Skip These Seven Hassles for a Serenely Successful 2017

 

 

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  1. Skip the stressful “offer “ of  insulting rates and oppressive terms .

Introduce yourself with you rates and  terms backed up with your certification and training. If being offered an assignment , ask for acknowledgement and acceptance in writing of your rates and terms  Add a dose of manners by offering to answer any questions they may have.

 Stress Buster : Develop a couple of templates of polite  responses for  when unacceptably low     rates are offered. Save them in your drafts and you will avoid the irritation felt when  writing a new one every time.

   2  Skip the embarrassment of being taken advantage of.

Research the market and  match your experience and qualifications for equal ranking of pay.

  1. Skip the stress of hearing that the prospective client that wants you won’t pay what you’re worth.

Look up their website and see how they promote themselves to the market If they claim to have the lowest rates then how do you think they make a profit.

Inquire from colleagues on professional forums, on both Linked In and Face Book , what kind of an experience  anyone has had with said a client. Share your experience in return.

  1. Skip the stress of a job with terminology and procedures that stump you.

Don’t accept an assignment you have never done before until you have observed the interpreted proceeding in person or reviewed a few source and target translations of the same subject matter. Do this until you are comfortable that you can perform quality work.

  1. Skip the stress of hassles caused by a client uneducated in your work.

Look for the red flags waving: when translator and interpreter is used interchangeably, when your availability is asked without  identification of the proceeding, whenever a translation has no word count or deadline…  And my favorite when you are asked to be at a location over 100 miles away in a half an hour.  Decide the value of your time required in “babysitting” this kind of client.

  1. Skip the embarrassment of being labeled as unqualified and unprofessional.

Research the market and  match your experience and qualifications for equal ranking of pay.

  1. Skip the stress of payment disputes.

Send your rates and terms ( learn what these are) in writing and ask for acknowledgement and acceptance in writing.  Add a dose of manners by offering to answer any questions they may have.

Inquire from colleagues on professional forums, on both Linked In and Face Book , what kind of an experience  anyone has had with said a client. Share your experience in return.

Assess the client agency by their reputation among their employees and contractors. Listen and weigh both the accolades and the complaints. Complaints reflect poor management and instability and that leads to non-payment of freelancer’s invoices .

Hey, we cancelled you. Why are you invoicing us?

It is Tuesday, the day after the Labor Day. I just learned that the deposition interpreting assignment I am about to leave for was cancelled yesterday.  Confirmed with the Court Reporting firm on Friday, I had to turn down two other jobs after booking this one.  The scheduler‘s message closed with “Please call as soon as you get this message”.  Well, at the moment they called, I was in thigh high waders slogging through protected wetlands, photographing an elusive Ibis.  I was not working.  My voicemail recording noted the holiday, that I would return calls on the next business day.  All of this was in my Rates and Terms Sheet they had accepted when they assigned me.  I returned the call, mentioning I would have to invoice due to less than 24 hour business day cancellation.  The scheduler responded “But, I emailed you on Sunday”.  No, you emailed Monday and either way, Saturday, Sunday and holidays are not business days.  I was more disappointed in her reaction than in the cancellation.

We freelance professional court interpreters have standard terms that cover cancellations.  I present them in writing and ask that they be acknowledged and accepted in writing before I accept an assignment. The danceScan

Sometimes they are dismissed as unnecessary.  When I invoice, I’m sometimes told it’s unfair.

Here’s why cancellation charges are reasonable and necessary:

  • I give you the chance to opt out from scheduling me when you are asked to review and accept my terms.  Equally, if your terms are unacceptable to me, I can opt to not accept assignments from you.
  • You can tell the law firm client about my terms and they can opt to try to find someone with different terms. When I accept your assignment it is a priority on my schedule.
  • I turn down other clients to take your job.
  • I cannot replace that income in less than 24 business days.
  • If I allow everybody to cancel without consequence, I could go for weeks without an income.
  • Emergency legal setting cancellations happen and can be accommodated but so do non-emergency cancellations caused by scheduling errors and uninformed witnesses.  Forgetting to notify us happens a lot.

Here’s the solution:

A professional interpreter will schedule in a professional manner.  You can count on us, you can know what costs are involved, and you can relax knowing we will be on time, respectful to your client and interpret with complete accuracy in accordance with our oath.  This is how we show our respect working in a respectful environment.

Make the time to ask for our terms or offer yours. Include your expectation of 24/7 accessibility.  Whether or not you are able financially to negotiate, be honest with us.  We share our experiences with agencies in professional networks.  Don’t be left stuck with only interpreters who will let you down.

Either Way, It’s The Same Horns. My Take Away from a Lawyer’s Rant.

Longhorn reciprocal scan0001Knowing what your client needs and expects from you is a baseline for providing a great product or service. But when you go a step further and learn the inner workings of your client’s work experience, you will be able to use that insight to resolve some tough problems and your own company will benefit.

My market is the judicial field. Non-paying or slow paying clients is the most common complaint I hear from colleagues, both freelance court interpreters and Translation and Interpreting agencies alike. I’m not immune to this experience. I have perfected rates and terms that meet and surpass the high standards set by the judiciary and lawyers. I deliver them whenever someone enquires about my services or availability and I politely require acceptance in writing before I accept an assignment. But as much as I study my client’s industry and keep up with their regulations and legislation, I haven’t found the magic tactic to guarantee on time payment.

Then I read the post by a lawyer who was really angry at clients who don’t pay him. http://lawfirmsuites.com/2013/10/shop-talk-deadbeat-clients/

He had me at the title of the post Clients Who Don’t Pay Piss Me Off. Notwithstanding the irony of the source of the complaint, after reading that post, I can honestly say I felt his pain.

I have heard a lot about the business of law and I have paid attention. I listen to shop talk by clients who are personal friends and I ask questions. I grew up in a family of lawyers that includes two Supreme Court Justices. In my continuing education classes, I teach interpreters to pay attention to the business of law. But the raw resentment expressed in this man’s post is exactly how I feel when I have to enter into the ugly phase of collecting a fairly earned fee. The fact that collecting from law firms is a regular component of doing business for me and my colleagues makes this lawyer’s perspective all that more valuable.

Every situation that he describes in his post has happened to me. I have endured clients not paying, delaying payment and not responding to late notices or phone calls, and even clients asking you to cut the already agreed upon rate after the assignment is completed, His sense of betrayal and having been disrespected is all too familiar. It is disrespectful to not be paid your hard earned fees.

When I read his advice to lawyers: You shouldn’t do business with clients who do not respect the value of your services, I wondered if he had read my articles or attended one of my classes.

My take away from that post was that I can now apply a layer of empathy to my terms policy. I can approach clients from a more shared experience. We are both giving our best services to the client. We are held to an oath and regulations most professionals wouldn’t tolerate. And we both truly respect the judicial system that we serve.

But the most significant take away I got from that post is knowing I can say to my client, ”I understand”.

You Made a Mistake. Time to Tour the Impact Zone.

You can’t shake the uneasiness. Maybe while you were interpreting in a deposition, an attorney objected and then asked to have the question and your interpretation read back. Then nothing more was said about it. Maybe in the translation you just finished, there was one unfamiliar phrase repeated throughout, but you made the deadline and it is already in the hands of the client. The more you think about it, the more you feel that you made a mistake. You aren’t sure if anyone caught it since you haven’t received a complaint…yet. At this point, your conscience won’t leave you alone.

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That is a good thing. That means you care about your work product. Embrace your conscience with a big Thank You.  I will walk you through what goes on after you’ve left the stage. Because the more you know about the impact of your work- good or bad; the more you’ll know how to improve. Look for two upcoming posts: what you can do to resolve a mistake and what to do when the client wrongly claims you made a mistake.
When a mistake is discovered, here’s what happens on the client’s end.
If you were working for an agency, they will hear the complaint from their client. A professional agency should give you a chance to tell your side, so they will contact you and ask you about the job. Some will test your honesty by not mentioning the complaint, to see if you will reveal the mistake to them. Others will be honest and tell you exactly what the client said. This allows you to help the agency rectify the problem and thus help them keep their client. If they keep that client, you have a better chance to stay on with the agency but it is likely you won’t be sent on assignments for their specific client. If the agency has to resolve the problem on their own you could easily lose the agency as your client. Often the agency will need to discount or not charge their fee to keep the client so there is a financial burden to them.
Fact: The agency can replace you with another freelancer much easier than they can replace a paying client.

If you were working directly for a client, you may not hear about the complaint until after they themselves have decided what to do about it. If this mistake has affected their client’s case, the firm has to act quickly and follow the rules of civil or criminal procedure. If they have to tell their client what happened, then your name takes another hit. Hell hath no fury like an attorney in damage control mode.

Fact: Most interpreters don’t realize the repercussions of misinterpreted testimony.
Unless you have a long term, exclusive relationship with this client, chances are you won’t hear about the complaint at all. Lawyers don’t like adding the task of questioning you to their agendas. You will begin to notice they don’t schedule you anymore and then your overall work load drops off. It is usually because they simply mentioned the experience with you to another lawyer, which snowballs, tarnishing your reputation.
Mistakes are ethical and procedural slip-ups too. Judicial professionals hold us to the same standards they are held to. Being late and delaying a deposition costs both parties time and money. Missing a deadline on a translation can set back the client’s production schedule. A breach of confidentiality or privilege can result in a mistrial. This is why clients react so strongly to these mistakes.
Reasons for mistakes never outweigh the repercussions. This awareness will give you the additional instinct to avoid them.

Why and How We Charge What We Charge. It’s About Time.

parrot scan0001One of the best tools I learned about running a business was calculating the value of my time. It helped me to manage my time by spending it in ways that created or led to future income. Placing a dollar value on your time is key to success as a freelance interpreter or translator. This is a common fact for all small business owners.
But our clients can benefit from learning how we charge and how we spend time on a job. Recognizing the value of a freelancer’s time helps you put an added value on the work we do for you. And when you see that time is not being spent efficiently by the freelancer you chose, then you know you have to find a more professional service provider.
We freelancers have to spend a lot of time that is not paid in order to complete a project. We are not paid for giving an estimate for translation or transcription work and that can take a long time. If our estimate is more than the client budgeted for, then we have lost the time as well as the job. After reviewing the task, if the deadline is shorter than we can finish the job, then again we lose the job and wasted that time. People who charge for estimates soon lose that client to those of us who don’t.
Having a finely tuned system for estimate development works for me. It is based on knowing how long it takes me, individually to translate or transcribe specific assignments. I ask the client to give me those details and they are outlined on my website. I also am free to say no to a job instead of performing that work poorly. Rushes are charged according to the value of me working on weekends and during non-business hours. But I never accept a job that I know, even with overtime hours, I will be so rushed I could make mistakes.
Interpreters measure our paid time in hours of the duration of the assignment. Longer jobs are preferred, obviously, but the duration of a deposition or hearing can’t always be predicted by the client. That’s why we have a minimum charge and the standard is two hours. Also it is common for interpreters to get last minute calls, or “pop ups”. Since we have to try to schedule enough work in advance to make a living, we often have to revise our schedule to fit those in. It is good business for us to be flexible and accommodate the client. Unless the client is continuously calling at the last minute. Whether it is an agency or law firm, it is obvious that they only call you when they have exhausted their list and that is disrespectful. I simply tell those people to take me off their list.
The biggest culprit that wastes time for both interpreters and translators is the cancellation. That is why we charge a fee for that. For interpreting it is completely lost income that we counted on and lost through no fault of our own and we don’t have time to replace it. For translations, we already spent time reviewing for the estimate and setup and we blocked off time for the work. Cancellation terms and fees should be presented up front when scheduled and agreed to in writing before leaving for the interpreting job or starting the translation job.
I learned these lessons when I first started doing this work thirty five years ago. Like all novice freelancers, I felt the obligation to say yes to every job that came my way out of fear of not having more work soon thereafter. We freelancers are basically unemployed at the end of each day unless we have the skills to develop a clientele that relies on us. There is another key to success, provide the best language work on time and you will be trusted and relied upon by the client. I have learned that it is a relationship based on mutual respect and trust.
Here is a good way for a full time employee to understand how the freelancer values time. If your boss assigns you a task and then takes it away and refuses to pay you for that time during your regular pay day. Or if you are called the night before and told not to come in the next day and that day’s pay will be deducted from your paycheck. Full time employees are protected by law against that, including unpaid overtime.
We freelancers have to negotiate those waters with tact and skill. Hopefully we are sailing a well-built ship.