When you work with computers on a day to day basis, sooner or later you are bound to experience some IT problems, and you can guarantee it will be around 15 minutes before your super urgent translation is due to be sent to your client. At Atlas, we’ve faced our fair share of IT problems over the years, so here are a few tips on dealing with them!
As inevitable as they can seem, there is a lot you can and should do to prevent IT problems from becoming an issue. As a translator, it is more or less compulsory to own a computer with access to the internet in order to work. As these assets are fundamental to your livelihood and reputation, protect and invest in them. Make sure your operating system is kept up to date and compatible with what your main clients work with. From ensuring that you regularly download updates to making sure you’re working with the most current version of your operating system, to upgrading the very hardware you work with. An IT engineer told me recently that a computer or laptop only really has a life of 3 years. While this is perhaps a bit extreme, you should probably look at upgrading every 5 years. It’s well worth keeping an external hard drive, so that if something does go wrong with your computer, all is not lost!
Similarly, it’s worth keeping the programs you use up to date. Working with older versions of something like Microsoft Word, can cause formatting and compatibility issues when your client is trying to open the translation you’ve sent in a more recent version of Word. Your client will not thank you for this and it could affect the likelihood of them sending you more work! Having antivirus software or a firewall is also essential in protecting your systems, and if you regularly experience internet outages, perhaps you should look at changing your provider, or upgrading your internet speed.
As well as performing regular maintenance on the tools of your trade, put a backup plan in place. How could you deliver a translation if, say, there was a power outage where you usually work and you were unable to access the internet or the machine you usually work on? Try to find two or three locations where you would be able to access the internet and work well. Perhaps the local library, a café with free wireless internet, or a friend’s house. That way, if you’ve been saving your file onto an external hard drive or memory stick, you can simply plug into a new device and continue working. While this may cause a delay to your delivery deadline, you’re not completely cut off.
If IT problems are going to have an effect on the delivery deadline, let your client know as soon as possible. Everyone will have been in a similar situation at some point or another, so they should be understanding. It will help a lot if you can explain that you’ve got measures in place (backup plan) to minimise the effect of the disruption! Good communication is key. If the translation is going to be even 10 minutes late, let you client know in as much time as possible so they can manage the expectations of their end client. As with most things in a deadline driven industry, time is of the essence, so giving your client a ‘head’s up’ is vital.
If you’re really stuck, keep your client informed with as much information as possible. We’ve had deadlines pass with no word from the translator, until 30 minutes or so after the deadline, when a supplier has just said something along the lines of ‘Sorry I’m having IT problems so am running a bit late’. This doesn’t help the client at all. What has happened? When will the translation be ready? What are you doing to ensure delivery will be made as soon as possible? Letting your client know this information will ease their worries and assure them that you are doing everything in your power to work around the IT problems you’re faced with.
You might like to look at our blog post about keeping in touch with clients – especially when IT problems mean that your translation is going to be late.