasking and experience almost constantly being on call as stressful). Secondly, while I am all about holistic thinking and recognizing that it is about the thousands of euros in repeat business and not about the few dozen euros for this one unwelcome task, it is important to remember the price we pay for being flexible in this way and repeatedly asking ourselves whether it is worth it.

I think that the key thing is to be dependable in the sense of being predictable, not necessarily in the sense of always being there. In fact, trying to always be there often leads to problems in terms of dependability, because no one in their right mind can truly always be there.

If clients know that you are not reachable outside normal business hours (especially including weekends and holidays), then most of them will adjust to that if you are dependably available during normal business hours. Slower turnaround times also make it possible to be more reliably available (by making it possible to work on several things at once). Now, there are lots of clients who genuinely need what you are describing (either because of the nature of their work or because of poor organization), but that's the same issue as having to bid farewell to well-liked clients when their budgets don't allow them to stick with you as your fees go up. Everyone has to set their own priorities as they become established and start having the option of deciding how to shape their working life.

I'm not arguing that we should be unhelpful, but I think it is important to put our interests before those of our clients: They will find someone else (either in general or for last-minute tasks), but no one is going to take care of us if we don't do it ourselves. It's a give and take and a lot of clients absolutely understand this, because they deal with it in their own work.
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Chris S
Andrew Morris
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Rachel Waddington
Kevin Fulton
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Granted... Apr 30

Philippe Etienne wrote:

They don't take anything for granted

Philippe


I agree. In fact I've come across very few clients (in my experience, not out there in the world) who take anything for granted. For me that's an immediate yellow card.


 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Keeping things in proportion Apr 30

Michael Wetzel wrote:

I think that the key thing is to be dependable in the sense of being predictable, not necessarily in the sense of always being there. In fact, trying to always be there often leads to problems in terms of dependability, because no one in their right mind can truly always be there.



Totally agree with that. And I have limits after a certain time of night, or if I'm out for a meal, or on holiday, or in the gym/bath/bed/sauna or out and about on my scooter...

I'd put the translator's personal wellbeing above ALL other considerations. We live with our clients a few hours a day, but with ourselves throughout our lives, and for the rest of our lives. No one wants to burn out.

I think we all know we can't be available 24/7. This is just one anecdote positing a point of view in a context (the world of translation, not this forum) in which the prevailing narrative seems to be of client-translator relations which are tense, inequitable or plain exploitative.

Fair enough, people need to write about their experiences, and this is not an attempt to persuade, convince, or badger anyone, still less to try to guide the overall narrative.

It is what it is, a story which might just resonate with a few people.


 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
One more point Apr 30

Michael Wetzel wrote:

Now, there are lots of clients who genuinely need what you are describing (either because of the nature of their work or because of poor organization)


We are spared this in agency-land, but when you're interacting with direct clients, then this is far more common than we think.

Personally, I wouldn't call it poor organisation. In this case we've been working for two months, and articles have been drip-fed to me throughout that time, translated, revised and sent back.

Earlier in the process, the original copywriters have been contacted, proof-read, revised etc... and now we move on to layout, more proofreading, final checking, publication, distribution...

And that in itself could be just one part of a day-long event to open the season, in which a venue is hired, flowers are bought, drinks are ordered, caterers are called in, the sound system people present a budget and turn up on the day, invitations are sent to five hundred people, speeches are prepared, read, and delivered. The list goes on: all handled by a team of two or three.

These things are complex. People get ill, fail to deliver, overlook just one email out of 38 they've received that day...

Amidst all this, the translator who reduces stress gains many brownie points.


Clair Pickworth
 

Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
A question of health and enjoying life Apr 30

Definitely agree with what Michael says.

Years ago I tried working Saturdays, Sundays, into the night and soon realised I was very unproductive Monday and a lot less productive during the working week in general.

I have a friend who’s doing the always available 24/7 on her phone, never a day off gig at the moment and it’s making her physically and mentally ill. She looks like she’s working in a concentration camp instead of a hotel but she won’t listen to reason
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Definitely agree with what Michael says.

Years ago I tried working Saturdays, Sundays, into the night and soon realised I was very unproductive Monday and a lot less productive during the working week in general.

I have a friend who’s doing the always available 24/7 on her phone, never a day off gig at the moment and it’s making her physically and mentally ill. She looks like she’s working in a concentration camp instead of a hotel but she won’t listen to reason despite the fact it’s blatantly obvious she’s not doing a very good job because she’s totally burnt out. If she has a breakdown she obviously won’t be able to work anymore and perhaps she’ll take the time to look at things a little more clearly and realise you are actually a lot more productive and live a much better life if you take the time to eat, rest, live life to the full and in general do other things that aren’t just work.
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Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:36
Member (2018)
French to English
I would do the same Apr 30

I would perhaps not do it straight away, I'd explain that I'm on my way out but will deal with it when I can sit down in peace and think carefully. I can't just come up with something off the top of my head! But I'd definitely get it done quickly. I have so often put my heart and soul into a translation, only to have it ruined by the client adding in his own title, or the layout guy deciding to just type the title in himself instead of copying and pasting as he did for the bulk of the copy. Then... See more
I would perhaps not do it straight away, I'd explain that I'm on my way out but will deal with it when I can sit down in peace and think carefully. I can't just come up with something off the top of my head! But I'd definitely get it done quickly. I have so often put my heart and soul into a translation, only to have it ruined by the client adding in his own title, or the layout guy deciding to just type the title in himself instead of copying and pasting as he did for the bulk of the copy. Then I can't use it to show potential clients what I'm capable of. (Anyone wanting to point out that I have samples on my profile here. I don't necessarily want to direct clients here in case they find someone else who's cheaper!)

I consider answering client questions about my work to be part of the job rather than an extra mile, and the fact that I might have to spend some time justifying my choices or explaining why you can't just translate something literally has been factored into the price. If they don't have any queries, that proves I did a darn good job for them and fully deserve to be paid handsomely. If they do have queries, I use this as an opportunity to show them how seriously I take my work. I have found that the clients who ask the most questions often become the most loyal clients, in that they know exactly why they hire me!
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Elizabeth Tamblin
Andrew Morris
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Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
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Couldn't agree more Apr 30

Jo Macdonald wrote:

you are actually a lot more productive and live a much better life if you take the time to eat, rest, live life to the full and in general do other things that aren’t just work.


Absolutely.

I'm about to head off for a four-day drinkfest (surely "professional conference"? Ed). I take every morning off now that I'm working on PST (ProZ.com Standard Time) and often scoot around Barcelona for the hell of it.

But my dividing lines are flexible. At times, when I stop in a café, I answer client emails over coffee and quite enjoy it, to be honest. When these urgent requests DO come through, I don't necessarily see it as client time intruding on my time. It's client time that pays for the Vespa, the coffee and the flat in the first place, so to some extent the two can conflate. If I so choose.

Always keeping a sense of proportion etc etc...

@Kay. Agree with just about every word of that. "Extra mile" only in the sense that the texts have all been delivered and this particular question came out of the blue, after I'd submitted my invoice.


 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:36
Member
Italian to English
No-brainer Apr 30

Andrew Morris wrote:

Thoughts?


Thoughts? That's it's pretty much a no-brainer. The clue's in the name - the extra mile. Because it's something not many people do, so of course clients are going to be happy if we help them out of a difficult situation.


Andrew Morris
Baran Keki
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
When is a no-brainer not a no-brainer, i.e. a brainer? Apr 30

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

Thoughts? That's it's pretty much a no-brainer.


Haha, except that several colleagues above offer interesting angles and nuances and might be seen as challenging even the basic premise of the anecdote...

(Edited to add: and I would venture to suggest that these different perspectives get to the very heart of what it means to be a freelancer, to be in business, and to be so in 2019).


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:36
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The extra mile Apr 30

I’ve no problem going the extra mile for my long-standing customers and even for some potential clients, that’s exactly what I did a few minutes ago: I translated for free a small sentence ES-PT.

One hour later I had a similar «job» from my longest-standing customer: to add three words to a file I translated last month. Quite happy to oblige!

[Edited at 2019-04-30 12:48 GMT]


Andrew Morris
 
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