TIME - José Henrique Lamensdorf - translation - tradução

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Second to price, the usual translation client's major concern is time. How long will it take?

I'm generally a fast worker. Nevertheless, I manage my time on a per-project basis, always leaving some slack. I prefer to deliver two days early than two hours late.


In January 2013, I took longer than usual vacations: two weeks instead of one. As I maintained access to my e-mail during the trip, upon my return there was a long queue of jobs waiting for me. Where should I start?

Until then, I had been using rush surcharges copied from the Brazilian law on sworn translations: 50% extra for top (or absolute) priority during weekdays; 100% premium on jobs that had to be done on weekends or holidays.

In this post-vacation queue, one client was willing to pay 50% extra for having top priority. Another one, upon learning about that, offered 80% plus. Before my entire backlog turned into a rush surcharges auction, I decided to reconsider the situation as a whole. After all, it would be dishonest to waitlist a job that was paying 50% extra for urgency because another one was paying more.

In fact, rush surcharges, on top of increasing costs to my clients, caused turmoil to my work schedule. They weren't worthwhile for anyone.

Among the possible lines of action to do away with urgency surcharges I noticed that, thanks to the outrageously high interest rates in Brazil (over 10% per month), the payment term resulted in a more significant fraction of the cost than in many other countries. Based on that I decided to, experimentally, prioritize jobs on the shortest payment term getting served first.

It worked so well, that I decided to make the system permanent. All that anyone wanting topmost priority would have to do is prepay for the job. I'd take only one prepaid job at a time, and wouldn't set it aside until it had been finished and delivered.

This worked very well. After a while I discoveed the beauty of it: Anyone attempting to overturn someone else's absolute priority would have to time-travel to the past, and prepay earlier! Since this is impossible, nobody quibbles about it.

To tell you the truth, I only get 2-3 urgent, prepaid jobs per year. Nevertheless, all my jobs are delivered before their deadlines, as I have been doing since 1973.

The clients who lost something with this change were those who like to use translators as money lenders. I'll hardly be able to serve within a reasonable time frame any client paying beyond two weeks from delivery, as there always will be higher priority jobs coming up, as a result of shorter payment terms.

Haste makes waste

It is strange, but I see too much demand for urgency in the translation market. I understand that some typically life-rescuing professions are characterized by urgency. But why should there be so much urgency in translation?

Some cases are justifiable. As soon as a document is issued, it must be translated to meet some requirement. There may be some product being launched worldwide. News may become stale if not translated and published immediately. However most translation jobs should not require such urgency.

The opposite end of urgency in translation is when it's about publishing foreign books. Rates are usually much lower than any other kind of translation. Why? Because the publishing cycle of a book is long enough for the translator to work on it every time there are no urgent jobs pending.

If the client takes the trouble to plan, giving the translation the time needed to translate, they won't incur additional costs from urgency surcharges. Many people tend to think that translation involves no more than reading the original and writing it in another language. In most cases, that's not true. Quite often a specific term or an unusual expression behooves research, and this may take time.

Furthermore, there is proofreading. Time is required to review the whole translation. If rush is the foremost criterion, some mistakes might pass through. After they have been printed on hundreds or thousands of copies, it will be too late.

Since 1973, I haven't missed a deadline yet. If this is what you want, send me an e-mail or use one of the options from the Express Estimates. It will be my pleasure to help you, even if it's only to check on your needs and the most viable options.

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