Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Deadlines, deadlines ...

Galina Kakhoun recently asked in the Translators Worldwide forum on LinkedIn whether deadlines had gotten shorter over the past 10 years. I do think that deadlines have gotten tighter.

In part that is because business (and private) life in general has accelerated, at least in the industrialized countries. Some of this is due to technology improvements, which have also enabled translators to work faster (think CAT tools). Part of the problem, however, is that clients have unrealistic expectations, coupled with disregard for quality.

I just saw a posting for an 8,800-word legal text to be translated literally overnight. Such speed is only possible if absolutely no terminology is researched, and the first draft is not edited/proofread at all. We translators need to educate clients about the time and effort it takes to produce a good translation and refuse jobs on too-tight deadlines. If the poster of this job is consistently told that the translation cannot be produced in that timeframe, he/she will change the deadline and, hopefully, learn to set a more realistic one next time.

We also need to get better at negotiating deadlines. Often the initial deadline is flexible -- the client just doesn't tell us so. Faced with a Friday 5pm deadline, for example, we can ask for Monday morning instead; the translation would likely simply sit in someone's inbox over the weekend, anyway. If a client asks for a certain deadline and I have already committed to other projects, I'll explain the situation (without specifics, of course) and ask whether the deadline can be moved by a couple of days. Often, it can.


  1. I agree completely and have used both options, educating about quality and asking for extension due to work load or other reasons and usually this works. The most important is that we keep educating clients of what it takes to do a good job and how long it takes.

  2. It is also my opinion that clients want translations to be done 'overnight'. And not only translations, Yesterday I was asked for interpreting services. They wanted me as interpreter for today. As I told them I were not able to do such a job within such chort notice, they got very angry.

    So I think too that we offering those services have to educate our potential clients. But it is not always easy.


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