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Proz.com Management: A new proposal for rates
Thread poster: Mario Chavez

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sep 1, 2008

Globalization has made it possible to buy and sell products and services at increasingly affordable prices (from the buyer's viewpoint). Internet and world commerce notwithstanding, it is foolish, even risky, to consider the world a single geography for commercial purposes.

Unfortunately, many fly-by-night operations and many translation brokers (who do not add value to the services we translators provide) blithely assume that they can demand increasingly lower rates from us. Only the ignorant and the desperate among us would accept rates like that. Slave rates, that is.

So, I propose the following to the Proz.com management:

1. Split the world into commercial geographies, such as North America, Central America, South America, China, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, etc.
2. Each commercial geography will have minimum acceptable rates based on fair trade principles. That is to say, a rate will be unacceptable if it will not reasonably allow the service provider to earn a living according to his geography's cost of living.
3. A geography's cost of living can be easily determined by using government statistics.
4. Translation purchasers looking for services at Proz.com who do not offer minimum acceptable rates will be invited to rate up or withdraw their requests from Proz.com.
5. There will not be a maximum acceptable rate, as it will be negotiated between the buyer and the translator.

For those worried about rate fixing, Proz.com is a for-profit organization. Our profession, language services (translation, interpretation, editing, etc.) is an unregulated profession in most countries and I am not advocating regulation. But we have to regulate the market ourselves if we want fair trade and if we want to discourage the slave traders and unfair translation brokers. Who says that we translators cannot exert upward pressure on rates?

Having a grasp of basic principles of economics and commerce is part and parcel of any profession, not just translators. There will always be hacks and clueless translators with barely any experience who will keep on accepting slave rates, that does not bother me. In short, I propose Proz.com management to be a fair market agent and stop hiding behind free market excuses.

One more point, there's much talk about creative capitalism. An organization like Proz.com should also have a social or moral responsibility and answer to its paying members by making sure there is fair and balanced competition.


Mario Chávez, Spanish technical translator


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lexical  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:37
Portuguese to English
more rigour please Sep 1, 2008

Mario Chavez wrote:

2. Each commercial geography will have minimum acceptable rates based on fair trade principles. (...)
For those worried about rate fixing, Proz.com is a for-profit organization. Our profession, language services (translation, interpretation, editing, etc.) is an unregulated profession in most countries and I am not advocating regulation.

In short, I propose Proz.com management (...) stop hiding behind free market excuses.



But you ARE advocating rate fixing, despite your protests to the contrary. You are advocating MINIMUM rates for translations, and this is no different from, let us say, supermarkets conspiring with one another not to sell a staple such as rice or cooking oil below a certain price. That's known in most transparent societies as price fixing and, incidentally, is illegal in most developed countries.

There is nothing that says you are obliged to accept "slave rates" from any outsourcer. You can just say no to them, or better still, ignore them. What is so difficult about that?

Finally, you fail to explain what you mean by "creative capitalism" or "fair and balanced competition". In the absence of more information, I suspect that what you mean is old-style anti-competitive protectionism or cartelism.

All in all, I find your arguments muddled and inconsistent. I would therefore be very glad to see them expounded with greater intellectual rigour.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:37
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
ProZ.com isn't we Sep 1, 2008

Mario Chavez wrote:
For those worried about rate fixing, Proz.com is a for-profit organization. ... But we have to regulate the market ourselves if we want fair trade...


I would have agreed with your statement if we were all employees of ProZ.com. But we're not. We're separate legal and business entities, distinct from ProZ.com. So, there is no "we", and your "ourselves" is not a single entity, but a group of businesses.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Muddled and inconsistent? Sep 1, 2008

First, lexical, you don't even sign your posting. I don't tend to talk to anonymous beings about serious matters.

But I'll humor you. I didn't explain creative capitalism because I would assume readers would know or at least Google the term to learn it.

You're making quite a few assumptions in your reply. No, I don't work for slave rates. Just because I didn't explain creative capitalism doesn't mean I advocate protectionism. You are getting your notes mixed up.

Perhaps you should review economic theories and ask questions before criticizing others.


Mario Chávez


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 14:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Humour? Sep 1, 2008

Mario Chavez wrote:

First, lexical, you don't even sign your posting. I don't tend to talk to anonymous beings about serious matters.

But I'll humor you.
...


I'm not in the habit of discussing serious matters with total strangers, be they anonymous or not. But I'll humour you nonetheless - at least to the extent of asking you a simple question:

How do you propose to deal with the situation of people like myself, an ex-pat European with well over 30 years professional experience in translation accumulated in the international community in both Brussels and Geneva - but who now happens to live and work in South America?

MediaMatrix
(for futher details, look me up on Google or in the Proz.com directory)


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 19:37
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
So Sep 1, 2008

going by your suggestions I take it I should adjust my tariffs to the outside temperature (you know, heating is VERY expensive here up in the North- and we pay World rates for gas and petrol to Russians, you know, there is no such thing as thing like "Eastern Europe" gas or petrol rates for us - if anything, our prices are higher than those in most of the rest of EU). On the other hand I'm not very clear what I should charge if I spend our Baltic December in Tenerife...

Uldis,

quite confused.

Mario Chavez wrote:
So, I propose the following to the Proz.com management:

1. Split the world into commercial geographies, such as North America, Central America, South America, China, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, etc.


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RichardDeegan
Local time: 12:37
Spanish to English
Duh Sep 2, 2008

Mario Chavz stated, "One more point, there's much talk about creative capitalism. An organization like Proz.com should also have a social or moral responsibility and answer to its paying members by making sure there is fair and balanced competition."
Checking Google indicates that this term was invented by Bill Gates on January 24, 2008. However, far from seeking to do anything at all in favor of "fair and balanced competition" (which is obviously anathema to MS and BG both), his speech referred to businesses combining their pursuit of profits with efforts to help the poor.
Many of those on here are already doing so by occasionally providing discounted or complementary services to the very few worthy organizations that do actually help the poor or those otherwise disadvantaged.


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:37
English to Dutch
+ ...
Another flaw Sep 2, 2008

Another flaw in OP's reasoning is that it's not the location of the agency, but the location of the translator that should be taken in account. If I, Dutch translator in the Netherlands, work for a Bejing agency, I wouldn't want to be paid Chinese wages... Since ProZ can not possibly know where the translators reside who will answer to a job posting, ProZ wouldn't be able to set a minimum rate whatsoever.
The world IS a single geography for commercial purposes.


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 19:37
Turkish to English
+ ...
Flawed thinking Sep 2, 2008

The assumption that there is a standard cost of living within a large geographical area is erroneous. There are huge variations even within single countries. In the UK, I would guess that somebody living in central London would require to earn twice as much as somebody living in, say, Whitehaven to maintain the same standard of living. We are not children. We know how much we need to earn to make ends meet. If people accept, of their own free will, rates that are not consistent with this, that's their funeral.

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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Fairness in trade alternatives, anyone? Sep 2, 2008

Tim Drayton wrote:

The assumption that there is a standard cost of living within a large geographical area is erroneous. There are huge variations even within single countries. In the UK, I would guess that somebody living in central London would require to earn twice as much as somebody living in, say, Whitehaven to maintain the same standard of living. We are not children. We know how much we need to earn to make ends meet. If people accept, of their own free will, rates that are not consistent with this, that's their funeral.


Tim,

I did not submit that assumption, that's your interpretation, Tim. Of course there are different costs of living even within one city! I don't remember saying anything about suggesting a "standard rate" but a minimum acceptable rate. Government-published or even privately published cost of living indexes are supposed to be a guide.

Why don't translation buyers --not the middlemen-- pay better rates? As long as they delegate the task of language quality control to middlemen, they'll be happy to pay less and less as long as deadlines are met and a visual inspection of the translated document indicates that it "looks" German, Italian, Arabic or Spanish.

And of course we are not children. Again, it's about fair trade in this competitive marketplace. Other than rejecting ridiculously low rates, what can be done to inject fairness in our transactions? So far I hear criticism, not alternatives.


Mario Chávez


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:37
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Mine too Sep 2, 2008

Mario Chavez wrote:
Tim Drayton wrote:
The assumption that there is a standard cost of living within a large geographical area is erroneous.

I did not submit that assumption, that's your interpretation, Tim.


That would be my interpretation too, Mario. So perhaps you should explain your reasoning for basing the minimum rate on geography and not on other issues.


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Vadim Poguliaev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 20:37
English to Russian
That's ridiculous Sep 2, 2008

1. Split the world into commercial geographies, such as North America, Central America, South America, China, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, etc.
2. Each commercial geography will have minimum acceptable rates based on fair trade principles. That is to say, a rate will be unacceptable if it will not reasonably allow the service provider to earn a living according to his geography's cost of living.
3. A geography's cost of living can be easily determined by using government statistics.


Once again someone offers filthy idea of second grade people from second grade territories. You say, that there are privileged translators from privileged countries, who should be paid more, because they are civilized, and have high standard of living, and there are barking, barely human wilders from savage lands, who live in carton boxes and should be paid with food or not paid at all.
This idea should be despised and condemned by all means.


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:37
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Cost of living Sep 2, 2008

Cost of living statistics are not so reliable. It is not at all fair to generalize.


For example, most government statistics in India do not really reveal my cost of living in India. And of course, it would also depend on my aspirations. Also, cost of living in the same locality can be different, too. My maid-servant in India lives in the same geographical location (within 1 km radius) but we have different costs of living. How? Well, she can get several things at a subsidized rate from a government shop and I can't. We buy things from different shops. We have different standards of living, different needs... this is just one example. Believe me people below poverty line are not the only ones who recieve things at subsidized rates. There are lots of groups who get free stuff: army-men, government employees... So their cost of living will not be the same as mine either.

I don't believe in a minimum acceptable rate. Ten years ago, all my clients were from Delhi and still I was one of the most expensive translator who worked for them. And even today there are people who work for a price that is much lower than what I used to earn in those days. But it is their choice. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with the quality that they provide (it is good enough for the type of work they do). For quite a few of them, translation is just a side-business. And if they can live with that I don't think I have any reason to complain...

Of course, I'd have a low rate if I didn't have any desires. But I want some things that, unfortunately, only money can buy. So I don't have much choice but to increase my rate.

Also, my rate was lower when I started. Slowly, I gained experience and knowledge and my rate, too, increased.

I am in France right now. But my rates have not changed and I know that these are enough for someone to live in France. So this assumption that people in India charge lower rates is completely false. It is just an assumption.

Of course, there are clients who have a specific budget. Who is to blame them if they can get someone who is willing to work at that rate? It's their choice. I'm not going to crib about it because he (or she) is not my target client.

Translation is a very competitive field and we have to find the right balance. All of us have a choice. And complaining will not help us in any way. Personally, I think the only way out is to educate our competitors. We often talk about educating clients but peer-education is as important.



[Edited at 2008-09-02 14:09]


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:37
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Agree Sep 2, 2008

Vadim Poguliaev wrote:

1. Split the world into commercial geographies, such as North America, Central America, South America, China, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, etc.
2. Each commercial geography will have minimum acceptable rates based on fair trade principles. That is to say, a rate will be unacceptable if it will not reasonably allow the service provider to earn a living according to his geography's cost of living.
3. A geography's cost of living can be easily determined by using government statistics.


Once again someone offers filthy idea of second grade people from second grade territories. You say, that there are privileged translators from privileged countries, who should be paid more, because they are civilized, and have high standard of living, and there are barking, barely human wilders from savage lands, who live in carton boxes and should be paid with food or not paid at all.
This idea should be despised and condemned by all means.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:37
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
That cheap labor in savage lands Sep 2, 2008

Vadim Poguliaev wrote:
Once again someone offers filthy idea of second grade people from second grade territories. You say, that there are privileged translators from privileged countries, who should be paid more, because they are civilized, and have high standard of living, and there are barking, barely human wilders from savage lands, who live in carton boxes and should be paid with food or not paid at all.
This idea should be despised and condemned by all means.


Well, you'll have my vote in condemnation here. The rate I would offer wouldn't have a damned thing to do with where you live but would instead reflect my budget and what I think is reasonable, and as a free agent you are welcome to negotiate the final rate.

I think a lot of the endless whining about "fair" rates reflects the inability or unwillingness of people to accept responsibility for their own business and to learn how to run it properly. I like to ridicule the occasional ridiculous offer I see, but am I threatened in any way at all if someone wants to pay three cents a word for a sophisticated translation of chemical documentation from German into English? Not at all. I have a good laugh, perhaps I send a realistic offer if I have the time to waste, and then I move on. As should anyone else.

If someone is trying to work a market without understanding the fundamentals of that market - and even worse, doing so without even a consistent strategy whose success can be evaluated in the hopes of doing things better - then that person will probably feel a bit battered by events. Try being a serious business person first and a "translator" second, and things will probably work a lot better. Then all this silly whining about cheap labor in far-off places may die down a bit. If things really are impossible in a given language pair because one lacks the skills or specialties to do well or the volume is simply too low because not many technical manuals are translated into Inuit dialects, then there is an obvious answer: move on. There are lots of other ways to make a living.


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