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Accepting low rates and not getting paid even that
Thread poster: Ana Cuesta

Ana Cuesta  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:10
Member
English to Spanish
Jun 22, 2006

I seem to notice some sort of trend in that people experiencing non-payment problems (or at lest the people venting their frustration about it here) had been offered low or very low rates to start with, which is sort of funny because if I don’t intend to pay I could as well offer you the moon… and after giving it some thought there is a possible reason that sprouts to mind: maybe the “crooks” feel safer that way, in the sense that probably the people who accept rock-bottom rates are also less likely to (successfully) fight for their money, be it because of lack of knowledge (if they are unaware of market rates they will be equally unaware of existing collection procedures), lack of economic means to pursue legal procedures (not a bad idea making sure you don’t pay someone enough money to afford a lawyer to sue you) or plainly lack of self-esteem (we can put it the other way round here so nobody gets offended: someone asking for a high rate must firmly believe s/he is worth it and could be more assertive and willing to fight for it).

Personally, my only non-paying experience was at the very beginning and it certainly seemed to fit in that picture (regarding low pay on their part and inexperience on mine).


What do others think?


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Angela&Claudio
Italy
Local time: 03:10
Italian to Spanish
+ ...
Too good to be true Jun 22, 2006

The only time that I have had a quote immediately accepted just as it was, without being asked for a lower price... the company was going into bankruptcy and they never paid.
Too good to be true!!!


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Hester Eymers  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:10
Member (2005)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Seems to be the case, yes Jun 22, 2006

At least in my experience...

I didn't get paid only once (so far, keep my fingers crossed!), and it was in the beginning of my freelance career, when I experienced a very slack period and accepted a small, low paying job to at least give myself the impression I was doing something useful.

I wouldn't agree with such low rates anymore. Why someone who doesn't intend to pay from the start, offers such a low rate has been something of a puzzle to me too. Your suggestion about making sure the translator he hires is not likely to sue him makes some sense.

In my case the total amount due was so small I didn't even consider it. I just wrote it down to experience. A course on financial risks and how to manage them would have been a lot more expensive!


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:10
French to English
Ditto Jun 22, 2006

Hester Eymers wrote:

when I experienced a very slack period and accepted a small, low paying job to at least give myself the impression I was doing something useful.



Not only that, this was from a member of proz who said the job was for an NGO so she couldn't pay much. I'd rather she'd just been honest about it and said she wasn't gonna pay at all. Altho I must admit that I've since had doubts that it was even for an NGO. Luckily, I'm now in the position where I don't have to take low-rate jobs just to keep me occupied or because half a loaf is better than no bread at all.


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Sonja Tomaskovic  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:10
English to German
+ ...
Amazing Jun 22, 2006

Hester Eymers wrote:
In my case the total amount due was so small I didn't even consider it. I just wrote it down to experience.


Which is another reason for them to offer low rates. If the amount is too small, and above all the translator lives in another country, it becomes very unlikely that they will have to pay at all, because - as you have put it rightly - it is too costly to even consider chasing them for it.

But then again, how many agencies have gotten away with this? Probably too many! They got free translations and earned well with them. I wish that every once in a while, they submit a really bad translation and their clients dump them, or that they too experience how it feels not to be paid.

Sonja


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:10
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
There are other scenarios Jun 22, 2006

First, not really about rates you could complain of, but the size of a job may make it not worth a transfer or a PayPal click. (Just don't bid if you're not in the same country).

Then, there are the large jobs at low rates that might have 3 intermediaries in-between. (Some agencies still devote their time to skimming "finder's fees" without any real added value). If a link breaks in that chain, it's not likely you'll get paid. On that possibility, better not accept low rates to begin with.


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Susanne Schnitzler  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:10
English to German
Bad payers and a reason to accept low rates Jun 22, 2006

Obviously this is an experience all beginners (have to ??) make. Same here - and I don't know whether I would have been paid even the smallest amount if I hadn't had the guts to ask a forum moderator (elsewhere) for assistance.

Judging from the mail I received from the client after my (very polite) request for the outstanding payment, I must have done Sonja a big favour because he reproached me of having done such bad translations that he lost two (!) major clients. Funny enough he did nevertheless offer payment ... I would have claimed compensation if I was him.

But I would like to say something about low rates.

To get established one might do voluntary work for NGOs. I choose another way. I live in a district of Hamburg where the people are poor, but some of them nevertheless need translations of (for example) job references to get jobs abroad or legal documents for emigration or immigration. I don't think we should leave them alone only because they can not afford our normal rates - so I charge them rates they can afford (but they have to pay at least part upfront *smile - I am no longer that naiv*).

The payment is not overwhelming but it is still acceptable under the circumstances. So where is a profit in it?

For me it is: (more) translation experience, word gets around and I get recommendations, new contacts, fun jobs and the feeling of doing something useful (okay: NGO would be too ...)

For the clients: They know they are taken seriously, they get what they need and they need not feel humiliated because they need not beg for what they want - they pay for it.

This is my first months doing this and I must say it seems to work. The next months will show whether it was a good idea or not.

But I will definitely never again bid on low budget projects offered online.

Cheers
Susanne


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:10
English to French
+ ...
Simple math Jun 22, 2006

Many agencies/outsourcers/clients think that if you offer really low rates, that means you will do a bad job. The same thing happens with agencies/outsourcers/clients who offer to pay ridiculous rates - they will pay late or never. I think, as several people pointed it out, this is due to the intermediaries.

I think it is good practice to include a clause in your contract to remind the client of their obligations. If there are intermediaries, it doesn't matter, because the contract was signed between you and your client, and whoever they signed with is not your problem.

I have a client who has a policy stating that they pay only when their client has paid. However, they establish a schedule - say 45 days - and make sure their client respects it. For their new clients, the terms are much shorter to make sure they can pay the translator within the specified timeframe. In any case, when their client pays late, the agency pays up even if they haven't received the client's payment. And I don't mind working with them, as the rates are great and the projects are great. The payment terms are a little long due to this policy, but they always pay on time, or very seldom a couple of days late.

In any case, low rates always ring a rather fishy bell to me. For one thing, I don't work for substandard rates because I don't do substandard work - the equation is simple. Further, when the rates are this low, it means most of the time that the ARE intermediaries, which is always a bad sign, in particular for getting paid.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Maybe they don't calculate it the way you think Jun 22, 2006

I have no doubt that there is a strong correlation between demanding low rates and not paying at all, but this relation is not necessarily based on the rationale you suspect - it may simply be caused by lack of respect.

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Aleksandr Okunev
Local time: 05:10
English to Russian
One more point Jun 23, 2006

Ana Cuesta wrote:What do others think?

When you work at a low rate most of the time you are unable to deliver proper quality either.
invho
Stay well
Alex


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Yelena Pestereva  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 05:10
Member (2006)
English to Russian
Can anybody explain to a beginner what rates are called low.... Jun 23, 2006

in case of thanslations from English into an other European language - major and minor?

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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
It depends.. Jun 23, 2006

Yelena, you can find one of the possible answers here:

http://www.proz.com/?sp=rate_calc


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:10
English to French
+ ...
So-called low rates Jun 24, 2006

Hi Yelena,

You can also check the average rates for your language pairs. I don't remember how to do it anymore, but I think that by going to your profile and clicking on the option to edit your rates, there will be an option to see the average of rates on ProZ for your language pairs. These are a bit lower than the actual market rates, but it is because there are pracically no direct clients on ProZ - and agencies take their profit off your rates.

Good luck!


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Barbara Cochran, MFA  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Trying to Get Their 2 Cents Worth and Then Some Jun 25, 2006

Last month, a translation agency (I hate to mention it's right here in my country, the United States), offered me most of their work in my language pairs if I would work for 2 cents a word! Base on my credentials (published, experienced), I thought that was damn nervy and degrading! I think all translators should refuse to work for anything lower than the standard rates, in other words, go out on a kind of mini-strike so the clients understand we mean business! They should never forget that we are professionals and should be paid accordingly!

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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:10
English to German
+ ...
You are an entrepreneur, not an employee Jun 25, 2006

Hi femme,
femme wrote:

Last month, a translation agency (I hate to mention it's right here in my country, the United States),

Not all outsourcers trying to hire freelancers at very low prices are in emerging-market economies. Likewise, there are translators in developed/industrialised economies who do work for such prices.

offered me most of their work in my language pairs if I would work for 2 cents a word! Base on my credentials (published, experienced), I thought that was damn nervy and degrading!

Nervy? Maybe. But why degrading? They presented a business proposal which you found unacceptable (and you have any right to do so). So you rejected it (in fact, messages like these should probably go straight to the trash) - end of story.

I think all translators should refuse to work for anything lower than the standard rates, in other words, go out on a kind of mini-strike so the clients understand we mean business! They should never forget that we are professionals and should be paid accordingly!

Sure - but how independent entrepreneurs can "go on strike" is beyond me. Every freelancer needs to decide his/her pricing individually - if you consider the latest jobs/BB improvements, you will see that ProZ.com takes the initiative to help providers be aware of average prices, and give them a hand in finding out their own pricing.

Best regards,
Ralf


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