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Rates' dependence on country of residence
Thread poster: Nadejda Vega Cespedes
Nadejda Vega Cespedes  Identity Verified

Local time: 11:00
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
Dec 21, 2006

A few hours ago I offered my services to an outsourcer in response to a job offer they published here on ProZ. Now I got their reply, and I am sort of shocked.

That gentleman says my rates are too high for a person living in Russia. Yes, exactly that. He did not say I was not qualified enough to earn that much. Nor that the average rate in this language pair was lower. Nor even that his budget was limited. Just this simple thing: you live in Russia, so you should be more modest (about 45% more modest, judging by what he is offering). The outsourcer is from the U.S., in case you are wondering.

So now I would like to find out how popular this attitude is (never before have I encountered anything like this even though I've been in this market for many years) and if it sounds acceptable to this community. Am I the only one who does not think our rates should depend on the price of a loaf of bread in the supermarket across the street? (Forget about St.Petersburg being number 12 in the list of the world's most expensive cities, let's imagine it's cheap.)


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:00
English to Dutch
+ ...
Quality matters, not residence Dec 21, 2006

Hi Nadejda,

I couldn't agree with you more. It's the quality of your work that determines the price, not your hometown.

Maybe you could tell him you're saving money so you can move to the USA...

Best regards,
Margreet


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Khalid Nasir
Iraq
Local time: 13:00
English to Arabic
+ ...
A new rate calculator has just been introduced! Dec 21, 2006

Hi Nadejda,

The Gentleman (!) was right. He wants to introduce a new tool for rate calculation.
Your rate should be like this.
Your rate= Your Original rates / USA person living cost/ your hometown person living cost
For you will be Russia person living cost.
No it is easy for every body to calculate his or her rates.
Your second paragraph, a very nice argument, should be included in your reply if you have not delivered one yet.
Thanks Gentleman. Proz.com has already provided us with very nice rate calculator.

Best Regards

Khalid M Nasir


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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 17:00
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Hi Ndejda Dec 21, 2006

I have never found any agencies who consider my rate as too high for a freelancer living in a developing country, Indonesia. Nevertheless, I do often find agencies who offer extremely low rates for their geographical location, particularly from Asian-based agencies.
Certainly, his reason is not acceptable. However, I would also like to hear other freelancers' experience concerning this matter.


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:00
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Local factors matter Dec 21, 2006

Nadejda Sokolova wrote:

So now I would like to find out how popular this attitude is (never before have I encountered anything like this even though I've been in this market for many years) and if it sounds acceptable to this community. Am I the only one who does not think our rates should depend on the price of a loaf of bread in the supermarket across the street? (Forget about St.Petersburg being number 12 in the list of the world's most expensive cities, let's imagine it's cheap.)


I think the question of whether where you live should influence your rates is a sensitive one on this forum/in this community.

I have recently seen a rate of EUR0.06/word called 'abysmal' here, while I would gladly embrace any job within my specialisation area that was rated EUR0.06/word. Working at the average EUR0.04/word at the moment, I do want to grow my rates, but incrementally is I think the way to go. While I have managed so far to do one 10,000 words translation for EUR0.09/word, it was pure luck, and I am happy to accept jobs priced at EUR0.05-0.06/word.

The loaf of bread example is not entirely off here. A real life example: I am currently building a house (or more properly, having it built by a construction company). The whole investment is going to cost me in the region of 100,000-120,000 euros, spread over the next 30 years in a bank loan. The house isn't going to have all the bells and whistles you can imagine, but it'll have all the latest basic technology (walls, roofs, etc.). (And having following Polish housing forums, I know you can build a decent, solid house for as little as 50,000-60,000 euros in Poland.) Watching some housing programmes on BBC, I don't think you can build a third of a house for this money in the UK, and I think other Western European countries aren't much cheaper. With the current price levels in Poland (rising after we joined the UE, but still relatively modest), I can afford my relatively low rates and still have money to invest in my business and maintain a good standard of living.

Summing up, no one can make you work for a rate you think is too low. However, the rationale that translators in relatively 'cheap' countries (speaking in general; I know some Russian cities are terribly expensive) may accept lower rates is a valid one, even though some translators approached with this kind of thinking may justly feel offended.

Regards,
Maciek



[Edited at 2006-12-21 09:09]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
tactless but not offensive Dec 21, 2006

Nadejda Sokolova wrote:

That gentleman says my rates are too high for a person living in Russia.


Leaving all quality issues aside, as it's got nothing to do with where you live, the client is entitled to deliberately seek cheaper translators from cheaper countries. The translator is also entitled to deliberately seek better paid translations from richer countries.

Rates in the end do not depend on where you live, more on supply and demand for a particular language pair.

On the supply side, if you are living in a country/working in a language pair where there are many translators willing to cut their prices becuase it's a question of survival, then clients will expect you to be able to compete with them.

It is indeed tactless of your client to make this statement, but it's not offensive, and all you have to do is explain to him that you command higher rates.

Spain, by the way, is another country, perceived as 'cheap'. It was indeed, but not anymore, not since about 5-10 years ago.


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Sabina Metcalf  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:00
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
Greetings to my lovely St Pete! Dec 21, 2006

Dear Nadejda,

I think it is outrageous of the outsourcer to suggest that you should be cheaper than any given Western translator simply because you are Russian (or from Russia). Honestly, I see no rationale behind such policy whatsoever!

First of all, what does the Russian micro-economy (let alone, prices for bread, matches, etc.) have to do with the translation market? Also, speaking of economy, Moscow is rated the most expensive city in the world this year (yes, surprisingly more expensive than Tokio and London). Again as if it has anything to do with the translation market. The quality of translation and an ability to meet a deadline does not depend on commodity prices, I think we are all aware of that.

Secondly, if you are positioning yourself on American translation market and offering much lower rates than average American translators charge, it would be highly unethical and referred to as 'dumping policy'. As simple as that!

So I think this outsourcer is being extremely unreasonable and even rude by suggesting that Russian translators (or those residing in Russia) should be treated with less respect than any other translators in the world -- and it is purely a matter of respect in this case.

Good luck with all your endeavours!



[Edited at 2006-12-21 09:54]


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xxxSaifa
Local time: 11:00
German to French
+ ...
Agree with you and Margreet Dec 21, 2006

Hi Nadejda,

After moving from Germany to Spain last year, some clients asked me (and they were serious) if I was going to lower my rates now, because "life is much cheaper, after all".
I just wondered, as most of my compatriots know Spain very well from holidays (Mallorca is often refered as the 17th German land!) and should know that almost everything in Spain cost more or less the same than in Germany (wine is cheaper, vegetables also, but the flat costs more than what we paid in Germany, computer stuff costs the same, clothes also etc.).

I explained politely but firmly that I was not intending to lower my rates, as the quality of my work would remain the same and the cost of living is the same. They accepted my reply.

Perhaps you should inform those outsourcers about the cost of living in Russia (price of a bottle of wine, price of shoes, price of a dictionary, price of your rent, price of a computer, etc...). Then, they could not pretend "life is cheap".

Good luck! And season's greetings to everyone!

[Edited at 2006-12-21 10:27]


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William [Bill] Gray  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 11:00
Member (2006)
English
+ ...
From the opposite perspective... Dec 21, 2006

Just a thought from the opposite perspective. I live in Norway, where costs of living are among the highest in the world. That means also that our salaries are higher than elsewhere, because we have a very high standard of living as well.

When I bid for jobs, I use a "locally" recognised cost per word, which means I lose so many jobs to people who come from other lower-cost-of-living countries and have my langauge pair.

So, I need (should?) price my work according to how much the client can pay (I have actually offered to do this in terms of jobs offered from India, for example), whether I get a full living wage from that or not. Right?

If we agree with that, then Nadejda should be paid according to a reasonable rate IN THE COUNTRY WHERE THE CLIENT RESIDES! In fact, quite the direct opposite to what she has encountered!

Food for thought, I agree... Christmas dilemma, in the season of goodwill and all that... Happy Christmas anyway, and a wonderful "ProZy" New Year.

Bill


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:00
French to English
+ ...
he's entitled to try... Dec 21, 2006

... and likewise you're entitled to stick to your guns. If he wants your expertise, he will have to pay for it - if the exact same expertise is available elsewhere for less money, then you will lose the business. Try everything you can to convince him that he wants *you* to do this job, that you are special.

I live in an expensive country (the UK) but my outgoings are quite low (no commute, no work clothes to buy, no children yet, no pets, few foreign holidays, I don't own a car, I'm relatively careful about what I buy). I don't tell my clients this, however, and I don't reduce my rates so that I can just subsist.


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Fan Gao
Australia
Local time: 21:00
Member (2006)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Just ignore them Dec 21, 2006

Hi Nadejda,

We have come across this a couple of times but it's only when a company in India has approached us and given us the sob story about "developing country", "rates to match your country's economy" etc. You can bet anything that if an agency in India is outsourcing Chinese or any other language, their end client is more than likely western and paying them western rates.

It's surprising to hear that a US agency or any other western agency would try and do the same thing. At the end of the day, geography is irrelevant, it's the quality of the service you provide that counts.

Just delete the message, forget about them and move on. Their response to you doesn't even merit a polite refusal. There are countless agencies out there who need the services you provide and they need you a lot more than you need them. Charge the rates you deserve and get them. Forget the rest.

Best wishes,
Mark


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Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 07:00
English to Spanish
Same thing here Dec 21, 2006

I also live in a so-called "cheap" country and have encountered the same suggestions. In fact, a similar issue was published a couple of weeks ago in the Spanish forum, because a colleague from Argentina received an e-mail where the outsourcer stated that his/her rates were too high given that they have translators in Argentina and Chile working for XXX (an offensive rate).

Lia Fail wrote:

Rates in the end do not depend on where you live, more on supply and demand for a particular language pair.

On the supply side, if you are living in a country/working in a language pair where there are many translators willing to cut their prices because it's a question of survival, then clients will expect you to be able to compete with them.


I agree with Lia, it is a matter of supply and demand and being able to survive in a crowded market (at least Eng > Spa), but right now by working through the Internet the country boundaries should disappear and we should compete in a global market. If I were to think that because I am working in a country where there are many translators willing to cut prices I should do the same, I'd do much better sticking to my local clients and forgetting about Proz and other portals, which would go in hand with avoiding the whole transfer and exchange rates which, believe me, are a hassle. I guess Nadejda's situation might be slightly different given that she's in Europe and is offered rates in € so there's no exchange rate to consider, but still.

Also, let's not forget that, as Bill pointed out, most agencies charge the end client their local rates, so when they use the "low-cost country" argument they are probably getting a considerable gain at the expense of translators who don't know better or do not have a choice. I find thid abusive.

Personally, I forget about rates lower than what I charge -and get paid- in the local market, specially considering that payment from foreign outsourcers tends to be much slower that form my local clients.

[Edited at 2006-12-21 14:43]


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 04:00
English to Russian
+ ...
I'd shove the bastard's words down his throat! Dec 21, 2006

He can seek any rates he wishes but he is rude, out of line and plain disgusting. He would have been sued out of his pants for declaring such reason in the US! Who is he to decide what level of comfort you deserve and what is your knowledge worth!!!!! Reply and ask him if he makes more than 35K in US dollars, which is ~average for the US in 2005. If so, maybe he makes too much for a person living in the United States.

Reply and don't choose the words, indulge yourself!

Damn, the day was starting so well...

Don't swallow it in silence. I would not for the life in me.

Irene


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Stephanie Wloch  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:00
Member (2003)
Dutch to German
Food or housing should not be relevant Dec 21, 2006

Maciek Drobka wrote:
Watching some housing programmes on BBC, I don't think you can build a third of a house for this money in the UK, and I think other Western European countries aren't much cheaper.

I suppose that those housing programmes are not even representative for people in the UK.
But why does food and housing matter?
We are professional translators who invest in our business.
We all have to acquire
a PC, software, newspapers, books, pay for trainings, travels.
These costs do not differ that much all over the world.

Regards
Steffi


[Edited at 2006-12-21 18:51]


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Maciek Drobka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:00
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Non-translation factors do matter to me Dec 21, 2006

Tuliparola wrote:
But why does food and housing matter?
We are professional translators who invest in our business.
We all have to acquire
a PC, software, newspapers, books, pay for trainings, travels.
These costs do not differ that much all over the world.


Call me unprofessional, but I've yet to attend a training course. I last travelled on business some 3-4 years ago. Agreed, I buy software, books, the odd magazine, and upgrade my PC (not that often). But on the whole, this cost group is to me a relatively small percentage of my income.

As I do not live in a vacuum, I have to decide whether what I earn is enough to pay for what I need where I live, not in the US, not in Russia, not in India. I need money for a lot of other things than my translator's equipment, and at least at the moment, most of these things are relatively cheaper in Poland than in Western Europe.

That said, I've every intention to increase my average rate, and have seen some success in the past couple of months, even if I'm still light years behind this community's giants.

Maciek


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