Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Oh, to be a freelancer!

I am fuming! So what else is new?

No, no, this time I am really angry.

I got a telephone message yesterday (didn't hear it until earlier today – no one phones me these days so I very often forget to check) from the translation agency I've been working for since 1987. Until three years ago I worked full-time for them, translating classical music CD notes and tourist brochures (for the British Tourist Authority); because of health problems and because of the stress caused by having deadlines every two or three days, I gave it all up, except one brochure – the Scotland guide, which usually keeps me chained to my PC all summer, well, the whole of July, i.e. all summer, and then here and there until the end of October, since I have to proofread the stuff and it comes in dribs and drabs. This year, I was due to receive copy around July 15th. Anyway, this phone call: it said that the BTA was going to be three or four weeks late. Three or four weeks late! Oh, ok, it might clash with the work I usually do for the BBC later in the summer, but, never mind, it probably would be ok. Not to worry. It means that I can enjoy the good weather this year, maybe, with a bit of luck.

I phone the woman earlier today and she tells me that the BTA's deadline cannot be moved, because of... whatever. So, hang on, let me get this right, they will be three or four weeks late on a job that normally takes four weeks to do and the deadline has to remain the same. When do I get to do the work? Erm, well, don't know, really. And, on top of that, the English copy will be supplied in batches, not all in one go, so I will be kept dangling for... how long? No one knows.

I'm in the kitchen and I start flinging some pots and pans around, I'm so angry and frustrated. The woman goes, "If you think you can't do it..." "I can't afford not to do it. I have to say 'yes'." "Oh, J! I can't hold you hostage." "I have to say 'yes'. If I don't do it, you'll give it to some little French girl, just off the Eurostar, and I'll never get it back and it might turn out to be ok and I could have done it. I have to say 'yes'." I start hyperventilating.

We go on like that for a while. She tells me it's a problem for her too, and for the editor, who's just had an operation, etc. Yeah, right! My heart bleeds for you both. I'm the one who does the work. Hello?!

Every year it's something else. Last year, she called me in May to let me know that we might not be getting the Scotland brochure to do because the BTA might refuse to pay for proofreading. Since 1987, I've done the proofreading for no more money, and suddenly, in 2004, she decides that it's not acceptable and all work should be paid for. Fantastic! Except that the BTA might say, "Don't even think of it! We'll go and get someone else, thanks." What about me? I'd rather do the brochure with unpaid proofreading than no brochure at all. In despair, I phoned the Translators' Association: they told me I would be within my rights to get in touch with the BTA and offer my services direct, since I had no written contract with the agency. In the end, I didn't have to: the BTA agreed to everything. Do I need this stress – every year? Well, find me something else to do in the summer and I'll chuck it all out in a heartbeat.

Slaps to the BTA and to the agency for giving me such grief!

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