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Posted on27 September 2016

Translation Agency Tips: #34 My translation is going to be late. What’s the best way to deal with this?

Late Translation


In a previous blog we discussed what to do in the event you’re experiencing IT difficulties, and mentioned the importance of contacting your client as soon as you can to give as much notice as possible if anything is going to have an effect on your ability to deliver your translation by the agreed deadline. If you’re going to be late delivering your work, for whatever reason, the best policy is honesty. Your client may not always be understanding and may be under a lot of pressure with the project, but what certainly won’t help is making something up or even worse, saying nothing at all.

From the viewpoint of a Project Manager working for an agency, I always try to be sympathetic with a translator who will almost always have a good reason for being late with a project. Getting angry about it doesn’t help anyone, and even if the reason for lateness is just that the translator mismanaged their time, I appreciate the fact that they’ve been honest and owned up to it. Preferably a translator will let us know as early as possible so that we can manage the expectations of our client better.

I have experienced situations when translators have not delivered their translations to the agreed deadline, and when chased about it, they do not reply to emails or answer the phone. Only upon being told that the project will have to be reassigned do they inform us that the translation will be ready in half an hour, only for half an hour to pass with no further communication. From experience, this is the worst possible way to handle being late, and will probably have a lasting negative impact on your working relationship with that client. Turning up late for an interpreting assignment must never happen, but if you know you are going to be late, again, you must inform your client.

I cannot emphasize how important it is to deliver assignments on time. We no longer work with some translators because projects were consistently delivered late, despite the work being of a high quality. If you doubt your ability to make a delivery deadline, raise this with the client. Either request an extension or turn the project down. Be sure to look over source documents carefully before agreeing to deadlines to ensure you can meet them. Keep an organised calendar of upcoming events as not to forget anything that will influence your work flow! And most importantly, know your limits. Your reputation as a freelancer is essential – don’t damage this by agreeing to something you can’t fulfill!
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