Jost Zetzsche Tool Kit

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My two cents about dealing with the clients - 7

It is not enough if you are a good translator. You should also be readily available. Many good opportunities in life come at the least expected moment. Success in life consists in, among other things, being in the right place at the right time.

Hence keep your communication route always open. This necessitates a telephone as a basic need. Another cardinal rule is to try to handle yourself the incoming calls. Children should not be allowed to handle the incoming calls. If this suggestion is hard to implement, keep a cell phone for your exclusive use. And another important thing to remember is to keep it always with you. A cell phone shall not become “univercell” phone! :))))

The use of cell phone opens up new possibilities.

In this competitive world, every person is in a hurry. The client wants to contact you assign you the job after bargaining the rates and possibly have the translation previous day itself!

Hence it is up to you to make proper arrangements for being always available. It is a good thing that nowadays telephone connections are easy to get, at least here in India. I remember the days when I started this translation practice way back in 1975. In those days getting a telephone connection implied a wait for a few years even.

But in those days the translation jobs came to me from the Government of India through Insdoc. They used to send jobs by registered post and I had to send the translations by the same route. Life was going on in a more sedate pace.

Let us come back to the present. It is important not to miss calls when you are not at home. The wife is there of course, but she too could be away when the phone call comes. This is how I handle the situation.

Whenever I go out, I transfer the incoming calls to my land line to my cell phone. Since there is another phone for the family's use, they are not affected. This call transfer feature in my landline is a boon to me, in that I get all the incoming calls in my cell phone. There is no question of missing any call. And this transfer is effective even when I go to other cities in my country thanks to the roaming feature in my cell phone. The only catch in this setup is the presence of signals in the place where you go. Gradually this problem is being addressed by commissioning more and more transmission towers.

To sum up: Your cell phone should be exclusively with you. You personally attend the incoming calls. I will add one more thing. Please be polite while attending calls.

Rest in next installment

Dondu N.Raghavan

Monday, September 04, 2006

My 2 cents about dealing with the clients - 6

Never give unnecessary details. What are they? As usual, I will proceed from my own example.

You are holding full-time employment in some organisation. You want to take up translöation jobs in your free time. Now, translation is a part-time job. While contacting your clients for your translation activities, you should never reveal to them, where you work. Believe me, once they know you are employed full-time elsewhere, they will do their utmost to find out where you work. Well, it is an information of no concern to them. That's all. I will relate here some of the encounters I had in this connection.

Surely you would have heard about the ISO 9001. One of its salient points deals with information management. When a job is assigned to a person or to a group, it is necessary to give them all the information essential for executing their job. How about other inforation. They are never to be divulged. If you are wondering about my point, just be patient. I will fit this doctrine to my case.

What information are at your disposal?

You are an engineer. How many years' experience? What are the languages being handled by you and how much experience do you have in each language? How fast can you translate. What can be your deadline for a given job?

Is it necessary to give all these information to the client? Yes, of course. And they must be genuine information.

Now abou the information that are not to be divulged. As I mentione above, you hold a full-time job. The client will be curious to know as to where you work. What good can come out of that knowledge? Nothing, is the only obvious answer.

But there are many answers to the question, "What bad can come out of that? The first answer will be, the information given out by you is no longer under your control. It will actually turn into a Damocles sword hanging over your head. You are unnecessarily handing over a blackmailing lever to the client. It may happen that your full-time employer gets to know about your part-time activity and he may decide to send you home. An internal auditor in my organisation lost his job in this manner.

There was this Delhi client. Even he didn't ask me about my full-time employment but his subordinate officer pestered me for this detail. I politely and firmy refused. He protested that he was my friend and surely I would not deny a friend his wish. I told him drily that he was not a friend and just an acquaintance. Once I took voluntary retirement to take up full-time translation, I told him where I worked. I was shocked when he told me that his wife's brother was the accountant in my organization. I knew him well, a trouble maker. Had he known at the crucial time, I would have been out of the organisation in no time. It was really a great escape.

Once I quit the full-time job, the fact of my working in the concerned organisation became a detail to be supplied. In that organisation I worked as Electrical Engineer as well as French translator for 12 years. And this combination is of vital interest to a potential client.

I will tell more in the next instalment.

Dondu N.Raghavan

Sunday, July 02, 2006

My 2 cents about dealing with the clients - 5

Do not for God's sake accept at face value whatever the client says. Some clients are in the habit of saying that they have thousands of jobs in the pipeline and expect to get some reduced rates from you. This too will, more often than not, be just a bluff. Most probably the job in hand will just be a one-time job. No further work can be expected in the near future. Their stake is in lowering the price. I will tell you here how I deal with just such ploys.

I do not know about the professionals in other fields. But we translators have one problem. Most of us are shy about telling in clear concise terms our prices and conditions. And quite a few of us are easily brow-beaten to accept low rates. Compared to other professions, translators are not that frequently appointed as full-time employees. Further, any time retrenchments take place, the translator is among the first to be shown the door. This causes nervousness in the mind of the translator, especially a novice. All these things factor into getting him accept a low rate. He wants to be sure of earning his bread in a regular manner.

By nature he is usually an introvert and does not mingle with others as frequently as the professionals in some other fields. This is one of the reasons, why he became a translator in the first place. He prefers reading to moving with people. And his reading helps him to hone his language skills and the rest is almost foretold. So, the translator has to overcome this inhibition and be bold in negotiating. Then only he can avoid a lot of future heart burns and make a success of his profession. For this he has to be ready to deal with the tall promises and bluffs some of the clients indulge in.

Always take these promises with a pinch of salt- some of the promises even requiring two pinches! A client could say that he has got thousands of pages for translating and he can provide you with non-stop work. Hence you are expected to be reasonable and accept a lower rate. The rule of thumb is, it is all just hot air. Even if they have only one job in hand, they will talk so. Their aim is to reduce the rate to the bone. We cannot fault them for it. I have got a formula worked out for dealing with this type of promises.

First I will express my happiness in knowing about the potentially big translation assignment. But then thousands of pages get translate into fulltime job. However that has got more hidden costs that are involved in employing fulltime staff, as any good industrial engineer will tell you nor am I keen on a fulltime job. Thus I will arrive at my proposal. I will say for example, I charge Rs.700 per hour. I will agree to come for an hourly rate of Rs.500, provided he enters into a service contract with me for at least one year promising 3 days of eight hours each per week. This works out to 56 days a year and 13 days a month. Within one month, the client can choose his 13 days in any manner he wants. I will suggest Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The client will be taken unawares and mumble that perhaps he has not that much work. Then I will sweetly suggest two days a week at Rs. 550 per hour. No dice. Rs. 600 per hour for once a week over the next year? Not a chance. Then my smile will broaden and I will politely decline any reduction in my rates. Then the negotiation will proceed on another plane.

One client asked me in all sincerity, when there are umpteen translators ready to do the work at a lower rate, why he should pay me a higher rate. For that my reply is instantaneous. As I have got clients paying me the rate demanded by me, I see no reason to accept a lower rate.

My policy is never to accept a rate which you cannot afford. I will go further. Once you accept a lower rate with one client, it is very difficult to increase the rate with that client later on. My stand is clear. A client should come back because I am a very capable translator and not because I charge less. And I am firm in maintaining this.

More in the coming installments.

Dondu N. Raghavan

Saturday, March 18, 2006

IT can help in nabbing terrorists

My dear friend Mr. Ravi Balasubramanian sent me this email, which I converted into Tamil and put up a post in my Tamil blog. Now with his blanket permission, I hasten to put it my English blog as well. I am talking about the same Ravi Subramanian, whose another email inspired me to put up my post "Loss of friend".

The problem of terrorists is looming everywhere in the country. Experts from all over domains are thinking hard to solve the problem. Half the problem will be solved when there is a simple way of nabbing them. It is here that our hero Mr.Vijayakanth from the Tamil silver screen comes to our rescue. He has taken a vow to develop software for nabbing the terrorists. Here is how he proceeds. His various steps are shown easy to follow images that figure in his film "Vijayakanth, IT Super Star!" Here goes:

Now an urgent request. Never reveal to our Vijayakanth that it was I, who put up this post. I am putting on a disguise just in case.

Dondu N.Raghavan

Computer illiterates around the world

Computer illiterates around the world making you appear cleverer by comparison

For people moaning about their helplessness with computers, here are some examples showing the state of knowledge in others. You are definitely better off than they are, given the fact that you have succeeded in coming to read this page! Here goes:

True telephone conversations recorded from various Help Desks around the U.K

Helpdesk: What kind of computer do you have ?

Customer: A white one...

> > ====

Customer: Hi, this is Celine. I can't get my diskette out.

Helpdesk: Have you tried pushing the button ?

Customer: Yes, but it's really stuck.

Helpdesk: That doesn't sound good; I'll make a note ..

Customer: No ... wait a minute... I hadn't inserted it yet... it's still on my desk... sorry .

> > ====

Helpdesk: Click on the 'my computer' icon on to the left of the screen.

Customer: Your left or my left ?

> > ====

Helpdesk: Good day. How may I help you ?

Male customer: Hello... I can't print.

Helpdesk: Would you click on start for me and ...

Customer: Listen pal; don't start getting technical on me ! I'm not Bill Gates damn it !

> > ====

Hi good afternoon, this is Martha, I can't print. Every time I try it says

'Can't find printer'. I've even lifted the printer and placed it in front

of the monitor, but the computer still says he can't find it...

> > ====

Customer: I have problems printing in red...

Helpdesk: Do you have a colour printer ?

Customer: No.

> > ====

Helpdesk: What's on your monitor now ma'am ?

Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me in the supermarket.

> > ====

Helpdesk: And now hit F8.

Customer: It's not working.

Helpdesk: What did you do, exactly ?

Customer: I hit the F-key 8-times as you told me, but nothing's happening.

> > ====

Customer: My keyboard is not working anymore.

Helpdesk: Are you sure it's plugged into the computer ?

Customer: No. I can't get behind the computer.

Helpdesk: Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back.

Customer: OK

Helpdesk: Did the keyboard come with you ?

Customer: Yes

Helpdesk: That means the keyboard is not plugged in. Is there another keyboard ?

Customer: Yes, there's another one here. Ah...that one does work !

> > ====

Helpdesk: Your password is the small letter a as in apple, a capital letter V as in Victor, the number 7.

Customer: Is that 7 in capital letters?

> > ====

A customer couldn't get on the internet.

Helpdesk: Are you sure you used the right password ?

Customer: Yes I'm sure. I saw my colleague do it.

Helpdesk: Can you tell me what the password was ?

Customer: Five stars.

> > ====

Helpdesk: What antivirus program do you use ?

Customer: Netscape.

Helpdesk: That's not an antivirus program.

Customer: Oh, sorry...Internet Explorer.

> > ====

Customer: I have a huge problem. A friend has placed a screensaver on my

computer, but every time I move the mouse, it disappears !

> > ====

Helpdesk: Microsoft Tech. Support, may I help you ?

Customer: Good afternoon! I have waited over 4 hours for you. Can you

please tell me how long it will take before you can help me ?

Helpdesk: Uhh..? Pardon, I don't understand your problem ?

Customer: I was working in Word and clicked the help button more than 4

hours ago. Can you tell me when you will finally be helping me ?

> > ====

Helpdesk: How may I help you ?

Customer: I'm writing my first e-mail.

Helpdesk: OK, and, what seems to be the problem ?

Customer: Well, I have the letter a, but how do I get the circle around it?

Taken from this URL:

The abovementioned is from a posting that was initiated by me. My fellow translator Parrot added this gem:

Customer: Hello, I need to replace a broken part of my computer.

Help desk: Which one?

Customer: The glass holder.

Help desk: The WHAT???

Customer: You know, that tray with the hole in the middle that pops out when you push the small button...

Friday, March 17, 2006

My 2 cents about dealing with the clients - 4

I spoke thus in the first part of this series dealing with client relations: "Be clear about the rates. Many translators lose out on this aspect. It may be true that the job is easy for you and you love this work. But there is no need for you to tell this to the client. If you do so, he will start behaving as if he is doing you a favor.

You have a skill to market, that is to say translation. The client does not have it. Period. Even if he were to have it, he just cannot afford the time taken to do the translation himself. That's why you are there. This is the true position. Now all that remains to be done is the pricing of your services. Some clients may try this ploy: "This is a job after your heart and it is actually an art. Trying to haggle is just cheapening this art, don't you think so?" Allow no one to pull the wool over your eyes. The client is solely interested in reducing his costs. To such clients I gently say, "Sir, you are a sensitive soul and it does credit to you, I am content to be an admirer of mammon". Beyond this no client had proceeded, as in truth he is a keener merchant than I am!

Let's come to another ploy by the client. A 10-page paper may contain some sentences repeated more than once. This happens mainly in patents, wherein the same idea may be repeated with different numerical values. Especially in the patent claims section, there will be full paras repeated from the earlier descriptions. When the client is aware of this, he will expect you to charge less for repetitions and at times even forgo payment for the same, for the simple reason, that the work is made easy for us. I never allow myself to fall for this line of reasoning and will reject their reasoning outright. Well, the repetitions are not my concern. I did not bring them about. What I have is a paper and if the client wants it translated, he better pay me the full amount. My price is based on the rate per word. There are softwares available for counting words in various types of files. I always use this mode of charging. This too is susceptible to many changes depending on circumstances but they are beyond the scope of this posting. In short, the client's reasoning on this account is not acceptable.

But do remember to be polite while mouthing all these things and keep smiling, while being firm at the same time. Even if the client were not to agree to these things, always make sure that you keep the door open for a later entry to the client's office. Who knows what the future will bring?

It is also important to shape your prices to suit the client's needs. For example, there was this client, who had a 100 page document containing around 30,000 words and just 3 days' time before he had to understand it and take action. If one were to translate it in toto, at least 20 days were required. He just did not have that much time. So he asked me whether I could go through the document and give him a true picture of its contents. This called for reading out the document and then giving the client an oral presentation of its contents. I went to his office for 2 days in succession and gave out oral summaries of various chapters to a team of 4 different domain people. For this I cannot charge in terms of words. I resorted to hourly rate plus taxi charges to and fro plus coffee, tea, lunch etc as applicable from time to time. Under this regime my minimum billing will be for 2 hours per assignment. I did the work to the client's satisfaction. As this was a first time for me, I gave one disclaimer at the outset, namely, the time period required for the work depended on the client's capacity to absorb things quickly. And this is beyond my control.

Some of you may frown on my mentioning tea, coffee, lunch etc. My friend had to face a lot of embarrassment just because he didn't talk these things out beforehand. He was taken to Trichy, where he had to stay in the same hotel as the client but had to pay his own bills. He ended up with a net loss of Rs.200 (that was in 1981).

How does one calculate the hourly rate? I have the following formula for this. I know how many words I can turn out per hour. This multiplied by my word rate will give my hourly rate. That's all.

Rest in coming installments.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Translator or otherwise, this is important

Health - Recognizing a stroke!

Maybe you are in perfect Health to bother about this. But then, you may have an opportunity to save a family member, friend or stranger.

During an outdoor dinner at a seaside resort near Chennai, India, a friend stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine and just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes. They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food - while she appeared a bit shaken up, Lakshmi (name changed) went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening.

Her husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital - (at 6:00 pm, Lakshmi passed away). She had suffered a stroke at the dinner- had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke perhaps Lakshmi would be alive today.

It only takes a minute to read this:

A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed and getting to the patient
within 3 hours which is tough. There is nothing more life saving than getting the patient to the hospital in the FIRST ONE HOUR! The Golden Hour it is now known as to Doctors and emergency attendents alike!


Remember the "3" steps. Read and Learn!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify.
Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

1. *Ask the individual to SMILE.

2. *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

3. *Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (i.e. . . It is sunny out today). If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call
Emergency immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

After discovering that a group of non-medical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions. Widespread use
of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.

A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people;
you can bet that at least one life will be saved.


Dondu N.Raghavan