Probably the one thing most translators will agree on regardless of language combination, country or age is that clients always seem to want the translations done as quickly as possible, meaning yesterday.
While there are clients who ask for a possible delivery date from the translator, most of the time they have a date in mind and will tell you if your proposed delivery date is too late.
To be fair, not all requests coming in are super urgent, but especially the courts, larger companies, and private clients tend to be more in a hurry.
When dealing with a new client, I find myself even more inclined to agree to a deadline that’s too tight for my personal comfort, particularly if I would like to enter into longer-term cooperation. On the other hand, this year has been incredibly busy for me and I’ve been trying to find a good balance between work and time off (as I wrote about here), but it is not easy.
Late last week, I had a request come in, which indicated the likely date of the job being awarded for this Friday. Knowing that I would be gone Friday through Sunday for the annual board conference of the BDÜ Bayern, I gave one week for delivery in my offer – thinking it would be the following Friday. But then the positive answer came on Tuesday, meaning the delivery date would be next Tuesday, three days earlier than I had planned for.
Of course, this was not the fault of the client. The award date of Friday had been indicated as likely, not definitive, after all. But it put me into a situation I had tried to avoid.
I had two options: Grit my teeth and put in some night shifts in order to meet the earlier deadline, or ask the client for an extension.
But this was the first project for a new client. They had gotten my contact data from a colleague (networks pay!), so there was a little more connection than if it had been a «blind» RFP, but still. We didn’t know each other.
After some deliberation, I decided to be honest and wrote an email that said:
I admit, I had actually only expected the job to be awarded on Friday – is the date of 15 November fixed? If so, I will of course make that possible, but would also be grateful if the date could be postponed by 1-2 days.
The worst that could happen was for the client to say no. Maybe he would think somewhat unfavorable thoughts about me, but as long as I deliver good work, I was not overly worried.
The answer that came in a few hours later read:
We officially have to hand in the final report on 15 November, but I think if we hand it in 2 days later, they won’t tear our heads off.
Since we would like to review the translation, it would be great if you could send us your version by 16 November at the latest. So that we have 1 day to proofread or ask questions.
I admit I was surprised – I guess deep down I didn’t expect a positive response, after all – but very happy and grateful. I mean, that answer was not a given at all, especially since there is another party involved.
So now I have a little buffer which I may or may not need, but just having it takes a load off my shoulders. And it also motivates me to work even harder.
It just goes to show that asking for what you want or prefer is always an option. Just be prepared to receive «no» for an answer. That way, a «yes» is even better.
So thank you, lovely new client! I hope you’ll be happy with our cooperation – I will certainly do my best.