Rates and jobs
Thread poster: Ildiko Santana

Ildiko Santana  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:07
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...

Aug 9, 2003

Henry asked.
Well... Yeah, I'm getting my share of no-name agencies (individuals? - you never know) posting jobs like this; 3 cents a word. Is it really impossible to eliminate these ridiculous offers? Not only are they an insult to our community but they are also driving down our prices in general, since I'm sure there will *always* be enough "colleagues" who don't mind the rate below the unacceptable.

Just for the record, the most recent slap in the face (http://www.proz.com/job/41012) - ($0.03/word) offer at this point has 3 bids already. However, it is quite possible that those bids are close to mine as far as tone and message go. Since we have no way of viewing these offers(?), let me paste here what says:

Pricing: $0.12/word
Proposed completion date: Xmas
Bid title: "Shame on you -
Willing to pay all of 3 cents per word?!"

Message: "Remember the old saying:
'You pay peanuts - you get monkeys'"

[Edited at 2003-08-09 04:23]

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Eva Blanar  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:07
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Rates and jobs Aug 10, 2003

Just recently, I also accepted two different jobs FAR below my usual rates - and you know what? I am sure I did it well! Because both of these were very easy, convenient, no dictionary, no KudoZ questions, no thinking needed + an excellent occasion to make my new CAT tool operational. On the other hand, last October, I did proofreading job of some 60-70 words for a large international name (one of my usual customers) for USD 30 (my minimum rate) and I was not paid yet. Now, which one is better?

I don't think rate is that important. The important thing is that the difficulty levels of the documents to be translated are very different and personally, I only want to get paid well for the "killing" ones.
Sometimes there are easy texts, "CAT-friendly" jobs - why shall we charge the same rate as for an annual report of a listed company, for a long-term contract or the "official translation" of an important document with financial/ accounting guidelines?

I think the job posters have the right to decide what that particular job is worth: and if that rate is actually unacceptable, a decent translator won't go for it. But why shall we have emotions about such jobs?!

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United States
Local time: 06:07
English to Russian
+ ...
What saves us kills us! Aug 10, 2003

ildiko wrote:

Is it really impossible to eliminate these ridiculous offers?

Looks like I'm answering to both Ildiko and Eva.

Ildiko, I wish you could visit Russian battlefield over these prices! Those of us who live in the US suffer from all the dumping tremendously. In Russia and other former "Eastern Block" countries, or in India and Vietnam, if you have a steady workload you can survive with bread and milk on 0.01, live more or less decently on 3 cents and very comfortably on 6-7. 30-50 dollars a month maintenance fee for the apartment and utilities in Russia do say something to you, right? (we are not talking "new Russians" here:)) The sad (for us) part is that even though 3-cent quality is usually nothing but a 3-cent quality, 6-7 one is often anywhere between decent and very good, especially into Russian, and especially technical. Most western clients know this by now, US translation agencies started opening offices in Russia, knock down bidding price requirements, etc.

Believe it or not - Internet, God bless it, is a quilty one here. Reliable connection - and your $.12 job will be re-routed to an eager $.03 applicant from across the ocean. CAT tools add to it, too. These days clients are much more educated in the financial side of translation market. They understand your actual yield with Trados or any other tool. $.12/word with TRADOS and "long-ongoing" project with developed glossaries or numerous repetitions can bring you up to a grand a day - they just might think it's a little bit too much:). And they don't care if another translator must spend 2 days on 2 pages because he needs to ensure that each of 200 different valves is named properly, no help from Trados. I don't believe we can expect fair rates based on client's assessment of actual job difficulty (research, etc.) - this part is far beyond most of them, unlike the money part.

I know for a fact that Russia is not the only strike-breaker here. Similar trends can be observed in other countries - for example, my fliends (agency owners) found and agency in Holland offering a turnkey project for a lesser price than Dutch translators charge in States for translation alone. Actually I was deeply surprised when I learned that 1800-2000 euro/month is considered a high salary in Europe. I wonder if this is really true. As far as I know, Japanese translators do not give in regardless of residence country - good for them! Maybe it's because their native country is one of the most expensive in the world so there is no dumping threat coming from Japan itself?

I used to work for no less than $.12 and up to $.18, and now I accept .10, and so do many of Russian-Americans, excellent translators who some 3-4 years ago wouldn't have picked up the phone knowing that someone wants to offer them an overnight job for less than $.15. So far I'm not jobless and do not accept any less. I'm also a consecutive/simo interpreter - helps to make an extra buck, and I love it. I honestly hope to stay within my current price range before I retire, but I'm not so sure anymore.

I'm in kind of a gloomy mood tonight, maybe that affects my judgement, but I foresee a picture that is not all so perfect in future.

BTW, interpretation rates in Russia are going up, they came to 350/day for top Moscow interpreters who used to charge 100-120 a day 3 years ago. Good for them, too!

[Edited at 2003-08-10 23:18]

[Edited at 2003-08-11 07:15]

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Terry Thatcher Waltz, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:07
Chinese to English
+ ...
Same in the Chinese market Aug 11, 2003

Yes, we have the same kind of problems in the Chinese>English market, particularly with the literally millions of people in China who need money and speak some degree of English (or think they do).

I know I'm a hardliner for only translating into your native language -- but not only am I frequently offended by offers such as US$0.03 per word for technical translations of patents into English from Chinese, but I then get offers from native Chinese translators to pay me 30% of the already-low US$0.02 per word they bid to do a job into English to "fix" their work into English, the sourcer having stipulated that s/he wanted a native English speaker to do the translation.

I might as well just go and teach ESL if I want to earn money correcting papers!

My current favorite (guess I'm in a kind of morbid mood tonight too!) is the inquiries from agencies, "Your price is too high...could you lower it to X?" When I reply, "Well, could you lower your commission, as my copy is 100% camera-ready" of course they are not willing to do so, or state that "they have already lowered their commissions X% during the last year." When's the last time most of us raised our rates? I certainly haven't done so within the last, I think, three to five years. But strangely enough, the rent, bills, medical services, and food bills seem to keep going up...

I agree too that interpreting prices seem to be holding steady or even gaining. Strange phenomenon, but makes me glad I do that too. At least in interpreting, usually a very low price spells "impending disaster" and one's feelings are not too hurt by one's refusal of the work...sometimes in Taiwan we can even see the results of such work in the newspaper! At that point you just sit back and think how glad you were not to have accepted the job...

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Eva Blanar  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:07
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Proudly fixed rates may make us vulnerable Aug 11, 2003

"I don't believe we can expect fair rates based on client's assessment of actual job difficulty (research, etc.) - this part is far beyond most of them, unlike the money part."

You are absolutely right, this is a humiliating situation, but I find that exactly our stubborn maintaining of set rates might be dangerous.

Actually, my experience also is that many of the translation agencies care little about quality, but they are extremely price-conscious. And I am also mad when they tell me about their "budget" consideration (this business is not about spending money, this business is about getting quality!) - but they do have their budget, they do have to find the proper guys/girls within a limited time. We can protest against these developments, we can curse, we can cry, but at the end of the day: who (else) cares?

I am sure there are still lots of well-paying jobs on the market, but if we keep telling we have "our rates" - too high for a large number or even the majority of the jobs - with time, we might be simply forgotten, not even remembered when there is finally something really "delicious" in the pipeline.

So I would (strictly personally) suggest to accept low-paying jobs as well (at least from the prime customers), to let them be aware of our continuous presence on the market.

As to the Eastern Block problem, to cut a long story short: the lowering of the rates and the drop in volumes are not phenomena in these language pairs alone. Translation used to be a business with high return (in a way, compared to the launching / operating costs needed, and especially the risks associated, it still is) - no wonder that many people try themselves on this market - and not only from the former Socialist or third world countries...

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