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On Charging for Additional Translation Reviews

It is often difficult for me to handle client feedback on my translation deliveries in a way that keeps everyone happy.

I'm certainly willing to review a client's or proofreader's work on something I delivered. However, as I see it, reviewing these changes is a third step in the project and is a billable added-value service because of the time it takes and because I'm responsible both for the quality and deadline of the additional review.

Clients sometimes perform this proofreading or other review of my work in-house and then send it back with questions and revisions. In such cases, these often include unnecessary changes to the translation or questions which reflect an ignorance of Korean. Of course, I don't expect clients to know about Korean; that's my job. And if they want to rephrase some stuff in the translation even if it wasn't wrong when I delivered and then ask me for my opinion on it, that's their right, too. Even if there are some improvements to be made, that's also natural, especially if they didn't pay to have the file proofread by another qualified professional. But while I try to be flexible, I don't necessary consider this additional hand-holding to be part of my standard delivery; I feel that clients requesting additional support should recognize it as an added-value, which is billable.

This is the case too when a Korean speaker (such as another translator) is hired by the client to review my work. Including a proofreading step by a competent proofreader is a best practice that I encourage clients to follow. And if the proofreader is fixing lots of my mistakes, then I would apologize and offer to return money, not try to charge for more. But it's been my policy for a long time that if I deliver a professional and high-quality job the first time, additional work to review yet another person's changes to my translation is an added-value service.

I agree that each new round of review contributes (or should contribute) to a better job, but in every writing business (such as the newspaper; see This Translation Isn't Perfect!), there are multiple levels of proofreading and editing, and the original writer doesn't have to to work for free on later steps just because the proofreaders and editors are good enough to improve the original work (or so bad that they make it worse and the original writer/translator has to put it back together).

The problem is that clients often expect this follow-up service to be included in the original project cost. But if I build a buffer into the rate to cover this, then clients who don't come back with additional requests overpay and ultimately, it reduces my competitiveness for the very clients who require the least additional support (i.e. the kind I want to attract).

Another issue that comes in to play is that there are good ways to ask for follow-up support and bad ways to do it. If the cost of the follow-up isn't borne by the client, then it gives them no motivation to aim for efficiency. For example, making revisions to a Word file translation using Tracked Changes means that when I go through to review, I can see exactly what's been changed and do the review quickly.

But when a client sends back a file that's been revised and asks me to do a final review without telling me what's been changed, I have to go through everything again and it takes much more time. Also, scribbling changes on a printout and faxing it back for implementation also requires that I decipher sometimes difficult-to-read text and re-enter the changes to the work file.

Furthermore, when a client sends back a re-edited document for review, they're really telling me to take responsibility for the new version. Such requests also come with deadlines that I'm expected to meet, and these required turnarounds have a funny way of being "overnight" or "right away".

Put this way, the added-value aspect makes even more sense.

Here's a reply I sent to a client recently who asked us to build the review cost into our original rate so that they could send us additional work without paying extra. 

"It wouldn't be fair to you if we build in the cost of review not knowing what it will take, since I would have to plan for a worst-case scenario. If your reviewer has a few objective questions that are clearly marked, then that's saves us time and I might not even charge. It's also fine if they want to revise and finish it out at their end without sending it back to us to then take ultimate responsibility for an updated version. 

But if they just go through and make lots of subjective changes (including introducing some new mistakes) and don't even mark anything and then send it to us for a blessing, then that forces a full text review and is a value-added service for sure."

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