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What's your best rate?
Thread poster: Bernhard Sulzer

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:08
English to German
+ ...
Sep 12, 2013

Hello.

"Send us your best rate" ('best' is often capitalized) is a phrase many of us are very familiar with.

It's used a lot on many job boards, and judging from the many applications, lots of people must indeed be sending in their best rate.

Yet, the question here is: What is your best rate? I am not interested in the dollar amount; I just want to collect examples of how professional translators arrive at their best rate.


Here is what I base my best rate on:

First, I want to know what the subject area of the project is, the volume (amount of words), and the desired deadline; and then I want to see the original text or at least a sample thereof before quoting a rate/price (tentatively). After my review of the entire original text, I will quote a rate that is adequate with the quality of work I can provide and that is competitive with similar quality translation services (work of similar translators).

Unfortunately, on job boards, the phrase “best rate/best quote" is, at least for me, a hint that the job poster asking for it only wants to pay the "lowest" possible rate. For such rates, I believe they will get the lowest quality of work. I wouldn't consider that the best rate but rather the worst rate. Why the word "rate suckers" just popped into my head, I don't know. Oh yeah, there's a car insurance ad that uses it. And maybe because I would have to call myself that if I would work for such rates.

So while my definition has a lot to do with being able to get paid adequately, I am almost certain that such consideration is not even a factor when a poster asks for the best rate/best quote.

Why ask you for your definitions?

Probably I am tired of the contradiction between my definition and the other one and the resulting brick wall between the two, or maybe the phrase just annoys the %$^*! out of me.
The way it is abused (IMO) seems very callous.

Maybe we can show some outsourcers and some newcomer translators what professional translators mean by best rate. So that there are no misunderstandings!
And my advice for the new colleagues: Don't believe any job is better than none. That would be a dangerous attitude. Consider the consequences of "work like crazy, can't deliver quality, won't have enough money..."


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:08
English to Polish
+ ...
... Sep 12, 2013

I reject the notion that my 'best' rate is the cheapest I will work for. Moreover, I have a marked dislike of bald imperatives. Between these two, 'send us your best rate,' is probably the shortest way to nullify any prospect of collaboration.

To elaborate more on what I said, I also oppose the notion that some agency I've never yet heard about is somehow entitled to get a 'best rate', like some sort of equality with my long-standing clients and employers who have worked hard to earn it or at least stuck with me throughout months and years.

'What's your bottomline?' is a fairer question. Or: 'What's the cheapest you'll work for under the following conditions: (...).' And less insulting. Although to do justice to the authors and envoys of all those inquiries, they most probably mean no insult whatsoever, nor even any serious neglect. It's just a dumb phrase.

[Edited at 2013-09-12 22:11 GMT]


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 02:08
Japanese to English
+ ...
This Sep 12, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

To elaborate more on what I said, I also oppose the notion that some agency I've never yet heard about is somehow entitled to get a 'best rate', like some sort of equality with my long-standing clients and employers who have worked hard to earn it or at least stuck with me throughout months and years.

[Edited at 2013-09-12 22:11 GMT]


Who do these people think they are?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:08
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Does it really mean "cheapest rate"? Sep 12, 2013

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
"Send us your best rate" ('best' is often capitalized) is a phrase many of us are very familiar with.


I think we just assume it means "cheapest rate", but in other industries the term "best rate" does not necessarily mean cheapest rate. For example, in hotel bookings the "best rate" simply means a variable rate that is situation dependent. If we apply this to translation, then "best rate" would mean "a rate that takes into account the situation".

Some translators charge the same rate regardless of whether they're busy or not busy, regardless of whether the deadline is soon or far in the future, regardless of whether the work is easy or difficult, regardless of the market in which the client finds himself, etc. Those translators don't have a variable rate but a fixed rate, and therefore never a "best rate".


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Steve Kerry  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:08
German to English
My best rate.. Sep 12, 2013

.. is generally about three or four cents above theirs!

The "let's work our way down the ProZ list to find the cheapest" agencies are rarely satisfactory to work for, because their attitude from the outset is one of confrontation with the translator, rather than co-operation.

Steve K.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:08
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Best rate and best rate in our industry Sep 12, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

I think we just assume it means "cheapest rate", but in other industries the term "best rate" does not necessarily mean cheapest rate. ...



Hi Samuel.

In our industry, I am sure it means something else to you than to most of the posters who use the phrase.

[Edited at 2013-09-12 23:48 GMT]
add-on: and to quite a lot of people bidding with their "best rate".

[Edited at 2013-09-13 01:06 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:08
Chinese to English
Who cares what bad business people think? Sep 13, 2013

I agree with all the above, especially Orrin. The thing is, I try not to care too much about what agencies think. They're businesses, they're psychopathic by definition, with no feelings and no conscience. They're just money making machines. I assume that best rate means lowest rate, I quote them my minimum, then I look at the text, then I tell them if I can do that text for my minimum or if I'll need more.

I just think you can't get invested in relationships with companies, not even to the level of expecting courtesy from them. EVERY job is a negotiation, and every negotiation can be a battle. No exceptions, not even with the very best clients. Because no matter how good the people in the company are, the demands of their job include paring down our rates.


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Katia de Alba  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
This is not really a problem Sep 13, 2013

Agencies are in the business of making the greatest possible profit: this is part of the culture. What is your best rate really does mean What is your bottom line.

But I see no need to get offended. You decide your rate, quote it, and if the agency says yes, then it was a good match. Otherwise, you keep looking. I only quote realistic rates, and YES, I have clients!

[Edited at 2013-09-13 01:16 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:08
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
bottom line versus best rate Sep 13, 2013

Katia de Alba wrote:

Agencies are in the business of making the greatest possible profit: this is part of the culture. What is your best rate really does mean What is your bottom line.


I am more concerned about the overall effect of this practice for the whole translation sector than certain agencies' business model. As I argued above, a translation done at bottom prices is not necessarily a guarantee for an agency's success. probably more like the opposite.

Unfortunately, "best rate" is not only understood as bottom line but some imaginary "rock bottom line."
I believe you have to quote rock bottom lines to get a job like that. But no one really should. That's what I want to get across.


The problem is not that good translators don't bother with jobs like that. The problem is that a lot of people translate for those rates. This is a complex issue. All actions in our industry have an effect on the whole industry.

Ignoring the issue is IMO not a good thing. Not when you see how these posters continue to ask for the "best" rate and people keep bidding with what they consider a very low rate.

Is your best rate the bottom line?

[Edited at 2013-09-13 12:42 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:08
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
professional and unprofessional Sep 13, 2013

Phil Hand wrote:

Who cares what bad business people think?

I agree with all the above, especially Orrin. The thing is, I try not to care too much about what agencies think. They're businesses, they're psychopathic by definition, with no feelings and no conscience. They're just money making machines. I assume that best rate means lowest rate, I quote them my minimum, then I look at the text, then I tell them if I can do that text for my minimum or if I'll need more.


That's those agencies who use the phrase. There are good agencies and there are also good clients. I have some really good relationships with agencies and direct clients.
I am sure you do too. But we shouldn't ignore the detrimental effect of "best rate" postings and the fact that people actually are convinced they have to sell themselves for absolutely unacceptable rates!

YOUR best rate is not the bottom line. I am sure. I can't say that the lowest possible rate is the best rate, it's certainly not for me, and it's not for the industry.
This practice weakens all of us. Think about the big picture.

Phil Hand wrote:
I just think you can't get invested in relationships with companies, not even to the level of expecting courtesy from them. EVERY job is a negotiation, and every negotiation can be a battle. No exceptions, not even with the very best clients. Because no matter how good the people in the company are, the demands of their job include paring down our rates.


There are negotiations, but there are professional negotiations and then there are unprofessional negotiations. The latter are unacceptable, but they are going on every day! I am convinced many newcomers have no idea what they're negotiating.
If they really knew, they would think twice about doing it.
I think we should try to tell them about this in order to help break the cycle of ever lower-rate postings followed by ever lower-rate bids.

[Edited at 2013-09-13 02:02 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:08
Chinese to English
That's certainly true Sep 13, 2013

Yes, we should definitely keep telling new translators that there is a high quality market out there, and that they can find it if they produce good work and demand good rates. I'm just perhaps a bit more cynical than you about the low end market. I think it's always going to be there, and the particular forms of language they use are uninteresting to me. Whether they say "best rate" or "lowest rate" or "most attractive quote" or "most efficient" doesn't make much difference.

If an agency asks you about price first, then they are unlikely to be a top quality customer. If they ask you about quality first, then they might be worth sticking with.


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James Hodges  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 02:08
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Important to make a distinction Sep 13, 2013

My understanding of "best rate" is the rate that I offer when I am doing somebody a favour. In return, it implies that any disadvatange will be compensated by work volume. If people are looking for a cheaper unit price (word or character, etc.), they have to be able to offer something in return (regular work, large volume, etc).

I believe this is different from "competitive rate" which I usually consider in terms of the average market rate. Factors that contribute to this are the agency in question (where they are located), the difficulty of the job (technical difficulty), and calculating myself how much they should reasonably pay for my services.

On the other hand, understanding "best rate" to mean the cheapest possible offer is putting yourself on a road to nowhere. As basic marketing teaches you about the so-called 4Ps (price, product, placement, promotion), price is the most fragile component in the product (or service) you are offering. In other words, there is always somebody who is willing (irrespective of quality issues) to make a cheaper offer. Once you start offering discounts just to win a job, it is very difficult to stop. Price in its own right is not a proposition on which to position your brand (your services).


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:08
English to Polish
+ ...
... Sep 13, 2013

My understanding of "best rate" is the rate that I offer when I am doing somebody a favour. In return, it implies that any disadvatange will be compensated by work volume. If people are looking for a cheaper unit price (word or character, etc.), they have to be able to offer something in return (regular work, large volume, etc).


Yes, it's a favour in consideration of services already rendered. In any case, it requires consideration and not just a bald request.

I believe this is different from "competitive rate" which I usually consider in terms of the average market rate. Factors that contribute to this are the agency in question (where they are located), the difficulty of the job (technical difficulty), and calculating myself how much they should reasonably pay for my services.


'Competitive rate' means you're supposed to compete for them.

I don't care to compete, at least not on price. I care to get out of that sort of competition.

On the other hand, understanding "best rate" to mean the cheapest possible offer is putting yourself on a road to nowhere. As basic marketing teaches you about the so-called 4Ps (price, product, placement, promotion), price is the most fragile component in the product (or service) you are offering. In other words, there is always somebody who is willing (irrespective of quality issues) to make a cheaper offer. Once you start offering discounts just to win a job, it is very difficult to stop. Price in its own right is not a proposition on which to position your brand (your services).


Since 'product' simply means translating well, I tend to regard placement as the most important of the four, though forgetting promotion may undercut your reach.


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