The Integrity Threshold

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

While I do not know how I managed to keep doing it for so long, the long duration gave me a unique insight into how large translation agencies work. This insight taught me that there is an enormous gap between what translation agencies offer in marketing and what they actually do.

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 told me to refuse the project because it would be impossible to deliver quality work.

But this was besides the point. The 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, did not matter. Turnover did.

This was not only the case for these less than realistic projects. In all of the agencies where I have 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 thought that there had to be a way to do it differently. 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, recently, I got a request for an urgent translation from a regular customer. However, after half an hour 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 I did not want to. This 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 were prepared to pay a big surplus for it, I still would not accept.

Will I not 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 next time, because they know that unlike many others, I will not sacrifice quality and sincerely consider it 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?