Doing it right the first time around

In our earlier post, we talked about clients asking for discounts on “short” files, on “easy” projects, and on the promise of a long-term collaboration (the good old “volume” discount).

While each argument had its own counter-argument, the underlying notion was that professional translators―those who translate for a living, usually as their exclusive activity―invest in continuing education to offer an added value (their valuable specialized knowledge) and become truly accountable for their work, thus contributing to the success of their clients.

This time, let’s explore three additional topics that I often discuss with prospects.

  • “What’s your best rate?” My best rate is $1 per word. Oh, you meant my “lowest” rate? Sorry… You see, when I heard “best,” I immediately thought about what would be best for me.If I could earn $1 per word, I would be able to work fewer hours per week, take a longer vacation, spend more time with the kids, and maybe even retire sooner. I didn’t realize you meant the best rate for you…Why don’t we just do this: You send me the files you need translated, I’ll analyze the project, calculate how much time and effort it would take me to complete the job and then send you an estimate. I believe that would make everybody happy!

  • “I can find cheaper than that!” ― I’m sure you can, but does “cheaper” mean “better”? It usually only means you’ll pay less for a service, but there will most likely be consequences.What happens if you receive the translation and are extremely disappointed with the final result? Do you pay for the substandard translation service―fearing the wrath of a translator of questionable quality who will badmouth your company on-line―and then hire a proper translator to redo the whole thing? This way you’ll spend more than you had originally budgeted for and wait longer for the project to be completed.

    And that is assuming you can actually read the final result of the substandard translation. What if you hired a translator to work on your beautifully crafted message and have your words written in a language you cannot understand? Do you really want to wait and see whether your marketing materials, those important contracts, or the guidelines that your branches overseas need to follow have actually been translated correctly by the candidate who offered to work for the lowest possible rate?

    Why don’t you make an informed decision to go with the translator who is truly a great fit for your purposes? Don’t be carried away by the “average rate in the market” idea. Keep in mind that you’ll be getting what you pay for. And I’m sure you are looking for accurate translations that will help your product or service do well in foreign markets.

  • “We’re just a startup and…” If you’re a small company that is trying to break into your own market, you should be in the best position to truly appreciate a good deal when you see one. Maybe you’ve just furnished your office and went with a reliable brand because you want your furniture to last. You sure had to buy computers and equipment to perform your activities, so you identified the state-of-the-art technology that will make your work easier, eliminate re-work, and increase productivity.

    When it comes to hiring translation services, please follow the same mentality. You know good deals don’t always come with a small price tag. Actually, if the offer sounds too good to be true, there may be a catch. The service turnaround is too fast? Quality may suffer. The price is very low? Odds are you’re talking to a beginner translator who may not have the necessary knowledge to convey your message accurately. So, why don’t you go with professional translation services and do it right the first time around?

    Actually, according to colleagues in the industry, including both translators and project managers, startups and small businesses are among their best clients in terms of communication and payment. Companies with this profile tend to appreciate the one-on-one exchange that is only possible when you’re working with your translator as a team in order to achieve a common goal. And, as a company working on a tight budget, you sure would appreciate when things are done accurately, within the agreed turnaround, and without any surprises along the way. Think of translation as an investment that will help your company grow and reach a whole new market. If you’ll make money out of it (even if the return on investment is not immediate), why shouldn’t the translator get his or her fair share for a service that was crucial for such growth?

As you can see, your decision-making process when hiring translation services isn’t limited to the price tag alone. What may seem like a great deal at first, with discounted rates and impossibly fast deliveries, will most likely be far from the results you wish for. Effective translations are produced by professionals who truly understand your needs. And you won’t find these above-average professionals charging the so-called average rates.

Suggested reading:

(1)   For more on low rates, fast deliveries, and translation quality, check out other articles published under the cost-time-quality triangle category.

(2)   Find more tips on what to discuss with your translator when asking for an estimate in an earlier post written by Bianca Bold: “Defining project specifications.”

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10 Responses to Doing it right the first time around

  1. Bianca Bold says:

    Thanks, Rafa! 🙂

    Interestingly, two of my good clients (agencies) contacted me this week about projects that involved re-work. One was a problem created by the end client, and the other was created by the agency.

    The first was a typical case of a translation that “came from the end client and should be fine” — but actually had to be redone. The text sent by the client was terrible, with parts that resembled machine translation, so what was originally a PDF QA project became a full translation+editing work.

    Another end client returned an almost 200-page document that had been translated and edited by other professionals hired by the agency. The text came full of revision marks and requests to translate abbreviations and acronyms that were left in English. Now the agency is paying my rush hourly fee to clean up the mess, and this will probably be covered by agency because the end client has nothing to do with the lousy translation.

    To sum up… lots of wasted time and money. Hopefully someone has learned a lesson.

  2. Great examples, Bianca! And that’s exactly why the name of this post was “Doing it right the first time around” 🙂

    Clients (and Project Managers working for agencies) need to understand that they’re not always in the best position to judge the quality of a translation, meaning that they need to hire a professional translator that fits the project profile in order to get the project done correctly.

    Simply hiring a large group of people to meet the deadline and cut costs as much as possible is not the best practice. In the best-case scenario, that’s exactly what they’ll get in the end: Lots of wasted time and money.

    And what’s the worst-case scenario? The horrible shame before the public when the result of an irresponsible translation reaches the market and the company loses way more money in public relations, damage control, product recalls, and lawsuits than they would have spent otherwise, had they invested in getting the translation done properly in the first place.

    Lesson learned! 🙂

  3. Maria Carolina says:

    I wish people would stop saying that low prices equal bad translators, because there are real good translators charging low prices. The real problem is that such professional will not have TIME to translate well because they will do the job very fast to compensate.

    • Bianca Bold says:

      Hi, Maria. I agree with you that time is the main issue. But, looking from a practical perspective (and from the client’s perspective), isn’t a translator as good as the service s/he provides in any given situation? A great actor, for instance, who performs poorly in a movie won’t get an Oscar for his performance in a previous production in which he excelled, right? 🙂

  4. Then we get into an ethics issue…

    If a translator does not have time to work on a project, he/she should try one of the following:

    1) negotiate a more realistic deadline.

    2) rearrange the schedule, ’cause maybe there’s something else that is low priority and can be pushed further down on the list.

    3) negotiate a rush fee to compensate for over time work (including weekends and holidays.)

    4) when all else fails, recommend a trusted colleague.

    The one thing that professional translators should NEVER do is compromise on quality.

    Providing poor services is what really smears the reputation of translation as a serious business. After all, if clients weren’t looking for quality, just words in a foreign language that don’t necessarily make sense, they’d be using machine translations 😉

    • Bianca Bold says:

      And that’s why your text was posted under the cost-time-quality triangle category, Rafa. 🙂 This comment you just wrote is in line with everything I’ve written there (and there’s also one post by Christos Floros).

    • Maria Carolina says:

      What I meant is that a translator will rush because the price is low and they will want to COMPENSATE: work fast to get more money and then move on to other projetcts. And it may be really hard to be a good translator when you give yourself no time to think about what you are writing.

  5. Talking about the Oscars, you can get recognition for doing a great job and not getting the prize if you keep doing a good job. Not the other way around, though…

    I still can’t believe Colin Firth, nominated for “A Single Man,” lost to Jeff Bridges for “Crazy Heart.” I love The Dude and he was great as the alcoholic singer, but Firth was absolutely sublime and definitely deserved it that year (that movie still brings me to tears just by thinking about it.) So much so that the following year Firth was nominated again and won for “The King’s Speech.”

    Analogies aside, sometimes clients can come back to you and say, “I understand you charged us $ for that past project, but your help was so invaluable that this time we’re okay paying you $+2.”

    Yes, that happens. It has happened to me, so it could happen to anybody. All you have to do is offer quality services and show clients how you add value to their operations.

    If they know they can count on you, they’ll keep coming for more and pay what you expect (and deserve!)

  6. Pingback: Amateurs playing among the pros? | Translation Client Zone

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