First, note that the title of this post is not “How to do a good job on a rush job,” because often the two concepts are mutually exclusive. Realistically, no translator does her/his best work under extreme time pressure, but the nature of the industry is such that deadlines are often tight. So, when a good client calls with a rush job, how do you ensure that your output is as good as it can be?
- Understand the difference between a rush deadline and an impossible deadline. Everyone has a different definition of this, but to me, 4,000 words in a day is rush while 1,500 words in an hour is impossible. 15,000 words in a week is rush, but 10,000 words in two days is impossible, and I categorically refuse impossible deadlines.
- Make sure the client understands that rush work is not going to be your best work. I think that using terms like “draft quality” or “for informational use” is a good idea; help the client understand that publication-ready work requires a reasonable deadline and several rounds of proofing.
- Turn off the distractions. The home phone, your personal e-mail and your feed reader will detract even more from the quality of your work. Disable them until after the rush job is done.
- Quickly review the document. There is nothing worse than churning out 1,500 words in two hours, only to find out that the last five pages of the document are a translation of the first five, or that there is an existing translation of what you just raced to translate.
- Do some sort of quality assurance. Proofreading on paper, extensive terminology research and other steps that are crucial to the quality of a non-rush translation often have to be severely compressed for a rush job. However, it’s important to do some rudimentary quality assurance. At a minimum, look over the translation for any spelling errors that the spell-checker has marked (so that you don’t return the client’s annaul report or arcitles of incorporation) and then make sure that all of the parts of the document are there. For example, at least make sure that your translation includes the correct number of bullet points in a list, or the correct number of subheadings under each heading.
There’s no question that rush work can be stressful and does not produce the kind of result that most translators like to return. However, following these steps (and feel free to submit your own in the Comments!) can help increase the chances that you will do acceptable rush work.