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Shameful proposals... or sour grapes?
Thread poster: Janis Abens

Janis Abens  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 02:23
Swedish to English
+ ...
May 13, 2007

Sometimes I get offers from outsourcers in offices thousands of miles away from the European end client, offering rates that are about 20% of what I am used to getting. This mildly infuriates me because the end client and the translator are ones who are getting screwed by this outsourcing trend. Although the client might save a penny or two, the poor schmuck working at sweat-shop rates is not as likely to produce a satisfactory result, IMHO. I can't imagine that any of my esteemed colleagues would be in such dire straits as to accept such an offer. The "business consultant" who outsources this work is getting the lion's share, obviously. Maybe it's just envy that I dont have the skill or inclination to fool my newbie colleagues into doing my work for less pay than I get. Gotta look into that...

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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:23
English to Arabic
+ ...
Inevitable effect of globalisation May 13, 2007

I'm sure this has been discussed many times before, and many translators have taken your attitude that it is terribly outrageous to be offered such low rates - that there are "sweatshops" out there were translators are made to work at ridiculously low rates.

I don't quite see things that way. The internet and the globalised age has brought together people in a very unnatural way. We are falsely led to believe that we're working under the same conditions, in one big marketplace - when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that the differences in cost of living, minimum wage, taxes, inflation etc between one country and another are simply ENORMOUS.

Just as an example, an annual income of £12,000 (£1,000 per month) here in the UK is considered quite low, while in Egypt some families are happy to earn £1,000 PER YEAR!

Consequently, what you consider to be an outrageous offer can be considered quite generous in other parts of the world, where cost of living and taxes are very low. It's just a fact of life and an inevitable effect of globalisation.

[Edited at 2007-05-13 11:18]


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gdesai  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:53
German to English
Not necessarily sweatshop rate! May 13, 2007

I agree with Nesrin.
In almost all South-east Asian countries the going rate is about a fifth (yes, you read it right) a fifth of what is offered in Europe/US. And this is considered par for the course.
And the quality is also up to the mark.

[Edited at 2007-05-13 11:42]


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Janis Abens  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 02:23
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
An increasingly common trend? May 13, 2007

Case in point: a European company scraps their own expansion management department and retains a major Global Corporate Con$ultant, who in turn have an office in a very remote "underdeveloped" part of the world, where a project involving translations between several European languages including English is to be managed. The local office in turn tender bids from local translation agencies who purportedly can manage these language combinations. Then the agencies post i.e.- on Proz .

On the unfortunate occasion I had the bad judgment to get involved, I encountered some amazingly unprofessional and sometimes unethical behavior (such as refusing to provide a firm PO), in addition to the poor rates and atrocious English skills among some contact persons.

It turned out to be the same end-client I had previously worked for at a normal European rate.

Now, do sensible European corporations actually expect to save money by having *European translations* managed in SE Asia? I would think not, but they don't necessarily even know what is happening. They are paying European-sized fees to the Global consultant, who is leveraging a "third-world" cost structure for the actual services to increase profits. That is the core of my discontent.

Of course, this is just business as usual, caveat emptor, etc. , but I think it its not out of place to encourage even newbies to the business to *not* accept jobs at these rates. There are not many (i.e.) Swedish-to-German experts living in Bangalore, and I hope all of them charge what they would if they lived in Bonn. Maybe they need to survive in Europe one day.

OTOH, the remoteness of the agency need not be a factor in itself. My absolute #1 favorite client is a Korean agency.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:23
English to German
+ ...
Underselling themselves? May 13, 2007


And the quality is also up to the mark.

...in which case they'd be underselling themselves. No?

Ralf


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 02:23
Turkish to English
+ ...
It's about adding value May 13, 2007

I agree with Nesrin that this is just a fact and life and we have to live with it. If somebody in a developing country is prepared to do the same job for one fifth of the rate that is acceptable in the developed world, is it really surprising that clients prefer the cheaper option? Imagine you are shopping for a pair of shoes. You find two pairs of equal quality, one made in Europe and one made in Vietnam. The latter cost one fifth of the price of the former. So, do you buy the European shoes and pay five times as much as you need to out of sympathy, because you know the European worker has a higher cost of living? I don't think so. The translation market obeys exactly the same laws of economics.
So what can translators in developed countries do? Instead of grousing, you seriously have to consider why a client should pay you five times the lowest available rate so that you can afford to live. The answer has to do with adding value. What you produce has to be worth paying extra for. The translation market is highly segmented, with various niches defined by things such as levels of quality, subject matter and purpose. Some of these niches pay very well. Perhaps there are indeed few Swedish-German experts outside high-cost countries, but in my case I am competing with people in Turkey where the cost of living is about one fifth of what it is where I live. My rates are comparatively high, but I have a satisfactory workload. How come? Well, I must be giving clients something that they are prepared to pay a premium for. Just as certain consumers will pay hand over fist for a special brand of shoes!


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Is it an almost exclusive feature of translation? May 13, 2007

I try to envisage other professional activities that can have its cost slashed down to almost nothing from e-globalization. So far I've found software development, web site design, and, to some extent, DTP.

The difference between these and translation is that, in most cases, the former require frequent interaction between the end-client and the people actually doing the job, which would be hampered by the in-betweens delaying communication.

In most cases, when the source text is straightforwardly understandable, it doesn't make much difference how many people there are in-between. Files will be successively hopping from one e-mailbox to another in a matter of minutes.

So my next-door neighbor in Brazil might be outsourcing the job to a translation agency in the USA, UK, or wherever, who will outsource it to another agency maybe in the Far East, or wherever, which on its turn might eventually outsource it to me. Assuming the worst possible scenario, the end client will be paying 15¢/wd to get the job done, I'll be getting 1¢/wd to actually do it, and there will be people on the way making a bundle from forwarding files attached to e-mail messages.

Then there is the payment flowing in the opposite direction. Quite often there will be delays, and the chain might be broken by a sometimes hard-to-pinpoint party's default on payment.

I see localized payment terms going to 30, 60, and even 90 days. So far, outsourcers seem too shy to ask for more (which does not prevent them from practicing longer terms - see the ones with low scores on BB). For me, this extension seems to stem from adding various 30-day payment terms in a row.

As the cost of living is so varied, and some colleagues on this forum have implied that 1-3¢/wd rates may represent a good income in some parts of the world (e.g. of 12¢ were a good rate to pay for the job in London, 1¢ would be fair compensation for a translator doing it in Cairo), there is no way to remain competitive lifting prices to the translator physical location's standard.

What I think we, translators, can do is to choke these in-betweens out of cash. I'm not talking about the honest translation agencies who are the only people between clients and translators, who have hard-working PMs in their staff, but the ones who get jobs from one agency and outsource it to another. These usually require longer payment terms, which they often intend to honor only after the translator gets obstreperous. And they'll make such payments from money they receive for newer jobs, with payment due 30 days later.

So IMHO the solution doesn't lie in refusing rates lower than acceptable in the area the translator lives, but in refusing to bid on any job where the payment term is longer than 30 days, no exceptions. This will drive the unnecessary in-betweens out of business.

To give an idea, my longest-standing direct, local client has always paid me within 48 hours from delivery, for the past 20 years. I have several (equally direct, local) ones that pay me within a week. If I outsourced such jobs - which they know I don't, that's one of the reasons why they hire me - I could make more money from juggling cash than translating!

My 2¢.

[]s
Jose'


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Riens Middelhof  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:23
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
I couldn´t agree more with you, Tim May 13, 2007

To the same extend as we all benefit from a globalized economy, importing cheap sneakers and year-round fresh green beans from all over the world, we also have to accept that one´s personal trade might, and possibly will be outsourced one day.

If a hefty trade tax on international payments would "protect" you against the low rates in some countries, would you be willing to pay that tax on your income from your Korean agency, Janis?

@ José:
Be sure translation is not the only "affected" sector. Webdesign is another great example. If you look at a site like "sitepoint.com" or "elance" you´ll see that loads of people are willing to work 5 full days on a completely coded website for 200$US in a CONTEST environment. So after several rounds of proposals and reviews it´s perfectly normal to have your design rejected.


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Mihaela Ghiuzeli  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
Romanian to English
+ ...
Shameful Proposals May 13, 2007

Janis Abens wrote:

Sometimes I get offers from outsourcers in offices thousands of miles away from the European end client, offering rates that are about 20% of what I am used to getting. This mildly infuriates me because the end client and the translator are ones who are getting screwed by this outsourcing trend. Although the client might save a penny or two, the poor schmuck working at sweat-shop rates is not as likely to produce a satisfactory result, IMHO. I can't imagine that any of my esteemed colleagues would be in such dire straits as to accept such an offer. The "business consultant" who outsources this work is getting the lion's share, obviously. Maybe it's just envy that I dont have the skill or inclination to fool my newbie colleagues into doing my work for less pay than I get. Gotta look into that...


The problem is not just global. I live in the US but being a newbie or rather reentering in this field, I have been approached by established translators/ interpreters with a client base in place who offered me half rates. I was in a quandary: should I accept them in order to get started and brush up my skills with a caveat of being a bottom feeder or should I take the high road and wait for decent proposals ?That's a dilemma I believe many newbies face.


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Heidi C  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
English to Spanish
+ ...
Payment in 30 days? May 14, 2007

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

So IMHO the solution doesn't lie in refusing rates lower than acceptable in the area the translator lives, but in refusing to bid on any job where the payment term is longer than 30 days, no exceptions. This will drive the unnecessary in-betweens out of business.
[]s
Jose'


Actually, I think this is the best idea I have seen yet about how to solve this problem...

The first time I noticed that most jobs posted are requesting delivery of the translation in 3 days or something like that, but are offering payment in 30 days or more, I was really suprised.

After seeing that this 30 day payment system appears so much, I came to assume it is the rule... Though, personally, I have never worked like that: I present my invoice together with the work, and generally get paid that same week if not the same day... (unless it is for a client I work for constantly, who pays me on a monthly basis)

Maybe we are "getting used to" seeing this practice and have come to accept it as correct...


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Satu Ilva  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 02:23
English to Finnish
+ ...
Who works for these companies? May 14, 2007

gdesai wrote:

I agree with Nesrin.
In almost all South-east Asian countries the going rate is about a fifth (yes, you read it right) a fifth of what is offered in Europe/US. And this is considered par for the course.
And the quality is also up to the mark.

[Edited at 2007-05-13 11:42]


And where do these shops find a Finnish translator (for example) who will work for these rates? This is what I don't understand. There aren't many translators of the smaller European languages in South-East Asia, and if they use translators who live in Europe, surely they can't get away with paying one fifth of the going rate? Why should I accept a low rate just because the agency offering it is in a developing country?


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Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:53
German to English
Agree with Satu May 14, 2007

Satu Ilva wrote:

Why should I accept a low rate just because the agency offering it is in a developing country?


I agree with this comment and it's one of the reasons I hardly ever accept work from Indian translation agencies. My clients are Indian direct clients and one European agency.


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gdesai  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:53
German to English
Don't let us get Bangalored! May 14, 2007

Gentlemen:
Let us retain our focus. namely whether one should accept jobs at less than what one finds to be the going rate.
I had the misfortune of receiving a reply from one of the outsourcer who had posted his job on ProZ.com to the effect "we prefer a European translator/agency".
Is this complimentary to me? Does it make a difference whether the translators is based in Turin or in Timbuktu's as log as the translator does his job professionally at a rate that he can afford? What is wrong with that. Is this not a free competitive market?
I for one have my rates and any thing below that is most politely returned. And I do not take that as an offence.
PS: I just ow read this very interesting article on Proz.com (where else!). It is available at http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/531/1/Prices,-Service-and-Marketing

[Edited at 2007-05-14 07:46]

[Edited at 2007-05-14 08:49]


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 01:23
French to Dutch
+ ...
Don't forget May 14, 2007

Janis Abens wrote:
of my esteemed colleagues would be in such dire straits as to accept such an offer.

that some of these offers are coming from "esteemed colleagues".

Others come from agencies which signed a tender or a contract for a price far too low, and now have problems in finding a translator for half of that price. Irrespective of the country.


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Melina Kajander
English to Finnish
Oh mine... May 25, 2007

Nesrin wrote:
Just as an example, an annual income of £12,000 (£1,000 per month) here in the UK is considered quite low, while in Egypt some families are happy to earn £1,000 PER YEAR!

Consequently, what you consider to be an outrageous offer can be considered quite generous in other parts of the world, where cost of living and taxes are very low. It's just a fact of life and an inevitable effect of globalisation.

[Edited at 2007-05-13 11:18]


...I'm obviously in the wrong country! Suddenly relocating sounds tempting...


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