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Good translators at low, low rates.
Thread poster: James Calder

James Calder  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 17, 2005

I notice yet another derisory job posting has been made this morning: medical texts (Sp>Eng) at 3 cents per source word from an agency based in California. I wonder what our North American brethren have to say about such paltry rates.
I've already submitted my "quote".


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Agua  Identity Verified
Spain
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good for you! Feb 17, 2005

Hello,

I notice yet another derisory job posting has been made this morning: medical texts (Sp>Eng) at 3 cents per source word from an agency based in California. I wonder what our North American brethren have to say about such paltry rates.
I've already submitted my "quote".


I will let you know as soon as I hear from them. I have informed a couple of associations (one of them in the States), and most of the people I know).

Best,

Mar


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xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 02:41
French to English
+ ...
it's a free market..... Feb 17, 2005

I know I am going to ruffle a lot of feathers out there but this is not the first posting of this type I have seen and maybe it's time for a few facts of life.
To begin with, I am a trained translator/interpreter myself, although I have basically worked in staff jobs in international organisations. I now work mainly in Communication. This means that my involvement in translation is both as a service provider AND as a client. I tend therefore to see things from both sides.
While I agree one hundred percent with all of you who complain about pathetically low rates, getting upset about it is not going to make the problem go away. What is happening to translation is also happening in all other professional walks of life.
Customers want the best deal. All too often I have discovered that they will accept quality that I would reject out of hand. When I first started working as a magazine editor, I was partnered by an agency that provided copy in so-called English and organised translations into other languages. The material I encountered was unusable but their argument was that it was cheap.... (they also said it was value-for-money, which was garbage).
Because I am a language professional and have contacts, I was able to build up a team of people to whom I could give enough regular work to warrant a good financial deal from them. But I was a discerning customer. Most clients simply do not have the language knowledge to be able to judge.
These are the clients who are now taking advantage of the fact that the world wide web exists and they can farm out work to people in other countries and on other continents and exploit the lower rates available elsewhere. Ask yourself the question: if you were a client and had to pay xxxx euros for a translation into Spanish done in, say, Spain or one done in S. America for 10% of that price, what would you choose? (examples chosen at random carrying no particular implications)
Why do you think so many big firms are relocating to countries where labour is cheaper? Just as the big IT firms went to Ireland when there were great pickings in terms of EU subsidies but have now packed up and gone to China, there is nothing to stop your clients from doing the same. It is all part of the same process.
Being realistic I would say (unhappily) that all freelance translators can do is try to win customers over by their quality, reliability and professionalism (I have one client from years ago that still sends me his annual report to translate even though I am supposedly not doing that sort of thing any more, simply because he knows I work fast and well and know his industry (almost) as well as he does... - and, out of kindness, I do it religiously every year).
You can refuse to work for peanuts but there will always be someone else who won't refuse. They say "you pay peanuts, you get monkeys" but before long someone could perfect an automatic translation system making most of us redundant anyway!
I know I am spreading gloom and doom but I think it is time a lot of the translators on the site got real, to use an Americanism.
I dn't like it any more than you do but in this game it is going to be the survival of the fitness. 'Twas ever thus, some will say...
I don't have a solution but I am sure of one thing: the problem ain't going to go away!
Pleas don't shoot the messenger - in your heart of hearts, you must all know I'm talking sense!


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Russell Gillis  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:41
Spanish to English
Not just an agency - also selling their "business acumen" to others! Feb 17, 2005

This company is quite interesting. I went to their website, and they have a page where they offer to "teach you the business" (of exploiting translators, that is). Here is an excerpt from their web page:

---------------------------------------------------------------
We will teach you everything you will need to know how to become an independent agency and broker for translators and interpreters just like us.

We will teach you how to get clients, translators and interpreters.

If seriously interested, kindly fill in the small form below and one of us will contact you.

The price: $3500.00. You can't come close to buying a great and legitimate home based business for 20 times that amount. It is inexpensive because you are not buying the business. However, you will end up with a clone of the business.
---------------------------------------------------------------

The more I find out about this company, the more they smell like crooks. I also sent them an educational e-mail about translation rates and translators being professionals. It is certainly time-consuming having to educate these types of agencies, but I think it is a worthwhile cause.

Best of luck to everyone!

Russell


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James Calder  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You are talking sense Feb 17, 2005

CMJ_Trans wrote:
Please don't shoot the messenger - in your heart of hearts, you must all know I'm talking sense!


You're absolutely right in everything you say, CMJ. I just happen to feel that there's a difference between being "competitive" and unscrupulously ripping people off. There are many, many decent translations agencies and services out there that operate without taking their customers for a ride, undermining the local market, or exploiting translators and interpreters in the process.

I accept, as we all must, that the market dictates prices but the job offer I refer to goes beyond that. These kind of operators make money by preying on the gullible and the needy (have a look at Russell's comments) and I see absolutely nothing wrong in drawing attention to their practices and making life uncomfortable for them.

Furthermore, there are new people coming into translation all the time who are perhaps unaware that 3 cents per word in the US is way, way below the going rate. As people with knowledge of the industry we should be alerting them to sharp operators such as these. Whether they then want to provide translations for them is their choice.

Regards

James

[Edited at 2005-02-17 13:31]


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Sylvia Cambray  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:41
English to Spanish
+ ...
And what about ATA? Feb 17, 2005

See the comment about ATA at the end of their registration form. Do you know the reason for this?
________________________________________________________

Translator Registration Form
Personal Details (all information will be treated as confidential)
Kindly note that if your prices are above what we normally pay, you will not get a response. If your prices are such that we can work with, your file will be placed in our database and you will be called when we have a job that requires your expertise. We have been getting many translators whose prices are out of the range we can pay if we wish to stay in the market. We have therefore had to write the following statement.
Please note: We work on a small margin and try to make it up on quantity.
In order not to waste your time or ours, please do not fill in the
form unless you have been working for 1 to 3 cents per word and are content
with that price. That is the price we are working with at the present time.
Kindly do not fill out this form if you are associated in any way with ATA.
___________________________________________________________


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:41
English to Arabic
+ ...
Translators are not just based in the USA and Europe! Feb 17, 2005

James Calder wrote:

I notice yet another derisory job posting has been made this morning: medical texts (Sp>Eng) at 3 cents per source word from an agency based in California. I wonder what our North American brethren have to say about such paltry rates.
I've already submitted my "quote".


I can understand your disbelief, and, as a translator working in the UK, I would never dream of working for such low rates.

But please remember that this is an international database, accessed by translators from all over the world, many of which will be based in countries where average rates may go even lower than that (owing to a generally lower cost of living). This doesn't mean that the agency will necessarily get a low-quality translation.

Nesrin


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RHELLER
United States
Local time: 18:41
French to English
+ ...
from California Feb 17, 2005

It is unfortunate to hear anyone supporting this sort of rate.

The location of an agency is totally irrelevant.

I assume that the reason they put a note about the ATA (of which I am a member) is certainly because they are well aware that no member would consider working for cut-throat rates.

Boundaries must be set by translators.


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xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 02:41
French to English
+ ...
second try at reply to say "fair comment" Feb 17, 2005

[quote]James Calder wrote:


"I just happen to feel that there's a difference between being "competitive" and unscrupulously ripping people off. There are many, many decent translations agencies and services out there that operate without taking their customers for a ride, undermining the local market, or exploiting translators and interpreters in the process. "

I wrote an earlier reply to this but it seems to be lost in the ether. Basically what I said was that I had not looked closely at the particular case and would agree that the couple running the business look like seriously bad news.

I am not defending poor payers, simply saying that on the open market you will always find minnows waiting to be swallowed by the sharks. It is the classic vicious circle: beginners have to start somewhere and often undercut prices to get their foot in the door, and so ad infinitum. I also wanted to express a client viewpoint and explain that clients want what is best for them.

This discussion could however be overtaken by events in the near future, the day someone invents a translation system as good as anything ordinary mortals can achieve. In the meantime, secure your customers so you can ask "your" price. Personally I would never touch less than 0,14 euros a word but then I can afford to choose (at least for the moment!)


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Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 19:41
English to Spanish
Crazy world Feb 18, 2005

CMJ_Trans wrote:
It is the classic vicious circle: beginners have to start somewhere and often undercut prices to get their foot in the door, and so ad infinitum. I also wanted to express a client viewpoint and explain that clients want what is best for them.


And beginners get a lot of support and information from places such as this. And often that allows people fake a job they are unqualified to make.

It is not uncommon to find at Kudoz translators virtually asking for all the non-trivial words and phrases from a single job they are not qualified to do. And you find that many of us fight to help them do a beter job, lured by Kudoz points that may or may not be useful for credibility purposes when pursuing jobs.

And translators are too keen to share their knowledge, resources, and even customers, not only here but even on their personal websites. Is that crazy or what?!

This is a business and competition is a fact of life. I believe there's little awareness of that in the translation world. There's not enough quid pro quo.


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Jens Mährländer  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:41
English to German
+ ...
We are digging our own graves! Feb 18, 2005

[quote]Pablo Roufogalis wrote:


It is not uncommon to find at Kudoz translators virtually asking for all the non-trivial words and phrases from a single job they are not qualified to do. And you find that many of us fight to help them do a beter job, lured by Kudoz points that may or may not be useful for credibility purposes when pursuing jobs.


That is one of the problems. Even bigger problems are the mere existence of the internet and sites like ProZ.com (I am a platinum member and deeply regret it), which are the ponds where companies like the above mentioned can catch "foul fish" who work for such suicidal rates!


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Natalia Elo  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:41
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Cancel your membership Feb 18, 2005

Jens Mährländer wrote:
(I am a platinum member and deeply regret it)


Jens,

Why don't you cancel it then? You will get your money back.
http://www.proz.com/plat/

Natalia

[Edited at 2005-02-18 21:09]

[Edited at 2005-02-18 21:09]


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Emma Loghin
Local time: 03:41
German to English
+ ...
Nesrin has a good point Feb 19, 2005

Jens - I suppose that the best approach to a site like proz.com is 'take the best, ignore the rest'.

I think Nasrin has made a valid point above - this site reaches an international market and a lot of (some good, some bad) translators live in countries where both the standard and the price of living are significantly cheaper. These translators can afford to (maybe reluctantly, but that is neither here nor there) accept rates that are totally unacceptable for somebody working in the West.

Time will tell whether they are up to the task or 'foul fish' - if the agency and the client are both happy with the outcome, then who are we to complain. If they are not, then I guess that the agency will have to change its tactics if it wants to survive in the market.

In a perfect world, this would not happen. Like so much outsourcing to poorer countries, it reeks of exploitation, and of course, some agencies are sharks and best avoided.

Emma


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Jens Mährländer  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:41
English to German
+ ...
Good idea! Feb 19, 2005

[quote]Natalia Elo wrote:

Why don't you cancel it then? You will get your money back.


If I only knew it was possible, I would have done so months ago!


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Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 19:41
English to Spanish
Q/A Ratios Feb 22, 2005

One small point: Have you noticed that in the Kudoz questions pages there's a figure labeled Q/A?

That is how many questions and how many answers has this member made at Kudoz.

Have you seen figures such as 200+/0? I have.

Should we answer questions from these members?

I guess not and I don't.

Can we agree not to?

Quid pro quo and collaboration is a good thing and Proz is teh best resource for that. But the above is being a parasite, no less.


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