translation agencies
Thread poster: Lj Popovic
Lj Popovic
Canada
Local time: 08:30
English to Serbian
+ ...
Sep 5, 2008

Just curious: How much(in per cent) do translators in agencies get from the translation price? Is it realistic that someone connects you and the client and gets 50%(and they are NOT a translation agency in the first place)?

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:30
English to French
+ ...
More than likely Sep 5, 2008

In some cases, it is much less, in others, it is much more than 50%. But 50% actually sounds pretty normal.

You need to understand that that 50% isn't pure profit. A good agency will use part of that money to pay for reviewing, sometimes even proofreading, for internal DTP work and file formatting (those FrameMaker files can be pretty nasty to convert into editable CAT files, and then converting a translated file back to FrameMaker is even nastier), they also may offer DTP services (they produce a file that will be ready for publishing) and if you do the math, it is only normal they retain more than a couple of pennies of the per-word rate charged to the end client.

However, there are agencies who take 50% or even a lot more - and don't perform any of the operations described above. Those are the agencies that pretend that they have serious quality assurance processes in place, yet as soon as you work with them, you realize they are lying. Some of our colleagues only realize this when the agency tells them they aren't going to get paid because there were two typos in a 40-page text. You can tell they just delivered it to the end client without even looking at it. In my opinion, such agencies not only don't deserve their cut, they should simply not be in business.

Then, there are those who take an extremely small percentage, maybe just a penny or two per word. These are typically people who call themselves agencies, but they are only really translators who outsource their overload or who try to make a bit of pocket money by outsourcing material that was outsourcerd to them, in some cases by people who got the same text still outsourced to them (there are often four or five "middlemen" in-between the client and the translator). Some of these people are correct and they only take those few cents per word because they do review the translation before handing it over. However, sadly, I'd say the majority of these outsourcers are just taking a cut off another translator's work and don't provide any value in exchange for that money.

I always feel reassured when an agency pays me standard or above-standard rates and I know they are charging at least double that much to their end client. This, to me, means that they do work for their client and they do make sure that my translation matches what the client expects (quality assurance). They may charge much higher prices to their clients than what freelancers charge, but then again, they offer more value for the money than what freelancers will ever be able to offer. This also contributes to the positive image of the profession - a client that was treated well by the agency is likely to have a high opinion of our work as well. Sadly, this type of agency is not part of the majority.

[Edited at 2008-09-05 18:06]


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agency or broker? How to tell the difference. Sep 5, 2008

Viktoria is absolutely right here.

Perhaps, freelance translators should make more of an effort to distinguish between agencies, who add some value to the translation process; and brokers, who simply buy for less than their client and pocket the difference.

The problem is that very few brokers describe themselves as such.

Does anyone have suggestions about how translators could immediately distinguish between agencies and brokers?


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:30
English to French
+ ...
A few indicators that you are dealing with a broker Sep 6, 2008

These don't always apply, but a few of these indicators taken together can give you an idea...

1. They use free Web mail (Hotmail, Gmail, etc.)
2. Already when they first contact you, they tell you what rate they are willing to pay. Hint: the rate in these cases is always much lower than the standard rate.
3. They don't invite you to browse their websites, and upon searching, you find out there is no website.
4. They sign their e-mails with a first name, or a first name and a last name, but there isn't any company name.
5. They propose a CAT tool scheme right away.
6. They use the terms budget, best rate or other words that should give you a hint that these people are very interested in money.
7. Their postal address is a postal box.
8. They don't take the time to tell you a bit about the work at hand.
9. They tell you they pay only by PayPal.

There may be more... In any case, some of the items in the list above also sometimes apply to genuine agencies who are otherwise very professional. So, if you see any one of these signs, don't get on your high horses right away. If you are not sure, send them an e-mail, explain what you do, what your policies are, give them an idea of your rate - their reply will tell you loads more about them, and that is usually sufficient to tell whether you are dealing with an agency or a broker. If they reply at all, that is...


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Lj Popovic
Canada
Local time: 08:30
English to Serbian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you Sep 6, 2008

Thank you for replies. Some things are much clearer now

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:30
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
From the tax point of view Sep 6, 2008

The concept of "Added Value" answers that. And as Victoria points out, many things go into added value. Some agencies have set rates, but also hire translators who impose their own rates because, in their experience, these people require less time and effort to revise. Hence, a set-up is also possible in which the agency may be skimming off 50 percent from some jobs and 30 percent from others. What it makes in the long run is something only the taxman knows after offsetting (income - investment).

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:30
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Yes; and agency versus finder Sep 6, 2008

Lj Popovic wrote:
How much(in per cent) do translators in agencies get from the translation price?


I have no idea, and this is an emotional topic also, because some people believe the agency should not take more than X percent. Personally, I think that if the rate the agency offers me is a rate that I'm satisfied with, then I don't really care if the agency makes a 500% profit on the deal.

Is it realistic that someone connects you and the client and gets 50%(and they are NOT a translation agency in the first place)?


Again, I think you should let yourself be led not by the percentage but by the actual amount that you get. In other industries, finders' fees range from 0.5% to 25% (do a forum search for "finders' fee" and similar terms). Personally I would be wary of someone taking 50% just for finding the client. Remember, a proper agency adds value for the client. A finder adds value only to you and himself, so the client ends up paying a lot for very little, and clients tend to want value.

My personal suggestion is to refuse any job that carries a finders' fee of more than 10%. Remember, if the finder is not an agency, it is you, the translator, who ends up doing all the things that an agency would normally do.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:30
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Another important point: payment Sep 6, 2008

A decent translation agency will pay the translator on time, regardless of the end-client having paid them or not. So it's perfectly adequate for them to have a healthy "profit" in order to cover such risks now and then.

After all, the translator has no contact with the end client. So it's up to the agency to check that they are moneywise trustworthy to pay after delivery, and that they in fact can afford what they ordered. The translator takes a smaller share of the entire proceeds because the risk of not being paid should be zero.


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 14:30
French to Dutch
+ ...
The first e-mail is important Sep 7, 2008

Is it polite and looking professional, that is, is there a full address? Are they interested in your specialization areas? How is the job management? Do they send the file with the first e-mail so that you can have a look into it?

Very bad:
"Hi, I am John, I have a 2,000 words translation, I need it back tomorrow morning We offer $ 50. No reference material available. Send me an e-mail if interested" (no address). This is a mass-mailing.

A telephone number is a good point. Try to have them on the phone. If there is nobody at working hours, there are no offices.

There are also brokers who look like direct clients: the real estate agencies or huge tourism websites-type, for instance. Characteristics: high volume, quick turnover, booooring and they know nothing about translations.

Price fixing by the client and word rate discussions are always bad signs: they need a victim. In the past, I often talked to people who called the whole country for having a 10 euros discount. Now there are websites where brokers can make their choice. And have lots of success.

[Modifié le 2008-09-07 00:52]


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
Spotting brokers - how many on Proz? Sep 7, 2008

Thanks everyone for adding some interesting and useful pointers for spotting brokers.

I wonder if anyone can venture a guesstimate as to the percentage of job posters on Proz who are brokers rather than agencies?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:30
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It's a bal-masqué Sep 7, 2008

Amidst serious translation agencies and translating translators there is a bit of everything wearing all kinds of e-costumes.

Sometimes a fledgling translation broker, who is or has a superb web designer can create an impressive portal that lets him/her masquerade as a million-dollar worldwide translation agency. On the other end, you may find a keen individual translator who has a lot of world-class clients, and therefore can outsource tons of work to qualified and dependable colleagues.

There are several variables to the equation, and sometimes the values assigned to them produce telltale signs. From what I've read on the Blue Board, if one single job has:
- too short a deadline (e.g. >8000 words/day)
- too low a rate (e.g. under USD 7¢/word)
- too high demands on qualifications/resources (e.g certification, both Trados and ATA)
- too long a payment term (e.g. 45-60 days after delivery)
... odds are 95+% that they'll default on payment.

I've had fellow translators who outsourced with me their surplus work, and who paid me online while the file was still being uploaded to their computer. And I've had highly regarded agencies who only realized they didn't have a PayPal account after my payment was due.

IMHO all translation work should be paid COD. It is not a merchandise the translator bought on credit from some distributor, who bought it on credit from the manufacturer. The chain of supply ends (or actually begins) right there, at the guy who's pounding on the keyboard.

Like someone else said on another thread here: Try making the plumber who fixed your toilet leave your home without having been paid, or try to retrieve your car from the repair shop without paying.

I wonder who turned translation into a commodity. The next step would be to have a translation stock exchange where clients/agencies would trade kilowords of translating capacity in various language pairs, that will only become available in the future.



[Edited at 2008-09-07 18:04]


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