Live together or die alone
Thread poster: Zeki Güler

Zeki Güler  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 02:29
Member (2012)
English to Turkish
+ ...
Jul 30, 2014

Dear colleagues,

As you know, we translators are real producers while translation companies are intermediaries bringing translators and clients together, thereby having most of the money that client companies pay for the translation.

As a few translators here, we are thinking of establishing a group among ourselves and make a bid to get high volume translations from companies.

Could you share your kind advice and experiences please?
I'd appreciate it if you could provide link of previous discussions on this issue, if any, as well.

Sincerely,

[Edited at 2014-07-30 16:38 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-07-30 16:40 GMT]


 

DLyons  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 02:29
Spanish to English
+ ...
Good idea, but ... Jul 30, 2014

Low-end agencies don't add much value and get projects by underpaying translators. You can compete directly with them, their undeserved slice of the pie can go to the translator. But then you're at the lower end of the market, competing on price (BAD IDEA).

A good agency actually adds value (and charges for that). So they are charging more to the end-client but delivering a better product. To compete with them you need to be adding value in project management, quality control, lower risk etc. These are inherently somewhat difficult for cooperatives or loose teams.

You'd be advised to document the services you plan to offer and processes you plan to use to ensure they hold up, in the bad times as well as the good.


 

EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:29
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
I've thought of that in my time, Jul 31, 2014

and decided against it. Several translators are never on the same level, have different capacities, different ideas about many things... What happens if you just cannot do something a client wants? You will subcontract - and this way leads to establishing an agency (there are some I know that started that way). Have you considered tax impacts? I live in a different country, so I cannot say what applies to you, but here, I found them catastrophic at the time.

 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:29
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not a good idea Jul 31, 2014

We translators often fail to see that agencies have their own set of skills and advantages (sales, marketing, management, planning, location), and that many of such skills are not solely linguistic.

Visiting agencies and spending some time learning about their challenges is enough to see that it is not automatically a good idea for translators to become agencies. In fact, all translators I know who have entered the agency business have become bottom-dwellers, and the final result for them and fellow translators was not positive at all in the end.

Instead of creating our own agencies or becoming agencies, we should really help good agencies be successful. This is something we can do very easily: by definitely not working for bottom-dwellers.


 

Little Woods  Identity Verified
Vietnam
Member
English to Vietnamese
Why isn't there a thank you or like function here Jul 31, 2014

I really like what you said and told myself the same thing about helping good agency successful. Sometime I met really good agencies and even though they dont ask for it, I reward them by some discount or dont charge them for some extra work or going extra to ensure they get the best possible work.

I haven't met many good clients, only a few ones and not working with bottom-dweller is somehow getting at me now but still I will keep being optimistic and upgrade my knowledge to help those good clients.

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

We translators often fail to see that agencies have their own set of skills and advantages (sales, marketing, management, planning, location), and that many of such skills are not solely linguistic.

Visiting agencies and spending some time learning about their challenges is enough to see that it is not automatically a good idea for translators to become agencies. In fact, all translators I know who have entered the agency business have become bottom-dwellers, and the final result for them and fellow translators was not positive at all in the end.

Instead of creating our own agencies or becoming agencies, we should really help good agencies be successful. This is something we can do very easily: by definitely not working for bottom-dwellers.


[Edited at 2014-07-31 08:53 GMT]


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 20:29
German to English
+ ...
Why aim for high volume, for starters? Jul 31, 2014

Very often agencies want a discount for high volume work, ignoring the fact that every word in a translation counts from beginning to end. There is nothing attractive about high volume work, so I question the goal from that standpoint already. And then as has been pointed out, there is the head-ache of trying to make sure that every member on that team is working to the same standards and so on.

When I read the subject line, I thought it had something to do with managing to keep a marriage together under the stresses of being an entrepreneur. We are not married to agencies.icon_wink.gif Actually I like the smaller projects that I do for a variety of agencies, as well as a fair share of end clients. It is safer not to put all your eggs in one basket.

I wouldn't go for the idea, personally.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:29
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Absolutely Jul 31, 2014

Little Woods wrote:
I really like what you said and told myself the same thing about helping good agency successful. Sometime I met really good agencies and even though they dont ask for it, I reward them by some discount or dont charge them for some extra work or going extra to ensure they get the best possible work.

I absolutely agree. By going the extra mile with good agencies who treat us well, we can promote a healthy future for the profession and the good name of the industry as a whole. Satisfied end customers has a much bigger value than making a couple of bucks more, if you ask me.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:29
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Hear, Hear! Let's hear more of this here! Jul 31, 2014

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
Instead of creating our own agencies or becoming agencies, we should really help good agencies be successful. This is something we can do very easily: by definitely not working for bottom-dwellers.

Let's support those good agencies who play fairly and who deal directly with end clients who have needs that an individual translator wouldn't be able to cope with (fast turnoround of large volumes; multiple language pairs; 24 hr availability; associated DTP and IT work...).

Let's cut out those agencies who simply pass jobs down from other agencies and who (a) can't answer our questions in a timely manner, (b) take a large part of the fee that the main agency has available, and (c) add very little to the end product while taking both time and money from it.

I wonder how many teams of translators have actually considered the legal and financial implications of their loose organisation. I know it sounds like a great idea, and while it works I'm sure it works well. But what about if/when there's a problem? Who carries the can? Who loses out if the client doesn't pay? Who is named on the invoice so is legally the claimant, and do the others help with court costs? Who gets sued if there's a major mess, and can they share the potentially massive costs with the others? Or does one person lose everything, including maybe their home, while the others lose nothing? I'm sorry, but however good Utopia sounds, communism has been proven not to work. If the human race survives another few thousand years then I'm sure we'll all have learnt to play fair, but it isn't going to happen this century. At the moment, there has to be "the boss". I'm happy as my own boss, but I wouldn't like to be anyone elses's boss, nor do I want them to be mine.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Keeping translation and financial services apart Jul 31, 2014

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Let's support those good agencies who play fairly and who deal directly with end clients who have needs that an individual translator wouldn't be able to cope with (fast turnoround of large volumes; multiple language pairs; 24 hr availability; associated DTP and IT work...).


Depending on the job - and I'm talking about a complex one - agencies have options, such as: a) pigeonholing all different vendors and pulling all the strings; b) setting up teams along the production chain; or c) hiring one (value-adding!) team leader to outsource secondary operations.

I reckon my case may be peculiar, however it may serve as a paradigm for others. I have chosen NOT to be a translation & peripheral services outsourcer.

Now and then an agency has a video they need translated and subtitled in more than one language. I only translate EN-PT either way, however I can do time-spotting also in IT+FR+ES. I also do subtitles burning/DVD authoring.

I know some reliable video subtitle translators in these other languages. Some do time-spotting, AFAIK none of these does burning/DVD. So I give the agency a choice: they may contact them directly (I'll provide contact details), or I can hire them under my wing, and deliver a turn-key job.

Most - if not all - prefer that I take care of the entire job. However if I made some extra profit on the outsourced translation, the cost to the agency would render the entire project too expensive. Therefore I merely pass-through these other translation costs.

I explain the agency that, since I have no margin/profit to cover any mishap over the long haul, I must get at least the outsourced work payment up front. If the end-client on a whim cancels the entire project underway, I won't incur in debt to my outsourcees. So far all of them have agreed to pay in advance for the entire project (including my part - to avoid splitting payments), and all such projects have been successful. As soon as their deliverables have been checked, I pay my outsourcees COD, so they'll be gladly available next time I need them.

This setup could easily fit e.g. web site translation + HTML implementation; book translation & DTP; mixed specialty subjects (e.g. medicine & electronics).

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Let's cut out those agencies who simply pass jobs down from other agencies and who (a) can't answer our questions in a timely manner, (b) take a large part of the fee that the main agency has available, and (c) add very little to the end product while taking both time and money from it.


It's up to us - professional translators - to drive NO-value-adding in-betweens out of work, by simply depriving them of quality goods to deliver. If the best they can offer is machine translation, nobody will ask them anything.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
I wonder how many teams of translators have actually considered the legal and financial implications of their loose organisation. I know it sounds like a great idea, and while it works I'm sure it works well. But what about if/when there's a problem? Who carries the can? Who loses out if the client doesn't pay? Who is named on the invoice so is legally the claimant, and do the others help with court costs? Who gets sued if there's a major mess, and can they share the potentially massive costs with the others? Or does one person lose everything, including maybe their home, while the others lose nothing? I'm sorry, but however good Utopia sounds, communism has been proven not to work. If the human race survives another few thousand years then I'm sure we'll all have learnt to play fair, but it isn't going to happen this century. At the moment, there has to be "the boss". I'm happy as my own boss, but I wouldn't like to be anyone else's boss, nor do I want them to be mine.


This involves mutual TRUST. If I'm hiring/being hired by a colleague (not a client), we must trust each other that there will be no problems between us. The party providing the services cannot cause any quality/timeliness problems; the hiring party should be preloaded with cash to cause no payment problems either.

In either case, I offer and demand - depending on my position - COD payment or flawless quality. Over time, this has developed a few solid informal networks for such cases. Sometimes I play 'vendor', in others I play 'client', but nobody lets the others down, ever. They keep coming back, and I keep going back.


 

Peoplesartist  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:59
Member (2007)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Agencies should hire linguists only Aug 2, 2014

I am living in India. I think that most of Indian agencies do not get job from end clients. They act as a middleman. They get job from first world agencies and get done job from cheapest linguist. Their only motive is maximum margin.
If reputed agencies do not outsource from third world agencies and hire directly from linguists, situation would be better.


 


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