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Agency wants reduced rates for normal translation. What to do?
Thread poster: Marion van Venrooij-Rooijmans

Marion van Venrooij-Rooijmans
Netherlands
Local time: 09:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
Oct 28, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

At the beginning of this year, one of my favourite agencies asked if I was willing to lower my rates. I said no and as a result, they could not send me any regular jobs anymore. However, they also have jobs that are machine translated first, after which translators post-edit these translations at a reduced rate. This rate was also lowered at the beginning of this year, and I accepted this new reduced rate.

In the past few months, I've taken care of hundreds of these post-editing jobs. They sometimes come in outside normal business hours and are usually quite urgent. I feel I sometimes go out of my way just to take care of these jobs, not only to keep them happy but also because I like these small, quick-turnaround jobs. This morning I was contacted by the PM about another job and I gladly accepted it. However, she then told me there have been technical problems with the machine translation system and asked me, because the new words word count is very small, if I would mind to translate the files without MT applied.

I don't know how to respond. A part of me thinks 'just take the job and don't think about it', but another part wants to tell this PM that I'd be happy to translate the new words at my usual rate for regular jobs. The difference between applying the reduced and normal rate for this job would amount to a total of only 7 euros, but I feel this is not about money, but merely a matter of principle. I've done so much for this agency, taking care of very urgent jobs and jobs outside office hours. They don't want to send me regular jobs anymore because my rates are too high, but now they want me to apply my rates for post-editing to what is basicly just a normal translation.

Your opinions would be greatly appreciated.


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:47
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You have to learn to say no Oct 28, 2009

I have to say I don't understand why you would be willing to lower your rates for editing MT, personally I stay away from that kind of job, but if I did accept it I would never lower my rate. Editing MT can be more work than doing the job from scratch.

Having said that, at some point you have to say no, specially to this type of client who is basically just saying, "Hey, we thought of another way to squeeze a few more cents out of you, cause we know you don't mind".


 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 10:47
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Don't encourage abusive practices Oct 28, 2009

Alex summed it up nicely... nothing to add, really.

 

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:47
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Alex has taken the words out of my mouth Oct 28, 2009

Hi Marion,

I am sure it was only last week that I heard somebody mention, in one of these forums, an anecdote about a person who could speak six languages and did not know the word "No" in any of them. If this describes you, then I think it may be expedient to research the word for "No" in your various languages - and in particular in the language in which you do business with this particular agency.

As for editing MT, I have the tools on my computer - as I expect most of us have - to accept a translation order from somewhere (anywhere) and then produce a rough MT translation, which I could then simply edit. I do not do this, however, because it slows down the process of translation. It is similar to trying to edit 40% matches produced by a CAT tool, and it is much faster to have a clean box in which to type the sentence in the target language. The main useful assistance to that process, I find, is to make termbases with whatever CAT tool you use, so that you can be reminded of translations of particular terms that you have already defined at an earlier date. On top of that, Autosuggest can also be useful.

Please, in addition, remember, that agencies' business interests consist of selling at the highest possible price and buying at the lowest possible price. Translation, or how it is done, does not come into the picture. You do not have to be such easy prey for these agencies.

Astrid

[Edited at 2009-10-28 12:48 GMT]


 

Marion van Venrooij-Rooijmans
Netherlands
Local time: 09:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
On MT for this agency Oct 28, 2009

Just to clarify: this agency uses MT for only a limited number of clients. The texts are all very similar and the agency has created a special MT system for this purpose, with terms and phrases specific for the client. As such, the machine translations are fairly accurate and the editing to be done after the MT really does not involve that much work anymore. So in my opinion, a reduced rate is fair here, similar to reduced rates for 85% or higher matches.

The point is that this agency has now asked me to do perform work on a file that should have been prepared with the MT system, but for this one time ignore the fact that the file has not been prepared due to technical problems. So basically I'm translating a normal file at the rate I charge for MT files.


 

Deborah do Carmo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:47
Dutch to English
+ ...
It's not really about the EUR 7, is it? Oct 28, 2009

Marion Rooijmans wrote:
I don't know how to respond. A part of me thinks 'just take the job and don't think about it', but another part wants to tell this PM that I'd be happy to translate the new words at my usual rate for regular jobs. The difference between applying the reduced and normal rate for this job would amount to a total of only 7 euros, but I feel this is not about money, but merely a matter of principle. I've done so much for this agency, taking care of very urgent jobs and jobs outside office hours. They don't want to send me regular jobs anymore because my rates are too high, but now they want me to apply my rates for post-editing to what is basicly just a normal translation.


It may only be about 7 euros this time but you don't want to create a precedent for the future.

So, if something isn't really worth kicking up a fuss about, but could be exploited in the future, I'd probably do it quickly (for a good client) but politely inform the client on delivery that EUR xxx would apply to such jobs in future.

That way you both know where you stand.

If this really is a one-off, no harm is done. If this, or something similar, becomes a regular occurence, you've covered all your bases.

Take care
Debs







[Edited at 2009-10-28 13:19 GMT]


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:47
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Just say No (next time) Oct 28, 2009

Hi Marion,

I have had similar mails from an agency early this year and a couple of weeks ago they asked for an additional "effort". I quickly thought it through, checked how many jobs they actually gave me, (zero in 2008 and zero in 2009!!!) So I decided to
A) increase my 2007 rate
B) go for minumum charge per project

And mentioned I am not there to make sure this agency can survive the credit crunch -
If they cannot pay normal rates, and provide normal work, why should I work nights, weekends and holidays at reduced rate, just because their business is slowing down
(without any real proof it actually is!!!)

In the end, if this agency goes bust, another agency will pick it up and they will supply the same work at normal rates again... hopefully they will contact you again, but asking for favours every time is just not good for business - and that is what you are running
a professional business !! So make sound business decisions - not emotional ones!

Have you tried to contact them at 23:00 in the evening and ask them for clarification on a text you are working on ? I think they where all sleeping and did not pick up the phone, why should you go the extra mile (or marathon!) for reduced rates???

I think not!

Ed


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:47
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
A different view on things Oct 28, 2009

Marion Rooijmans wrote:
1. This morning I was contacted by the PM about another job and I gladly accepted it. However, she then told me there have been technical problems with the machine translation system and asked me, because the new words word count is very small, if I would mind to translate the files without MT applied.
2. The difference between applying the reduced and normal rate for this job would amount to a total of only 7 euros, but I feel this is not about money, but merely a matter of principle.


Of course its about the principle, but what is the principle? The principle is that the client is asking you for a EUR 7.00 discount. The client isn't asking you to drop your rate for future jobs -- the client has a problem and hopes that you can help her solve it by giving you a once-off EUR 7.00 discount.

My take would be to answer "I'm sorry to hear about the problem with your MT program. Allow me to help you out -- I'll gladly give you a EUR 7 discount." If the client comes back with this story again and again, say "This rate is too low for me. The discount I gave you last week was only because I wanted to help you out because your MT server was down."


 

Roberto Cavalcanti  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:47
English to Portuguese
Totally agree with Samuel Oct 28, 2009

Be honest and friendly to them, tell you'll accept in order to help considering this as a discount.

 

Lianne Wilson
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:47
Japanese to English
+ ...
Quote Oct 28, 2009

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

I am sure it was only last week that I heard somebody mention, in one of these forums, an anecdote about a person who could speak six languages and did not know the word "No" in any of them.


"That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can't say No in any of them." - Dorothy Parker.


 

OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:47
English to German
+ ...
7 € discount? Oct 28, 2009

Since this is a very small file why don't they just pay your normal rate? A PM haggling about a 7 € discount surely has got their priorities wrong. How is that going to help an agency in the doldrums? Just apply your normal minimum charge.
The more of these cheapskates go under the better for us and the end clients.


 

Monika Elisabeth Sieger  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:47
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
A simple 'NO' is sufficient Oct 28, 2009

When I started working as a freelancer some months ago I was willing to work on reduces rates. Now, although I have not any more clients than before I refuse to work for reduced rates. I am delivering fast, reliable and accurate translations are my principle. Just as I did when working as a lawyer here in England and Germany years ago. Nobody ever would have tried to start negotiating cheaper rates then and they certainly wouldn't do it now. As a lawyer in Germany you have more or less fixed rates for the same type of work all over Germany and I think this is a good idea. Negotiations make everyone with a conscience feel bad!
All my clients are happy to accept my rates as long as I explain why I am charging this amount and not less. Quality has its price and my clients are confident that they get good results. Working with care makes you happy as well as the work is more fulfilling than sitting in your office and forcing yourself into slavery!
And clients who won't accept your rates are not reliable anyway!


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:47
Member (2008)
French to English
Keeping the customer Oct 28, 2009

This sort of thing always comes down to the basic question - Do you want to keep this customer? If yes, €7 is a small price to satisfy a client. But I agree with Samuel, charge the regular rate, and then apply a "goodwill" discount, so that no precedent is set.

 

madak  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:47
Swedish to English
+ ...
Hear, hear Oct 28, 2009

OlafK wrote:

Since this is a very small file why don't they just pay your normal rate? A PM haggling about a 7 € discount surely has got their priorities wrong. How is that going to help an agency in the doldrums? Just apply your normal minimum charge.
The more of these cheapskates go under the better for us and the end clients.


An agency that hasn't got the resources to cover the small additional expense of €7 when their software fails really shouldn't be in business.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:47
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Variations on the same theme Oct 28, 2009

I see two major kinds of clients...

One is always squirming and scheming in trying to get my services faster and cheaper, as well as to pay later than usual. They seem to be always in some kind of deep trouble that they say happens once in a lifetime. I rejoice from seeing them every time less often.

Another kind loves my quality and speed, and they consider the prices I set as an extremely fair deal for offering what they actually need.

The second type now and then has their share of troubles too, but it's not ALL the time. My longest standing direct clirent once called me, maybe ten years ago, saying "We are in deep trouble! We botched up in an estimate, and now we are trying to salvage what we can from a commitment we made. Can you do a relatively large job for free, and at your top speed? We'll try to compensate for that in the next jobs we assign to you." I told them to send it to me immediately, never charged a cent for it, and later, when they asked me about ways of compensating, I simply told them that they had compensated that far in advance, and never mentioned it again.

Another client of the second type won't question my rates either. She says I'm the only vendor who never left her out on a limb. And she'll dare to tell the end-client that if they failed to plan in advance, they've got to pay what a fast and reliable service costs (plus her margin, of course).

I've come to the conclusion that clients of the first type are detrimental to the translation industry as a whole. They were the ones who invented that:

  • translators are the only service-providing professionals who have their prices set by the customer, not the market;
  • translators should be paid only when their clients feel like doing it, regardless of what was mutually agreed beforehand;
  • translation is menial work; if you can't find a professional to do it as you want and for as much as you are willing to pay, it's easy to find an amateur who will;
  • granting (not assigning, nor ordering) a job to a translator is a rare privilege; no translator can ever be grateful enough from having received a job.


This is why I don't care about them. I play my part in depriving them of my self as a vendor. If all fellow translators - the professional ones - do the same, it won't take long before they are seen by their end-clients as a source of amateur work. On the other hand, I'll go the extra 10 miles for the clients of the second type.

I have an additional problem: since the beginning of this year, my local currency (BRL) has risen some 30% over the USD. Yet, all my bills are in BRL. As I couldn't take it any more, my rates for new clients are now 20% higher. Amazingly, the new second-type clients accept it and don't wince.

Writing this post led me to the second type client's vision:
You get what you pay for.


 
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