Various ramblings on current trends in our industry
Thread poster: Anthony Baldwin

Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:59
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Apr 9, 2008

There are current trends in the translation industry that are, as said in Brasil "enchendo meu saco demais".
They are annoying me to no end.

In general, I am speaking of dealing with translation agencies.
They are demanding more and wanting to pay less.
They want discounts for repeated words in a document.
They want the translator to waste time filling out numerous online forms just to be able
to submit an invoice, and, now, I have agencies asking me to fill out forms to document
any terminology research I do during a translation.
They want to dictate rates, including dictating discounts.
They want to dictate payment terms and deadlines.
They want to dictate what tools I use.
They want us to surrender our translation memories and glossaries.
They want to pay ridiculously low rates.
BASTA JÁ!
These agencies seem to forget:
1) I'm not your employee. I am my own boss, as a freelancer, and I provide you a service.
This means:
I decide what price I will work for and what services I provide.
If you don't want to pay my rate, you can find someone else.
I have the right to modify my rates based on project parameters.
Yes, that means I will charge more for pdf files of photocopies of handwritten heiroglyphic chicken scratch.
I reserve the right to modify my rates for other reasons, as well.
That means, no, I will not work for you for the same right I gave you three years ago,
I don't care what your database or online system says. Update it.
If you issue a PO agreeing to my rate, then, you will pay my rate. Your PO is binding.
If you request additional services once the PO is issued and the rate agreed, I have every right to either a) refuse to provide those additional services, or, b) demand additional fees and an updated PO.
I determine what the final charges are. I am providing the service.
I don't care what Trados says. My word count stands.
There are NO discounts, if I have not authorized them.
I don't authorize discounts unless I miss a deadline. (That has happened twice in my entire career).
I decide when payment is due. If you don't make payment on time, you will pay late fees as I determine.
I have every right to determine what tools I use, so long as I provide the end-product the client needs.
Unless you provide a specific tool, you have no right to demand that I use it.
I don't want to use your tools. I have my own, thank you.
They work fine. In fact, they work better than yours.

2) Filling out your forms and crap takes time. I will charge for that time, and you will pay, or I won't waste my time with that crap.
When I deliver a product, I also send an invoice. If you accept the product, the invoice is binding, and due within 30 days.
I don't care about your online invoicing system. I have my own invoicing system; It's called "I send you an invoice
with my work; You pay said invoice within 30 days or pay late fees."
3) Creating translation memories and glossaries takes time. That is work. If you want to benefit from this work,
then, they must pay for it. I will not work at substandard rates and delivery glossaries and translation memories for free.
Forget about it.

4) I am a highly educated, knowledgeable professional. The resources I use cost money. I have bills to pay. I deliver your project on time. You must pay me on time.

Another phenomena I am noting with ever increasing frequency is that agencies are simply sending less work, or, at least, fewer complete translations, and more "only the parts in highlighted in yellow need translated" translations, and/or more revision work.
Do you know why? Because we gave them our TMs and glossaries, so now they are running new texts through their CAT tool or machine translation tool, and "don't need us".
This is why they send us revision work, and not new translations.
Very bad revision work, they send.
As a result, I have decided to double my hourly revision rate.
It's cheaper to hire me to do the original translation.
Revision work gives me headaches.
Just this past week I did a revision for an agency.
The document was for a client of theirs for whom I have been doing all the translations for three years.
It was clear, in this case, that they ran the document through their CAT with MY TMs accepting something like 50% match (accounted for nearly a third of the new text), and then sent it
to a non-native speaker, likely in some third-world country working for sweatshop rates, or ran it through
Babelfish or some nonsense, to translate the remainder, and then sent this "translation" to me for
revision. After what I charged for all the time it took to fix the mess they had made, they would have been much better off simply to send the original text to me for translation. Heck, I ended up re-translating over half of it, as it is.


Understand, I worked as a painting contractor for a number of years.
I understand how contract work is supposed to function.
You ask me for an estimate, you hire my services, you pay for my services according to the contract.
Sure, you can clearly set parameters for what services you wish, and, I can decide if I wish to provide them or not. If I don't or won't provide the service you want, hire someone else. Don't hire
me based on the services I provide, and then attempt to modify them.
I am free to choose what tools I use.
If you request additional services once a contract is signed, I have the right to modify the contract or refuse these additional services.
The original contract is still binding, unless we agree to modify it.
Yes, the contract is binding. You don't get to decide after a product is delivered that you want to alter the
terms of the contract, unless we mutually agree to modify it.
You must pay when payment is due, or you owe me, according to the terms of the contract.

I provide top-notch translations, and I offer very, very reasonable rates, in most cases below industry
averages, because I have lower overhead and better productivity due to the FREE/Open Source tools that I use.
I provide them quickly, because my tools grant me additional efficiency, as well, that your Windows crap
can't handle, being resource hogs, unstable, and prone to crashes and viruses, etc.
You want my services at my rates, I will use the tools I choose.
The rate I gave you IS MY BEST RATE!!
No, I can't work for less, or I would have offered you a lower rate.
Don't haggle. Pay my rate or find someone else.
The likelihood of you finding someone else with my qualifications working at my rate or less is very slim.
No. You can not dispute my invoice because I didn't invoice based on your Trados word count.
I already told you, my word count stands. You accepted the translation and delivered it to your client,
my invoice is binding.
Pay my invoice...and the late fees.

Now, and this is significant, I also run an agency, in addition to my own freelance work.
I apply these principles.
I hire a contractor to provide a service.
I hire qualified, professionals. These folks deserve to be paid professional rates.
So long as you can provide the end product, the tools you use are your own business.
Sure, I may ask you to sign an NDA or contractor agreement. If you don't like the terms, we
can negotiate, or I'll find someone else.
You decide what your rate is. If I don't want to pay it, I'll find someone else.
Once you've delivered a project, I owe you the fee I agreed to pay.
I will pay that fee, on time (usually within 48 hours, but guaranteed within 45 days).
If I'm late in payment, I will pay a late fee. That's fair.
I've never paid late.
I send you a PO and that PO is binding.
I don't ask for discounts unless you've missed the deadline or failed to deliver the product AS SPECIFIED in the PO, and, in that case,
this is agreed before the project is assigned, and documented on the PO.
I never ask you to set your rates globally. You have every right to determine your
rates on a per-project basis, as appropriate to the subject matter, file formats, and requested
target product.
If I ask you for your glossary or TM, I will pay you for it. Those are valuable items.
Clearly, with those items, I can do some stuff for myself rather than send it to you.
I can generate a TM from the text you provide me and the original source text, anyway, using
tools I have here (bitext2tmx), so, in general, I won't ask for yours. I can make my own.
Sure, I will run a new text through these TMs, then send you the original text
and the partially translated new text and ask you to translate the remainder, and proofread the existing translation, but, I will pay you for it, as you determine is appropriate.

Anyway, I've got work to do...enough rambling...
I know, this is poorly organized. That's why I call it rambling.

[Edited at 2008-04-09 15:27]


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The Misha
Local time: 00:59
Russian to English
+ ...
I concur - so what's the problem? Apr 9, 2008

You are right on all points, now all you have to do is live by them. That's what I do. Am I underemployed? Sure, but all the work I do is on my own terms or close. The extra time I have on my hands, I spend pursuing other interests. There's more to life than translating operating manuals and shoe catalogs. Cheers!

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gianfranco  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:59
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
It is mostly our fault Apr 9, 2008

From the translators' perspective, the points that you have acutely highlighted are mainly our own fault. We can blame only ourselves.


They want to dictate rates, including dictating discounts.

Most translators accept the status quo and almost expect to be told from their clients how much to charge...
They want to dictate payment terms and deadlines.

Dictate is a strong word. But if the client has payment or deadline material constraints, we should at least take them into account when setting a rate for a specific project.
They want to pay ridiculously low rates.

And often find gullible or inexperienced or uninformed translators who take the offer.
I decide what price I will work for and what services I provide.

See above. This concept is totally unknown to many estimated colleagues.
I have the right to modify my rates based on project parameters.
Yes, that means I will charge more for pdf files of photocopies of handwritten heiroglyphic chicken scratch.
I reserve the right to modify my rates for other reasons, as well.
That means, no, I will not work for you for the same right I gave you three years ago,

Many agencies expect a price to remain fixed for any type of text, in any format and any payment term. (I wonder if they work in this way with their clients...)
As a result, many translators accept this situation as a fact of life, and basically work using the same rate virtually for any project. The many parameters that influence their work, the time spent on it, and ultimately their hourly/daily income are not considered.
The simple reasoning is "This agency is paying me XX per word". End of the story, difficult to change this rate, it stays as if it was written in stone.

* * * *

In general, your description is very sad but very true. Translators, as a category, are generally poor at discussing business terms. The agencies, being more experienced in that respect, easily manage to dictate their own terms.

The problem is that, when they find somebody not willing to be dictated in their way, they are free to go elsewhere, and they really go elsewhere.
If some individual translators, a slim minority, are determined to have their time and expertise properly valued and properly paid, very often the contract is lost in favour of somebody else. One of the many hundreds competitors will be willing to accept that job at almost any condition, including abysmal rate and offensive payment terms, etc.

To improve on this situation there should be a large majority of commercially aware translators, but they are a rarity.

bye
Gianfranco



[Edited at 2008-04-09 17:09]


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 07:59
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Profession versus business Apr 9, 2008

Indeed, sad but mostly true.

I keep repeating: in freelance translatiion (from a freelancer's perspective), translation is a profession and freelancing is business.

Most of us haven't learned nor been taught business.

From the perspective of most TA's, it's all business, in a nutshell.

Translators oblivious of the business aspects of freelancing will always lose.

There are different trends on the market, and some of them are positive. For one, I notice the increase in the number of TA's who care about quality rather than price. Unfortunately, this trend is countrbalanced by the growing number of DTA's (desktop agencies) run with the only purpose of getting money; the common tactics is getting - using all means and ways available - between the paying client and translators, and then subcontracting the cheapest translator.

With translators, the two primary problems, in my view, are
- lack of information / poor understanding of the "whole picture"
- lack of business skills

Can we do anything about it?

Sure we can.

One of the simple and straightforward ways is Powwows. Every month, thousands of us meet to spend time together - we miss personal communication and enjoy it; but these informal get-togethers can also be useful! Those who understand what it's all about can tell others. Share experience. Spread information. Give advice. Teach to say no. In short, help each other.

It may seem - and is - an immence task to change the market for our own benefit. Nevertheless, from my own experience, I know it's working, slowly but steadily, it does!

Cheers,
Oleg

[Edited at 2008-04-09 21:03]


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:59
Member (2004)
Italian to English
Cooperation Apr 9, 2008

What you say is not unreasonable. What it ignores is the role of the agency in the chain. They obtain our end clients, deal with all the unreasonable expectations and demands of inexpert philistines, help us with our problems and continue to show their appreciation for professional services by giving us work.
We all have a part to play and cooperation is the name of the game! We depend on eah other.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:59
English to French
+ ...
They don't want - they already have Apr 9, 2008

Anthony Baldwin wrote:

They want to dictate rates, including dictating discounts.
They want to dictate payment terms and deadlines.
They want to dictate what tools I use.
They want us to surrender our translation memories and glossaries.
They want to pay ridiculously low rates.


A small correction... These are not things they want - they already have these things. Most of us were not minding our respective businesses like we should have, unfortunately. I just hope that these people will - sooner than later - wake up and realize they are running a business.

As for the rest of your post - where do I sign?


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 07:59
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Agencies versus agencies Apr 10, 2008

Russell Jones wrote:What it ignores is the role of the agency in the chain. They obtain our end clients, deal with all the unreasonable expectations and demands of inexpert philistines, help us with our problems and continue to show their appreciation for professional services by giving us work.
We all have a part to play and cooperation is the name of the game! We depend on eah other.

Two types of cooperation:
Example 1. The agency contacts the translator in advance with a scheduled job; the parties agree on a rate, and the agency doesn't mind a surcharge of 25% for the PDF source; the job is assigned based on the turnaround of 2,500 words a day; the translator sends a list of questions (acronyms that only the end client's engineers can understand) and the agency gets the answers within reasonable time; a few days after the delivery the file with tracked changes comes back with a request to accept of decline changes; the final file and invoice are emailed to the client, and 30 days after that (or even earlier) the money is at the translator's bank account.
Example 2. The agency sends a job telling it's urgent, they want 8,000 words tomorrow EoD, the PDF is poorly scanned but the end client "has a limited budget", requests to help with the acronyms the source is full of are left unanswered, the translator sends the file and get's no confirmation thus not knowing if the client really got the file or not; two days later the agency sends a new file saying "the cllient changed a few words - can you please make the corrections" but these words are to be found in these 30 pages; next, there's a DTPed file - "please mind that you should not expect payment for checking it!"; the standard payment term is 45 days and when the translator contacts them after two months because the money didn't arrive, the reply (received in a week) says "Oh sorry! There's a mixup at our accounting - can you resend your invoice once again?" and the countdown starts anew...

Do you know one interesting thing? Usually, the type I agency pays twice as much as the type II one.

Cheers,
Oleg


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Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:59
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Ah, well... Apr 10, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:


As for the rest of your post - where do I sign?


That information is freely available on my website, which can be found through my profile.


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xxxJon O  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:59
Dutch to English
+ ...
anger management? Apr 10, 2008

Are there any anger management courses for translators? It seems as if certain people could benefit from them...

[Edited at 2008-04-10 08:59]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-04-13 14:28]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 07:59
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Why work for agencies? Apr 10, 2008

http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/65/1/Working-for-Agencies

A balanced view!


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JackieMcC
Local time: 06:59
French to English
wrong sort of agencies? Apr 10, 2008

I do sympathise, Anthony - and from reading other threads I know there are plenty such agencies around. But there are good agencies out there too.
I've been working with a handful of agencies for many years, and I can honestly say that:

None of them impose CAT or other tools

None of them run documents through a CAT and then ask me to translate what's left

None of them haggle over prices. They know my rates for standard jobs. For unusual jobs I give them a quote, which they always seem to find acceptable. (If their end client does refuse my offer it's usually because I can't meet the deadline.) By the way, I don't sell myself short, my rates reflect my experience and qualifications.

I've only had one problem receiving payment for my work in the past 15 years.

If the terms change - I find a job is more complicated than initially expected or the end client adds on bits, makes changes etc. I always explain that I will be charging extra and that is never a problem. Often I charge an hourly rate for this.

I do give discounts if they are merited - basically, I want a fair fee for the work involved and time spent. I've never had to get into any arguments over this.

Nor have I ever had any arguments about word counts.

I'm not boasting and I hope I don't sound smug - I value my clients, they treat me well, I treat them well, we have a good relationship.

What I'm saying is there are good agencies out there - obviously you can't drop all these other clients overnight, but maybe you could start looking around for the kind of clients who will treat you with the respect you deserve. It may take time but it sounds as though it would be time well spent

bon courage !

Jackie


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xxxNicoletta F
Local time: 06:59
English to Italian
and my favourite lines are... Apr 10, 2008


Unless you provide a specific tool, you have no right to demand that I use it.
I don't want to use your tools. I have my own, thank you.
They work fine. In fact, they work better than yours.


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Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:59
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
doh! Apr 14, 2008

Jon O wrote:

Are there any anger management courses for translators? It seems as if certain people could benefit from them...

[Edited at 2008-04-10 08:59]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-04-13 14:28]


I KEEP TELLING YOU PEOPLE!
I DON'T NEED AN ANGER MANAGEMENT COURSE!!!



/tony

[Edited at 2008-04-14 00:01]


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