I’m a big believer in writing scripts for important occasions; the first time that I presented at the ATA annual conference (a presentation on free and open source software at the 2004 ATA conference in Toronto), I typed out every single word I was going to say, including a few pre-scripted jokes. When Eve Bodeux and I record our podcast episodes, we write out a fairly complete script for the episode; these days when I do presentations I don’t necessarily write out a full script, but I make a detailed outline of the talking points for each slide I’m going to cover. Rather than making me feel constrained, I find that scripts free me up because I’m no longer afraid of forgetting a really important point or of saying something weird or incorrect while searching for what I really want to say.
Lately I’ve realized that I use scripts a lot with my clients too. I find that if I think ahead of time about how to answer some frequently asked questions that have the potential to be contentious, I’m much less anxious about negotiating. Here are some ways that I use scripts, and please feel free to add your own ideas.
When a client is pushing the deadline on a project. My goal: to show the client that I’m not being lazy, I’m just asking for what I need in order to do my job well.
Client: We have 20,000 words and we need it translated in 6 working days.
Me: In order to do the kind of job I want to do for you, I would need 10 working days. Or In order to produce quality work, I really try to limit myself to 2,000 words per day.
When a client is pushing for a discount. My goal: to bow out while allowing the client to save face. If the client is offering a ridiculously low rate, I’m not concerned with allowing them to save face and I might respond, “To be honest, I don’t know any professional translators who work for that rate.”
Client: Your rate is not in our budget, can you give a discount?
Me: Because I am very busy at my standard rates, unfortunately I can’t give a discount at this time. If you have a project with a larger budget in the future, please keep me in mind.
When I am bidding on a project that I really want, and I would be willing to offer a discount. My goal: to win the project at the highest rate possible.
Client: What would you charge to translate this?
Me: At my standard rate, I would charge X. If that is not within your budget, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do. I feel that with this type of response, I’m not undermining my bid by outright offering a discount, I’m just offering to “do something” which could take the form of offering a lower rate with a longer deadline, offering to have the document edited at my expense, etc.
When a client client brings up vague quality issues with a translation. My goal: to calm the client’s anxiety and get some more specific feedback.
Client: The end client wasn’t happy with the translation. It wasn’t what they wanted, can you fix it?
Me: I’m really sorry to hear that, because happy clients are always my ultimate goal. At the same time, it’s hard to know what to change unless I can see some specific comments and preferably an edited version of the translation with the changes tracked. If they can send that over, I’ll make time to look at it right away. If necessary, I sometimes find it helpful to offer the client an analogy, such as “For example, you wouldn’t call your mechanic and say ‘My car isn’t running right, what’s wrong with it?’ In the same way, I really need some specific feedback about the translation in order to make it fit the client’s specifications.”