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A large agency's new pricing structure for translations utilizing CAT tools
Thread poster: Robert Forstag
Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:50
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 26, 2015

I received an e-mail today from a large US-based agency that I have only rarely worked with during the past eight years. The purpose of the mail was to inform freelancers of their new pricing scheme for translations utilizing CAT tools. It runs as follows:


Repetitions: 25%

100% Matches: 25%


95-99%: 50%


85-94%: 50%


75-84%: 100%


50-74%: 100%


No match: 100%

My question is whether any of you who use CAT tools (I do not) can earn a viable income through such a pricing structure. I would consider as "minimally viable" for a translator based in any Western country earnings on a project that translate into at least $40/hour. Is this possible through such a scheme?

I look forward to your replies.


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Victoria Frazier  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:50
English to Spanish
CAT tools rates Feb 26, 2015

Hi Robert,
These rates are pretty standard. There are some penny-pincher agencies that have discounted rates even for 50% matches. Even if you work with direct end-clients, CAT tools save you a lot of time. Working with these tools widens your market, it's become a requirement from most agencies.

Best regards,

Victoria


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:50
English to German
+ ...
Wow! Feb 26, 2015

Victoria Frazier wrote:

Hi Robert,
These rates are pretty standard. There are some penny-pincher agencies that have discounted rates even for 50% matches. Even if you work with direct end-clients, CAT tools save you a lot of time. Working with these tools widens your market, it's become a requirement from most agencies.

Best regards,

Victoria


Pretty standard, huh?

[Edited at 2015-02-26 23:37 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:50
Member (2008)
Italian to English
The whole point Feb 26, 2015

Robert Forstag wrote:

I look forward to your replies.



The whole point of CAT tools is that you do more work for less money (oh, and give the agency your translation memories, for nothing). And of course you pay for the CAT tool yourself. And the upgrades and renewed licences. And struggle with the frequent technical glitches people encounter with them, which I see discussed in many threads. I cannot see any advantage in this.

The one thing I've noticed, based on the figures given in another discussion about daily output capacity elsewhere in these forums, is that I (without a CAT tool) can produce as much per day as can someone who uses a CAT tool.

Oh dear....here we go again....CAT tools vs. not CAT tools....

[Edited at 2015-02-26 23:44 GMT]


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:50
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
That's why I am a skeptic Feb 27, 2015

Tom in London wrote:
The whole point of CAT tools is that you do more work for less money (oh, and give the agency your translation memories, for nothing). And of course you pay for the CAT tool yourself. And the upgrades and renewed licences. And struggle with the frequent technical glitches people encounter with them, which I see discussed in many threads. I cannot see any advantage in this.


Other than the omission of the time one has to spend to really feel comfortable using such a tool, this is a succinct summary of why I am highly skeptical of the real value of CAT tools.

Clearly, many freelancers see CAT tools as useful--or indeed invaluable. So I would like to know in concrete terms how valuable they are when one works under the terms I stated in the original post (which apparently represent something of an industry standard).

[Edited at 2015-02-27 00:09 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:50
English to German
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More info Feb 27, 2015

Robert Forstag wrote:

Tom in London wrote:
The whole point of CAT tools is that you do more work for less money (oh, and give the agency your translation memories, for nothing). And of course you pay for the CAT tool yourself. And the upgrades and renewed licences. And struggle with the frequent technical glitches people encounter with them, which I see discussed in many threads. I cannot see any advantage in this.


Other than the omission of the time one has to spend to really feel comfortable using such a tool, this is a succinct summary of why I am highly skeptical of the real value of CAT tools.

Clearly, many freelancers see CAT tools as useful--or indeed invaluable. So I would like to know in concrete terms how valuable they are when one works under the terms I stated in the original post (which apparently represent something of an industry standard).

[Edited at 2015-02-27 00:09 GMT]


I do use Trados when it helps me. But my rates are not tied to some arbitrary fuzzy word scheme.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:50
Chinese to English
It depends entirely on the agency Feb 27, 2015

As you say, those rates are fine, as fuzzy discounts go. I think if you were working in an ideal fuzzy match situation, you would be happy with those rates.

By ideal situation, I mean something like this: You have personally translated the annual report of a company for several years. The TM has been updated with the finalised versions of the past translations, and when you get this year's report, you are able to save most of the time, because much of the report is copied and pasted.
In that situation, these fuzzy discounts would work as intended: you would still make a proper rate, the client would save a suitable amount of money.

But if you get stuck with a bad agency, here's what happens: they maintain a mega-TM containing the first-draft work of all their translators, good and bad, working in many different fields. They run their jobs through the mega-TM, and all manner of weird matches jump out, some of them of poor quality, some of them clearly context-inappropriate. They try to apply discounts for all of these matches, and you're left sorting out the mess for less money.

Most agencies fall somewhere on the continuum between these two extremes. You just have to make a judgment as to which this agency is. Do a small job for them and see.


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:50
German to English
+ ...
The value of CAT tools Feb 27, 2015

is mostly for the agencies, in my experience. The direct clients I have worked with are usually either not aware of CAT tools or don't care about them, so I don't volunteer that I use them unless they request it. In my main specialization CAT tools are not much use anyway, as repetition is not desirable in marketing/advertising. The manufacturers want to sell each product as unique, even if they are not. If the client does want me to use them, the match rates are usually very low, so the difference in price is negligible. I usually don't offer discounts at all in such cases, as writing the invoices is such a pain, and frankly, often not worth the trouble below a certain amount.

The second thing CAT tools are good for is when you are working for one company that has a lot of similar, usually technical, products. Concrete example: I started using Trados in 2005 or so while doing translations for a company that manufactured large kitchen stoves, largely for hotels, etc. Lots of the features on the different models were identical, as were the caution notices, installation instructions, warranty, etc., so large sections were the same for every appliance. That was very helpful and fast. However, the translator I was collaborating with on this project and whose direct client it was did not ask me for match discounts, so it was a straight line price no matter what. I imagine her profit margin was good enough for her. In cases like that, CAT tools are really a help and save a lot of time, but that is it. They are also good for terminology management in large companies, to keep the terms consistent throughout, but that doesn't generally affect the time you need for the translation much, at least it hasn't in my case. Others may have had different experiences.

Summary: A) Using CAT tools is useful sometimes. B) Most agencies want you to have them so they can squeeze as much profit out of the pricing as possible. C) It's up to the translator to decide if s/he wants to go along with that.


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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:50
Member (2004)
English to German
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Sure, why not? Feb 27, 2015

Robert Forstag wrote:
My question is whether any of you who use CAT tools (I do not) can earn a viable income through such a pricing structure. I would consider as "minimally viable" for a translator based in any Western country earnings on a project that translate into at least $40/hour. Is this possible through such a scheme?


Sure, why not, let us assume you are charging USD 0.15/source word and you are able to translate 300 words per hour without a CAT tool - this makes USD 45/hour.

This rate would also apply to the "No Match, 50-74% and 75-84%" categories, and in my opinion it is quite ok to assume that a fuzzy segment below 84% does not give any real advantage in a CAT tool

In my opinion it is arguable if the 85-94% fuzzy matches will allow you to produce 600 words output per hour to achieve USD 45/hour, I am really not sure and this is the reason why I am charging a higher rate (85%) for this category

for the 95-99% fuzzy matches, you should definitely be able to achieve outputs of 1 000 words per hour or more, meaning you would get 1000 x 0.075 = USD 75/hour

Now take the 100% matches and the repetitions, a CAT tool can easily produce 10 000 words an hour or more, this means the CAT tool makes you 10 000 x 0.0375 = USD 375/hour

A CAT tool will normally help you to increase your productivity and even with fuzzy match rates applied this increase in productivity can result in higher earnings for the translator.

BUT and there is a BUT - You have to know that the TM does contain high quality translations. Otherwise the TM and the CAt tool might even reduce your productivity.

[Edited at 2015-02-27 07:05 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:50
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes! Feb 27, 2015

I have similar structures with a number of customers and yes, I have been making very decent per-hour money with them. The secret? Very simple: you need to have a good base rate anyway, and you need to know yout CAT tool(s) very well and exploit them in every possible sense.

In my line of business (mostly product-centric translation of technology), a vast majority of the work in the high match levels means adding/removing tags, updating figures, changing some word, or maybe accounting for typos introduced/removed by the customer and which do not affect the translation. In such scenario, 50% of the rate is quite OK.


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mariealpilles  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:50
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
new pricing Feb 27, 2015

I find CAT Tools a hindrance and the agencies are only using the match system to pay less, when I suppose they ask the full price from the clients. It is only a question of profit for them. What sort of tool you use is absolutely none of their business. I repeat what I always say: when you go to the butcher you do not order the butcher to cut your piece of meat with such or such a knife and then claim that because it is the one he uses all day for each and every client you only pay 25% of the price he wants for the meat.

Unfortunately too many translators think that CAT tools are so fantastic that they are ready to go along. I have never used any and do make good money while enjoying working around with words. CAT Tools will never replace the human brain and they have led to people believing that Google translate can do the job!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:50
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
If an ad is plain stupid... it was not meant for you! Feb 27, 2015

Tom in London wrote:
The whole point of CAT tools is that you do more work for less money (oh, and give the agency your translation memories, for nothing). And of course you pay for the CAT tool yourself. And the upgrades and renewed licences. And struggle with the frequent technical glitches people encounter with them, which I see discussed in many threads. I cannot see any advantage in this.

I think that if after 20 years of CAT tools you still do not have one, it is just because this technology is of little benefit in your line of business. If, like me, you worked in technical translation for companies that constantly develop new products and services based on their previous know-how, you would immediately see the benefits of a CAT tool and would certainly get one immediately.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:50
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not true at all! Feb 27, 2015

mariealpilles wrote:
CAT Tools will never replace the human brain and they have led to people believing that Google translate can do the job!

I completely disagree. CAT technology is what is making quality human translation more affordable to a host of customers who value the capabilities of professional translators but do not necessarily have the budget to pay time and time again for the translation of texts they had paid to translate already in the past.

If CAT tools did not exist, these companies would face two alternatives in their business plans for many products and services: A) no translation at all, or B) translation with automatic translation. Would any of the two be a benefit to the translation community? Surely not.

CAT technology has a key role in the progress and growth of our profession. Let's give some credit to the tools and those who use them.


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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:50
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
There are different markets Feb 27, 2015

mariealpilles wrote:
CAT Tools will never replace the human brain and they have led to people believing that Google translate can do the job!


This just shows that you don't know what a CAT tool is or what it does. A CAT tool has nothing to do with Google Translate. It just helps to increase productivity with repetitive tasks.

I am translating lab manuals for clinical studies. Over the last few years I have translated about 2600 of them for the same client. A lot of the text stays the same in every manual. How often do you want to charge your full rate for the text that is included in every single job - 10 times, 100 times, 1000 times or even 2600 times?

Charging 2600 times 25% of your full rate is good enough in my opinion.

[Edited at 2015-02-27 07:34 GMT]


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:50
Danish to English
+ ...
I tried telling my local supermarket what I wanted to pay... Feb 27, 2015

... but strangely, they were not interested...

I sell translations, I decide what they cost. If clients do not want to pay the price that I have decided my work costs, they must shop elsewhere.

That said, the pricing structure outlined is not too nasty, I think. Personally, I wouldn't give discounts on 85-94 % matches, but that's just my choice...


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