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Road to Slavery? (Discussion on a perceived fall in prices)
Thread poster: Michael Meinhardt

Michael Meinhardt  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:02
German to English
+ ...
Dec 11, 2008

I just finished reading a discussion thread about a single quotation with a ridiculously low price offer from some agency in Italy.

However, I am more concerned about the general decline in translation rates.

I have made a special effort recently to send out as many quotations as possible and look at all the job offers on the PROZ board.

Compared to my last "job spree" a few months ago I found that prices had literally halved.

I used to see rates like EUR0.10 or EUR0.09 per source word for GER-ENG or ENG-GER translations.

Now I'm lucky to find EUR0.06 per word.

Did I miss a memo?



[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-12-12 06:50 GMT]


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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:02
Italian to English
+ ...
The glory days are gone Dec 11, 2008

I sometimes read on these forums that in the past, translators were paid quite a lot. Before globalisation and the internet ruined everything!

I sometimes wonder if I'm on the same planet as people who complain of low rates. I make a pretty good living, and my language pairs are hardly exotic, nor are my areas of specialisation particularly sought-after; the city I live in (Milan) is one of the most expensive in Europe; I could go on. And I've only been translating for around three years.

For sure, there are cowboys who simply will not pay for quality work. Also, there are translators living in India who can undercut Europeans by 90%. And yet the only problem I have with work is turning it down! As the world economy grows, the amount of work available grows; it's a basic axiom of economics. There is more than enough work for everyone, and with globalisation it is always increasing. (And those jobs on Proz are always low-priced, by the way - most "real" jobs never see the Proz jobs board.)

Basically, if you're good you won't have to worry about low rates. (Well, not usually anyway. Obviously there's going to be competition between translators, but a little competition never does any industry any harm.) The cowboys will find they get a translation that is worth exactly what they pay for it; and the Indians don't seem to be hurting the industry as much as was feared just a couple of years ago. I wonder why? Anyway, I'm not worried.


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xxxtechnospeak  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:02
English to French
Same concern for me Michael... Dec 11, 2008

I recently realized that the prices paid by agencies to translators in France were roughly the same as the ones paid in the late 80s....

Do you know if there is a serious study about translation prices over the last 30 years? I would be curious to see the trends depending on countries and languages.

Christian


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Michael Meinhardt  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:02
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Oh yeah, the olden days... Dec 11, 2008

Hi Ryan,

I agree with you on the high paying jobs. I get those from my local partners.

It is around this time of year, though, when Germans are slowing down for the holidays. The same thing happens in summer.

That's when I turn to PROZ more often and get hit with this shall we say "different market".

I am unable to judge whether it's good, bad or normal. I just witness the variations and wonder what it all means.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:02
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Flee market Dec 11, 2008

If you only shop on the flee market you're bound to believe that everything is very cheap. But at the department store prices are high. It depends where you shop.
Ignore those offers on internet-sites. Real world customers will contact you straight.
Regards
Heinrich


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 10:02
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
always, always think hours Dec 11, 2008

...Now I'm lucky to find EUR0.06 per word...

if you do 1000 words / hour, you are doing fine. And if it is 200/hour, you should be concerned: it may feel great to translate some hard technical text at this speed. It just does not pay any more. I would assume doing discount shop fliers for instance would be much easier and it would pay more - per hour. In other words, the essential question is, where are the 0,06e customers with texts that I can do at 1000 word / hour?


[Edited at 2008-12-11 16:53 GMT]


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Sherefedin MUSTAFA
Netherlands
Local time: 10:02
Member
English to Macedonian
+ ...
... and the end is not in sight! Dec 11, 2008

Absolutely share your concerns and wonder where is the end of this tendency... when you read in some forums that there are people who accept to work (translate) at a rate of 4 or 5 euro x page (A4)!

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Fabiana Zardo  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:02
Member (2009)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
We're responsible Dec 11, 2008

We have this discussion all the time in local lists and forums. The main problem is that there are translators who accept to work for low rates. Some of them are pretty good, but prefer to accept these kind of jobs than having fewer jobs.

Something like this: when you have to pay your bills, it is much better to have lots of not so well-paid jobs rather than one well-paid job. That's leading to a decrease of rates.

It's up to us to change this dynamics, but I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel,


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Alfredo Fernández Martínez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
Quality, experience, reasonable rates vs Low rates and poor quality Dec 11, 2008

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

If you only shop on the flee market you're bound to believe that everything is very cheap. But at the department store prices are high. It depends where you shop.
Ignore those offers on internet-sites. Real world customers will contact you straight.
Regards
Heinrich





Seeing that it seems someone read my post yesterday from this forum...


http://www.proz.com/topic/122717

...I shall copy it below:


Quality, experience, reasonable rates vs Low rates and poor quality 10 Dec


Viktoria Gimbe wrote:


If I had a dollar for each translator whose work I reviewed who can't write better than a fifth-grader, I'd be rich. And people do keep giving them work. You want to know why? Because real translators are so few and far between that they have to work with incompetent people - there are simply not enough competent people to handle the work. Let's not forget that the market is full of agencies who were founded by such mediocre translators. So, many of them can't tell a good and a bad translation apart. Then, there are the business major types lurking around, tooting their horns, saying "I may not be a translator, but I have a business major. How can you create an agency without having studies in business?". See? The whole industry is rotten to the core, because a large part of it doesn't even know what translation really is.

In fact, this problem is so bad, I am considering dropping reviewing and proofreading from my list of services. In some cases, even if I was paid ten cents per word for reviewing, it would be a slave rate. When you have to rewrite 80% of a translation, the reviewing rate is way below what the job is worth. And let's not even mention the budgeting of time - you think you'll get it over with in a day, and you end up fiddling with it for three days, and miss out on other, more lucrative contracts in the meantime.

Meanwhile, those who post I-love-you questions thrive, even though most of them are paid not even a third of the rates I charge. And they will keep thriving - unless we do something about it here.

[Edited at 2008-12-10 16:24 GMT]



I simply couldn't agree more with Viktoria.


However, it does not make me anxious or furious anymore:
it is simply like these two very different commercial scenarios:
going to buy to the car boot sale, or to the department stores.

Many people go to the first one, due to low prices, in spite of possible *unchecked* quality. Furthermore, they do not expect the greatest service, nor expertise, let alone to be able to go back and get a refund / be able to exchange the item.

Some other people go to the department stores, knowing if there is a quality issue, or some kind of defect, they will get a replacement, or simply their money back. As well as much greater customer service, attention, information, expertise, and so on.

There are, and there have always been and there will always be, these two totally different market segments, for different kind of customers, with a different service, and different items altogether.

After many years learning and practising foreign languages, and translating, I do consider myself to belong to the second category, therefore I am simply not interested in the first one, as I am not into underselling myself, let alone dumping prices or surviving each time on lower and lower rates. It is simply not my goal: other merchants and business minded persons can do with their time whatever it pleases them.

Now, the issue about the Kudos is similar to the seller at the (local or global) car boot sale asking marketing questions about how to get better items, how to produce better produce, how to sell in a better manner, etc.


These *translation* intruders are obviously making the most of the anonimity and long-distance possibilities offered by the net in general, and of ProZ.com in particular.

As we all know, there are classes and classes.

Funnily enough it is a common feature, but, sorry, I am definitely not interested in hearing from people who translate only after have done a crash course in whatever language, or because they have foreign blood or surnames, merely as they happen to currently live/have lived in a foreign country, or because they are currently unemployed, and have decided to re-invent themselves overnight as translators. Especially when they are not aware of what they are doing as they translate, and it is a simple means of receiving quick cash via the net.

Let alone those *so called* *new* *self-invented* who do not even master their own mother tongue, never read previously and still do not read on a daily basis, do not write either in any language (as they never ever did), do not practice both their native languages and their passive ones, they cannot write without punctuation, syntax, grammar, spelling mistakes... and a very long list I can spare you.

Much as I may sound blunt and demanding, this is nothing compared to what clients and agencies do demand from us...


Alfredo


------------


Michael,

I would not be scared, or anxious... Would you go to purchase a consumer good (i.e. TV/CD/DVD/Mp3) from a street vendor?

Aiming at the lower end of the market is, in my view, giving in to the market pressure. I would use my spare time doing so many other things... reading, sport, travel, writing, training, meeting friends, looking for other prospective clients and jobs...

...or simply getting a part time job somewhere.

If the whole world industry/translation sector goes down, what can you do anyway?


Alfredo





[Edited at 2008-12-11 19:50 GMT]


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sarandor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:02
English to Russian
+ ...
Translation industry lacks standards and regulations, Dec 11, 2008

but how can they be inforced in the industry that operates without national borders through the internet? We are at the mercy of the good old market forces, and nothing else. Survival of the fittest, and too often it means 'the cheapest'.

We like to compare ourselves to doctors and lawyers, but they have very strict education and certification requirements. Anyone can declare himself a translator and start offering translation services. And it is not helped by the fact that the start-up expenses are extremely low: all you need are good computer, printer, and internet. The translation industry is crowded and unregulated, and that's not going to change anytime soon.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:02
English to German
+ ...
Wrong heading Dec 11, 2008

Michael,
I can see where you're coming from, but frankly, you're barking up the wrong tree. The title of your posting sets a perspective that is wrong, IMO.


I just finished reading a discussion thread about a single quotation with a ridiculously low price offer from some agency in Italy.

...so? If someone else, somewhere, is working for a pittance, why is that a problem for you? If you're trying to compete on price, you're probably chasing the wrong end of the market.

However, I am more concerned about the general decline in translation rates.

As indicated by what?

I have made a special effort recently to send out as many quotations as possible and look at all the job offers on the PROZ board.

Sorry to be blunt here, but that's a waste of time and effort. Who did you target?

Chasing job offers won't get you anywhere, I dare say. What you should do is to establish market visibility for yourself. This involves brushing up your profile (I had a look at it, but found it difficult to assess what you're specialising in), participating in the forums, answering KudoZ, etc. etc. Make jobs find you, in other words - it can be done. (Last year I asked our intern to develop her online presence during the 6-7 months she spent with us - and yes, she did it: not only did she receive job offers through her profile page, but she also turned down those who obviously attempted to exploit her student status.)

Compared to my last "job spree" a few months ago I found that prices had literally halved.

I used to see rates like EUR0.10 or EUR0.09 per source word for GER-ENG or ENG-GER translations.

Now I'm lucky to find EUR0.06 per word.

Looks like you're searching in the wrong places, and/or need to brush up your marketing strategy.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Tomas Mosler, DipTrans IoLET MCIL MITI  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 10:02
Member (2008)
English to Czech
well Dec 11, 2008

It depends where you shop. Ignore those offers on internet-sites. Real world customers will contact you straight.

The thing is that one real world end customer (not an agency) here in CZ (branch office) I contacted some time ago - a famous foreign leading producer of optics / cameras etc... - offers about 0,0275 eur / source word.

Therefore I assume the presumption of generous end clients is not 100% valid - at least not when the translation prices for the *target* market differ from those for the domestic market.


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Giulia TAPPI  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:02
French to Italian
+ ...
Indeed Dec 11, 2008

technospeak wrote:

I recently realized that the prices paid by agencies to translators in France were roughly the same as the ones paid in the late 80s....

Do you know if there is a serious study about translation prices over the last 30 years? I would be curious to see the trends depending on countries and languages.

Christian


What really makes me crazy is that my present rate, which is considered far too high by lots of people, is somewhat 10% more than the rate I used to ask when I started translating and interpreting, in the 8Os.
At the time, we were on the local market, but I know people in Italy work for really less than we do in France.
So, this is a problem for me.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:02
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Really, it's not quite so hopeless Dec 11, 2008

Michael Meinhardt wrote:
However, I am more concerned about the general decline in translation rates.


I see no evidence whatsoever of this, at least not with German and English. There continues to be an excess of jobs chasing too few good translators. I remember some months ago that you were rather exercised over the unfairness of your being unable to bid on jobs requiring native speaker status and arranged to have English added as a second "native" language. Apparently this wasn't the solution after all.

Michael Meinhardt wrote:
I have made a special effort recently to send out as many quotations as possible and look at all the job offers on the PROZ board.


Shotgunning is probably less effective than sharpshooting in this case. Like Ralf, I had some trouble discerning your focus. The "specialties" you have listed tend to be well-populated, so you might grit your teeth and play the KudoZ game for a while to move up in the rankings. As irritating as it is to see that some "translators" have neither a basic dictionary nor possess any research skills worth mentioning, think of what you'll get out of it and just do it


Michael Meinhardt wrote:
I used to see rates like EUR0.10 or EUR0.09 per source word for GER-ENG or ENG-GER translations.


Someone with your experience should surely be able to land far better rates than that. I think that with a careful reconsideration of your marketing strategy, you should find your calendar full with projects at 50 to 100% above that or even considerably more. There are a number of colleagues out there with less experience and few technical skills worth mentioning who manage that nicely. It's all a matter of planning, at least with our languages.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:02
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Then and now Dec 11, 2008

Giulia TAPPI wrote:
What really makes me crazy is that my present rate, which is considered far too high by lots of people, is somewhat 10% more than the rate I used to ask when I started translating and interpreting, in the 8Os.


How does your productivity now compare to what it was in the 1980's?


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