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Translation agencies getting cheekier every day...
Thread poster: Martin Wenzel

Martin Wenzel
Germany
Local time: 01:24
English to German
+ ...
May 31, 2007

Perhaps I am one of the very few in this forum who think that this is the case.

However, just yesterday I received a translation "that needed a bit of polishing up", -- they have their ways of wording and concealing the truth, thus playing down the actual amount of work involved.


Needless to say that they offered only 20 Euros for 5 pages, however only sparingly decorated with words.

I declined because I have done too many cheapies for them and felt I needed to draw the line somewhere...

In addition, the file was in PDF format, so I would have had to convert it first...

I could see from looking at it fleetingly though that it was a pretty bad translation, but then (yesterday) I did not take another look because I had declined in the first place.

Looking at it again today - over a cup of coffee - made me conclude that it must have been a machine translation (but no mention of this by the translation agency...)-

For those who understand German:

Flächenheizung in 2 Ausführungen

Panel heating in 2 executions

Mobile Fußbodenheizung mit Abdeckblech, befahrbar

Under-floor heating with cover plate, passably

gewerblich genutzte Gebäude

commercial used buildings

I would like to know if others have also noticed a similar trend in the industry...


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:24
French to English
+ ...
Bass-ackwards May 31, 2007

Martin Wenzel wrote:

Needless to say that they offered only 20 Euros for 5 pages, however only sparingly decorated with words.




THEY don't "offer" or set fees, YOU do.

That small difference changes the entire tenor of a negotiation AND your professional positioning.

Cheers,
Patricia


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Anne Wosnitza  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:24
English to German
+ ...
But still... May 31, 2007

... if the price an agency 'offers' is too low, it is not even worth thinking about negotiating. A few days ago, I received an offer from an agency that needed about 30000 words translated (extremly tight deadline, of course) and after I've sent my rate they said that they could only offer EUR 0,004 (!!!) per word.

I just didn't see any point in negotiating here - and I've found them searching for translators on some other pages a few days later...

Best regards,
Anne


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Wouter van Kampen
Thailand
Local time: 06:24
Danish to Dutch
+ ...
Precisely May 31, 2007


THEY don't "offer" or set fees, YOU do.

That small difference changes the entire tenor of a negotiation AND your professional positioning.

Cheers,
Patricia


That's the attitude!

I wish one day, the majority of translators would understand that. It would counteract the ever going on intense pressure on rates. Mind you.... low rates are the results of the activities of middlemen preying on a low self esteem of, especially the younger, translators.

[Edited at 2007-05-31 14:59]


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:24
French to English
+ ...
Of course not May 31, 2007

Anne Wosnitza wrote:

... if the price an agency 'offers' is too low, it is not even worth thinking about negotiating. A few days ago, I received an offer from an agency that needed about 30000 words translated (extremly tight deadline, of course) and after I've sent my rate they said that they could only offer EUR 0,004 (!!!) per word.

I just didn't see any point in negotiating here - and I've found them searching for translators on some other pages a few days later...

Best regards,
Anne


No discussion possible from that starting baseline! Volunteer work at least offers a tax break


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jmadsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:24
Negotiating rates... May 31, 2007

The other day a PM from an agency called to ask if I could take an assignment. I asked him what rates he could offer me, knowing that PMs often have agreed on a price with the end client and therefore have an upper limit. He said, well I guess you know our standard rate, and then he mentioned it. I said, well, I guess you don't know MY standard rates (which of course were somewhat higher). He laughed rather bashfully, probably realising that he was not dealing with the unfortunately usual translator who will accept almost any rate and any payment terms...

So, demand reasonable rates and reasonable payment terms! The agency (no matter how big) is your client, and you should set the terms.

BR Jørgen


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Martin Wenzel
Germany
Local time: 01:24
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It is the half-truth I don't like May 31, 2007

Of course, we could be complaining about the low rates they are offering and that they make big money by just making a couple of phone calls, i.e. connecting people...

The point I am trying to make is that they don't give you the full truth like in the instance I mentioned I wasn't told it was a machine translation...

Another of these cheeky ones: They had received a fair amount of translation work, but I decided to stop when they owed me about 1,000 Euro. In the beginning, I would still get all kinds of flimsy excuses such as our accountant is on holidays...

Later on, reminders were ignored, and so was all of email correspondence.
The day I asked a lawyer's assistance, they immediately paid, thinking why should we pay interest for being late...after all we did pay in the end...


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:24
French to English
+ ...
you're hanging out with the wrong crowd... May 31, 2007

If I were you, I'd tell them what I thought it would take to clean up the translation (perhaps mentioning that you thought it was a machine translation) and mention an hourly rate for doing it, along with an estimate of the number of hours.

They can take or leave your offer, just as you can take or leave the rate they proposed. But if they come to value your opinion (and work), they may be prepared to pay for it.

There are certainly agencies out there who do value good work, so keep looking for them. In the end, agencies will only treat you badly if you let them.


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trans1976
Local time: 00:24
English to Chinese
+ ...
Thanks for the information May 31, 2007

Thanks for the information

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Luca Ruella  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Setting your rates May 31, 2007

When you go to the dentist, he does not ask you "how much can you pay me" or "can you please pay me a little more?".

Does he?

So, even when raising your rates is concerned, do not ask "can we please raise my rate?"

Just say: "hello, due to inflation and raising cost of life, my new rate is X. Be aware that if you send me new projects this is what I'll charge."

If your price is fair and you're good, they will complain but finally send you more work at your new rate.


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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:24
French to English
Off on a tangent... May 31, 2007

I'm not sure why some of you are going on about a translator imposing his or her rates versus accepting those of an agency. That's not what the original poster was talking about. He was talking about the agency downplaying the amount of work involved in a project.

I sometimes get offers like that ("It's already in English. It shouldn't take you that long!"). I've come to refuse most revisions because often they've been translated into English by Quebeckers who think they're bilingual and they're clearly not. You did the right thing refusing, especially if it was a machine translation.

[Edited at 2007-05-31 19:15]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:24
English to French
+ ...
It's up to us to take matters into our own hands May 31, 2007

I understand that when an agency or client "offers" a low rate, we are tempted not to negotiate. But by insisting on negotiating, they will eventually understand that this is how it works, provided pretty much all of us insist.

It is always the service provider who sets the rate - same with a consultant, an attorney, a dentist, an accountant, etc., blah-blah-blah. So, why not us? The problem is that all services named above have to be part of a professional association that regulates the profession - this is nearly never the case with translation. So, we have to regulate ourselves on a smaller scale. But in any case, this is our breadwinner and we should be serious about it. So, the right to set a rate is mine as well as the right to negotiate, and I will have those rights respected, even if it is hopeless in many cases. At the least, I will have cheapo agencies lose enough time trying to negotiate that they will eventually realize that the time and resources taken to negotiate are proportional with the amount of money they were trying to save. Imagine if we all acted like this!

Negotiating is never useless and it is our right.

On another note... Hmmm. I just wanted to say that not all people in the province of Quebec who think they are bilingual are wrong. Also, there are bad translations coming from all over the world, so I don't understand why Quebec in particular. Do we really need this debate here? Can you clear this up, Erika?

[Edited at 2007-06-01 03:47]


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lexical  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:24
Portuguese to English
If it was a machine translation... May 31, 2007

...or I suspected it was, I'd always refuse to touch it, simply on the principle that we don't want to encourage clients to think they can save money by machine translating a text and getting us to clean it up.

It's happened to me just once, and I flatly refused to have anything to do with the job.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:24
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The tide is turning Jun 1, 2007

From my perspective, I see that the tide that began with the advent of translator internet directories is slowly beginning to turn. While the number of new “bedroom agencies” continues to rise, the pool of available cheap labor is diminishing either because these potential translators have moved on to more lucrative activities since they were unable to earn a decent living or were tired of simply not being paid or they have become educated through forums such as these and have learned that they are the ones who set the rates. As a backlash to the increasing difficulty in finding cheap and naïve talent ready and willing to work at any price, it is only natural that these people will become more and more brazen over time until translation management loses its appeal as a get-rich quick scheme and they move on to something else.

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
Blue Board and similar forums as leverage Jun 1, 2007

When someone asks me to do an editing job, I don't accept the project or quote a price till I've seen the text that needs "just a little work."

If the text is a disaster, I tell the client what it would cost for me to translate it from scratch, since it's easier to retranslate it than "fix" it. Assuming it's a good translation, I still wouldn't do it for 20 euros since my minimum for any job is 30 euros / 40 dollars. Obviously, though, different people in different markets need to fix their own rates.

As for nonpayment: Some agencies that drag out the payment process beyond all decent limits can be persuaded to pay through the threat of a negative rating on Blue Board and all other similar forums I can think of. Fortunately, however, most of my clients pay on time, or at least pay after one friendly reminder.

[Edited at 2007-06-01 03:53]


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