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Recommending Better Business Practices
Thread poster: David Jessup
David Jessup  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:20
German to English
Sep 14, 2003

Reading through the forum, I realized that many translators are basically suffering from the same thing, a lack of better business practices.

I started freelancing in 1985 after working for years with a major industrial company in the translation department.

THERE is such a thing as a Standard Terms and Conditions for Translators!

The excuses your clients use have no weight in court if you notify them of your terms and conditions before the work begins.
However, most of them have terms and conditions on the purchase order when they supply you with a translation job.
In the first years of my translations, I lost $95,000 US to companies that did not pay. Even though I won in court, I couldn't collect on most of them. You see, the court will tell you that you are justified, and the process is important if you want a collection agency to help you, but it does not guarantee you any funds.

Some of the excuses are;
The customer didn't like your translation.
I haven't been paid by the customer yet.
We don't use escrow for your funds.
etc.

This is one of the few professions where I was making 2 to 3 times as much per word 10 years ago. We are, as a profession, slipping backwards due to a lack of coordinated effort by translators to stop the slump, get our rates back up, and make payment a legally binding contract that can be enforced.

My recommendations for this are simple.

1. Agencies should be fully liable for paying translators for the work performed, not the client at the end of the rainbow.

2. Payments should be prompt, i.e., 8 days or less.

3. There should be protection in the form of a governing board, licensing agencies as well as transltors. This should include fines and possible jail for fraud, as well as renewal of licenses for both agencies and translators.

4. We should all agree on the Standard Terms and Conditions as a basis for all work performed, additions and supplements not being able to change the basic terms and conditions, but add to them for international work or special requirements.


Now, please add your thoughts, comments or suggestions. Take affirmative action before you get stuck working for a month and not getting paid.


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Irena Gintilas
Local time: 18:20
Lithuanian to English
+ ...
I hope we are not doomed... Sep 14, 2003

David,
Since we are talking global, it will be difficult to regulate these business practices. That doesn't mean that we should not try.
I agree it is high time we started working on some professional standards, affordable and reliable licensing, as well as better exchange of information.
I personally try to limit myself to work for American agencies; at least I have a consolation that I could report them to BBB if they would mistreat me. But foreign agencies often offer very interesting and versatile work, and I cannot resist. However, if even US courts cannot make the debtor pay the debt, - what do you do in international waters?

Irena


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 02:20
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Hmmm... Would it be so simple... Sep 14, 2003

David Jessup wrote:
My recommendations for this are simple.

1. Agencies should be fully liable for paying translators for the work performed, not the client at the end of the rainbow.

2. Payments should be prompt, i.e., 8 days or less.

3. There should be protection in the form of a governing board, licensing agencies as well as transltors. This should include fines and possible jail for fraud, as well as renewal of licenses for both agencies and translators.

4. We should all agree on the Standard Terms and Conditions as a basis for all work performed, additions and supplements not being able to change the basic terms and conditions, but add to them for international work or special requirements.


My answer as from the representative of an Agency:

1) We do pay the translators in all cases, except when the translation indeed turns out to be literally illiterate (very seldom, but happens, we do not have in-house proofreaders for all of 6000 world languages: ))) ). So from our practice I can say that squabbling client is our problem, not the translators. But I can speak only for our Agency, the business practices of competitors is business secret we can only guess from the attitudes of translators having had experience with them…

2) Hear, hear… We pay our translators in the Country within 2 weeks, the abroad ones within a month. We ourselves, though we demand payment from domestic clients within 5 banking days, often wait the payment for 2 months… we have contracts and all, but to start trouble would surely mean to loose a client. Abroad payments often are pending for 6 or more months.

3) Not that I support fraudulent business, but- haven’t you considered relocating yourself to the North Korea? IMHO, most of your suggestions are already inforced there…

4) Please name ONE internationally accepted FUNCTIONING practice. Even if your answer will be 10 Commandments, I’m not so sure they are universally observed…

Uldis


[Edited at 2003-09-14 22:28]

[Edited at 2003-09-14 22:29]


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David Jessup  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:20
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Right you are... Sep 14, 2003

To add to 3., yes they do have controls in other countries. Some of them are very good patterns we should look at when designing our own. It saves a lot of work.
For example, Germany has excellent guidelines, they would not only protect you the agency, but the translator and the client are also taken into consideration.

I still haven't seen any constructive ideas about how to go about getting something moving in the right direction. I think this may be 'THE' factor in getting anything changed or improved in the translation arena. The translators have to learn to act as a group. A very difficult thing, since most of them are working at a computer for hours on end and rarely have to interact with others. Those of you who do get out and teach, work the courts, etc., please excuse me, I know you do get out. But look at the diversity alone in our occupation.
I would certainly welcome any agency to keep me from having to search out clients and jobs, and to pay me fairly, and I would love to see them make a good profit for the work. I am definately interested in a win-win situation for all of us.

I encourage all of you to make suggestions and help to get this organized. I think the first approach is to find a spot to continue discussing this until we figure out how to make changes, where to start, and with what.


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sandhya  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:50
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
great suggestions.... Sep 15, 2003

..but as has been already pointed out, the translation community is an international one! Every country has its own laws and regulations! It is indeed difficult to set up ONE organization that controls ALL of us.
The most practical suggestion would be to set up a separate legal entity in each country, and then such entities can possibly merge into one apex international association with a representative from each country - something like the EU!!

This is a verryyy tough task, not impossible tho... but first we translators have to start taking our profession seriously and treat it with respect, improve our own business practices...:-)
sandhya

David Jessup wrote:

To add to 3., yes they do have controls in other countries. Some of them are very good patterns we should look at when designing our own. It saves a lot of work.
For example, Germany has excellent guidelines, they would not only protect you the agency, but the translator and the client are also taken into consideration.

I still haven't seen any constructive ideas about how to go about getting something moving in the right direction. I think this may be 'THE' factor in getting anything changed or improved in the translation arena. The translators have to learn to act as a group. A very difficult thing, since most of them are working at a computer for hours on end and rarely have to interact with others. Those of you who do get out and teach, work the courts, etc., please excuse me, I know you do get out. But look at the diversity alone in our occupation.
I would certainly welcome any agency to keep me from having to search out clients and jobs, and to pay me fairly, and I would love to see them make a good profit for the work. I am definately interested in a win-win situation for all of us.

I encourage all of you to make suggestions and help to get this organized. I think the first approach is to find a spot to continue discussing this until we figure out how to make changes, where to start, and with what.



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lien
Netherlands
Local time: 01:20
English to French
+ ...
Yes Sep 15, 2003

David Jessup wrote:

1. Agencies should be fully liable for paying translators for the work performed, not the client at the end of the rainbow.

2. Payments should be prompt, i.e., 8 days or less.

3. There should be protection in the form of a governing board, licensing agencies as well as transltors. This should include fines and possible jail for fraud, as well as renewal of licenses for both agencies and translators.

4. We should all agree on the Standard Terms and Conditions as a basis for all work performed, additions and supplements not being able to change the basic terms and conditions, but add to them for international work or special requirements.



and a platform like Proz.com could be a good place to start to change things.

Lien


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:20
Flemish to English
+ ...
Translators are Sep 15, 2003

"L'Unité fait la Force" (United We Stand) is the device of a certain country.
Translators indeed sit behind a computer isolated, fighting for their piece of the global translation cake and looking for the slightest opportunity to call each other (highly)"unprofessional"- a typical bromide of the translator- instead of establishing a worldwide minimum rate, good standard payment conditions,... It is that attitude which makes the translation world "a jungle".





[Edited at 2003-09-15 08:53]


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DGK T-I  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:20
Member (2003)
Georgian to English
+ ...
Exchange of information - Blue board & other PPlists.... Sep 15, 2003

Irena Gintilas wrote:

David,
Since we are talking global, it will be difficult to regulate these business practices. That doesn't mean that we should not try.
I agree it is high time we started working on.....as well as better exchange of information.
I personally try to limit myself to work for American agencies; at least I have a consolation that I could report them to BBB if they would mistreat me. But foreign agencies often offer very interesting and versatile work, and I cannot resist. However, if even US courts cannot make the debtor pay the debt, - what do you do in international waters?

Irena


Like you, all of us would ultimately find it more difficult to collect bad debts outside of the jurisdiction of the country we live in, or sometimes others we often visit and have close links to. However using the Blueboard and other payment history lists, to pinpoint whether potential clients may be good or bad payers, and supporting such lists by making honest reports of experience, is some protection in both international & "home" markets.
Also, if one is being refused payment under the agreed terms for no good reason, a client who wishes to secure translators in future has an incentive not to acquire a bad reputation on the Blueboard or other payment history lists - so as long as we are in the right, the threat to blacklist a debtor is a useful one, at least on some occasions - and if it needs to be carried out, will at least warn others in future. If the debt justifies it, there are debt collection agencies that work internationally, too....but that is another matter.
It's not always easy, but I don't think we have to regard ourselves as doomed, "at home or abroad"

[Edited at 2003-09-15 12:00]


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Irena Gintilas
Local time: 18:20
Lithuanian to English
+ ...
To Dr. Giuli Kvrivishvili Sep 15, 2003

When I mentioned BBB, I had in mind Better Business Bureau, not Blue Board on proz.com.
BBB operates across US and Canada and is really powerful.


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DGK T-I  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:20
Member (2003)
Georgian to English
+ ...
Appreciated what was referred to :-) Sep 15, 2003

Irena Gintilas wrote:

When I mentioned BBB, I had in mind Better Business Bureau, not Blue Board on proz.com.
BBB operates across US and Canada and is really powerful.


Hello Irena,
I fully appreciated you were referring to the BBB - the point I was making was that it is also valuable to use translators' PP resources such as the Blue board (and others too, see forum searches). The organization you refer to can be useful as well - I'm aware of it through experience dealing with N.American clients - in one particular case it gave me useful additional contact information and the leverage of an additional route to complain or blacklist if not satisfied, both of which were genuinely helpful - although in that case it was a watchdog that wasn't barking warning when other watchdogs were, and were right to do so. I've no reason to doubt that on other occasions it might provide useful warnings. We should utilize all the tools that are fairly available to us.
Best wishes
Giuli

[Edited at 2003-09-15 13:50]


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gibra
Local time: 01:20
English to German
+ ...
I have a dream... Sep 15, 2003

"This is one of the few professions where I was making 2 to 3 times as much per word 10 years ago. We are, as a profession, slipping backwards due to a lack of coordinated effort by translators to stop the slump, get our rates back up, and make payment a legally binding contract that can be enforced."
Don't get me wrong: I think ProZcom is really useful and of great help to any translator. But I also think that through the way its job market works, it encourages the dumping of prices. A lot of agencies here offer jobs for only 0,06 Euro or even less per word. That's completely ridicoulus and an insult to any translator trying to deliver good quality work! And the worst is: they do get bids... In a country like France where you have to pay a lot of tax you cannot really survive on rates like that, except you work illegally. How about proZcom imposing minimum rates, or at least recommending them to agencies, pointing out that it will certainly enhance the translations' quality? (Probably impossible, I know - but it would be so nice...and I seriously think that everybody would win with such an arrangement, even the agencies)


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David Jessup  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:20
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Rates Sep 15, 2003

I'm not sure about this, I will check into it, however, fixing rates is usually illegal according to trade laws. It is in the same boat with boycotting and other practices used to control any market.
If nobody would work for that price, they would be forced to pay more. But, as mentioned above, we are now competing globally with countries where you can live off of 0.01 / word rates.
I think we might have a chance if we could get some form of statistics for an hourly comparison of the word rate, like an average or something. Then we could complain that we don't make minimum wage any longer...

Any ideas?


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