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Who sets the rules of transactions?
Thread poster: peiling

peiling  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:00
Partial member (2006)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Sep 14, 2006

When I get a test translation, the agencies would say 'we cannot consider you' if I ask for minimum pay for the test. When I get a job, the agencies would tell me how much they are willing to pay and it's a 'take it or leave it'. The agencies also seemed to be the one to decide whether it is 30 days or 60 days payment. And also other details of the transactions. It seemed very difficult to have a certain degree of control over it all. Any suggestions on how to impose my rules (since I'm the seller anyway) without losing the clients? Thanks!

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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:00
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
There are substitutes Sep 15, 2006

Basic economic theory: there are substitutes for any scarce good.

Yes, you're the seller, but I doubt you're the only translator in your language combination available. If you don't want to accept the terms the agency offers, they apparently can find someone else. When they say "Take it or leave it", you always have the option of leaving it. You take the risk that they'll never come back. If the offer is unacceptably low, perhaps you hope that they never do. But if they can't find anyone else they may come back on your terms (or they may decide they don't need the translation after all).

There is nothing wrong with saying, "My rates are $x per word, I have a minimum rate of $y, which also applies to translation tests, I insist on payment within a week, and I also insist on doing my work with a caligraphy brush. Take it or leave it." You are definitely in control when you do that. However, if other people are charging $0.9x per word, do the initial test for free and turn in camera-ready work using a word processor, they're likely to leave it.

It's perfectly acceptable to suggest changes to their agreement, e.g., "I'll charge less if you pay faster." But in the end, you have to decide whether you want to take their offer or not and they have to decide whether they want to accept yours. You should accept that some potential clients are going to give you unacceptable offers. Not everyone who calls you (or whom you contact) will become a client.


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Wouter van Kampen
Thailand
Local time: 16:00
Danish to Dutch
+ ...
do not show your weakness Sep 15, 2006

If an agency faces you with the "take it or leave it" trick they already know that you will bow to their conditions.
When you do not like their conditions, just do not accept them.

All too often agencies are competing for the same projects and approach the same experienced translators to make test translations. When you know you are good there is no reason to swallow unfavourable conditions. They need you more than you need them.

Another good advice:
Stay away from agencies that act as brokers.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Both Sep 15, 2006

You can impose your rules without losing the client in exactly the same way as he can impose his ones without losing the translator.

In the beginning I did test translations for free, then I charged my usual rates and now I charge them +30%, because they are significantly more difficult than average texts (to help the client to differentiate between translators).

Concerning payment terms, I take a look at my account balance, and at the interests I would have to pay (12% per year ≈ 1% per month), and this may trigger an increment of my rates for a specific project or client; but this is rarely decisive, because rates increments are usually about ±10%.

There are thousands of agencies (+ direct clients) on the web and thousands of translators. We need only 1% of them and they need only 1% of us.

The point is to find your perfect matches.


[Edited at 2006-09-15 08:18]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 05:00
English to French
+ ...
Titi nailed it Sep 15, 2006

I know it will sound narcissic, but what s/he says is sooooo true: when you are good (and I didn't say fabulous either), it isn't you who need the client, it is the client who needs you. And in such a position, you have every right to ask for your own conditions - but ask for reasonable ones. When they ask you politely to lower your price / give them more time to pay / work faster / sell your grandmother for peanuts, etc., DON'T give in. Just say no. Those who are willing to pay for quality work will get back to you. The rest od them, well, you don't need those - and if you acknowledge their conditions, you hurt your market as well as everybody else's.

Good luck!


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:00
English to German
+ ...
Negotiation = a two-way process Sep 15, 2006

Spot on, Harry!
Harry Bornemann wrote:

You can impose your rules without loosing the client in exactly the same way as he can impose his ones without loosing the translator.

...

The point is to find your perfect matches.

This process is called negotiation, and should be a two-way process. If a proposal by an outsourcer doesn't feel right, it's probably because it isn't.

Best, Ralf


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Wouter van Kampen
Thailand
Local time: 16:00
Danish to Dutch
+ ...
Another very basic economic rule Sep 15, 2006

If you sell your services cheap you will become cheap

And many a poor translator made a broker rich.

Paul Merriam wrote:

Basic economic theory: there are substitutes for any scarce good.



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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:00
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Rates: you set them; terms, usually the agency Sep 15, 2006

I'll try to answer with my "translation manager" hat on (but tempered by my experience as a translator):


"Free" Test translations: You are in you rights to ask to be paid for them... and the agency has the right to not consider translators who don't want to go through the process. Personally I think that reasonably short (e.g. 300 words) free tests are OK, and when a good prospect asks me to do a free test, I generally accept, if I have the time.

Agencies telling you how much they are willing to pay: I suggest that one of the very first thing that should be discussed with a prospect are rates - you tell them what your rates are, minimum charges, rush surcharges, etc. - that way they can decide if you would be a good match (money wise) for the kind of projects they handle. I think they have a right to haggle a bit and suggest to you a lower price (but not too much so): some people may think that your first price was not a firm one but just an initial negotiatin position. It's up to you. But I suggest that you stick to your rate and stand firm.

As regards terms of payment, you need to know them beforehand, to decide whether you can accept them or not, but most companies won't accept (or honor) different terms of payments: if one company has organized its accounting system to pay everybody at 45 days, a payment at 30 days would be out of cycle, and disruptive to the process, so they would be very reluctant to accept different terms of payment (and even less likely to honor them).

In short:

1) Decide beforehand whether you like the prospect enough to do a short free test for them,
2) Stand firm on your rates, and
3) Decide whether you can accept the prospect's terms of payment.


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peiling  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:00
Partial member (2006)
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks. Sep 15, 2006

Those are very sound advice indeed. I will try to implement them. Thanks very much, everyone!!

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