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Some lessons I learned after I started subcontracting work

'e-commerce' photo (c) 2008, Garfield Anderssen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
It has been about 6 months since I started subcontracting work to other freelancers. So it's about time to make some conclusions and share my lessons.
I'd also like to hear from you if you have experience working with subcontractors.


First of all, before I started subcontracting work, I asked an agency owner who started as a translator to give me some advice. So here are three tips he gave me:
1. Sign an NDA with all subcontractors;
2. Ask a client for permission to subcontract their project. If they say 'no', don't subcontract it.
3. Proofread and if necessary edit the work you get from your subcontractors. Never send the work to the end client without proofreading it first.

I followed his advice and I am so glad I did. Thanks to that, I didn't have any problems with clients who gave permission to subcontract their projects. However, I came across some not very pleasant moments, too. And those moments came from fellow translators.
When I chose translators I made sure they had excellent recommendations; I read their previous translations etc. Only after that did I invite them for collaboration. I must say, all deadlines were good. I pretty much know how many words an average translator can do during a working day, so I'd never ask them to do anything impossible. And I paid them the rate they requested (far from the minimal one). Many of them did a wonderful job and I am so thankful to them (and I know our collaboration will continue), but I found that some of them behaved in a very strange way.

  • Some would send me a translation ahead of time but it wasn't proofread and contained quite a few spelling and grammar mistakes;
  • Some would send me the work that wasn't fully translated saying, "You are also a translator, so since that line looked tricky to me I decided to leave it in the original language and let you do it";
  • Some didn't send me the translation when I asked them to send it. When I asked them why they did it they either said that they forgot to let me know they wouldn't be on time, or they figured that I had some time before sending the work to the end client anyway (yes, I had some time, but it was for editing, not for waiting), so it wouldn't do any harm if they sent the translated text later.

Though I am a translator, in this case I am also a client. And such unprofessional behavior makes me speechless. Why would a translator do a good job for other clients and such a poor job for me? Why do they think that they can behave unprofessionally with a colleague who buys their services?
Any ideas?
The good thing is that my experience reminded me over and over again that I should NEVER EVER behave unprofessionally with my colleagues if they subcontract the work to me.

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