Are you able to accept an occasional late delivery from your translator? If not, you might have a problem working with freelance translators. Read this article to learn why late deliveries are typical for the translation industry and what you should make of it.
As a translation agency, we set a high standard for ourselves in terms of deadlines. This results in missing no more than one deadline a year on average. But we have systems in place to prevent late delivery. We make sure that we have a cushion of time on almost any project, in case something goes wrong. We always have a backup linguist who can provide a helping hand, if a deadline is in jeopardy.
But as a translation buyer, we do not expect from our freelance translators the same standard that we are committed to provide to our clients. Of course, we’d love to see all our translators deliver every project on time. But we have realized over the years that this is unrealistic. As a result, we are tolerant of occasional late deliveries. Here is why:
- This industry relies on freelance translators working from home. Many like it that way; others would prefer to rent an office, but cannot afford one. This is actually one reason translation rates are low. The problem is that working at home means distractions, which often ruin work plans. So late deliveries can be viewed as the price that you as a translation buyer pay for being able to buy translation at low rates.
- Generally, requiring translations to be 100% punctual is just as unnecessary as requiring employees to arrive at work at exactly the same time each morning. Such requirements are too formal and do not fit in the real word very well. The result is more important than how it was achieved. As long as the work gets done well, being late by a few hours is usually not that big a deal.
- Everyone, even top-notch professionals, has to deal with emergencies from time to time. When delivery time comes, all kinds of unforeseen problems may occur, making timely delivery impossible. Power outages, computer breakdowns, or family emergencies will clash with a project deadline occasionally. Even though late deliveries are undesirable, expecting that they will never happen is unrealistic.
- A late delivery is okay, as long as translators warn their clients in advance. By doing so, they make it clear that the late delivery is not a result of procrastination or forgetting about the project completely, but a well-thought-out decision. While working on the project, the translator realized that the original deadline was not feasible, reassessed the scope of work, and is now letting the client know ahead of time. I think this is a sign of a professional, so I am never disappointed to hear such warnings. But on the other hand, if a translator emails you after the deadline, saying that he is finishing the job and will deliver soon, this is bad news. It usually means that he has not even finished the translation yet, let alone any revision or quality assurance checks. You can be almost sure that a translation delivered under these circumstances will have quality issues.
- To make up your mind about how to react to a particular late delivery, it is useful to know when the translator started working on the project. Starting on time and running into some problems that prevent timely delivery is one thing, but starting at 9 PM, with delivery scheduled for the next morning, and working in a hurry overnight is quite another. Knowing what was going on helps you understand what caused the late delivery. Ask your translators to include an exported translation memory with their delivery. The time and dates in this TM will tell you when the translator was actually working.
A translator who is constantly late is a bad partner, no doubt about that. But occasional late deliveries are often not as bad as they might seem. If you are buying translations from a freelance translator, I suggest being tolerant about deadlines to a certain degree. Deadlines are about treating translators like human beings, not machines that are always punctual.
As a translation buyer, you can also make things easier for a translator by avoiding unreasonably short deadlines.