The Integrity Threshold

Before I started working as a freelancer, I worked as a project manager for fifteen years in a number of Belgian translation agencies.

While I don’t know how I managed to keep it up for so long, this long period gave me unique insight into how large translation agencies work. It taught me that there is an enormous gap between what translation agencies offer in their marketing and what they actually deliver.

Occasionally there would be a customer in my customer portfolio with a big translation project, yet with a completely unrealistic deadline or too many other crazy expectations. My common sense told me to refuse the project because it would be impossible to deliver quality work.

However, the agency manager always forced me to take on and complete the project anyway. The fact that the quality so often mentioned in company marketing was not attainable, didn’t matter. Turnover did.

This was not only the case for these less than realistic projects. In all of the agencies where I worked, none of the translations were revised as they should have been: a second translator who reads through the translation sentence by sentence to check the language and content.

These translation agencies were happy to trade their integrity for turnover.

Differently and better

When I became a freelancer, I knew there had to be a better way. I opted for quality and I promised myself that I would never go below the integrity threshold and would never give in to the lure of extra turnover.

For example, I recently received a request from a regular customer for an urgent translation. After half an hour, however, I realised that I would not be able to complete the assignment. Providing a quality translation within the proposed deadline simply was not possible.

Could I not have just gone for a ‘sloppy’ translation so that the customer still had something? I could have, but that kind of translation does not meet the quality threshold I set myself. This threshold, and my integrity, mean the world to me. Even if the customer was prepared to extra, I refused to accept the job.

Won’t I lose that customer? Why would I? The customer respected my decision and was happy with the tips I gave him to do the ‘sloppy’ translation himself. The customer will definitely return in the future, because he knows that unlike many others, I will not sacrifice quality and sincerely consider quality my priority.

The integrity threshold is a powerful marketing tool and characterises you as an entrepreneur. On the condition, of course, that you never ignore this threshold.

How about you; have you set your own threshold?