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Professional vs. Unprofessional ways to get work
Thread poster: geogroup
geogroup
United States
Local time: 01:25
English
Sep 4, 2014

I thought this might help new translators out there that are looking for work and sending out emails to corporations or agencies looking for translation work. When you send the request expect to spend time filling out forms including NDAs and questionnaires. Have your per word rate set for translation and a breakdown based on Trados or any CAT tool you use.

Once you have submitted your request to work for someone do not respond as the translator below did:
=========================================
Miss or Mrs. XXXX,
You have not attached any documents and quite frankly, you don't need to.
>From my experience with all questionaires from translation agencies you want to know quite detailled information which generally I cannot provide due to confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements I have signed with my clients. Therefore, I cannot give you any information about any clients or projects I have been working on in the past, present and on-going or future and currently negotiating on. My clients take confidentiality very serious and that is part of my committment to them. Probably even higher than the taks of translating texts itself because I've been doing that for that last 16 years and I don't have to prove myself or prove anything anymore to anybody anymore.

Also, with most questionaires you surely want to lock me down on a per-word price for source words which I am unable to give you. Prices will strictly be offered after I have evaluated and assessed the source material and seen for myself how difficult the topic is and how much time the rendition of a text into German will take me.

If you want to lock me down on a Cent-per-word rate, go elsewhere to look for slaves. You won't find one here with me.

In order to be able to send you a quotation of costs I need to see all source texts first. Note that I am unable to offer you any price without having seen the source texts.
Prices depend mainly on two things: difficulty and scope. A shorter and easier text will cost less to translate than the translation of a much longer and much more difficult text.

Find more information about me, my professional background and all other language services I offer besides translation on my website

In all cases will you need to allow me to see the source texts before I can accept any commissioning from your side. This is not yet acceptance of any of your projects. Without having seen the source texts I am unable to offer you a price.


The procedure is as follows:

1) You have work,
2) You send me the source texts to evaluate,
3) You get a quotation of costs in return,
4) which you can accept or decline according to your budget,
5) if you say "yes" we are in business,
6) if you decline we are not.

You as the intermediary translation agency have to make every and any effort to negotiate the prices I, the German translator, am forwarding to you with your end client. Because I am doing all the work and you are doing nothing more than just choosing the cheapest supplier and pushing files around. I want you to see make effort to negotiate hard with your end client so that I can make a living out of what I do as well.

Anything else you propose is unfair on me, the German translator. I will not accept to work my butt off for one third while you charge your end client two thirds on top of it just to keep your translation agency snowball system up and running. I am not subsidizing translation agencies by working dirt cheap for you.

You get the best translation quality from me, the supplying German translator, and you can go to bed rest assured that you give your project to an experienced and long-standing German translator who will protect you from any arising problems you might have with your end client. You are effectively paying me for protection - because with my quality that I deliver I protect you from any discussion over bad translation quality that you might have with you client.

Your client is happy with what I deliver. You get more jobs. I deliver more quality translations.

If you work with me, you can only win. Discuss my email with your owner.

If you do not wish to co-operate with me, a German native translator, then you need not come back to me! Because there will not be any common ground for doing business with you. In that case, I will not protect you.

If you don't let me do what I do best -translating- we both lose!

=========================================

The only thing this response did for our vendor manager was to ensure she never contacted this translator again and told all of the project managers (including copying the above response to her sending him forms).

While it was good for a laugh on a Thursday morning, it did not make us take him seriously.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:25
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Serious Sep 4, 2014

If anyone wrote to me "My clients take confidentiality very serious" I would never hire them to do any kind of work.

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Alessandra Maugeri  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:25
English to Italian
+ ...
Apart from the tone, Sep 4, 2014

which should indeed have been more polite, the practice of quoting on a per-project basis is all but unprofessional.

IMHO, of course.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:25
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Well... Sep 4, 2014

I absolutely agree that the tone that this translator applies leaves a whole lot to desire (and possibly, as Tom points out, his active command of the English language as well -- although I don't think this is relevant in the way Tom suggests, as it is the translator's source language. I'm sure Tom will be able to find equally serious flaws in any of my utterances in English as well, yet my clients seem to be quite happy with my work).

However, the six step procedure the translator describes, and some other points as well, in my humble opinion are completely valid.

I wonder what the reasons for the harsh tone are -- we don't know how the communication went before this exchange, and what kind of statement, offer, or request by the nameless agency employee might have triggered the translator's rage.

I'm not clearly decided who I'd trust more in this case (when push comes to shove).

[Bearbeitet am 2014-09-04 15:00 GMT]


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:25
Portuguese to English
+ ...
You don't think he/she has a point? Sep 4, 2014

I shan't criticise the English since the translator is quite clear about being a German native speaker.

To me a good agency saves me time that I can best spend translating by not sending me lengthy questionnaires to fill in and NDAs to sign. I am bound by the code of conduct of the two professional associations I belong to - confidentiality is a given. Other than my contact information, rates, languages and specialist areas, which can all be gleaned from a rates sheet I provide and my website, I don't see what other information is required. I also agree that it is perfectly reasonable to want to see the source text before quoting a price for the job.

The tone is another matter and may be the result of this translator writing in their non-native language, for which one should most definitely cut them some slack.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 10:25
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
The only thing wrong with that email... Sep 4, 2014

...is that it tries to be two things: a sales pitch AND a way to tell you how to do your job as an agency PM.

Other than that, the translator's individual points and assertions are valid.

P.S. OK, the tone is a bit harsh too. No client will go for that. But that still falls under "telling you how to do your job as an agency PM."

[Edited at 2014-09-04 15:28 GMT]


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 08:25
English to Russian
+ ...
Unprofessionalism: sometimes the pot is calling the kettle black Sep 4, 2014

I'll agree that the tone of this letter is deprecating, overly suspicious and rude, which is indeed unprofessional, no doubt about that. On the other hand, an agency requiring a translator to fill out lengthy questionnaires and sign NDAs before any work is offered is no less unprofessional, and it can be proven empirically - over three decades in this industry, every time an agency required me to do that in advance, I would get one, two, maybe three small jobs after that, but most frequently none. Conversely, the most I had to do initially for my best and biggest clients was filling out one small questionnaire and submitting a test translation. Everything else could wait until an actual job came up, unless the client already had a job waiting for me when contacting me in the first place.

I do also disagree with Alessandra - I'd say that NOT quoting on a per-project basis is all but unprofessional. Translations are not a commodity, and you cannot tell whether you can take a given job and how much effort it will require until you actually see the text. You may standardise your rates for convenience, but sooner or later you will be facing a job that just doesn't fit into a simple rate structure. Of course, you can say that your base rate is X, with an urgency surcharge of Y1% for up to Z1 words a day or Y2% up to Z2 words a day, plus a surcharge of T% for a handwritten text, minus a discount of S% for over Q words a month, plus a surcharge of R per hour of technical work, etc. - but then it becomes a quote on a per-project basis anyway.

[Edited at 2014-09-04 15:28 GMT]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 10:25
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
A possible discrepancy? Sep 4, 2014

Dear geogroup,

You wrote:
I thought this might help new translators out there that are looking for work and sending out emails to corporations or agencies looking for translation work. When you send the request expect to spend time filling out forms including NDAs and questionnaires. Have your per word rate set for translation and a breakdown based on Trados or any CAT tool you use.


The translator you quoted claims to have 15 years of experience and a workload they're happy with. Therefore, he/she does not meet the criteria of "a new translator actively looking for work." Therefore, the advice you provide--which I fully agree with for new translators--is rather inconsistent with the email you quoted.

[Edited at 2014-09-04 16:05 GMT]


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Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 12:25
Member (2013)
English to Russian
Eh Sep 4, 2014

geogroup wrote:

snippety snip


While I agree that the tone is quite harsh, I am not quite sure if it is unwarranted, as geogroup left out the initial email (or message, whatever it is).

I would love to see what inspired this person to come up with such a sizeable rant.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:25
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Seriously flawed marketing copy; some serious points made, IMHO Sep 4, 2014

I'm a little confused about the actual situation here.

On the one hand, an agency will receive cold communication from freelancers proposing their services. This is what you seem to refer to in your opening paragraph:
geogroup wrote:
I thought this might help new translators out there that are looking for work and sending out emails to corporations or agencies looking for translation work. When you send the request expect to spend time filling out forms including NDAs and questionnaires. Have your per word rate set for translation and a breakdown based on Trados or any CAT tool you use.

I would certainly expect to fill in some sort of questionnaire at this stage - basic data such as languages, specialisations etc. But an NDA? Why is that necessary? I don't at this point have ANY contractual obligations to you. I'm merely signalling my presence and stating my abilities as a service provider. How can I agree not to disclose anything, when there is nothing to disclose?

And as for Trados-style breakdowns, how can they apply across the board? Does it not depend heavily on the type of text and the quality of the translation memory, at the very least? For example, I might well be willing to apply such a grid to an update of a manual, but not for a press announcement or a marketing campaign.

On the other hand, the letter seems to refer to an actual job offer that has been received, as it starts with
You have not attached any documents


I assume therefore that in this case the first contact was made by the agency, writing to a freelance translator about a real job and asking for the above-mentioned information. In this case, it seems to me that, though most things have been phrased in an extremely poor way, the translator is perfectly justified in saying
In order to be able to send you a quotation of costs I need to see all source texts first. Note that I am unable to offer you any price without having seen the source texts.
Prices depend mainly on two things: difficulty and scope. A shorter and easier text will cost less to translate than the translation of a much longer and much more difficult text.


This procedure the translator mentions strikes me as being eminently reasonable:
1) You have work,
2) You send me the source texts to evaluate,
3) You get a quotation of costs in return,
4) which you can accept or decline according to your budget,
5) if you say "yes" we are in business,
6) if you decline we are not.


Now, I don't know all the ins and outs of this particular circumstance, but it seems likely that it's all down to a question of terminology and perceived roles. I can try to imagine myself in each of the roles, but forgive me if my imagination is defective.

From your point of view, this is communication between your large and successful business with many PMs whose job is to choose translators to perform the actual translation (just one part of the business process) at the lowest possible cost for acceptable quality. You see the translator as an essential but easily replaced cog in that process; maybe even a commodity. This is why you use phrases such as:
looking for work
expect to spend time filling out forms

which I have no doubt would be frowned upon by this particular translator.

From the point of view of this translator, who has 16 years' experience, you are contacting a fellow business, a service provider, a professional with valuable intellectual knowledge. One who sees your agency as a mere broker. At the very least, he will be looking for a level playing field for a business relationship, though ideally he would like to be thought of as a very special resource that your company would do well to nurture. He is not desperate for your job and he certainly doesn't see himself as needing to jump through hoops to keep "the boss" happy.

Of course there's no way you're going to contact him again. Likewise, I'm sure there's no way he'd want you to.
it did not make us take him seriously

But maybe it should make you think seriously of how to get the best from your business partners. Or how to get the cheapest work from your translation labour. You're free to choose the camp you want to be in, but I don't think you can successfully use the second approach to appeal to the first group.


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:25
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Professional vs. unprofessional Sep 4, 2014

Some translators may need to jump through your hoops to get work, others don't. This one obviously didn't.

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Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:25
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Well, this translator has my vote! Sep 4, 2014

I also completely agree with Erik, Lisa and Anton. Apart from the tone, there's nothing unprofessional about this.

And yes, ''NOT quoting on a per-project basis is all but unprofessional''.

[Edited at 2014-09-04 17:17 GMT]


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:25
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Professional points made unprofessionally Sep 4, 2014

The letter makes very valid points and I agree with most of what they have to say.

Unfortunately they may be good translators but they are a very bad businessman/woman, you should never be rude or facetious with customers even those you don't want to work with.

All professional communications should be kept at a professional tone.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:25
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Right on the spot! Sep 4, 2014

Michele Fauble wrote:

Some translators may need to jump through your hoops to get work, others don't. This one obviously didn't.


So there are two basic types of translators.

Then there are two basic types of agencies:

Type A
1. We make contact.
2. They decide that I am the right guy for their present needs.
3. We agree on rates & terms.
4. They ask me for a scanned NDA via e-mail; the end-client demands it absolutely.
5. They assign me the job, and ask me to fill in and send all their e-paperwork ASAP, saying I'll have to do it only once in a lifetime.
6. We are still in business every now and then.

Type Z
1. We make contact.
2. They ask me to take a test, I do it at my earliest convenience.
3. They send me an e-mail saying that it is being evaluated, which may take a while.
4. A month goes by.
5. They send me an e-mail to say that I passed the test.
6. They ask me to fill in extensive paperwork online, very complex, slow server.
7. They ask me to fill in, print, and sign an NDA. Then I should both scan it and send via e-mail AND the hard copy via international snail mail.
8. They finally tell me their rates & terms.
9. I tell them their rate is too low, and their payment term is too long.
10. They raise the ante, but still not enough.
11. They say that they'll accept my rates & terms on the second job, but this one is already committed to a budget.
12. I stick to my rate and term.
13. They tell me that the job has been either cancelled or assigned to someone else, but another one, larger, should be assigned to me next week. They ask me if I'll be available full time for them, request to clear my agenda.
14. I never hear from them again.
15. I recall this entire story upon doing a cleanup on my Skype contacts list, and remove their PM, who is occupying space there for nothing.

Geogroup's translator possibly had more than his/her share of Z-type agencies lately.

[Edited at 2014-09-04 17:24 GMT]


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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:25
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Looks like ... Sep 4, 2014

... the cook lost his nerves and started an uprising against the waiter who gets all the tip... And we all know, how bad tempered (German) cooks can be

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