Sending a translation request through a mass email, i.e. a non-personal email sent to several translators at a time, is a tool of last resort used by translation agencies in case of a very urgent job. Although effective and often reasonable, this is a very controversial practice, since more often than not it can be perceived as an impolite way of doing business. I would like to use this post to explain what we think about this kind of emails and share our experience with them.
The main problem with mass emails comes from the fact that many vendors (a) don’t like to be treated like a “commodity” and (b) don’t want to run the “whoever replies faster gets the project” race. A translator receiving such email will often delete it immediately, and if this kind of requests continue to arrive, they might even become irritated. That is why we never use such emails ourselves. Because we contact freelancers not too often, we enjoy long-term relationships with a limited number of English to Russian translators and won’t risk damaging these relationships. Also, most of our projects are not that urgent to call for aggressive email tactics. Even if we accept an urgent job (rarely), we prefer to process it in-house to have higher control over the translation process and avoid the risk of delay.
When we receive a mass email from an agency client ourselves, we treat it as a business opportunity, rather than an offensive practice. Focusing on the business side helps approach the request constructively and ignore the manner of contact. Yes, we very much enjoy and long for a personal touch, in particular because our line of work heavily relies on computers and provides little face-to-face contact with the customers. But it’s not as important as the level of customer service. As a translation company, our first and foremost goal is to serve our clients in the best possible manner, while also remaining profitable, which means that the clients always come first and any feelings should come second, if at all. In fact, the project manager contacting us with such request might be very busy at the moment, with dozens of other projects to assign on hand. Our job is therefore to simply evaluate this request just as any other project, assess our capability, and reply accordingly. There is even a chance that the law of reciprocity will work for you: after you handle several requests in the above-described positive fashion, you might be soon rewarded by a personal request from this project manager instead of a mass email.
Another issue about such emails is that whoever replies first usually gets the order, leaving all other respondents with empty hands. We also don’t have any problem with this. If the agency accepts our offer, that’s great. If not, what do we lose? Just the time spent on evaluating the request. But this is a normal expenditure required to run a translation business and happens all the time, so no big deal.
And the sweetest part is that through mass emails we received some of the most profitable projects so far. They often pay well because of the rush surcharge and compensation for additional services such as recreation of formatting due to uneditable source text.
If your goal is to work with an English to Russian translation provider that will not send your projects out as mass emails, we might be a perfect match.