Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The dread "Hi All"

Some large translation companies seem to make an habit of sending their messages not to you, but to all and sundry:
Hi All,
Could you please confirm ASAP if you would be available for this request. 
I normally no longer answer such "Hi All" messages, but since this guy was so insistent (this was the third or fourth message I received from him in the last couple of days, all about the same project), I made an exception:
Hi [Name of PM],
I am sorry, but we are not available.
The reason I have not answered sooner is that I no longer answer messages that are broadcast (“Hi All”), since they normally just signify a waste of time (usually, when you confirm you availability you then get a message back along the lines of “sorry, but the project has already been assigned to someone else”).
If, in the future, you need me to confirm my availability or the availability of my team, please note that I only will answer to messages that begin “Hi Riccardo”, “Dear Aliquantum team”, or the like.
Best regards,
Translation companies, please note: messages addressed to a group are fine, if the entire group is working on the same project.

In exceptional circumstances you can use them, if you really need an answer in a hurry, and you don't know who is currently available - in those instances I would suggest prefacing your message with an apology: "Hi All, Please excuse the mass e-mail, but ...".

But if you make an habit of always sending your messages to all, please consider the likelihood that they will be answered by none.


  1. I agree, mass e-mails are a big loss of time, unless one is desperate and replies within seconds to get any job, I guess.

    Another problem is that some agencies have started to use mass e-mails all the time, while using the "Please excuse the mass e-mail" apology every time.

    Does it mean that they always received extremely urgent translations?

    Maybe educating end clients would resolve part of the issue - If they knew that a translator's turnaround is about 2000-2500 words a day and if they took into account the time for proofreading, there might be much less panicked mass e-mails in our inboxes!


    1. Well, when they use the "please excuse the mass e-mail" every time, they soon end in the spam folder, courtesy of a simple Outlook rule.

  2. Hi all :)

    I hated it when I was a freelance translator (though I was lucky enough not to receive too many of those), therefore we, as agency, never use it. We normally call the translator we think suitable for the project to confirm availability, then email them with whatever is needed for the project.

    One that I personally hate is, after having emailed someone, with my name in the signature and email address, I get a reply with 'Dear Madam' or sometimes even worse 'Dear Sir/Madam'.

    Coming back to the 'Hi all' issue, it seems as if you don't really care who is going to take on the project. It's first time first served. Not very professional I would say. It should not be an auction.

    1. Don't get me started on the "Dear Sir/Madam"... we regularly receive several every day from translators offering their services to us. People should realize they would greatly enhance their chances of success if they addressed their messages to a real person, instead of "Dear Sir or Madam", "To whom it may concern", and the like.

  3. Hi all :-)

    I am working for a translation agency in Germany and I can understand your point, but if you consider that we have hundreds of freelancers in our data base and urgent projects, you can imagine that we just do not have the time to contact people personally. We are all under time pressure like you too.

    If you do not like such mails, just delete them. As I said, I just do not have the time to write to twenty people asking everyone individually if he or she has the time to translate xy.

    We have a private life as well and want to go home after 8, 9 or ten hours of work :-)

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      If you think of translators as interchangeable cogs, that one is just as good for any project as any other translator, then, yes, I can see why you want to spam them with your group e-mails, and then send the translation to the first one who answered (or, I suppose, to the cheapest one that answered).

      On the other hand, if you think of translators as professionals, and you want to assign your client's translations to the professional best suited to each individual job, you would contact them individually.

      There can be exceptions, of course, especially for particularly urgent jobs. But if all your jobs are "urgent" I guess it means that you (or your company) have failed to explain to your customers that if they want their work translated right they also should give you the time necessary to select the best translator for the job.


    2. Yes, most of our jobs are urgent and yes we see translators as professionals, we do not choose the cheapest, as we have set rates in advance.
      I think you should work in a translation agency to understand my view.
      We have over 500 translators for English->German.
      I do not know when someone is available and as I said we just do not have the time to write hej you have time..and do you have time...I just got a project with 23 million can imagine..
      I don´t see why mass mails are so unpopular, why freelancers feel offended. It´s just a way of organizing work in a highly stressfull industry. There is no place and/or time for sensitive egos.
      If you don´t like them just tell the project manager to take you off the list. I used to freelance and the mails did not bother me.

      Happy translating.

    3. Dear Riccardo, you are also forgetting one thing. We are only passing on the stress we get from companies ourselves. Try to explain them why we need more time to select freelancers. They do not want to understand. It´s like everywhere in free markets, it´s all about profit and companies do not want to wait 6 months for large projects just because the "best translators" are not available.

      I am not saying that I like this fact, but we all have to accept it.
      Time is money and yes we do contact freelancers personally, but not every time and not for every project. Depends...depends also on the manager.
      I am sending mass mails, others do not.

      I tried to avoid them, but when you are in a hurry and keep getting douzens of mails with: sorry I am not available.
      Our company e. g. does not pay overtime hours, nor are we allowed to take a day off to compensate these hours and the pressure we have to stand is not funny (burn out, sleeping problems, tremor, anxiety).

      I am not trying to convince you of mass mails, but every coin has two sides.

    4. I told a successful German agency I prefer being spoken to using my name, if not call me, because I think there are hardly any better ones out there and so they should be trying hard to book me, individually. Or risk getting hack work from hack providers which they and the customer can then suffer from, or test quality into. Winnow out earnings from our share with time pressure, low rates and you have only deferred the problem like an Enron accountant, or Goldman Sachs and Greece. Money wields power, greed tragic results. These are the kind of folks who make a translator's life _potentially_ miserable. Put your foot down.

  4. There really is very little excuse for attitudes like that displayed by our German PM here in an age when affordable project management technologies are available which can automate personalized inquires to multiple translators in stages if the preferred individuals do not respond in a reasonable period (which I would define as longer than the ten seconds some spammers find too burdensome a wait). But really, an even better investment would be in personal relationships with good teams of translators, which is what the best PMs do. They know better than to descend to the level of faule Spam-Meister im sprachlichen Rotlichtmilieu

    1. I think that translation companies that make a habit of sending their projects to all might think again if they saw it from their customers' point of view:

      Dear Customer,

      Remember all those promises our marketing people made to you? You know how we could deliver top quality by always providing the translator best suited for your projects?

      I imagine they were a big vague on the details of how it all works in practice - don't blame them: after all they work in marketing, and are not up to all the latest trick that we PMs have to actually get the best translator for your job.

      But now that you are a valued customer of ours, we can tell you - this is how we do it:
      1) We send an e-mail to all the translators in our list (if we have time on our hands, before sending it we make more or less sure we are sending the e-mail only to the translators that work in your language pair), asking for their availability for your project.
      2) The first person that answers get to translate your job. The second gets to edit it. All the others get a message to try again next time.

      Best regards,

      ACME Translators

    2. I quite agree, Riccardo. Last week I received another version of the dreaded "Hi All" email:

      Dear translator's name,
      We are looking for an experienced translator...

      I presume the PM meant to replace "translator's name" with a much more personal "Hi all", but in his haste the email was sent out to 10, 50 or 100 "undisclosed recipients" before he even noticed.
      Verdict: #PMfail

  5. I would prefer "Hello World" instead of "Hi All" ;) But, well, this is fine for this time!


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