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Watching your clients advertise for (cheaper) translators
Thread poster: Phil Hand

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 19:41
Chinese to English
Jan 26, 2015

This is just a rant. A few times recently I've had the experience of watching agencies for whom I have done a lot of work in the past advertise on Proz for translators for projects which I could take on. I haven't even raised rates for some of them - they're just determined to find cheaper translators.

It's the kind of thing that makes me want to get out of this rat race, but I'm not sure any other fields are less rat racey, so I'm sticking with it for a while...


 

Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:41
Romanian to English
+ ...
Been that Jan 26, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:

This is just a rant. A few times recently I've had the experience of watching agencies for whom I have done a lot of work in the past advertise on Proz for translators for projects which I could take on. I haven't even raised rates for some of them - they're just determined to find cheaper translators.

It's the kind of thing that makes me want to get out of this rat race, but I'm not sure any other fields are less rat racey, so I'm sticking with it for a while...


Yeah, I've seen this too, although in some cases I suspect it was not the rate which motivated their ad (as we're working at a reasonable rate they offered), but availability 24/7. Or perhaps just a project manager with nothing else to do.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:41
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
It's rat-racey everywhere Jan 26, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:
It's the kind of thing that makes me want to get out of this rat race, but I'm not sure any other fields are less rat racey, so I'm sticking with it for a while...

Need to vent noted and sympathised with. You know the answer as well as I do big guy - you just have to gut it out and overcome as you have in the past. Things would be just as bad in a regular job, probably worse. Having a boss hovering over me isn't something I feel I could to go back to.

One agency I deal with does the same thing in my language pair. Nice people, decent jobs with hefty volume (which is why I take them) but the rate is low even after I negotiated that up from a rock-bottom rate - they were clearly desperate at the time and had no choice but to accept. They're still advertising for J-E people.

While I wish they would just pay up and hire me, they're only doing what they feel they must. Wherever you go buyers squeeze suppliers. It's part of every industry. Maybe in some protected niches there's little pressure on prices but for everything else... Or you get something well-paid like dentistry without much price pressure but where suicide rates are 5x the average.

Incidentally I would have thought that the long-term trajectory of C-E would be towards higher quality, just as with J-E starting in the 1980s, so time and industry structure should be on your side?

Regards
Dan


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:41
Italian to English
Niche work (if you can get it) Jan 26, 2015

Dan Lucas wrote:

Maybe in some protected niches there's little pressure on prices but for everything else...



The best-protected niches are the ones where demand for translation outstrips the supply of suitable translators.



Incidentally I would have thought that the long-term trajectory of C-E would be towards higher quality, just as with J-E starting in the 1980s, so time and industry structure should be on your side?



Absolutely!


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not the right ones Jan 26, 2015

My customers do time to time propose me a "decreased rate". In this situation, I kindly explain them that the quality and reliability of my work has not gone down. It is, in fact, getting better. On the other hand, I have my "minimum rate" I will never compromise. And the rate is fair. Most of the time, they end up agreeing with me.

As for ProZ job posts, just figure out this. If your client is ok with taking the risk of assigning a serious project to a "translator" who can accept 0.02, 0.04 or similar, you are working with a wrong one.

The challenge is not to "find a client". The challenge is to "find a client who values what you offer and pays the price".


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:41
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I wouldn't worry Jan 26, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:

This is just a rant. A few times recently I've had the experience of watching agencies for whom I have done a lot of work in the past advertise on Proz for translators for projects which I could take on. I haven't even raised rates for some of them - they're just determined to find cheaper translators.

It's the kind of thing that makes me want to get out of this rat race, but I'm not sure any other fields are less rat racey, so I'm sticking with it for a while...


If over time you have been demonstrating to them that you are a better, more reliable, more professional translator than the others, they'll get back to you when they find out that yes, there are cheaper translators, but that they come with other problems which, in the end, cost more.

Stick to your rates. There's always going to be somebody who's cheaper than you are. Your job is to be better.

[Edited at 2015-01-26 10:37 GMT]


 

Kudzai
Zimbabwe
Local time: 13:41
English to NdebeleNorth
+ ...
They will be back Jan 26, 2015

It pains, but do not stress, they will be back, and then you can raise your rates.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:41
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Bid on it Jan 26, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:
A few times recently I've had the experience of watching agencies for whom I have done a lot of work in the past advertise on Proz for translators for projects which I could take on.


I also get that, but I suspect that some PMs sometimes just forget about "their translator". When this happens, I simply bid on the project at my usual rate. Sometimes I even get the job, and sometimes PMs that I dealt with in the past act as if I'm brand new. PMs are only human, and they don't always remember all of their translators.


 

Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 11:41
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
What Samuel said Jan 26, 2015

I was about to ask if Phil had ever bid on any of these jobs. Maybe someone was just in a hurry, or maybe they assumed you were busy. If you're on a good terms with the Project Manager posting the job, how about sending them a quick 'Hi, I'm available' e-mail? That should clarify their objectives real quick.

 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:41
Member (2014)
English to German
It should be the other way round Jan 26, 2015

Translation rates should slowly increase with inflation and living costs.

I was just contacted by an agency that advertised here on Proz and offering me a small job for $0.015!? No need to mention that the conversation was over quickly.

But I still have a profile on some other sites where people will work for such rates and less even, not sure about the result, but the job often seem to go to the lowest bidder.


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:41
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Probably... Jan 26, 2015

a matter of budget for a specific job... IF this is the case, then you should be happy they are not contacting you asking for a reduced rate for the project... icon_smile.gif

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 19:41
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, all Jan 26, 2015

Those are all encouraging words and sound advice. I have tried bidding on such jobs a couple of times. I don't think I ever got one, and on at least one occasion I was explicitly told, "We can't afford your rate for this job." Ho hum.

I think Dan's right that the long term trajectory of the industry is going my way. It feels as though we've hit a little wrinkle - ten years ago, there was a vast undersupply of translators in my pair, and now it seems there's a generation of eager young Americans with college degrees in Chinese. They're bright-eyed, bright, and they don't have kids yet, and the result is that where there only used to be two modes in my pair - 0.02 and rubbish, expensive and good - there is now a third rail: cheapish and decent. Unsurprisingly, the agencies are exploiting it! In another five years things will settle down a bit more, I'm sure.

NB. Not sure how accurate any of this is, of course - it's one translator's wild imaginings based on the very limited data I see. But that's kind of what it feels like.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:41
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Bid anyway Jan 26, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:
Those are all encouraging words and sound advice. I have tried bidding on such jobs a couple of times. I don't think I ever got one, and on at least one occasion I was explicitly told, "We can't afford your rate for this job." Ho hum.

I quite often bid on jobs some way above the stated budget i.e. a level that makes economic sense. I figure that it does no harm to remind them that I personally and that quality translators in general still exist. The worst thing that can happen is that I get a job at the price I bid for it!

Dan



[Edited at 2015-01-26 13:52 GMT]


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 19:41
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
A different take Jan 26, 2015

One impression that I occasionally get when browsing Kudoz: I wonder if some clients have been burned by translators who

1. charge high rates
and
2. suck

It's entirely possible that the market doesn't correct itself. The translators who fit this profile would often have degrees in translation or other degrees that look nice but which fail to be indicators of actual competency. They might sustain themselves on jumping from client to client, work with clients that don't know better, or they might be adequate in some fields, utterly unacceptable in others, and don't know better than to stay in their areas of competence.

Given the wide range of abilities and rates out there, a client could conceivably have worked with a useless and expensive translator, and an adequate translator who's cheaper because they might not have had as much experience or pedigree.

The end result is that the client doesn't see any connection between price and quality, and is thus disinclined to place any importance on price as indicator of value. They might not even get a great product by hiring a cheaper translator, but they might feel that it's at least better than paying more to get less. All this can occur without any intention to exploit.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 19:41
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Ha! Jan 26, 2015

Yes. I think that's what will change with time, as Dan said. Gradually the ladders of price and quality will align themselves. But yes.

 
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