We recently hired a contractor for a professional service (not related to translation). This person happened to be an acquaintance of ours and we were familiar with his work -- let's just say he's a graphic designer (he's not). Last week, we received a phone call from him that made us decide that we wouldn't work with him again. Why? Ready for some tough love? Read on.
He called during our workday to ask us to help him with some profession-specific problems that we cannot solve. Still, we took time out of our day to give him some pointers. They were difficult issues, but that's what we are paying him for. In addition, we think it's simply unprofessional to take the clients' time in situations like these. His main concerns were things that he should have foreseen before accepting the project. The conversation revealed that he simply wasn't ready to deal with some details related to the project, which didn't exactly make us feel warm and fuzzy. The bottom line: As the client, we don't want to hear about a contractor's business issues (unless his computer dies and our files are lost). That's what colleagues and friends are for. We've always strongly advocated having a "complaint club" and not complaining to your clients -- unless it is a very specific question that only the client can answer, of course. Now that we were on the receiving end of the contractor's complaints, we feel even stronger about the need for a complaint club. Let us explain.
Choose two of three colleagues whom you like and feel very comfortable with. Friends are fine, too, but they should probably understand your business. Then, ask them if they'd like to be your complaint club. It's a small, exclusive club of people you can call when you need to vent, simply want to talk, or need solid advice on how to solve a business-related problem. We have a complaint club, too. In addition to the two of us, it has three honorary members, and those are the folks we call for advice and help. Naturally, we don't call our clients to vent or complain, but you'd be surprised how many people do (including this morning's contractor). Your clients don't care about whatever issues might arise during the translation process. They pay us to translate, interpret, copywrite and to solve their problems. Think about it: do you want your lawyer to call you to complain that she is unable to upload a large file to her system? Venting and asking for advice is important, healthy, and part of any business -- but choose your complaint club wisely. We think a big part of the professionalization of our profession is presenting ourselves as what we are: independent service providers who can tackle difficult issues.
Who's in your complaint club? We'd love to hear about it!