May 2020 update: The purchase order has been updated. Please see this post for 4 new versions of it (for translation, revision, editing and localisation), which you can also download.
For a while now I’ve been working on the type of purchase order I’d like to give to both my agency and direct clients (especially new ones) so that we all know where we stand and are clear about the price and what it does and does not include. Today I’ve been inspired by reading Two to Tango: Tips for Project Managers from a Freelance Translator (parts 1 and 2) by Igor Vesler on Lingua Greca’s blog to finally finish my first draft. I’m posting it here so I can get your feedback and comments, because I’m a little concerned that it might be overly long and put some clients off.
One of the main reasons why I feel such a detailed PO is necessary, however, is that important information we need to do a translation justice often only comes out after probing on our part, or even as an aside when asking the PM/client about another aspect of the job. For example, if it’s for publication, the client needs to know that we cannot guarantee it will be error-free unless they are prepared to pay for a revision and an edit as well. Agencies will probably (hopefully, but definitely not always) have that covered either in-house or by hiring a second translator for the revision. Direct clients, on the other hand, might not even realise how many steps a translation can involve and how crucial four and even six eyes can be in the process if publication-ready quality is required.
Perhaps this is not such a major issue in other language pairs (I translate from Spanish into English only), but some agencies add a last throwaway remark in an email that the client has stated the quality of the translation is paramount. As I discussed at length in Pay special attention to this translation or else, one translator cannot be expected to perform two or even three roles for the price of only one. Besides, as we all know, it’s usually much better if a colleague revises the text as they will undoubtedly find it easier to spot any errors or suggest improvements.
My ideal purchase order also includes a question on style guides and reference materials. Knowing the preferred style is essential when translating or revising a document for publication in a journal, for example, as reviewers are notoriously picky and will reject anything that doesn’t meet their rigorous standards.
Another imperative question to ask clients that request revision services is whether they have used machine translation. Again, maybe this does not happen as much in some language pairs, but unfortunately, in my experience (you can read about that in the posts listed here), a number of end clients (not agencies) put their documents through Google Translate (for example) to save money. Even if they try to clean up the messy result (some don’t bother to make any changes at all), I can always tell, primarily because I find “revisions” of this nature so incredibly hard, time-consuming and soul-destroying.
Since informing clients that I don’t post-edit machine translation hasn’t stopped some of them sending such texts my way, perhaps a direct yes or no question will. Naturally, if they answer yes, they’ll have to find someone else to provide the post-editing service or accept my translation rate.
I’ve also included a line to ask clients to provide explanations for the acronyms and abbreviations they use in the text. This is primarily to make my life easier. Sometimes they’re obvious, but when they’re not, we can waste a lot of time trawling through the Internet trying to work them out. I always feel obliged to make an effort to search for them before asking the client for help (definitely don’t want to appear dumb), so asking for a list at the outset would save a lot of hassle. It might also alert clients to the fact that we cannot be expected to know all their internal jargon. However, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, perhaps that’s going a step too far and asking too much from a busy client…
One of my agency clients often sends me documents with scanned in texts and graphs. More often than not, I have to translate them by inserting the text below. Given that the words in these scans are not counted automatically in Word, it’s important to establish whether they have to be translated and how many there are. Suddenly discovering later that there are far more words than you thought can jeopardise your deadline.
The final point I’d like to make about the PO below is that the I’m still working on the terms and conditions to be attached, although I’ll use the ITI’s Model Terms of Business as a starting point.
So what do you think? Would you be happy to ask your clients to fill in this purchase order? What changes would you make? Is there anything you think I should add? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
|Purpose/target audience of the text|
|Is the text for publication?
If yes, is a separate revision service required (i.e. four eyes)?
Is a separate editing service required (i.e. six eyes)?
|Are any glossaries available?|
|Are any other background/reference materials available?|
|No. of words/pages|
|Source file format|
|Software required (if any)|
|Is a translation memory (TM) available?|
|Has machine translation (MT) been used?|
|Does the text contain acronyms/abbreviations?
If yes, please provide list explaining what they stand for.
|Does the text contain any graphics/scans?
If yes, do they need to be translated?
If yes, should translation be inserted in document or a separate file?
|Any further details/information/requirements/preferences|
|Rate per word/page/hour|
|The project price includes one round of revisions.
Subsequent revisions will be charged by hour/word as agreed.
|Payment due 30 days after invoice date|
|Terms and conditions|
|All your texts and correspondence will be treated in strict confidence|
Since I first wrote this post I have updated the form based on readers’ suggestions. It’s now called the Purchase Order Checklist.
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