Business practices of large international companies - advice for new colleagues
Thread poster: Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro

Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 09:04
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
May 9, 2014

Someone posted a link to Glassdoor in another thread, where a project manager from on of the big translation agencies relates the business practices of his former employer:

After XXX was taken over, the only thing that mattered was markup. Project managers received training in manipulating and misleading translators. We were told that translators were overpaid fat cats and a good pay cut was long overdue. We were also told that we should justity the low rates offered by telling translators that all payments would originate from the US, and as a consequence could not be traced by the Dutch Tax Office. So the recommended way for making up for pay cuts was to dodge taxes.

We were required to work about ten hours'overtime every week (unpaid) and were bullied if we dared to question the decisions made by the new management. Within the span of a year, the majority of my colleagues had left. They were replaced by very young, inexperienced and unqualified starters, mainly from countries with high unemployment (Spain, for instance) or from countries such as Russia or China. The idea behind this (YYY expressly states on XXX's website nowadays that Dutch nationals should not apply) is that foreign workers are more easily handled because they have no prospects in their country of origin or need a job in order to keep their residence permits.

XXX has become a true sweatshop, where employees and suppliers alike are taken advantage of. Turnover among employees and translators is skyhigh. YYY actively discourages any form of postitive relationships between Project Managers and translators because this would make it harder for Project Managers to keep telling lies to people they know. In that sense, the permanent exodus of staff is just a management tool to reach the company's objectives.

In a way, you cannot help admiring YYY for perfecting this diabolical way of operating. This is greed performed to perfection.


I do occasionally accept projects from the agency in question. However I never take jobs as they are offered and I would urge fellow translators to do like me, not just for this particular agency, but as a general approach for any agency wanting to impose their conditions onto us:

- Never, ever accept their rates without bargaining. They have an online system in place where jobs are posted, and is has a "Negotiate" option. Use that option! Add at least 30% to the offered rate. I get many of the jobs that are posted, even with my higher rate. If more translators ask for higher rates, they have to pay more. It is as simple as that.

- Do NOT accept short deadlines without a hefty rush surcharge. Do not work for your usual rate on weekends, evenings an overnight. The "Negotiate" option does allows to suggest a new deadline, as well.

- Do this every single time you are not absolutely desperate for a job. Things will improve slowly, if enough of us adhere to this. They are being trained to deveice translators? No problem, we will train them to respect us instead!


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 09:04
English to Russian
+ ...
Position yourself properly May 9, 2014

Anna, I know what you mean - the large international company you are talking about has been my client for the last 8 years, and is currently my biggest one. I do remember a sudden decrease in their offered rates several years ago, but it never really applied to me. They work with a broad spectrum of translators, from the worst and cheapest to the best and most expensive. However, their job portal is indeed geared towards the cheaper ones, and higher offers are usually sent by e-mail to individual translators. It is possible to call their vendor management department and say that your minimum charge is X per word and Y per job, and that you won't accept anything less under any circumstances. They will enter it into your record in their vendor database, and then the only lowball offers will come from inexperienced PM trainees who fail to look up your minimum rate (for whom I also have a boilerplate response about my minimum rate with an exhortation to look it up and respect it). At the bottom line, they are a decent client because they are upfront with you, they pay on time, and they do pay well for high-quality work when they need it. My only gripe about them is having to submit a separate invoice for every job, no matter how small, but that's where the minimum per-job charge comes into play.

 

Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 09:04
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you May 9, 2014

Hi Anton,

thank you for your helpful post and further insight in how this agency operates - I will take your good advice into account, because I am often being flooded by offers from them that are well under my rate or don't fit my specifications at all. I didn't think that with a big agency like this it would be any use to try and get anyone on the phone to discuss issues. Good to know I was wrong.

The fact that they do pay in time and can generate a significant stream of incoming work is what makes me think about efficient ways of dealing with them - there is no need to completely avoid companies like this, but one has to remain aware that one is dealing with a company that puts profit in front of everything else.

I made this post to alert younger colleagues who often seem to be too shy to defend their rates when dealing with clients they perceive as "big and important". I remember being excited to start working for said client - and then realized that I had to be very, very careful not to be taken advantage of.

The many posts in this forum from colleagues that ask whether certain business practices, rates and demands are fair or common in the industry shows me that it might be useful to post information like this to avoid a further degradation of our working conditions.

Best regards,
Anna


 


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