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Poll: If it were possible for ProZ.com to set a minimum rate for you and others--should it do so?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 05:26
SITE STAFF
Jan 6, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "If it were possible for ProZ.com to set a minimum rate for you and others--should it do so?".

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:26
German to English
+ ...
Globalisation - or the lowest common denominator? Jan 6, 2006

Rates depend on a number of things: country of residence, career maturity, expertise, special subjects, type of job etc..

The rates seen on ProZ are usually very low (too low for someone who needs to make a living in Germany, for example). Setting a minimum rate would probably backfire - although the idea is motivated by the best of intentions, it would make more and more outsourcers expect to achieve that minimum rate even in countries with a high cost of living, and it would make things more difficult for freelancers who need a rate above the minimum in order to survive. It would just be another globalised factor in the process that tries to drag us all down to the lowest common denominator.

To counter this trend, we need good arguments for our own expertise and the courage to refuse jobs at suicide rates.


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Dusica Cook  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:26
English to Bosnian
+ ...
difficulties related to fixed expenses, but good for healthy competition Jan 6, 2006

i know (and was seen in the previous poll) that there would be many cases of people agreeing outside the proz and making their own prices, but...

assuming that everyone is fair and would follow the minimum-price rules, then i believe that a minimum price would help creation and maintenance of a healthy competition. when there is a price that you should not go below, then, i assume, the client would chose the quality over price.

still, there are notable differences between fixed expenses involved in production of translation, between countries. i have noted, for my languages, that the price goes from 0,03 to 0,15 or so… for me, this means that the price should be set for each language and each region, separately. i do not think that there should be one price for all!

regards, d.


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Peter Bouillon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:26
Member (2005)
French to German
+ ...
Country of residence?! Jan 6, 2006

Victor Dewsbery wrote:

Rates depend on a number of things: country of residence,
quote]

Well, they oughtn't to. At least, they oughtn't to depend on the country of residence of the translator. I know that I would want to be paid exactly as much as a Swiss translator, even if I were living in Guatemala -- provided I was able to provide quality comparable to Swiss made translations.

There might be a point in making translation rates dependent on the contry of residence of the recipient.

P.


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Steffen Pollex  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:26
English to German
+ ...
Good point, Victor! Jan 6, 2006

Victor Dewsbery wrote:


Setting a minimum rate would probably backfire - although the idea is motivated by the best of intentions, it would make more and more outsourcers expect to achieve that minimum rate even in countries with a high cost of living, ...


Such a "minimum" rate could soon be considered by outsourcers a "maximum rate" or "standard rate" with no space for negotiation for the translators connected to Proz.

And it would limit us, the translators, in establishing our own rates, which I do not welcome at all.

Plus: who would define these rates? Once again - as in the case with the limit on the number of questions allowed per day - the Proz management, with no opportunity to influence the process for those mostly concerned?


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Steffen Pollex  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:26
English to German
+ ...
This is exactly what Victor meant Jan 6, 2006

Peter Bouillon wrote:

At least, they oughtn't to depend on the country of residence of the translator. I know that I would want to be paid exactly as much as a Swiss translator, even if I were living in Guatemala -- provided I was able to provide quality comparable to Swiss made translations.



That you cannot work for Indian or Chinese rates while living in Germany or the UK. You won't even earn your amortization and the cost for power supply in this case, let alone that you would have to have something to eat.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:26
German to English
+ ...
You are right, Peter - up to a point. Jan 6, 2006

Peter Bouillon wrote:
Victor Dewsbery wrote:
Rates depend on a number of things: country of residence,
quote]
Well, they oughtn't to. At least, they oughtn't to depend on the country of residence of the translator. I know that I would want to be paid exactly as much as a Swiss translator, even if I were living in Guatemala ...


Fair point. I, too, sometimes work for a Swiss agency that pays rather more than my German agencies (although I gather that Swiss agencies can do this and still pay less than they would for a translator based in Switzerland).
But the coin has a flip side, too. What fee would you charge to an agency from Guatemala? How do you react to the occasional request for quotes from agencies in Hong Kong or Beijing? This is the eroding effect of globalisation, the "lowest common denominator" factor. Here, my country of residence is definitely a factor that affects the rates I need to charge, and a ProZ minimum fee would be completely irrelevant to my situation.


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Peter Bouillon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:26
Member (2005)
French to German
+ ...
Not applicable for me Jan 6, 2006

Victor Dewsbery wrote:
But the coin has a flip side, too. What fee would you charge to an agency from Guatemala? How do you react to the occasional request for quotes from agencies in Hong Kong or Beijing?


I'm afraid I don't do business at all with either Guatemala, Hong Kong or China - since I don't know anything about their legal system or their way of doing business; neither do I have the ressources to find that out. So that point is moot for me.

I might amend my last post and say that equal goods or services should cost the same no matter from which country they are provided. When there is a definitive risk involved in one country, but not in another country, then services from the respective countries are not really equal.

On the other hand, I don't recall being offered spectacularly high rates from Guatemala or China -- which would be appropriate considering the business risk involved when dealing with such countries.

P.


[Edited at 2006-01-06 14:59]


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Peter Bouillon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:26
Member (2005)
French to German
+ ...
I rather meant the opposite, I think Jan 6, 2006

Steffen Pollex wrote:
This is exactly what Victor meant:
That you cannot work for Indian or Chinese rates while living in Germany or the UK.


Rather, I meant that an Indian or Chinese ought to earn German rates when they provide German-quality services. The Chinese or Indian cost of living doesn't come into this at all.

This is a matter of elementary fairness. Offering an Indian lower wages just because s/he is Indian is comparable to offering a woman lower wages just because she is female.

As I said previously, however, this only pertains to services that are really comparable (so business security, reliability, a stable legal system, trustworthy banking, respect for personal property, absence of corruption etc. must all be taken into account in addition to the actual service being provided).

P.

[Edited at 2006-01-06 15:22]


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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 15:26
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Costs determine suicide point, not actual price. Jan 6, 2006

1. Translation is an international business. Most of my clients are outside of my country, fortunately since most local pay low rates, with some exceptions. The agencies do not care where I live so long as they have a way to pay me and we have some common hours during which we can communicate. They are definately not interested in my cost of living. They want the best combination of cost and quality, as they choose to define it.

2. The real effect of the local cost of living is to set the translator's lowest possible rate. I do not work for .04 USD a word, let alone .02 because I would better off with a regular job. There are countries where there are no "regular" jobs. So, .02 is better than the alternative, .00. While I do not appreciate the fact that someone is willing to work for half of my rate, I understand that in many third world countries those "pennies" are the difference between bread and no bread. I am grateful that my reality is different. I earn enough to meet my needs and have the luxury of waiting for the "well paid job." Not everybody does.

3. In summary, translation is an international job. However, as long as global economies are so unequal, one cannot prevent a certain number of translators from surviving at any price. Most however will take advantage of the globalization of the labor market and eventually make, in local terms, good money.


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Richard Creech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:26
French to English
+ ...
Some General Economic Principles Jan 6, 2006

People should bear in mind some basic economic principles that govern free markets:

1. The optimal price is that at which a willing seller will sell to a willing buyer. An artificially (i.e. non market-created) high price creates a shortage (i.e. there are sellers who would sell, and buyers who would buy, but they are prevented from doing so). This is inefficient, as it means that there are services that are not provided even though a willing buyer and seller both exist.

2. Under the doctrine of comparative advantage, it is expected and desirable for goods and services of equal quality to be provided by those who can do so most efficiently (i.e. cheaply). You do not want the world to have to pay $100 to produce a good if it can be produced for $10. This drains money from the economy that could be used towards other ends. If a country can not produce a good of the same quality as cheaply as another it is inefficient for it to continue to do so. The real problem here is that services provided in different countries are invariably of different qualities. This is not to say anything of the quality of the translation itself, but rather points to costs and uncertainties associated with doing business in distant places that operate under unfamiliar and perhaps even unfriendly legal systems. These, however, are factors for the free market to assess.

3. In light of the above considerations, the law of the United States, the European Union, most European states and several other countries, it is illegal to enter into an agreement to fix prices to restrain free trade.


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Peter Bouillon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:26
Member (2005)
French to German
+ ...
A valid point Jan 6, 2006

Steffen Pollex wrote:
Such a "minimum" rate could soon be considered by outsourcers a "maximum rate" or "standard rate" with no space for negotiation for the translators connected to Proz.


I agree; this is a real danger. This is what happens to translators already that dare to publish their own minimum rates on Proz. Put yourself into the shoes of an agency owner. You know that Translator X charges at least 4 per word, whereas the "target" is 10 cents. Will you enter negotiations with an offer of 4 cents or will you start by offering 10 cents?

If Proz were to decree that all translation offers start at, say, 4 cents, then 4 cents would be the de-facto lower bound from which each and every negotiation with each and every translator has to start. Real hard on the translators that never ever wanted to work for 4 cents in the first place.

P.


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Eva Blanar  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 14:26
English to Hungarian
+ ...
A minimum rate becomes a flat rate Jan 6, 2006

Actually, Victor said it all: I only want to add that the reasons why we should not strive for "established" minimum rates is not so much the country of residence, but rather a mix of the following facts:

- Our clients are based in different countries, with different price levels, why shall we turn away from some of them? Low income is better than no income.

- The jobs are also different (in real life, I do differentiate in my rates: I am ready to do simple texts, with lots of repetitions etc. for a token payment, I don't really care, I only insist on my normal rates (or above) when I can see it is an important document, or it is a challenging one).

- If this site declares a minimum rate, I bet the rates of all of us will go down in the medium-long run and some of us might even be compelled to adjust our own rates on the profile page.

The only good thing about that would be to declare that we are different from those sites where... Well... so what?

My experience: each of the clients who contacted me through ProZ.com (and there were many), offered always exactly my minimum rate indicated in that language pair on my profile page. Coincidence?

In a way, price ranges are already applied at this site (through the table of our rates, controllable by ourselves), that shall be enough, I think. (At any rate, you better watch out what you put into that table.)

By the way, as I come from one of those countries with low costs of living, therefore likely to fuel price competition, let me add that there are two sorts of clients:

1. those who are looking for cheap translators and do not really care about quality (they are looking for translators in the cheap countries anyway, it is not the cheap translator who competes with the peers in the developed world, the battle is a local one) - they are price makers, but in a low quality segment

2. those who are looking for quality and, therefore, do not really have confidence in cheap offers - they are price takers: this is where competition based on QUALITY starts: and this is where ProZ.com is of a huge help, with so many professionals willing to help with KudoZ and technical problems - so God bless you, ProZ.com team


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:26
Flemish to English
+ ...
Value of languages.... Jan 6, 2006

With regard to the flat-rate: given that we are all supposed to translate into our mother-tongue, why should one mother-tongue, for example Japanese, be worth more than another, for example French....

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Peter Bouillon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:26
Member (2005)
French to German
+ ...
I don't think that "restrain free trade" is a valid concern Jan 6, 2006

Richard Creech wrote:
In light of the above considerations, the law of the United States, the European Union, most European states and several other countries, it is illegal to enter into an agreement to fix prices to restrain free trade.


If there were a minimum rate "built" into the bidding board, this would not prevent any translator or any agency to enter any contract they might wish, even at lower rates. The only effect would be that they could not do so through the bidding board.

There are alternatives to the bidding board, even at Proz. With a minimum rate in effect, the parties concerned could simply use the directory and mail their job offer directly to the translators concerned, no matter how low their job offer might be.

So I don't consider the "free trade" argument as valid. There are other disadvantages to establishing a minimum fee, however - as seen in this thread.

P.

PS. The usual disclaimer applies. I am offering the informal, subjective, personal opinion of a layman. This is not to be construed as advice in any way, neither in a medical nor in a legal way. This is not authoritative information on medicine or law.

[Edited at 2006-01-06 15:57]

[Edited at 2006-01-06 16:57]


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