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Who has the upper hand these days - the agency or the translator?
Thread poster: Anaviva

Anaviva  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:49
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mar 8, 2011

Hi everyone

I'm posting this thread because I'm really curious as to your opinions. I work as a freelancer and an outsourcer so I'm familiar with negotiating on both sides of the fence. Today, I had to outsource a job to a sworn translator. It's a small job and I accepted the translator's quote of 36 euros. He then went on to dictate the payment terms, saying that he wanted payment in advance. I declined.

Now I know that we're all a bit nervous in the current economic climate about accepting new jobs (I myself have had to chase up late payers). But if a new agency approached you with a small job (literally 6 lines), a rating of 5 on ProZ ,and the prospect of being their sworn translator for that language pair on a regular basis, wouldn't you take the risk?

I know that in the world of real estate, it's a buyer's market, but it this true to say of the world of translation? Do translators now set down the rules?

Just some food for thought.

Ana



[Edited at 2011-03-08 11:24 GMT]


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:49
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agencies and outsourcers generally have the upper hand... Mar 8, 2011

...at least in my experience and in my language pair.

And that is why I am often met with a surprised reaction when I balk at what I consider unacceptable terms (e.g., grossly substandard rates, payment in 60 days, no additional premium when a same-day turnaround is demanded for a large project).

In answer to one of your questions, I've never demanded payment in advance, although I have on a number of occasions required payment after completing the work but prior to delivery (typically in cases where I am working with a client or agency for the first time, and/or an agency with no established Blue Board record).

[Edited at 2011-03-08 12:56 GMT]


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 11:49
English to Russian
+ ...
A sworn translation is not a standard situation Mar 8, 2011

Even though it may not be the case for the translation market in general, it's quite common for sworn translators to require payment either in advance or at the time of delivery.
Similarly, many simultaneous interpreters require an advance payment, or extend credit for a very short term only.


[Edited at 2011-03-08 11:43 GMT]


 

opolt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:49
English to German
+ ...
Sworn xlation is a bit different Mar 8, 2011

Sorry to disappoint you, Ana, but from my very personal view, sworn translations are quite special in that the translation company, or outsourcer, isn't much more than a basic intermediary. It's always the translator who has been sworn in and who puts the stamp on it, not the translation company (well, at least here in Germany). In this specific case, the outsourcer is really just an "agency", he can't really add much value to what a single person is able to do. It might surprise you, but personally I would never consider doing sworn translations via an outsourcer on a regular basis. And, FWIW, if I were an outsourcer, I would never bother with sworn translations, unless it's about at least 15 pages or so per document, or maybe in some very specific cases (e.g. if a second language pair apart from my own is somehow involved).

That said, you're right in that a small job is a good starter for a long-term relationship between an individual translator and an outsourcer. Beginning such a relationship with a small job has obvious advantages for both sides.

Just my 2 €cents.

[Edited at 2011-03-08 12:33 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:49
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It doesn't have to be confrontational Mar 8, 2011

Why does one party have to "have the upper hand" or "set the rules"? Both parties have their own best interests at heart and there is no reason to expect 100% of translators to just give an unqualified "OK" to your terms as an outsourcer. On the other hand, there's no obligation for you to accept their terms - it has to be a process of negotiation. I'm sure I'm not saying anything new here but it does often seem to me that simply by presenting their own T&C, freelance translators are often seen as troublemakers.

I would say that an element of payment in advance may be appropriate for a sworn translator if actual costs will be incurred (personal visit to a court, postage costs - I don't know the facts here). There's no way the translator should actually be out of pocket whilst waiting for payment. Of course, if the job's small then 100% in advance would be the most logical way to avoid extra bank charges and admin.

I wouldn't personally ask for advance payment from an outsourcer with a good BB record, but I would ask for it for a first job from an unknown agency or a private individual.

Of course, if you were getting all the wrong vibes from this translator who really wanted to "dictate" rather than reach a negotiated agreement, then there's only one possible course of action - look elsewhere.


 

Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:49
Agree with Robert Mar 8, 2011

Anaviva wrote:

Hi everyone

I'm posting this thread because I'm really curious as to your opinions. I work as a freelancer and an outsourcer so I'm familiar with negotiating on both sides of the fence. Today, I had to outsource a job to a sworn translator. It's a small job and I accepted the translator's quote of 36 euros. He then went on to dictate the payment terms, saying that he wanted payment in advance. I declined.

Now I know that we're all a bit nervous in the current economic climate about accepting new jobs (I myself have had to chase up late payers). But if a new agency approached you with a small job (literally 6 lines), a rating of 5 on ProZ ,and the prospect of being their sworn translator for that language pair on a regular basis, wouldn't you take the risk?

I know that in the world of real estate, it's a buyer's market, but it this true to say of the world of translation? Do translators now set down the rules?

Just some food for thought.

Ana



[Edited at 2011-03-08 11:24 GMT]


My basic principles are the same as Robert's. Whether it be sworn translation or not, I strongly feel that agencies and outsourcers have the upper hand, especially these days with the facts mentioned by Robert.

However, I don't understand why you declined to pay your sworn translator an upfront payment of a mere 36 Euros. Although I'm not a sworn translator, I sometimes ask agencies for an upfront payment (usually 50%) when I work with them for the very first time. Of course, in this case, I would do the same as your translator did, a 100% upfront payment. I know that it's a bet whether the translator you chose will do a good or a lousy job, but personally 36 Euros won't hurt, IMHO.


 

Roy OConnor
Local time: 11:49
German to English
Agencies rule Mar 8, 2011

I also agree with Robert. Of course there are a lot of factors involved, but due to the large number of agencies translation is not the cottage industry it once was. It appears to me that most agencies sell on price without particularly marketing the other aspects of the work, such as quality and consistency. This means in turn that the translator is sought on a low-price basis which is not normally consistent with the best quality.

Since so much work passes through agencies, they will always have the upper hand. Unless, of course, translators find more effective ways of marketing their own skills to end clients directly. Perhaps we should have more translator "co-operatives" to market ourselves.


 

Anaviva  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:49
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
In my own experience... Mar 8, 2011

Things have really changed in the translation marketplace in Spain and as a freelance translator, I find myself often having to bend over backwards to remain competitive, not necessarily by lowering my rates but certainly by maintaining good relationships with the agencies I work for and going that extra mile. I don't think anyone is in a position to "dictate" their terms these days, at least if one wishes to remain competitive. I think that the translator in question did and out of principle I declined. I know 36 euros isn't a lot of money, but I don't think that's the issue here. My query was really regarding whether or not the way in T&C negotiations are carried out is changing and the risks translators are willing to take in order to get new leads.

Just for the record, I outsource to sworn translators in 15 languages, most of whom do regular projects for me. This is the first time I've come across someone who refused to negotiate. Maybe I've just been extremely lucky so far with the team of sworn translators who I work with, all of whom are great colleagues.

I did end up looking elsewhere and the next person on the list accepted the job no problemicon_smile.gif


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:49
German to English
+ ...
Precisely Mar 8, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Why does one party have to "have the upper hand" or "set the rules"?



The type of animosity I read about between translators and agencies all the time on ProZ is unfamiliar to me and most of the translators I know personally. Sometimes I go the extra mile, sometimes they go the extra mile. We work together & the main concern is the end client and the final product.


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Break the chains... Mar 8, 2011

The violence that has been done to translators over the past 20 years reminds me of the servitude forced on European peasants from the 8th century onwards.

Today we have regal clients delegating to loyal agencies. These local agents then farm the work out to an army of 'serfs' who are tied to the little piece of land in front of their computer screens.

These wretched serfs are doomed to an ever falling standard of living until they can break the manorial power of the agencies and once again deal directly with clients as freemen.

Let's break these feudal chains....

icon_wink.gif


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:49
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sorry to say your question shows your attitude Mar 8, 2011

Have to say your question says it all "upper hand" already implies someone is coming out on top and someone is less fortune.

Why should there be an upper hand? good negotiations are win-win, if you look at a negotiation as win-win there are no losers or winners.

Having said this I am sorry to say at least in my experience the agencies definitely have the "upper hand" I have not yet found one agency that was willing to change any part of its process to accommodate me in anyway, I am expected to adapt to their terms and if I don't I can't work with them This has in fact happened a few times and I have had to turn down jobs because I did not agree with the terms and there was no room for negotiation.

On the other hand, every time I have to work with a direct client they are always open to negotiation, and we always reach an agreement on the terms, I even have a few regular direct customers that send regular jobs and we have set terms that we negotiated jointly.

So at least in my experience I have to sadly say agencies have the upper hand and don't want to negotiate.


 

opolt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:49
English to German
+ ...
Dictating:no, negotiating: yes Mar 8, 2011

Anaviva wrote:

... I don't think anyone is in a position to "dictate" their terms these days, at least if one wishes to remain competitive. I think that the translator in question did and out of principle I declined. I know 36 euros isn't a lot of money, but I don't think that's the issue here. My query was really regarding whether or not the way in T&C negotiations are carried out is changing and the risks translators are willing to take in order to get new leads.

Just for the record, I outsource to sworn translators in 15 languages, most of whom do regular projects for me. This is the first time I've come across someone who refused to negotiate. Maybe I've just been extremely lucky so far with the team of sworn translators who I work with, all of whom are great colleagues.




Just to clarify what I said earlier in the thread, Ana, I do think that there should always be room for negotiation and some bargaining on both sides, but as I see it, the translator's position is somewhat stronger in the case of sworn translations.

OTOH, I believe that for many if not most translators here on Proz.com, it's totally obvious that it's in general the outsourcers who are in the stronger position, and it often shows in how they treat you. Just browse through the forums here and you'll see. It's often the outsourcers who dictate.

At any rate, you say you are familiar with both sides of the fence, so I think you should know that already, I'm really not sure what you are getting at here ... I mean, that one translator may have overdone it and it didn't work out as expected (which is normal now and then I guess), but apart from the individual case you describe, do you have any other evidence that translators have suddenly grown more restive?

In any case freelance translators and outsources are mutually dependent on each other, and they should treat each other accordingly. Maintaining at least the semblence of readiness to negotiate is in general a must as far as I am concerned (again, that goes for both sides).

[Edited at 2011-03-08 14:54 GMT]


 

Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:49
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Setting down the rules Mar 8, 2011

Anaviva wrote:

Do translators now set down the rules?



In theory, that's the way it should work. In most of the business world, payment terms are set by service providers, not their clients. If your business hires a law firm, don't you expect the firm to set the payment terms? There's room for negotiation, but ultimately the service provider has to make these decisions.

A lot of the work that sworn translators do is for individuals, and in that context payment is often required before delivery. Perhaps the translator in question is already keeping very busy with clients who pay up front. If so, what incentive is there to take on a client who can only pay after 30 or 60 days?

Each person's business situation is different. I live in a country where we don't have sworn translators, but I do a lot of certified translations for individuals, and they do pay up front. However, I'm willing to extend 30 days' credit to reputable corporate outsourcers since they provide steadier work. That's my business reality, but someone else might have a different reality and set their policies accordingly.

[Edited at 2011-03-08 15:07 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:49
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not a matter of "upper hand", just incompatible conditions Mar 8, 2011

Anaviva wrote:
I'm posting this thread because I'm really curious as to your opinions. I work as a freelancer and an outsourcer so I'm familiar with negotiating on both sides of the fence. Today, I had to outsource a job to a sworn translator. It's a small job and I accepted the translator's quote of 36 euros. He then went on to dictate the payment terms, saying that he wanted payment in advance. I declined.

Quite clearly, the translator had his conditions, and very reasonable ones in today's climate of constant risk of scam. He decided not to work without the peace of mind of an advance payment, and you preferred not to pay in advance. Two decisions that are incompatible, and end of the story.

Next time you might want to think who is in higher risk of being scammed: a certified translator who is publicly identified as such in an official list, or you who are not necessarily identified publicly anywhere. If you ask me, next time I would pay the 36 euros in advance and get it done with.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2011-03-08 15:14 GMT]


 

Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:49
English to German
+ ...
Hello Anaviva, Mar 8, 2011

Usually I insist on payment on or before delivery for certified translations.

My direct clients never have a problem with it. I guess they understand my situation. After all, I am registered at the court and could easily be tracked down.
Gudrun


 
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