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Need for agreed rate before test and many forms
Thread poster: Bo Wang

Bo Wang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:45
Member (2014)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Mar 5, 2015

For a couple of times, agencies use e-mails to let me know that they are glad I am interested in them or they are looking for translators for their upcoming projects. I am thrilled in this case, because as a freelancer, I may have a good chance to enlarge my client base. Some of them will ask me to fill out tons of forms and do a test sample.That is Ok,a good way to know me and whether my skill can live up to their expectations. There is a funny thing. They never talk about the rate before providing their forms and samples. Let's say, what if I passed the test, and your rate is below my minimum rate? My time would be wasted. I am wondering why they are doing business in this way. My wild guess is that their rate is too high to worth a mention in advance, sarcastically. I think it is a standard procedure to work out a agreed rate before a translator can take a test or fill out many forms, like NDA etc. I alway suggest them that we should follow this procedure. One time, a PM was not very happy about my suggestion. Did any fellow translator have the same experience; what do you think?

[Edited at 2015-03-05 16:47 GMT]


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Paulo Eduardo - Pro Knowledge  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:45
Member (2008)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
If fees are not agreed yet, why undergo a test? Mar 5, 2015

?

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Jacques DP  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 20:45
Member (2003)
English to French
There's always a risk, here is how I go about it Mar 5, 2015

> I am wondering why they are doing business in this way.

Why they are doing this is not difficult to figure out. First, why wasting time in negociation before they see your quality? Second, why commit to any price before they see the options? They may have one candidate offering a low price and providing a good test, in which case they will go with him or her. If they have agreed on some price with you beforehand, they will need to justify why they don't work with you and it will be difficult.

So the question is not why they do it, but how you can mitigate your own risks.

It's even worse than what you said in fact. They might ask you a test before they even checked your specialty fields. They might ask you a test and never correct it, because they found another candidate. They might ask you a test and not have (nor spend) the adequate ressources to evaluate it.

So, doing a free test is always risky. I only do it if the agency has a very good reputation, if I am approached in a professional and specific (non-generic) way, and if they give signs that they are genuinely interested.

One thing I tried to do in the past is to tell them I can do a free test only if they commit to provide the correction afterward. This forces them to do a decent review, and therefore has a cost for them, which is an indication that they are interested or else they would not bear this cost. But I have given up on this, because it creates problems as they are worried to start discussions.

So now, either I'm really interested in working with them and all indications are positive, in which case I do the test free of charge. Or I am moderately interested/not all indications are positive and I ask it to be compensated.


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Jacques DP  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 20:45
Member (2003)
English to French
The good side of it Mar 5, 2015

The good side of it is that if you don't negotiate price, they will not hesitate to go back to you and say your test was wonderful. And then you are in a strong position to negotiate the price. Many buyers don't go for the cheapest option but for an option which seems good or very good (depending on situation) for a price they can afford. If the client needs good quality, and you provide excellent quality at a reasonable price, they will probably take you. Also consider that most of the tests they will receive will be terrible. I have been on the receiving end on occasions so I know...

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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 21:45
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
You just tell them Mar 5, 2015

You don't have to wait for the client to bring up rates. As a professional, it is up to you to set them and make sure the client accepts them and your payment terms before filling any forms or doing any tests. If the client tries to ignore them (doesn't comment or tries to postpone talking about them), it's not a good sign - they're probably after lower rates than you proposed. If that's the case, you probably won't lose much by refusing to do a test.

[Edited at 2015-03-05 18:22 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:45
Member (2007)
English
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The really relevant question Mar 6, 2015

Wangbo231 wrote:
I am wondering why they are doing business in this way.

Jacques DP wrote:
the question is not why they do it, but how you can mitigate your own risks.

The really relevant question, as I see it, is this:
Why do freelance translators let them do business this way?

I don't object to free samples - I think there are times and situations when supplying a small sample of your work, applied to their own text, can be a deal clincher. I'd much rather supply a sample than go through endless rounds of supplying them with information they really have no need for, or which is largely irrelevant (e.g. academic certificates from 20-odd years ago).
Neither do I object to completing a form or two, so that they have my correct details on file and don't contact me for jobs I'm unsuited for.
Nor do I mind signing NDAs or supplier contracts, as long as they are tailored to our needs and not "one size fits all" templates.

But why should you do ANY of this if you don't already have a basic framework agreement: We (the agency) have work that suits your expertise (or will have soon) and agree to your terms and conditions, and I (the freelancer) like the sound of the work and have confidence I'll be paid said rate promptly.

If only freelance translators would stop behaving like performing dogs (no offence intended - not addressing any particular person), rushing to obey every click of the fingers, then agencies would have to adopt rather different business practices.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2011)
Swedish to English
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Who's the boss? Mar 6, 2015

Why would you not tell them your price in the first place?

That's the first thing they need to know.

And it's not up to them to decide your price.


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:45
English to French
+ ...
Suggest? Mar 6, 2015

I always suggest them that we should follow this procedure.

Why would you simply "suggest"? Personnally, I tell the PM that my policy is to accept a test only after the rates have been discussed. This way, if my rates are too high for them, I do not take the test.
If you simply "suggest" the right procedure, they will also consider your rates as simple suggestions.


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Jacques DP  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 20:45
Member (2003)
English to French
Another reason why you should agree on price first Mar 6, 2015

My point, for the record, was that by doing a free test you may always be wasting your time and that the freelancer can't suppress the risk but can mitigate it in various ways.

Another reason why you should agree on price first, which was not mentionned so far, is that doing a free test is a mostly unilateral investment in the relationship, and as such it makes you weaker in the negotiation because you are afraid to lose this investment.

In fact I suspect that asking for a lot of steps may be a way to create this situation deliberately on the part of some agencies.


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Verena Schmidt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:45
Spanish to German
+ ...
Act like a professional Mar 6, 2015

First inform the client about your rates.

Once these have been accepted, it's time to fill out forms or perform test translations (which I don't offer for free).


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Verena Schmidt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:45
Spanish to German
+ ...
Well said Mar 6, 2015

If only freelance translators would stop behaving like performing dogs (no offence intended - not addressing any particular person), rushing to obey every click of the fingers, then agencies would have to adopt rather different business practices.


Exactly


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Bo Wang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:45
Member (2014)
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
good point Mar 6, 2015

Jacques DP wrote:

> One thing I tried to do in the past is to tell them I can do a free test only if they commit to provide the correction afterward. This forces them to do a decent review, and therefore has a cost for them,

Good point.


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Bo Wang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:45
Member (2014)
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agree Mar 6, 2015

Chris S wrote:

Why would you not tell them your price in the first place?

That's the first thing they need to know.

And it's not up to them to decide your price.


Yes, I did tell them.
Thank all of you for the kind replies.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:45
Member (2014)
English to German
Did a test this week Mar 6, 2015

This week I did a test for an agency and informed them of my rates in the initial letter. Still they told me that we would discuss rates after the test comes back. The rates I gave were what I expect, but maybe they thought it was a starting point for negotiation?

So do most agencies expect to negotiate, I usually don't but maybe I should give a higher rate and then be prepared to come down - but maybe they won't contact me in the first place?

I am usually happy to do a short test without having discussed rates, but I wouldn't fill in lots of forms. Also this very agency sent me a text of about 600 words which could have been a job in itself. I did say that it is my policy to not provide free samples of more than about 300 words and they were absolutely fine with me translating only part of the text.

[Edited at 2015-03-06 14:38 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It takes two Mar 6, 2015

Gabriele Demuth wrote:
So do most agencies expect to negotiate, I usually don't but maybe I should give a higher rate and then be prepared to come down - but maybe they won't contact me in the first place?

It doesn't just take two to tango; it takes two to negotiate. If your lower limit for negotiation is identical to your quoted rate, then there's no room for negotiation, whatever the agency expects. Nice and quick and clear! You're bringing your full range of skills and experience to the table; they just have to bring the money.


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