Archive | January, 2015

Are direct clients saints?

26 Jan

Today (after a rather long break in my normal routine of blogging) I am going to speak about direct clients (once again). The thing is that freelance translators seem to always talk about them with some sort of delight. Well, the half of the truth is that they usually pay much more than translation agencies. They also seem to pay quicker. But the whole truth is that these clients are totally unaware of certain peculiarities of the trade. First, they quite often tend to treat the profession of a translator as a “trade” – in other words, sharing general misconceptions relating to discounts (especially for quality issues), etc.

Second, while any project manager of any LSP or TA is usually focused solely on your professional skills, your price and your knowledge, the people who hire translators at times (or even for the first time) consider a lot more factors, including popular myths they once heard about translators and/or translation (some even seriously compare us with plumbers. Why don`t they try dentists instead?)

In December I was approached by a representative of one of the largest European manufacturers of special electronics (not a Fortune 500 company, but still, a seemingly generous source of steady workflow). I was told that they “tried out” some agencies here and there (first red flag), and now they wanted to have a one-stop provider (both for translation and DTP) who would charge a bit less (second red flag). I had a brief conversation with the contact person on the phone. It was agreed that it would be a paid test project.

Terms agreed, payment set.

The contact person spoke Russian (apparently it was her native language). She also had nothing to do with translation. Certain minute quality issues were recognized in the first part of the project (the second file was flawless, according to her).

That is the third point I would like to highlight. It is quite often that people who speak the language of the translation text and are not translators themselves raise quality-related issues in texts created by professionals. This should also be taken into account when dealing with direct clients (well, we are not talking here about obvious mistakes and/or machine translation).

I was asked for a discount I would deem appropriate for the quality I provided. Yes, you heard it right. I had to come up with the amount of this discount – not the client! Needless to say, we had never discussed such discounts for this test project before.

Well, few emails later I was assured that I would get the amount in full. Although the test piece was perfect, and they really wanted me aboard (according to the client), my way of negotiating things was not acceptable to the contact person (nothing rude has been said, of course). I don`t think that I lost much. My experience told me that this would be only the beginning of much greater problems with unexpected discounts later on.

I managed to get full amount.

But it all means that we have to critically consider every client we are approached by. Don`t fall into a trap of thinking that direct clients are angels. They are real-world clients who should and are invited to make this cooperation a two-way street, where translators help them earn more. And get more.