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Translators versus agencies
Thread poster: Genevieve Tournebize

Genevieve Tournebize
Local time: 10:11
English to French
+ ...
Jan 28, 2006

While working steadily for an agency is great, the inconvenience of having to wait until the agency is paid to be paid is a serious problem. Let’s look at the two sides.
If I am an agency, I have the responsibility to talk and understand the requirements of the client. I establish a price that allows me to pay the translator and have some money left over for myself too because I have some expenses and some responsibilities. In the business world, owners of agencies may be paid by clients 30 or 60 days or more after the work is done, and given back to the client. This is what business owners do, and what they engage in when they become a business. Business owners write contracts with the clients and with the translators. From the beginning, everyone knows that by doing business there are some risks. When business owners write contracts they should specify the conditions of the translator’s payment. If a business is going to wait until they get paid by the client before paying the translator they should write it in the contract. If it is not done then the payment schedule must be agreed on by the translator and the owner.
What is the job of the translator? A translator must translate any given text to the best of his or her ability. He must be on time according to the details of the contract with the agency. Translators are paid per words; therefore, any word that is wrongfully translated (black for white or anything like this) should be deducted from the same amount that it was going to be paid or if times permit the translator should have the opportunity to correct it. We know that a majority of the texts to translate are urgent so there is not enough time to send it back to the translator. In these cases, translators should have their word discounted for the price of the words misspelled, wrong etc. There is no reason at all to discount a percentage of the translation when there is a price per word that can be used. When clients want to use a certain vocabulary (voiture rather than automobile, for example) they should give the owner of the agency the proper information to pass on to the translator. If there is no vocabulary given, no discount for choice of words or style should be allowed. Sometimes companies do not want to displease clients, and therefore, they give discounts to the client so he or she can be satisfied…but this should in no way affect the payment to the translator. Translators don't deal with clients; therefore, they should not be involved in the client agency owners’ relationship. Translators are given a job, they do it, and agencies should have a proofreader on site to make sure the work will be turned in per client’s specifications. This is not the translator’s responsibility because he has not talked to the client himself. This is the reason why I believe that agencies should always pay the full amount of the translation to the translators they employ, no matter what. Agencies ask for a sample translation, they look at resumes etc. They make a conscious choice when they choose a translator rather than other. If a translator ends up being a bad translator, the company should have the proofreader correct the work, and never use this translator again, but the translator should be paid for every word that is right. If the translator is late this is a different problem, it is a bridge of contract, and consequences are between the agencies and the translator. If a translator is reasonable good, the company should consider giving him or her some guidance so he or she can get better-at the end everyone will benefit from this: the company, the clients, and the translator. IN BRIEF, TRANSLATORS SHOULD ALWAYS BE PAID THE FULL AMOUNT FOR THEIR WORK. They are employees as long as an agency uses them to do a job they are going to benefit from. All agencies should have proofreaders. The same way that translators should not take subjects not in their field to translate, agencies should not take jobs if they don’t have a trustworthy proofreader to look at the translated work before giving it to the client. It is time to examine the relationships between all parties and set up some rules.


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Yolande Haneder  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:11
German to French
+ ...
Would be in the best of the world Jan 28, 2006

I agree that a translator should be paid whatever happens.
That said I should add a translator should not take an assignment just saying when one find mistranslations that he was sorry he had headache/the flu and correct the terms 2 days later. A proofreader should check the terminology on the internet in the case the translator had just translated literally. A translator should take time to read its copy before sending it back. If he is given 5 days for 2000 words, it means he should take time for the translation and not rush in the last 2 hours before sending back a copy.

I don't want to upset anybody but sometimes I have the feeling, being a PM is trying to coordinate between 2 worlds that don't care about each other. The client's side, wanting the cheapest translation and starting an argument if 2 words are not OK and the translator actually not caring about what will happens with the translation, just expecting to be paid since he took the first terminology in his dictionnary.

Please don't take me wrong, there are great translators over here that do really care about their work and give a great job, but there are also black sheeps giving discredit to the whole translation market. If you just felt what it is being like punched by both sides once a proofreader/translator didn't do his job properly and the client on the other side claiming for damage, you just think it is not all black or white.

A translator should be paid everytime, just like a translator should take care for his translation just as if it were for himself. Normally it is so and one should tend in this way but the other possibility will always happen.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:11
English to German
+ ...
Some misconceptions Jan 28, 2006

Hi Geneviève,
Although I agree in principle that non-payment is not an option, even if there are severe defects in the work delivered, I see some misconceptions in your post.

While working steadily for an agency is great, the inconvenience of having to wait until the agency is paid to be paid is a serious problem.

This is not an inconvenience, but a real business risk.
Agree on payment terms, and insist on them - personally, I would never enter into an agreement where the performance of my counterparty is conditional upon a third party's payment.

I establish a price that allows me to pay the translator and have some money left over for myself too because I have some expenses and some responsibilities.

You forgot a major aspect: a business needs to turn in a profit.

Translators are paid per words; therefore, any word that is wrongfully translated (black for white or anything like this) should be deducted from the same amount that it was going to be paid or if times permit the translator should have the opportunity to correct it. We know that a majority of the texts to translate are urgent so there is not enough time to send it back to the translator. In these cases, translators should have their word discounted for the price of the words misspelled, wrong etc. There is no reason at all to discount a percentage of the translation when there is a price per word that can be used.

In my view, that is too simplistic, as one wrongly-translated word may render an entire paragraph senseless.

I outsource work on a permanent basis - here's how I deal with problems. As a matter of principle, translators receive an edited version of their translation (usually in Trados pre-cleanup mode). If the quality was insufficient, I quantify the extra cost incurred for editing, and propose to deduct this from the next invoice. If the translator disagrees, the invoice will be paid in full, and the business relationship terminated immediately.

Translators don't deal with clients; therefore, they should not be involved in the client agency owners’ relationship.

Of course not - these are two distinctly separate contractual relationships.

They are employees as long as an agency uses them to do a job they are going to benefit from.

No, they're not employees - a freelancer runs an independent business.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Genevieve Tournebize
Local time: 10:11
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree also with what you say but... Jan 28, 2006

Ralf Lemster wrote:

Hi Geneviève,
Although I agree in principle that non-payment is not an option, even if there are severe defects in the work delivered, I see some misconceptions in your post.

While working steadily for an agency is great, the inconvenience of having to wait until the agency is paid to be paid is a serious problem.

This is not an inconvenience, but a real business risk.
Agree on payment terms, and insist on them - personally, I would never enter into an agreement where the performance of my counterparty is conditional upon a third party's payment.

I establish a price that allows me to pay the translator and have some money left over for myself too because I have some expenses and some responsibilities.

You forgot a major aspect: a business needs to turn in a profit.

Translators are paid per words; therefore, any word that is wrongfully translated (black for white or anything like this) should be deducted from the same amount that it was going to be paid or if times permit the translator should have the opportunity to correct it. We know that a majority of the texts to translate are urgent so there is not enough time to send it back to the translator. In these cases, translators should have their word discounted for the price of the words misspelled, wrong etc. There is no reason at all to discount a percentage of the translation when there is a price per word that can be used.

In my view, that is too simplistic, as one wrongly-translated word may render an entire paragraph senseless.


I outsource work on a permanent basis - here's how I deal with problems. As a matter of principle, translators receive an edited version of their translation (usually in Trados pre-cleanup mode). If the quality was insufficient, I quantify the extra cost incurred for editing, and propose to deduct this from the next invoice. If the translator disagrees, the invoice will be paid in full, and the business relationship terminated immediately.

Translators don't deal with clients; therefore, they should not be involved in the client agency owners’ relationship.

Of course not - these are two distinctly separate contractual relationships.

They are employees as long as an agency uses them to do a job they are going to benefit from.

No, they're not employees - a freelancer runs an independent business.

Best regards,
Ralf



I agree also with a lot of what you say...
1. The agencies are here to turn a profit... I have no problem if it is done not at the cost of someone else.
2. This is why translations should be proofread by someone close to the source of the job, because in general translations are expected to fit a personal wish of the client. I have had the experience of a job where in the text "student" was the subject of several sentences, but the client accepted a reviser's translation "you" instead, making me look like I did not translate correctly the text. Furthermore, he had the gawl to ask for a discount from the agency.
Now if the wrong or mispelled word is used and not caught and replaced by the proofreader before the work is sent to the client, the company is responsible for this mistake. If it is caught before hand then it should be discounted for the value of the word. A wrong word does not make every word in the sentence wrong. It can be changed and everything is fine after that. This is why a proofreader is so important. After all it is the agencies responsability to review the work so that they don't upset the client. That is why they are paid extra.
3. Translators are no employees but they work like employees once they have siged a contract.


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Genevieve Tournebize
Local time: 10:11
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree that both parties have responsabilities Jan 28, 2006

Yolande Haneder wrote:

I agree that a translator should be paid whatever happens.
That said I should add a translator should not take an assignment just saying when one find mistranslations that he was sorry he had headache/the flu and correct the terms 2 days later. A proofreader should check the terminology on the internet in the case the translator had just translated literally. A translator should take time to read its copy before sending it back. If he is given 5 days for 2000 words, it means he should take time for the translation and not rush in the last 2 hours before sending back a copy.

I don't want to upset anybody but sometimes I have the feeling, being a PM is trying to coordinate between 2 worlds that don't care about each other. The client's side, wanting the cheapest translation and starting an argument if 2 words are not OK and the translator actually not caring about what will happens with the translation, just expecting to be paid since he took the first terminology in his dictionnary.

Please don't take me wrong, there are great translators over here that do really care about their work and give a great job, but there are also black sheeps giving discredit to the whole translation market. If you just felt what it is being like punched by both sides once a proofreader/translator didn't do his job properly and the client on the other side claiming for damage, you just think it is not all black or white.

A translator should be paid everytime, just like a translator should take care for his translation just as if it were for himself. Normally it is so and one should tend in this way but the other possibility will always happen.


I agree totally, translating requires commitment and skills. I agree also that there are many ways to follow standards for themes of translations. You do not translated the same way a scientific text than a literary text, etc. I find that being late on a translation sometimes occur because the translator did not have enough time to look at all the particulars of the text to translate, when that happens the translator should notify the agency of the problem he or she encounters so that the work will be done competently and on time. I have heard from some people that the translating business is a cut throat business, because agencies want to have the perfect translation right away so they do not have to spend any time on it, and still make money. But often they do not give enough time for the translator to perfect his or her translation. This is especially true if the translator has not had a lot of practice on one particular subject. It is undeniable that practice makes perfect in this business.


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Yolande Haneder  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:11
German to French
+ ...
Time for the translation Jan 28, 2006

You get a point about the time factor. I am usually trying to extend the deadline (not always possible though) to a point that the translation doesn't end up in a hurry.
I have lost quite a few jobs for this reason because some agency are still offering to translate at a very short notice (the record for me was a high technical job of 2000 words given to the competition because I refused - given at 11 am and back at 4 pm at the latest - I would die to know how it ended up).
I get some credibility for asking the clients to wait but if they are waiting, they are expecting more.
I remember a sentence on a commercial course: "don't sell your expensive products in a discounter market or you will ruin the market for the expensive products".

Each translator should ask for themselves what they are expecting.
If they want to get job in the quality market, they can't end up offering the same quality as the cheap market. The client has to feel the difference. This mean that to survive the agency has to expect more from the translators than a cheap agency would do, except higher quality and higher commitment. If the agency is not offering a better quality than the cheap agencies, it will have to become a cheap agency or review its quality procedure because otherwise the client would go to the cheaper one.

I don't know if you are taking about price reduction because of a personal case or because you read it on conditions but I think this policy would be meant either to get a free editing on the back of the (cheap) translator or be sure that the translator does not accept a job he/she is not up to just for the sake of the money.


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Genevieve Tournebize
Local time: 10:11
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
you are totally right Jan 28, 2006

Yolande Haneder wrote:

You get a point about the time factor. I am usually trying to extend the deadline (not always possible though) to a point that the translation doesn't end up in a hurry.
I have lost quite a few jobs for this reason because some agency are still offering to translate at a very short notice (the record for me was a high technical job of 2000 words given to the competition because I refused - given at 11 am and back at 4 pm at the latest - I would die to know how it ended up).
I get some credibility for asking the clients to wait but if they are waiting, they are expecting more.
I remember a sentence on a commercial course: "don't sell your expensive products in a discounter market or you will ruin the market for the expensive products".

Each translator should ask for themselves what they are expecting.
If they want to get job in the quality market, they can't end up offering the same quality as the cheap market. The client has to feel the difference. This mean that to survive the agency has to expect more from the translators than a cheap agency would do, except higher quality and higher commitment. If the agency is not offering a better quality than the cheap agencies, it will have to become a cheap agency or review its quality procedure because otherwise the client would go to the cheaper one.

I don't know if you are taking about price reduction because of a personal case or because you read it on conditions but I think this policy would be meant either to get a free editing on the back of the (cheap) translator or be sure that the translator does not accept a job he/she is not up to just for the sake of the money.




I agree totally with what you are saying. Good agencies will do the necessary to do all what is right because at the end the result is superior. My feeling is that today there are too many agencies that are willing to sacrifice the quality for the quantity. You are right in my days I have been burnt with agencies that had some incompetent clients or client's reviewer doubting my work, and the agency taking their word for it without taking the time to review the work. Every time I have asked for information to revisit my work, and compare what was required and what I had done. In one occasion, I had someone saying that I must have had gotten the translation from a machine, while I was translating in my own field, and my own language, that took the cake! But what was worth is that the agency that asked me for the translation, never even reviewed the text, even after the client complaint. I went and commented on the comments from the client, they asked for another person to review the text, and when all was set and done it was clear that the client's reviewer was not up to par. I was not charged for the reviewer's cost, but I know some companies would have.

[Edited at 2006-01-28 18:27]


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gad
United States
Local time: 11:11
Member
French to English
An agency also has other responsibilities as well Feb 1, 2006

Genevieve Tournebize-Iliev wrote:

While working steadily for an agency is great, the inconvenience of having to wait until the agency is paid to be paid is a serious problem. Let’s look at the two sides.
If I am an agency, I have the responsibility to talk and understand the requirements of the client. I establish a price that allows me to pay the translator and have some money left over for myself too because I have some expenses and some responsibilities. In the business world, owners of agencies may be paid by clients 30 or 60 days or more after the work is done, and given back to the client. This is what business owners do, and what they engage in when they become a business. Business owners write contracts with the clients and with the translators. From the beginning, everyone knows that by doing business there are some risks. When business owners write contracts they should specify the conditions of the translator’s payment. If a business is going to wait until they get paid by the client before paying the translator they should write it in the contract. If it is not done then the payment schedule must be agreed on by the translator and the owner.


I would add that an agency has the responsibility for proofreading, editing, and quality control for translation work submitted. The agency and translator should work together as a team and the agency should fully expect to have to go through these steps. That is the advantage, for the end client, of going through an agency as opposed to a freelancer. The end client is also paying a higher rate to an agency than they would be paying directly to a freelancer, so the end client has reason to expect that all of these steps are carried out.


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Genevieve Tournebize
Local time: 10:11
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your support , I am in total agreement with what you said Feb 1, 2006

gad wrote:

Genevieve Tournebize-Iliev wrote:

While working steadily for an agency is great, the inconvenience of having to wait until the agency is paid to be paid is a serious problem. Let’s look at the two sides.
If I am an agency, I have the responsibility to talk and understand the requirements of the client. I establish a price that allows me to pay the translator and have some money left over for myself too because I have some expenses and some responsibilities. In the business world, owners of agencies may be paid by clients 30 or 60 days or more after the work is done, and given back to the client. This is what business owners do, and what they engage in when they become a business. Business owners write contracts with the clients and with the translators. From the beginning, everyone knows that by doing business there are some risks. When business owners write contracts they should specify the conditions of the translator’s payment. If a business is going to wait until they get paid by the client before paying the translator they should write it in the contract. If it is not done then the payment schedule must be agreed on by the translator and the owner.


I would add that an agency has the responsibility for proofreading, editing, and quality control for translation work submitted. The agency and translator should work together as a team and the agency should fully expect to have to go through these steps. That is the advantage, for the end client, of going through an agency as opposed to a freelancer. The end client is also paying a higher rate to an agency than they would be paying directly to a freelancer, so the end client has reason to expect that all of these steps are carried out.


I totally agree with what you said, that is why I am trying to create or revive an awareness with people who have been in business a long time and sometimes expect and punish way too much freelance translators.


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gad
United States
Local time: 11:11
Member
French to English
Great - thanks, Genevieve Feb 3, 2006

Genevieve Tournebize-Iliev wrote:

I totally agree with what you said, that is why I am trying to create or revive an awareness with people who have been in business a long time and sometimes expect and punish way too much freelance translators.


Excellent, thanks very much for doing this.:)


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