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Offering services free of charge
Thread poster: Sandra Petch

Sandra Petch
Local time: 20:21
French to English
+ ...
May 10, 2010

I was surprised to read this on a profile on ProZ today:

"I am keen to undertake translation work and, due to the fact that I have just registered on this database, I am willing to provide my services at a cheaper rate or even free of charge!!!"

We all had to begin somewhere, and undercutting rates has been widely discussed here. But now we have "colleagues" offering to work for free!

How do others react when they read this?


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
Irritated May 10, 2010

I'm an experienced freelance translator with 20 years experience and I haven't had any work to speak of for over a week, so would really appreciate some work now. Today. However, I am not yet so desperate that I "will work for food".
Anyone offering free services is just busting the market, although I'm sure there are many unscrupulous agencies out there willing to take up the offer...


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 20:21
English to Czech
+ ...
Let them have it May 10, 2010

Cheap rate usually means cheap services. "Free" usually means "I am under no obligation to deliver any result. Also, I provide no guarantee of accuracy, completeness or anything else." If clients want to go for that risk, let them have it.

BTW, the whole world of "crowdsourcing" is based on working for free against some petty reward which usually brings the "client" no costs.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 19:21
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I wonder... May 10, 2010

... if you start by offering your services for free how would you charge the same client later on? You do not expect that client to come back to you!!!???

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Sandra Petch
Local time: 20:21
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not necessarily poor quality work May 10, 2010

Stanislav Pokorny wrote:

Cheap rate usually means cheap services. "Free" usually means "I am under no obligation to deliver any result.



Maybe, or maybe not. There's nothing to say this person won't provide the best service they can, be that good or bad. I'm also sure they meant no harm when posting their offer.

However, I do feel irritated, as neilmac says, that translation should be considered a worthless profession! I also feel they are doing "colleagues" a huge disservice.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:21
French to English
Same thought May 10, 2010

Stanislav Pokorny wrote:
"Free" usually means "I am under no obligation to deliver any result."

Indeed, the thought struck me, that for a commercial operation, if no consideration is being offered by one of the parties, then there is perhaps no enforceable contract (although I seem to recall reading somewhere that under some circs, a contract can be held to be formed even where there is no payment, but I haven't time to look it up). Nonetheless, I think your general point holds.

To t'other hand, people on here are always advising noobs to work for nothing to get experience. Admitedly, the advice is often more specifically to do so for charities and NGOs and whatnot, but with people on these very forums yelling "work for nothing" every blasted week (instead of "shove off and do something else for a living" because the issue of low rates is in no way linked to an excess of supply /sarcasm off), we can hardly be surprised when people take that advice, and start offering their services for free.

One also wonders about the business nous of any individuals who, on seeing a crowded market place, decide the way to overcome the issue is to work for nothing.

In summary then, how do I react? "Meh".


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QUOI  Identity Verified

Chinese to English
+ ...
Opening special (...that I have just registered on this database...) May 10, 2010

Many businesses offer freebies or merchandise at attractive prices when they first open shops so there is no need to get all wound up (yet again!!!) by century-old marketing tactics such as this.

[Edited at 2010-05-10 09:45 GMT]


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 20:21
English to Czech
+ ...
Indeed May 10, 2010

Sandra Petch wrote:
However, I do feel irritated, as neilmac says, that translation should be considered a worthless profession! I also feel they are doing "colleagues" a huge disservice.


Hi Sandra,
I am completely with you on that one. What I was saying is that ordering a free service is a huge risk for the client too and that I would personally be the last one to go for that.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:21
French to English
Colleagues? May 10, 2010

Sandra Petch wrote:

I also feel they are doing "colleagues" a huge disservice.


They are no colleague of mine. Colleagues work together, with common goals and objectives. The individual of which you speak is offering a business service (after a fashion) in a broad sector of the economy (although perhaps not in my segment) within which I also operate. Competitor is, I think, the more usual word (altho, perhaps, only in the way Fiat and Ferrari are competitors by virtue of both producing cars).


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Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:21
English to Serbian
+ ...
:) May 10, 2010

Well, volunteering is certainly not something that is unheard of, in any industry. However, I don't see a reason for concern, certainly I don't expect to see ProZ becoming a human rival to Google Translate.

[Edited at 2010-05-10 09:58 GMT]


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 20:21
English to Czech
+ ...
Volunteering vs. Working for an Agency May 10, 2010

Hi Miroslav,
although I get your point and while I wouldn't mind doing a little volunteering for charity purposes, working for free for translation agencies is a thing that, as Sandra has put it, is doing a huge disservice to all of us.

I had three "project" offers from two different translation agencies (one from the UK and one from India) last week:
- Project description: (1) short translation (270 words of marketing text); AND (2) quality check only (361 words of highly specialised text)
- Project budget: € 0.00

After I had rejected the short translation, it was offered to me three days later by a different agency at my standard rate. This second agency then sent me the "Quality Check Only" job.

So, while volunteers will probably not ruin us, the practice of offering jobs at zero nothing is already creeping into our profession and might be already considered a certain threat.

[Upraveno: 2010-05-10 10:47 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:21
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A short note would be a good idea May 10, 2010

Hi Sandra,

I think it's a really bad idea to have translators declaring that publicly on ProZ, whatever the reality of their situation is. I know that inexperienced translators are sometimes prepared to do anything to get experience, but I don't like them shouting about it on a site where I pay to give outsourcers a window on my services as a professional.

There's been a lot of talk (and some action) lately about outsourcers who were giving the site a bad name. Action should be taken to professionalise the service providers too.

I don't mean heavy-handed action - just a note saying "You're new here so let me give you some advice: we don't do it like that here! If you want to translate for free, please register with charities and with sites where it's normal. On ProZ, please offer your services in a professional way."

Can I suggest you send this translator a note, Sandra?

Sheila


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:21
Member
Italian to English
Peanuts and monkeys May 10, 2010

I must say I am not particularly worried nor irritated by offers such as these. If someone is willing to work for very little, or for free, it will almost undoubtedly show in the quality they provide. And if a client wants to take that route, then so be it.

There is a saying that goes "Pay peanuts, get monkeys." I think that sums up this situation pretty well.

(Although I still do not understand why people are willing to work for free, unless it is for a worthy cause. A walk in the park is much healthier.)

[Edited at 2010-05-10 11:12 GMT]


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Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:21
English to Serbian
+ ...
Yup May 10, 2010

Stanislav Pokorny wrote:

So, while volunteers will probably not ruin us, the practice of offering jobs at zero nothing is already creeping into our profession and might be already considered a certain threat.

[Upraveno: 2010-05-10 10:47 GMT]


Hi Stanislav,

Yes, you do have a point. However, I think the far bigger concern will always be the people who will offer their services for mere 30~50% of the usual price in pair, than those who will do it for free.

While "volunteers" will sometimes get a project of 100-300 words I really don't see them winning a big one. However, those who undercut the price by a large margin (yet not working for free) will probably get it more often than not.


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Natalia Betiana Manfredi
Argentina
Local time: 16:21
English to Spanish
Code of Ethics May 10, 2010

Some people have never read a Code of Ethics... What can we do about it? I agree with Fiona: "Pay peanuts, get monkeys".

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