A while back, I was watching a documentary on the Château de Chambord. They were looking at its very special and complex architecture trying to find hints of Leonardo da Vinci’s involvement, and so I got to see the master’s notebooks again. I’ve always been fascinated by da Vinci’s notebooks, full of scribbles and sketches, sometimes even one on top of the other, as if a better idea suddenly popped into his mind. I got inspired to start my own public notebook of sorts, here on this blog, to discuss small ideas or features I think of from time to time.
Today’s feature scribble is one I’ve actually thought of when preparing my Brown Bag Lunch presentation last April, thinking about how I could help a freelance translator be more efficient at her job and offer a better experience to her clients. A good chunk of her time is spent just talking with clients about the work they want done, dealing with due dates, pricing, etc. It’s also usually a game of phone tag, which eats away at her day so she has less time to devote to what she loves doing. She tells me that most people have no clue how long it takes to translate the text they are submitting. And that’s fair, we rarely know what’s involved when we hire someone else to do a job. But it means they often ask for very tight deadlines, without realizing just how unreasonable their deadline is.
I also learn that she is equipped with a translation memory, which is basically a database that digests past translations she’s done, and can compare those to any new texts and suggests passages she might have already translated, which happens more often than you’ think especially with corporate/marketing documents.
It seems to me, then, that we can have a nice system for her clients to submit work to her, all the while educating them and guide them towards a reasonable delivery date.
A client want to submit a text for translation, let’s allow them to do it online. I know, right? Online form, how high-tech is that! But wait – that’s not even the cool part! They enter their basic information, and then upload the document they want translated. The system automatically comes back with an estimated cost. (including any rebates from pre-translated passages found in the translation memory) But having estimated how long it will take to translate the document, the system also suggests a minimum delivery date, i.e. the earliest reasonable time this document can be translated. The client is still allowed to set their own delivery date, but if they need it before that suggested date, they are warned that their work might incur “rush” surcharges, and that their order will not be confirmed until they have been contacted by the translator. (so she can see if she can move things around, etc…)
Now this is all done smartly: she sets how many hours she works each day, an average translation speed, etc. She has full control over those parameters, so that the estimates are as accurate as possible. When the order comes in, she quickly reviews it, and makes any necessary adjustments; if the quote is changed because of her changes, the client is sent a final quote by email. And of course, if the client went with the rush job option, she then calls them to try and see if she can fit them in or not. But in most cases, no more phone tag: all the information she needs to plan her work day is right there, at her fingertips. And her clients already know when they will get their text back, and how much it’ll cost them.
So simple, really, but it’s the kind of details that benefits both her and her clients; they will so love the convenience and ease with which they can send her work, that they will crave coming back to fill out the magical order form. Again. And again. And again!