Agencies come in all shapes, sizes and guises, from huge international companies that can pay their directors overlarge bonuses to boutique organisations run out of a bedroom, and everything in-between. I’ve translated for a fair few in my time, most of them relatively small with PMs who tend to stick around for a number of years. This type of set-up is perfect for building good working relationships for mutual benefit, which can then trundle along quite happily without any major hiccups.
Whilst the ones I work for on a regular basis tick enough of the boxes to make the translation journey with them worthwhile, others leave much to be desired. I can think of many qualities a good agency should have, but I have limited the list in this post to the 20 that matter the most to me so that it doesn’t get overly long. Please let me know in the comments if you think I’ve left anything important out.
A good agency will:
1. explain who they are in their first contact with you and provide you with their details (website, address, phone numbers, etc.).
2. tell you in the first email offering you a job the three most important things you need to know about the translation before accepting it: subject, number of words, deadline.
3. tell you the context and target audience without you having to ask.
4. allocate a reference number to every job and use it in the subject line of every email concerning this job so no one gets confused.
5. convert PDFs for you before they send you the document for analysis, or better still get a copy in Word from the client.
6. ask the end client for a list of all abbreviations and acronyms used.
7. answer queries about the text, asking the end client for clarification if necessary.
8. provide feedback (good and bad!).
9. pay on time or before.
10. never give you any lame excuses, such as being on holiday or waiting for a client to pay them, for non-payment.
11. not expect you to translate all the texts from one client (i.e. not pressurise you into accepting more than you can handle, or do texts you aren’t really capable of doing for the sake of some imagined consistency).
12. accept no for an answer and not try to pressurise you into doing a translation unless they are able to change the terms (deadline, rate, etc.).
13. offer realistic deadlines which do not include having to work at the weekend.
14. pay extra for urgent and weekend work.
15. not contact you at the weekend, and if they do, definitely not expect a reply until Monday morning.
16. not try to lower your rate for whatever reason (such as large volume of work).
17. not expect you to translate into a version of English (or your native language) which you don’t speak, such as US English if you are British.
18. not expect you to confirm price and deadline on only a sample without having seen exactly what the job entails.
19. not expect you to use a complicated online job acceptance and/or invoicing system.
20. not ask you to sign an agreement whereby you might become liable for a whole lot more than you were paid for the translation.
This post was first published on 24/04/2014 on my previous blog.
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