Do you hate it when you turn down one or more jobs while waiting for a previously confirmed project, only to learn later that this project has been postponed or canceled altogether? This article provides a few thoughts about why you may want to feel differently about this.
Expecting this will never happen to you is unrealistic
In the real world, clients often change their mind about orders they have placed—and doubly so with translation orders, because translation is often not a real need, but a formal requirement. Clients understand this and are keen to continue looking for ways to do without translation, even after placing an order.
You have to choose
A freelance translator once offered us a deadline longer than we had originally offered her. We asked for an extension from our client and were waiting for an answer. In the meantime, even though just a few hours had passed, the translator requested that we confirm her deadline right away, or else she would consider her commitment annulled. Not only did she not want to wait a few hours for a lucrative potential project, but she also did not feel any commitment to the deadline she herself had offered.
You cannot have your cake and eat it, too. You cannot both keep yourself available for a large potential project and accept other projects with deadlines clashing with that of the potential project. Either you wait for the project patiently and turn down other offers, or you take whatever comes your way immediately, despite your commitment to the other client, just because that commitment is for a “less confirmed” project. In essence, you are choosing between a reputation as a reliable partner in the long term and healthier momentary profits. I’d choose reputation.
Suggestions for working out a deadline policy that is right for you
- It is best to quote in business days, rather than set dates. When you offer a set date, you have no idea when your quote will be confirmed. We once made this error and received a confirmation for a large project literally one day before the set date, and the client actually expected us to deliver on that date! So do not make the same error: quote in business days. This is not an ultimate solution, though, because when a quote is confirmed, you might already be busy and unable to start right away. The number of business days quoted will no longer make sense as a result.
- Look at profits lost due to rejected projects as just another business expense, the cost of doing business. If you want to be in the translation business, you should be tolerant of waiting for confirmations, as well as project cancellations. Everyone would prefer to have deadlines confirmed immediately, but this is not how things work, when several levels of decision-makers are involved.
- Use those days that you “lost” to work on your business or just take an extra day off. Enjoy the free time, when you have it!
- If you are intolerant of waiting, you are better off working with direct clients, rather than agencies. In theory, the fewer middlemen are between you and end clients, the less the waiting time, hence the risk of losing other projects while waiting for a confirmation. If you work with end clients directly, you may expect the confirmation time to decrease significantly. But remember that you are still working with people who have their own agendas: just because you are talking directly to a decision-maker does not mean he or she will not procrastinate on a decision.
- Charging a cancellation fee, whether just for canceled projects or for non-confirmed projects as well, is also a possibility. Note, though, that whatever cancellation fee you devise, you will be less competitive than your competitors who generally do not charge one. You will need to put something else on the table to make up for it, such as excellent quality.