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How good is it to be a preferred translator
Thread poster: Heloísa Helena Benetton Costa

Heloísa Helena Benetton Costa  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:08
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Nov 17, 2008

Dear colleagues,

Some months ago, a company offered me to be their preferred translator for one of their clients. At the beginning, I thought it would be nice. The company had a 100% approval at the Proz Blueboard at that time. Months passed and I didn't hear from them, until a couple of weeks ago, when I was offer the project again.

But it ended that the projects had only 700 to 1,200 words per week (automotive field). After I had accepted the "role", they said that, as there would be a lot of small projects like that, they would only pay me until I reach 500 pounds in jobs. Then I made my figures: if I translated only those words/week, how many months would it have to pass until I receive my first payment?

This month I am overloaded and I had to say "no" for a 1,200/words job of theirs. They answered this (their exact words):

"... we were looking for a preferred translator for company XXXX. That means that we send work to you on a regular basis, but we will always need you to accept. We have worked on this basis with the other 7 translators for over 10 years. Do you not prefer to take on regular and reliable work?"

I don't know if it was me, but I found this extremely rude and answered it rudely too. The person was sarcastic, saying that I "must be lucky to have so much work in a worldwide decline".

There were other misunderstandings in our "contract" that also leaded to some arguments between us, but I will be brief. The fact is that I didn't sign anything stating that I'd work "exclusively" for them and that I would never say "no" to them. What obligations do I have with this client? I'm a freelance, for God's sake! They phoned me with the proposal. I know that oral contracts can be binding too, but... Then I learned another person was also "party" of the telephone call (the agency's owner, I believe - he mentioned that on his rude email). Is it regular business? Even in my country it would be strange!

This is the first time something that awful happens to me. Now their BlueBoard profile has not 100% of approval anymore. I just read that a translator was complaining that they didn't pay him. Maybe they are low in business, that's why they only want to pay me until I reach 500 pounds in jobs...

Have you ever experienced something like that? Please share!

Thanks a lot!

Heloísa

[Edited at 2008-11-17 18:32 GMT]

[Edited at 2008-11-18 14:35 GMT]


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:08
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Forget about them Nov 17, 2008

Hi Heloísa,
You're exactly right...it's not a good deal they offered you, and since you didn't offer them exclusivity they have no right to complain if you're too busy to take one of their jobs. To me, "preferred" translator would mean their first choice, not their ONLY choice.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:08
Member (2008)
Italian to English
BLueboard Nov 17, 2008

The company had a 100% approval at the Proz Blueboard


That doesn't necessarily mean much. Some, though hopefully not many outsourcers are known to manipulate their ratings on the BlueBoard by persuading unpaid translators to give a high BB rating, as a condition of paying those invoices (I have proof of this if you want to know more).

they said that, as there would be a lot of small projects like that, they would only pay me after I had summoned up 500 pounds in jobs.


At this point I would have started to think "I don't want to work with these people"

This month I am overloaded and I had to say "no" for a 1,200/words job of theirs. They answered this (their exact words): They said "Do you not prefer to take on regular and reliable work?"


What you prefer is none of their ******** business

I found this extremely rude


It is. At this point you should just have dropped them. There are plenty more fish in the sea!

The person was sarcastic, saying that I "must be lucky to have so much work in a worldwide decline"


At this point that person was becoming far too confidential and offensive. Very unprofessional !

I didn't sign anything stating that I'd work "exclusively" for them


I'm very glad you didn't. That would be crazy. Another much nicer client might come along tomorrow!

What obligations do I have with this client?


None whatsoever. Drop them immediately.

They phoned me with the proposal


Don't take any more calls from them. Keep your anwerphone turned on for a while.

I know that oral contracts can be binding


They wouldn't dare take this to law. Don't worry about it.

Now their BlueBoard profile has not 100% of approval any more.


Keep watching it to see if anyone who has given a low rating suddenly changes it to a high rating, or deletes their comment.

Have you ever experienced something like that?


Not exactly but if you have a couple of hours to spend I could tell you other stories.....

Heloisa - just drop these people! Life is too short!


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Paola Dentifrigi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:08
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
An observation Nov 17, 2008

Heloísa Helena Benetton Costa wrote:

The person was sarcastic, saying that I "must be lucky to have so much work in a worldwide decline".



I've had different experiences these days, so sorry, I can't share. But I picked this sentence in you post, as I am starting to have the feeling or better the certainty that many agencies are literally bullying us with this crise thing.
You don't want to work at 0,04 € word? You don't want to translate 4,000 words overnight? You don't want to accept their wonderful (for them) propositions? You have, there's a crisis.
I guess the crisis is real, but also a bogeyman. We'd better beware.

Paola


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:08
Italian to English
+ ...
Pretty strange definition of "preferred" Nov 17, 2008

FWIW, I don't think their original reply was particularly rude, but if they want you to guarantee your time they need to pay for it, simple as that. I agree with Amy - walk away, you don't need them.

[Edited at 2008-11-17 18:45 GMT]


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
"Preferred" translation experience Nov 17, 2008

Hi Heloísa,

I agree with your own thoughts as well as with Amy that there is something wrong with this company's idea of being a "preferred translator".

I was what I guess you could call a "preferred translator" for several years for a newsletter (and related documents) for a major airline, which was handled through a translating agency.

The end client (the airline) sent out notices weeks in advance informing the agency (which then informed myself and the other "preferred translators") of the dates the newsletter was expected to be sent by and returned to the client.

If there were other documents sent separate from these dates, or if these documents were sent on dates other than those announced, both the agency and the client were aware (and were made aware, if necessary) that any last-minute requests would be handled the same as requests from other clients - on a first come first served basis, priority given if and when possible.

I believe this was understood and respected, and I would presume that any other "preferred translator" agreement would and should embrace the same terms.


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:08
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Tom, you just reminded me of something... Nov 17, 2008

Tom in London wrote:

The company had a 100% approval at the Proz Blueboard


That doesn't necessarily mean much. Some, though hopefully not many outsourcers are known to manipulate their ratings on the BlueBoard by persuading unpaid translators to give a high BB rating, as a condition of paying those invoices (I have proof of this if you want to know more).


Not too long ago I got into a snarl with a company that had a great Blue Board rating. I've posted about this before, but suffice it to say, the PM was a disaster and was refusing to pay me for part of a job I had done (saying after the fact that it was a "sample" rather than part of a job which was canceled the next day). I stuck to my guns and they paid me, but when I got the PayPal e-mail, it included a request to give them a positive BB rating. I felt like saying "You really don't want me write something on the Blue Board, now do you?"


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:08
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Sounds abusive Nov 17, 2008

I've been in / am in "preferred translator" relationships, and what you are describing sounds like something very different. For me it means the agency prefers to keep an end customer by using my services I think this situation could perhaps be described better as "designated translator". Or maybe "designated sucker" when you consider the payment terms and the attitude.

"We have worked on this basis with the other 7 translators for over 10 years."

Whoa! That one sets off alarm bells with me. Doesn't sound like the "preferred" translators were very happy. The serious agencies I know build relationships that last for many years. This arrangement sounds like a revolving door.

You're busy. You have other clients who are serious. Walk away with a smile.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
(aside: a bit of reading in) Nov 17, 2008

Kevin Lossner wrote:
"We have worked on this basis with the other 7 translators for over 10 years."

Whoa! That one sets off alarm bells with me.


There isn't actually anything here stating that any of the "7 translators" had stopped working with the agency. It could be the other translators are working on different projects or in different language pairs.

There are plenty of alarm bells to go off simply in response to the part where they say "we will always need you to accept". No need to look further.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:08
English to Portuguese
+ ...
What does the label "preferred" imply? Nov 17, 2008

First of all, what is a preferred translator?

IMHO it's a choice made by the end-client, not the agency. The end-client wants it done by that guy or gal who translated job # XXX. That's the kind of translation they (the end-client, of course) want to deliver to their clients (not the agency's). If the agency can find someone who fakes it well at a lower cost, it's their game.

The price? It's that preferred translator's normal rate, plus the agency's gross margin. That's what the end-client pays, and it's not their business if the agency gets greedier over time.


Second, payment terms.

To keep you waiting untill your receivables fromr them reach a certain amount is a sure way to make you seek work elsewhere, in order to be very busy when they need you. If they keep you busy for a significant part of your time, and jobs are not too large, it's normal to close the account every two weeks, or every month, but not holding you unpaid until your bill surpasses a certain amount.

I had contact with an agency whose payment methods would be extremely expensive to me, per transaction. If the amount were small, the job wouldn't be worthwhile. They kindly offered to hold my payments until the accrued total became viable. My rebuttal was that they should pile up the jobs they had for me until these collectively represented a total worth that abusive transfer fee. Kindly as usual, they reminded me that their clients have deadlines too. Lawyers call this a leonine agreement. I'll get more info on such things in my next visit to the zoo.


Third, actually being a preferred translator.

I have been the preferred translator for a local end-client, not an agency. They usually give me rather loose deadlines, or maybe I work faster than they believe. How do they get speedy service from me? They have always paid me within 48 hours from delivery... for the past 21 years in a row!

Okay, they have been through difficult times, and I think it's normal that for some lesser jobs they resort to cheaper translators. Now and then they cross the line in that, and later hire me to redo a whole job from scratch. It's part of the game.

If they had 7 translators who gave them what they wanted, why would they ever care about me?


Finally, the key.

Like any vendor in any trade, a translator should have their own terms. If these, in view of the work rendered, offer a cost/benefit ratio deemed interesting by the client/agency, mutual preference will develop from there.

Some clients/agencies know that I'll always do my best to accomodate their needs, so they treat me the best way they can to have their needs accomodated. We don't label such relationship as "preferred" or any other name, we just live it up!

A one-sided relationship is not born to last.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:08
French to English
Reasonable request or not? Nov 17, 2008

Heloísa Helena Benetton Costa wrote:
This month I am overloaded and I had to say "no" for a 1,200/words job of theirs. They answered this (their exact words):

How long was the deadline, may I ask?
(Basically, I am wondering whether it is reasonable for the agency to expect you to be able to fit it in your schedule somehow, or whether they needed it unreasonably quickly given the nature of your arrangement)

FWIW, I have a similar arrangement to your "bill when you reach 500 GBP" with a client who sends me jobs of 500 - 1,000 words with no particular pattern. It was my idea, to save admin time. There is no deadline guarantee, although I always do them inside 48 hours anyway.

I don't know if it was me, but I found this extremely rude and answered it rudely too. The person was sarcastic, saying that I "must be lucky to have so much work in a worldwide decline".

I'm not sure that I take that as being especially rude, but we all have different standards of what we find acceptable Perhaps your reply wasn't what I personally would describe as "rude" either, in which case we can draw a discreet veil over the rights and wrongs of rude replies

Notwithstanding those areas where I personally don't see much of an issue, the question does arise about the arrangement in general, in terms of what would happen if you were ill or on holiday, i.e. unavailable even to read the email, let alone reply to decline the work. There is a BIG question mark over their approach to that. As others have said "preferred" is not a synonym of "only".
I would reconsider my relationship with them purely on the grounds of how well (or badly) organised they appear to be, although not specifically on the grounds of the tone of that particular email nor the billing arrangement itself.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:08
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Lucky?? Here's a good answer Nov 17, 2008

When, meaning to belittle one, people say "You're so lucky", I cheerfully reply"Yes, I'm lucky. And the harder I work, the luckier I get".
They hate it!
Love,
Jenny


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 14:08
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Dear company: Nov 17, 2008

"... I have been looking for a preferred company for myself. That means that you may send me work on a regular basis, but you will always have to accept my invoices. I have worked on this basis with the other 7 agencies for over 10 years. Do you not prefer to give somebody some regular and reliable work? So why not me?"

Eurythmics crossed my mind:

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
Travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused


It may look like I am making a joke out of a serious case. Believe me, I am not. But I have been between a wall and a hard place myself and, oh well, it is ugly sometimes.

All the best to you, Heloisa.Keep your head up, movin' on
Movin' on!



[Edited at 2008-11-17 22:32 GMT]


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xxxDr.G.MD

Local time: 14:08
Pricing power of translators? Nov 18, 2008

Dear Heloisa,

Don't be too upset, this happened to me, too. In this business obviously there is no pricing and negotiating power UNLESS we all agree on one binding form of contract and payment for all! Just imagine - where would all the translations come from if we would not agree to those often ridiculous payment terms (are you in the money lending business, anyways) and rates.

By the way "preferred"doesn't mean anyting at all, I know how hurt you must feel.

Good luck

Dr. G. from Canada


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Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:08
English to French
+ ...
What is wrong? Nov 18, 2008

I may be extremely dumb but I didn't understand what was wrong in the agency's commercial intentions or first reply.

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