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Agencies letting freelancers manage projects without paying extra
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:34
English to French
+ ...
Nov 25, 2007

I came across an interesting post today ( http://www.proz.com/post/719714#719714 ).

I have observed a tendency of agencies to let translators manage projects, often without getting any payment for it. From the above mentioned post, I guess I'm not alone in making this observation.

I have only one question: what do these agencies take profit and credit for when the translator does all the work? From what point can we consider that a translator is managing a project instead of simply translating? Is this a tendency that is starting to take up a lot of room in the industry? Is there anything that can be done?

[Edited at 2007-11-25 22:21]


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Sonja Tomaskovic  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:34
English to German
+ ...
Is this something bad? Nov 25, 2007

My opinion as a business woman is that as long as the client pays what I ask him for, and does not require a service that is totally out of my line of business or that I am for any reasons not capable of providing, I am willing to provide that service as requested and agreed upon.

So if a client actually wants me to translate and proofread a job, and then, on top of that, asks for DTP, my answer would be that, yes, I can translate and have another colleague proofread my translation, but no, I cannot help with the DTP part. I would then calculate the price for my translation, for the proofreading part of my colleague, and finally for the last check that is provided by me before I deliver the translation.

I think that I am able to provide both translation and proofreading because a) I am capable of translating and/or proofreading work myself and b) have trusted colleagues at my disposal that do the proofreading or translation part for me. As for the DTP part, I simply have no connections to trusted and reliable DTP professionals and therefore not willing to take the risk.

As I see it, agencies who ask me to translate and proofread obviously don't want to find a proofreader themselves, and probably also try to shift responsibilities. After all, if the translation is considered bad, it's all my fault. [sarcasm]Not that it wouldn't be all my fault if the end-client rejected my work without the proofreading part being my responsibility, but at least the agency wouldn't have to split responsibility between two.[/sarcasm]

The whole point is that I don't see why we as translators shouldn't offer more services to our clients if we posses the skills to perform the job with guaranteed quality as requested by the client, and charge accordingly. What 'accordingly' means in this context is obviously open to discussion, and will be different from individual to individual.

To assume responsibility for one's job is nothing new. If you provide translations you should be capable of doing so, and you should assume responsibility for your work. If you provide proofreading, then you should be capable of doing so and assume responsibility for your work. Period. If you can't, don't offer it.

The only issue I might see here is that some agencies ask you to provide the whole job at your translation-only rate, and that is where they should be educated. But that's not new either.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:34
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I don't just mean recruiting a subcontractor for proofing Nov 25, 2007

There are many, many other tasks a freelancer can be asked to do which are usually supposed to be performed by the agency.

What I was specifically talking about are situations when the translator quotes on translation only, only to find out later that there are problems preventing him/her from doing the job correctly or within the agreed deadline. Sometimes, these problems stem from the agency assigning a job too quickly and not eliminating such problems beforehand. When you already have 10K words translated and the contract is signed, it's a little too late to renegotiate. So, often, if the translator wants to do a good job and respect the terms and conditions, s/he has to perform additional tasks. Also, some of these additional tasks are added bit by bit, so it doesn't look like much, but in the end, one can come to the realization that they have worked three extra days without any pay.

This happened to me a few times - and I was very angry for not being able to get my beauty sleep AND missing out on other paying contracts because of this. Of course, the client now knows not to repeat this experience with me again - but in the meantime, I had a terrible week and will still not get paid for it.

[Edited at 2007-11-25 23:30]


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 15:34
French to Dutch
+ ...
... Nov 25, 2007

If an agency asks you to recruit a proofreader, this already costs time and money. But in "exotic language pairs" (and French>Dutch IS one), it also means that the client has nobody in his files and doesn't know how to find someone.

In my initial post I was referring to cases where an agency wants to give a big project (200,000 words to be done in two months), to an individual translator. Nothing wrong in it, but is the translator aware that looking for other translators + preparing the files + dispatching + problemsolving + proofreading + responsibility + financial risk (paying the subcontractors before the client pays him) has a cost? These additional costs are sometimes hidden in the project proposal. Some time ago, I quoted a normal translation price for a 2000 word project. It was too expensive. Client's comments: "What a pity, we thought we had someone who could manage the whole project". (was I supposed to do this for the same word price as the 2000 word translation?).


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 08:34
English to Russian
+ ...
A translator is supposed to: Nov 26, 2007

1. Translate something h/s knows something about
2. Read after h/h self as part of TRANSLATION and, subsequently, the quoted price for TRANSLATION per word/line or whatever.
3. Observe a format in Word/Excel and, in my view, a simple format in PowerPoint when working in the original electronic files.
4. Observe a deadline.
Period.

Proofreading for a separate price means, or at least should mean, a second pair of eyes and the time to arrange it. Plus, this is a big shift of responsibility because the translator ends up being ultimately liable for the outcome and might suffer the consequences while h/h obligations to pay a proofreader or fight for the deduction remains. Unless one has an experience of project budget estimation, project managing with all its undercurrents and the appropriate redundancy, one should not plunge into anything but translation.

When you hear about doing this or that on top of translation you should ask - are you subcontracting a turnkey project with all the costs involved (production cost + management remuneration) or else? If "esle" is implied for the price of translation, kiss them goodbye.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:34
English to German
+ ...
Many, many other tasks - as Viktoria mentioned Nov 26, 2007

First example:

Recently, a long-time client asked me to take care of a translation, allegedly a part of a very large website that I had finished some months ago (chemical industry). It turned out to be an official document rather than being part of their website.

No problem, right?

But:

Certain kinds of (official) documents have to comply with the ever-changing EU standards. I forwarded the project to an expert in Germany. However, in this case, I had to decide between the current standard and the soon-to-be standard. I wrote half a mile of explanations to the client, nobody will ever reimburse me for this time.

Second example:

I translated a series of sweepstakes entry forms. At times it was obvious that some terms and conditions were not quite in line with German law and regulations, so I adjusted the text (writing half a mile of time-consuming explanations to client, of course).

Playing the lawyer for outsourcers / doing legal research is not part of our job and nobody is paying us to do so.

To anyone who might reply that such things are not part of my business, please let me state in advance that I keep extremely high standards regarding the output of my office.

As Viktoria stated: it's the agencies that are taking credit for this kind of work. The translator, if lucky, receives a "Thank you".





[Edited at 2007-11-26 02:12]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:34
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Another case Nov 26, 2007

I was translating 60K words. In the process, many irregularities in the source document were detected, which happens and is nothing to get excited about. However, the end client is a very important and regular client of the agency and the agency wants to leverage the TM. So, after the translation was completed, many parts of the document needed editing, and in order to respect the deadline agreed between agency and end client, the corrections were made directly in the final file. It is only then that I had to edit the TM. Correcting about 20K words worth of segments in a 60K word TM is not done in a few hours, especially when the corrections to be implemented are spread over a hundred different documents, a few Excel files and a bunch of e-mails, and if we add to this the fact that the end client skipped questions that we had to send multiple follow-up e-mails, with CC to a bunch of other people, because the end client was more interested in carrying on regular business rather than dealing with translation, which they have already paid for anyways, you have an idea of how much time I spent on this without any further pay. In fact, all in all, I consider having spent about two weeks on this without any remuneration - and all this so that the agency can reuse the TM to increase profit on future projects for the same end client. I am also guessing I will be the first translator they will contact for the next project - the terminology is very particular and I have hundreds of thousands of words of experience in their particular terminology, so it only makes sense they will have someone with experience do the job.

Now, I am wondering if I should expect the same totally unviable situation again, and if that is the case, how can I go about this to make the client understand that this is what they take a cut for so they should be the ones to figure this out, or if they prefer that I do it, they'd better quote a much higher rate to their end client because I will require my own cut on such tasks.

I just have a feeling that there are agencies who want to make the bucks but are not willing to work for it. They make monumental project management errors - and they expect the translator to clean up after them, with no extra fee. Of course, the money is easy if things are done this way...

I realize not all agencies use such methods - but I am observing a trend here.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Charge per hour Nov 26, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
I have observed a tendency of agencies to let translators manage projects, often without getting any payment for it.


It could just be that they prefer someone at grassroots level to take control of the grassy activities. What you can do, is when this becomes apparent, slap on an extra hour in the invoice for translation management. Perhaps you can also tell the client that you'll charge him per hour for what he wants you to do. If it is worth his time, he should be willing to pay for it. The hour is just a token.


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 15:34
French to Dutch
+ ...
Of course Nov 26, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
I have observed a tendency of agencies to let translators manage projects, often without getting any payment for it.


It could just be that they prefer someone at grassroots level to take control of the grassy activities. What you can do, is when this becomes apparent, slap on an extra hour in the invoice for translation management. Perhaps you can also tell the client that you'll charge him per hour for what he wants you to do. If it is worth his time, he should be willing to pay for it. The hour is just a token.

But this should be done when quoting for a job. Otherwise, the client will consider it as a bad surprise.


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delta1
Local time: 15:34
English to German
+ ...
Communication Nov 26, 2007

I do not see any problem arising if I am able to communicate with my agency. I have done extra work for agencies but not upon request of the agency; just because it lay in my capability to do the task on hand. I negotiate a price that I can live with and the agency can pay without either of us carrying losses. It means that my agency understands that I am human only and if a deadline is set which is not possible to hold, I can rely that he/she gives me an extension. That makes us both flexible and human with all the fallibilities understood under this. I offer to do something only if I can do so and agree to desist from remunerations, but only if I have agreed upon it and can live with it. What I have done is to create a basis of understanding between agency and myself before I begin to work on any assigned project. I have been able to clear most misunderstandings before I deliver my project and agreed on surcharges in advance.

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Sonja Tomaskovic  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:34
English to German
+ ...
A lot of questions Nov 26, 2007

When you already have 10K words translated and the contract is signed, it's a little too late to renegotiate. So, often, if the translator wants to do a good job and respect the terms and conditions, s/he has to perform additional tasks. Also, some of these additional tasks are added bit by bit, so it doesn't look like much, but in the end, one can come to the realization that they have worked three extra days without any pay.


You seem to talk from experience. So, if you have experienced this before, have you added any clause to your TOS, or negotiated with your regular clients, that any additional tasks have to be paid on an hourly basis, or have you raised your rates accordingly to cover these additional tasks? Have you ever talked to a client about any of these additional tasks that were added bit by bit, and what did you agree on?


If an agency asks you to recruit a proofreader, this already costs time and money. But in "exotic language pairs" (and French>Dutch IS one), it also means that the client has nobody in his files and doesn't know how to find someone.


If you have to recruit a proofreader for a particular job, then you are probably talking about finding somebody new, somebody you have never worked with before, for a particular job at hand. Don't you find it a bit risky yourself to, all of a sudden, come up with a proofreader, just like that? Shouldn't you have somebody trusted at hand who is reliable and can guarantee a good job? The same thing with proofreaders in exotic languages: if you work in such a language pair, and you know it's difficult to find somebody, wouldn't it be your responsibility to tell your client that you cannot provide proofreading because of these reasons?


Plus, this is a big shift of responsibility because the translator ends up being ultimately liable for the outcome and might suffer the consequences while h/h obligations to pay a proofreader or fight for the deduction remains.


Definitely. You are right with this. But if somebody isn't aware of the risks, then shouldn't he simply tell the client he can't provide the service due to the great risk attached?


Certain kinds of (official) documents have to comply with the ever-changing EU standards. I forwarded the project to an expert in Germany. However, in this case, I had to decide between the current standard and the soon-to-be standard. I wrote half a mile of explanations to the client, nobody will ever reimburse me for this time.


Did you inform your client before you showed the document to the expert, and did you mention that this would be an extra service, requiring an additional fee?


Playing the lawyer for outsourcers / doing legal research is not part of our job and nobody is paying us to do so.


You are absolutely right. In some places (in Germany), legal advice is the job of lawyers and providing legal advice without being a lawyer is illegal. If you were aware that providing legal advice/do legal research is not part of your job, why did you do it in the first place?
Wouldn't it have been your responsibility to tell the client that you do not possess the legal skills to guarantee your interpretation of a law/regulation is accurate?


Now, I am wondering if I should expect the same totally unviable situation again, and if that is the case, how can I go about this to make the client understand that this is what they take a cut for so they should be the ones to figure this out, or if they prefer that I do it, they'd better quote a much higher rate to their end client because I will require my own cut on such tasks.


How about talking to the party involved - your client(s)?

From what I can read, most translators do not seem to properly talk to clients. They accept a job, do it and then complain they've not been reimbursed accordingly, or have taken over more responsibility than they can handle. I actually see only one solution, and that is talking to the parties involved. I don't see how anybody else can solve the problem for you - you have to solve it for yourself.

I think that Samuel's solution isn't that bad really. If you take over management of the project, or part of it, then bill the client the extra hour or two.

Sonja


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:34
English to German
+ ...
Interesting mix of two entries Nov 26, 2007

Sonja Tomaskovic wrote:

Did you inform your client before you showed the document to the expert, and did you mention that this would be an extra service, requiring an additional fee?


The expert wasn't asked for help and review after I worked on it, I outsourced this text to a translator with experience in this field in the first place. I don't work on projects in fields that I am not specializing in.

____________

Sonja Tomaskovic wrote:

You are absolutely right. In some places (in Germany), legal advice is the job of lawyers and providing legal advice without being a lawyer is illegal. If you were aware that legal advice/do legal research is not part of your job, why did you do it in the first place?
Wouldn't it have been your responsibility to tell the client that you do not possess the legal skills to guarantee your interpretation of a law/regulation is accurate?


German advertising law and regulations are part of my job. (About 25 years in advertising and marketing). Calling expert advice illegal is a little bit over the top.


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Sonja Tomaskovic  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:34
English to German
+ ...
More questions Nov 26, 2007

Nicole Schnell wrote:
The expert wasn't asked for help and review after I worked on it, I outsourced this text to a translator with experience in this field in the first place. I don't work on projects in fields that I am not specializing in.


Alright, so you actually did not possess the skills yourself to perform the task. So you acted as outsourcerer yourself, i.e. you gave the job to somebody else who had the expertise. Surely you are aware that you were taking on the responsibility for the whole job, and that in turn, the person you hired was responsible for the job he provided. As such, if there would have arisen any kind of "quality issue", your client would have held you liable, and, in turn, you would have held your translator liable. Would you say that this is an accurate description of the situation?

If so, then I don't quite see where the problem lies. You decided to take on a job that you were not capable of providing, you outsourced it. You could have arranged a better rate for this job because you were taking on some project management. Have you? And if not, why?


German advertising law and regulations are part of my job. (About 25 years in advertising and marketing). Calling expert advice illegal is a little bit over the top.


If this is your expertise, then you surely have to stay up-to-date on any changes that occur in legislation. As such, it is part of your job and if you stay up-to-date in your field it means you are doing so for the benefit of all your clients, not one particular one. I believe that this justifies a higher rate for all clients and not for one. I.e., the process of looking up one particular change - even if beneficial to your current project - is still of general value to you and all your clients, present and future ones. Again, I don't quite see why you are complaining. If staying up-to-date in your field requires too much effort you may consider to resort to another subject.

Advertising myself as a medical translator involves having some expertise in my subject field that others do not possess - and it also requires that I stay up-to-date on that expertise. That is why clients choose me for their medical-related projects, and not somebody else who has to get acquainted with the whole subject before being capable of doing the job.

Sonja


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:34
English to German
+ ...
Sonja - hold it, please. Nov 26, 2007

Sonja Tomaskovic wrote:

in turn, you would have held your translator liable.



Interesting assumption.


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Sonja Tomaskovic  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:34
English to German
+ ...
So where is the problem? Nov 26, 2007

So if you take on a job, you assume full responsibility, hence you are aware of the risk. Are you charging accordingly, and if so, why are you complaining? What is the real problem when you say 'nobody will ever reimburse me for this time'. Does that mean that you are not charging enough, and if that is so, why?

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