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Lessons learnt from jobs posting
Thread poster: Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:00
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
May 4, 2008

G'day everyone

About a week ago I posted a potential job on ProZ.com for the translation of photo archive tags. In other words, the source text will be a list of words (no sentences). It was the first time I posted a paid job and the response was interesting. Let me share it with you, and if you've posted jobs yourself, you can tell me what is normal and what aint.

The job is for EN-AR/FR/PT. I can deduce a "normal" rate for each of these languages, based on the average and the median rates received, but it is interesting that there is no correlation between rate and first impressions. I've had quotes of USD 0.02 per word (with no spelling errors in the e-mail) and I've had quotes of USD 0.11 per word (but the authors don't know what capital letters, punctuation and paragraph breaks are for). If it aint against forum rules, I'd post the averages and medians here.

What I find interesting is that even among paid members of ProZ.com quite a number of translators can't be bothered to use proper capitalisation and punctuation. Well, perhaps I'm biased because my own languages have very similar capitalisation rules, so maybe it aint a sign of a poor translation if he can't use capitals in his source language correctly. What do you think?

I also found that applicants often forget to mention which currency they're quoting in. In a few cases, the applicant even neglected to mention which language he translates into (perhaps the e-mail they received from ProZ.com doesn't mention that the job has multiple target languages).

In my job posting I said that the sample text should be delivered in a table, but I deliberately didn't specify what file format. A few translators created a "table" in the e-mail itself (with spaces or tabs between the two columns). I've had a few XLS files, a number of DOC files, at least one ODT file, one XLSX file, and a few PDFs. Sadly quite a number of translators delivered the sample in a single paragraph, in comma separated format.

My request for native language and locality was ignored by about a third of the applicants.

Quite a number of applicants sent their CVs or résumés. These ranged in size between 100 KB and 1.5 MB. A similar number of translators pasted their résumés in the body of the e-mail.

A few translators didn't mention their last names, and one or two didn't bother to tell me their names at all.

Only about 5 of the applicants said "no money, no sample", and I won't hold it against them (although without a translated sample I have less to judge them on). However, quite a number of other applicants simply didn't send the translated sample at all, and made no mention of the omission.

At least three translators are offering me a Trados discount. Two of them mentioned discounts for fuzzy matches, and one simply said "You pay less because I use Trados". I haven't decided if these translators had had a look at the sample or not...

I guess my advice to young translators would be... by taking just a little more time and putting in just a little more effort in your communication with would-be clients, you can distinguish yourself from a lot of other translators quite easily:

* Read the job posting carefully and ask yourself "what does this client want", and then provide all of it (or explain why you don't).

* Write well. Use paragraphs. Be careful with 'accidental' spaces. Adhere to the punctuation and capitalisation rules of the language you're writing in.

A final thought... next time I do a jobs posting, I'll make applicants fill in a short form for me. It is amazing how translators fail to put the most important information at the top of the e-mail, and write the strangest of subject lines, and it takes an awful lot of time to sift through all the writings in search of just three or four pieces of needed information.

Your thoughts?


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Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:30
German to English
Interesting May 4, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:

so maybe it aint a sign of a poor translation if he can't use capitals in his source language correctly. What do you think?



This doesn't really surprise me and I've seen people doing it in their target language too, most recently in another forum thread that was posted this weekend. However, it seems that people who do this get quite a lot of work through ProZ.com, so it doesn't seem to make a lot of difference to most outsourcers.

I've often wondered what goes on "behind the scenes" when people apply for jobs through ProZ.com, and what you say reveals quite a lot about the general standard here. I think there should definitely be some changes to the job posting system and I like your idea of filling out a short form. I can't think of anything else at the moment, but maybe other members will have some useful suggestions.


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:00
Portuguese to English
+ ...
The job postings are a mystery to me May 4, 2008

I rejoined ProZ when I moved back to the USA last November from Brazil. Since then I've bid on quite a few jobs. My written English in my bids is perfect, I always give the outsourcers all the information they want (including my name!) but I have never gotten a single job. My rates are certainly "competitive" as well, so I just don't get it. What criteria do these people use to make their choices?

Amy


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:00
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Don't worry May 4, 2008

Amy Duncan wrote:
...but I have never gotten a single job.


Don't worry... I rarely get jobs through ProZ.com also.

[Edited at 2008-05-04 13:55]


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Riens Middelhof  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:00
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Interesting indeed... May 4, 2008

I agree it's interesting to know what happens "behind the curtains". On the other hand, checking the original job posting, I saw you didn´t use the quote forms that ProZ provides. In other threads this topic has been mentioned before. Why not provide the "quote" option, it includes a form with most points you mention.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:00
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
There was no quote form May 4, 2008

Riens Middelhof wrote:
I saw you didn´t use the quote forms that ProZ provides. In other threads this topic has been mentioned before. Why not provide the "quote" option, it includes a form with most points you mention.


There was no quote form when I posted the job. Should it be enabled somewhere? But anyway, I don't mind getting mails from people, because then I can see how they write. What I meant in my first post was that I would send all applicants a DOC file with a few required fields in it. Although that might cause some people to think that there really is no job... that I'm just fishing for freelancers.


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nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:00
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
why not use the ProZ job quote system ? May 4, 2008

I think it would be easier for you.

It is easier for the translator, because you don't have to worry with language pair, CV and personal details, everything comes automatically from ProZ.

There is also a field (rather small) for a translation sample.

If the translator forgets to answer one field, there is an error message before you can send the answer.

By the way, I have got lot of jobs through ProZ - some quite big and with good rates - even in the EN>FR pair .


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 09:00
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
re job quote system May 4, 2008

nordiste wrote:
It is easier for the translator, because you don't have to worry with language pair, CV and personal details, everything comes automatically from ProZ.


Well, the drawback is that CVs cannot be submitted per specific bid. And I'm not going to upload my CV into my profile - with my address/home phone number - for anyone browsing the web to see. So, whenever outsourcers demand a CV sent "thru the job quote system," it's a no go.

nordiste wrote:
If the translator forgets to answer one field, there is an error message before you can send the answer.


Exactly, but then Samuel wouldn't get all these details he can use in his selection process. Omitting required information is quite telling, don't you think? If you provide candidates with a range of chances to make a mistake, that makes for more thorough testing - at least in my book.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:00
English to French
+ ...
On people who forget about core aspects of their businesses May 4, 2008

Interesting post, Sam! I wish there were more like this, as I sometimes wonder about such questions myself.

I just wanted to comment on a bit part of your original post. You say some people forget to mention the currency they charge in, their language pairs, etc. To me, that is alarming, both to outsourcers and to the translator community.

I regard rates and language pairs as the bulk of my service offering. When you try to make a sale, the most important information you give the client is your rate, language pairs, payment terms and planned deadline. In plain English, I can provide X words for X-Y language pair within X days for X amount of money, payable by X date. This is your service offer.

People who don't care to formulate their service offer are for the most part people who are not running a business. For the most part, they are either novices or people looking to make a quick buck. In other words, they are not professional. And what happens when you outsource work to people who are not professional? But I digress...

To me, incomplete service offers sound like this: "Please, give me the contract. Even if you will only pay in X+90 days, I need the contract. Even if you are willing to pay only X-50%, I am desperate to get the job. I don't really care about the specifics, just gimme the damn job!" Do you think people who reason that way will consistently produce quality translations on time when they don't really care about the specifics? I doubt it. There are probably a few, but they don't represent.

This is also bad for the community of translators because it sends a general message saying we don't care. No matter how much we are paid, no matter when we get paid, we just want to work. Do we still wonder why rates are increasingly decreasing while deadlines are broadly tightening?

Then, there are the practical aspects of it all. If the information in the e-mail is incomplete, there will be a lot of time wasted. Can you imagine a project manager trying to put together teams of four translators each for twelve language pairs? They would need (and most likely receive) at least a hundred applications to set those teams up. Imagine if only ten percent (and I think I am being generous there) of those applications would require e-mailing back and forth to set the specifics. It would take a lot of time - and it would come with a hefty error margin.

My point is that if the basic information isn't clearly stated early on, it makes everybody's job difficult and often leads to unsatisfactory conditions for all parties. Above all, it makes no business sense. Even though I love what I do for a living, I work for money first and foremost. The money I make is strictly based on this basic information. When I write an e-mail to a prospective client, not only do I not forget about these details, I put them forward and take extra care to present these in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. That is the message I am trying to communicate - the rest is just fodder. It is my bread and butter. Why would I skimp on it?


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 08:00
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Thanks for posting it Sam! May 4, 2008

I only hope that newbies read it!

As a regular outsourcer I've learned that the errors or carelessness in regular email exchange are likely to be repeated in the transaltion. Sad but true! Basically, things you describe prove the applicants lack parameters which are important for good translators: lack of comprehension, carelessness, lack of concentration, poor understanding or what is (non)acceptable, etc.

There are occasional exceptions: a person absolutely careless in emails submitting a perfect translation, but they are rare.

Wrapping it up, in translaitons you are very much likely to find the same errors you see in the emails/applications.

Cheers,
Oleg


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 07:00
French to Dutch
+ ...
Sorry, but I've got the impression that you are asking too much May 4, 2008

Dear Samuel,

As I see it, in the first place you’ve got what you asked for – a biaised sample of an already biaised Internet translators population: those who had a look into your job offer and out of those, the ones who are willing to translate word lists for half of the rate you are publishing for yourself (not that much).

Secondly, there are lots and lots of translators – even good ones – for which capitalisation and punctuation is totally irrelevant to translation (for them, lay-out should be done by the agency, the secretary of the company or the printing house), and who aren’t even conscious of what you are talking about. (Subcontract a Powerpoint file and you'll see what I mean: fonts are replaced by something else, text boxes are not adapted, colours are changed, figures are disappearing, no hard returns but spaces at the beginning and at the end of the lines).

Thirdly, in general, and psychologically speaking, you cannot expect your subcontractors to have automatically the same standards as you.

[Which doesn't mean that there are no good translators, here and elsewhere].

Good luck!

Update, for Angela hereunder:
I'm of the old school too. And I am a typograph. But may I insist, you cannot expect translators who charge € 0,05 to deliver something they cannot deliver. And even lots of people with a good translator's education aren't aware that this is important. I worked in a translation agency, and I saw horrors, comma's everywhere, square (French) quoting marks in Dutch or English texts, bold that shouldn't be bold, etc., whole texts completely messed up. Or deadlines which aren't respected, making the agency finding other solutions overnight ("oh, didn't you receive my e-mail?").


[Edited at 2008-05-05 09:40]


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Angela Arnone  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:00
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
And do these translators skip grammar, syntax and spelling too? May 4, 2008

I'm totally gobsmacked.

Translators who think upper and lower case letters, full stops or commas are not part of the job? And what happens if the customer doesn't speak the target language, pray?

I can't believe you're serious. Which translation school do they graduate from, d'you think?

"Good" translators - even not so good ones - are perfectly well aware that capitals and punctuation will change the meaning of a sentence, so they will not consider them irrelevant.

They are the groundwork of the translation, before we even get onto accurate rendering or style.

Angela, from the old school.

NMR wrote:

Secondly, there are lots and lots of translators – even good ones – for which capitalisation and punctuation is totally irrelevant to translation (for them, lay-out should be done by the agency, the secretary of the company or the printing house), and who aren’t even conscious of what you are talking about.



[Edited at 2008-05-04 19:57]


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johnjack
Belgium
Local time: 07:00
English to Italian
+ ...
do employers really value form? May 4, 2008

Dear Samuel,
certainly, your post is an opportunity for reflection for young translotors as I am (despite my applying the basic rules you mentioned!). Nevertheless, I wonder how many outsourcers are so rightly aware of the importance of writing correct presentations as you are, a translator yourself, as to care so much about the form. Being a young translator, my modest impression is that employers value rates first, than experience and CVs. Yet, I will keep on believing presentation is a visiting card for employers and thank you for your advice!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:00
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
True, but... May 4, 2008

NMR wrote:
Subcontract a Powerpoint file and you'll see what I mean: fonts are replaced by something else, text boxes are not adapted, colours are changed, figures are disappearing, no hard returns but spaces at the beginning and at the end of the lines.


This sort of thing would be okay if the translator was delivering the file to a middle-man who in turn did something with it before delivering it to the client.

But in my scenario, I don't have inhouse staff who speak the three languages and who can correct any typographic errors in it. So for me, what I would want, is a translation is that nearly printready by the time it comes back from the translators. Sure, there will be subsequent proofing/reviewing stages done by native speakers, but I prefer if a translator delivers a nearperfect job in the opening round, than to have to rely on the reviewers to beat the slop into shape.


[Edited at 2008-05-04 21:26]


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:00
Swedish to English
+ ...
Caps, punctuation, etc. is not layout May 4, 2008

NMR wrote:
Secondly, there are lots and lots of translators – even good ones – for which capitalisation and punctuation is totally irrelevant to translation (for them, lay-out should be done by the agency, the secretary of the company or the printing house), and who aren’t even conscious of what you are talking about.


Caps, punctuation, spelling - this has nothing to do with layout. Layout relates to formatting of text.

Any, so called, good translator should be capable of using correct grammar, not just in their target language, but also when writing in their source language. If a translator does not understand the basic grammatical structure of their source language, how on earth can this person possible fully understand the text they're translating?


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