Most translation agencies we work with issue purchase orders based on their own word counts. I’ve been always trying to convince our project managers to check the analyses coming from the agencies before we confirm a job. The purpose of this check is not to make sure that we have an identical WC—it’s okay for our WC to be slightly different—but rather to discover potential problems such as huge differences in the number of words. This approach seems to be common-sense because it’s not wise to accept work without reviewing and confirming the work scope. But, as Stephen Covey used to say, what’s common sense is often not common practice.
Now, checking the WC isn’t exactly a very fun thing to do. It takes time, which isn’t compensated. And normally, the clients’ WCs are correct. This means that forgetting to check them is usually no big deal. But it does backfire sometimes. Here’s what happened to us last week:
We received an RFQ for a large German to Russian translation project. The source files were SDLXLIFFs with many repetitions. Studio took a lot of time just to open them. Our PM disregarded this as a technical issue. She decided to skip checking the client’s WC and prepared our quote based on the client’s analysis. It was only after receiving the client’s confirmation and starting on the translation that we discovered two problems:
- Working directly in these SDLXLIFF files wasn’t an option since they took hours to open and save. Because we had failed to check the WC, we hadn’t realized the file size would be a problem until it was too late. At that point, we had to go back to the client and re-negotiate the file format. Failure to find this out before confirming availability is definitely unprofessional behavior. Contacting the client about this kind of things after the project started is always embarrassing.
- After we had prepared the files in a different format, the WC came out very different. The difference amounted to several hundreds of dollars. Because we had already confirmed the client’s WC and even received the PO, going back to the client and explaining the issue wasn’t an easy thing to do.
We could’ve avoided both problems by simply checking the client’s word count before accepting the job. The problem with the large files would have surfaced immediately. I realize the motivation to double-check a client’s log file in case of large files is low, especially when a PM has doubts as to whether this client will accept our quote. But experience shows that it’s best to exercise discipline and do so anyway to avoid the embarrassment of having to re-negotiate the terms.
Have you ever fallen victim of failing to double-check a client’s analysis? If you have, please share your experience in the comments below.