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Quotations: whose job are they?

Irene Vidal // 17/04/2012 // The translation profession

Good evening,

I would be grateful if you could give our agency a quotation and completion date for the attached document.

Best regards,

Over the last couple of years, it has become increasingly common to receive emails like the one above. They tend to be sent by translation companies which we don’t know at all as we have never worked with them. They do not even take the trouble to briefly introduce themselves in the message. They go straight to the point. Why waste their time? I’ve also noticed that these requests are particularly common when they need a translation of documents in pdf format. Is that by chance?

I have to admit that the first couple of times I fell into the trap. I received the email, saved the attached documents to the appropriate folder and started all the usual process to obtain the total word count, the total price of the job and a rough idea of the time I required. I included all this information, carefully detailed and set out in a document, stating the company name, reference number and date of the quotation, followed by a breakdown of the items, noting that this was a translation from this language to that language of the document named “xxx”, the total word count in each document, the applicable rate and relevant comments.

After sending off the magnificent document containing the quotation, here comes the surprise: I didn’t receive a single message in reply. Two days later I sent an email to see if they’d taken a decision on my proposal. Again, absolute silence. Even so, I came up against the same situation, an exact replica, a second time.

From then on I realised that this situation is not unusual and that it is a sheer waste of time. Their tactic is highly productive: without lifting a finger they receive several proposals giving them the word count of the documents and, on top of that, a varied range of prices, from which they select the lowest.

All this work, which is no small job, falls upon the translation company. They are responsible for preparing the quotation, calculating the volume, knowing the collaborator’s conditions (rates and potential surcharges) and estimating a delivery time. Once this has been put together, they send the proposal to a regular collaborator to find out if they are available. That’s how reputable and professional translation companies work.

Emails of this kind denote that the company does not have a regular team of collaborators, but assigns the work to the lowest bidder and the one who offers the shortest possible time-frame, however implausible that time-frame may be. Nothing could arouse the suspicion of the potential collaborator more. Nevertheless, however indignant these emails may make us, we must reply to them. It’s as simple as thanking them for getting in touch, telling them our rates for the potential work and the surcharges that may apply. Lastly, we can suggest that they provide us with the word count so that we may propose a completion date. We are professionals and must show ourselves to be just that.

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