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Liabilities Agencies face alone.
Thread poster: Chinmayi Sripada

Chinmayi Sripada
Local time: 00:06
English to German
+ ...
Jun 24, 2015

I started a language translation company out of sheer love for languages and of course, we cannot survive on fresh air.

I looked to Proz in the beginning to find linguists while establishing the business for experts working in language pairs I didnt already have contacts to. This forum proved to be a great place to find outstanding talent.

However, there was a time when the linguists I worked with gave me shoddy work due to which my end client did not pay and I couldnt negotiate on the working terms. I had already paid 50% to all the linguists. However, when I told the linguists that the client had flagged work of 3 from a team of translators that worked on a big project, they all proceeded to flag my BB page here on Proz. One of the Malayalam linguists vanished close to the deadline saying an uncle had an accident (deaths and accidents are usually the easiest excuses that I have heard here) The admin could not resolve the issue and it seemed to me that it was all very one sided. I ended up bearing the losses of the assignment plus a ban on Proz. Inspite of the fact that I have paid most linguists on delivery of a project and those who have worked with me since 2005 can vouch for this.

I thankfully didnt have to post too many jobs and there were other forums I could find linguists on should I need them.

However the question here is I am facing a similar issue with a large project we worked on. 12 languages of which French and Korean work was flagged. I had to get the work retranslated. Now the linguist whose work was rejected demands to be paid. Now, I have had to take a pay cut for this language alone and was paid for the French since I got the work retranslated. The client undertook the Korean translation themselves with their counterparts who were Koreans.

The French linguist was gracious to agree and I made a payment equivalent to the number of pages that was sent from here which were not machine translated.

I verified this linguist's work with another linguist and she too sent me a report flagging several mistranslations and misinterpretations and hence I knew that the client was not trying to rip me off. The linguist whose work was questioned agreed that the report was correct and she agrees to the comments.

In this scenario, why do I always have to bear the brunt of arm twisting by linguists on forums like these when I am not at fault at all? And why do forums like these taint businesses negatively and always seem to be on the side of the linguist even if they err?

How do I deal with this issue in a righteous manner?


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 21:36
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
An agency is a business Jun 24, 2015

Businesses don't get established out of a love for languages, but instead to make money.

Perhaps you should choose your translators more carefully and have their work revised before delivering to your client?

[Edited at 2015-06-24 16:29 GMT]


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:36
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
How much did you pay? Jun 24, 2015

It's difficult to know what to think about this without knowing how much you paid the translators causing trouble, even though that's only one aspect of the problem. How did you find these ones, and how did you check their competence?

As an example, if I paid someone a rate of 0.04 euros per word, I wouldn't be surprised to get garbage in return. But I also know that even if I pay 0.10, there may still be quality problems and translators who misrepresent their talent. It's not easy to find good quality, neither for agencies nor for translators.

"However, when I told the linguists that the client had flagged work of 3 from a team of translators that worked on a big project, they all proceeded to flag my BB page here on Proz."

Something is missing here. Why would they rate you badly on the BB just for telling the ones concerned there was a quality problem? Did you target the ones providing bad quality, or did you target all of them, good and bad, across the board?


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:36
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Liabiliites Agencies face Jun 24, 2015

Part of the difficulty running an agency is the ability to find qualified translators.

Although rate is certainly an issue, one often overlooked aspect is that people who only translate in their spare time, because they need some pocket money, etc. often can't be relied upon to deliver when promised or at all. A professional who relies on translation as a full-time occupation is less likely to disappear mid-project.

If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. In the past, translation was sort of like a "secret" profession in the sense that just knowing of its existence gave you a certain degree of credibility. Also, there used to be the sense that only those with the best language skills would ever dare conceive of calling themselves a translator. There was also a certain degree of investment and commitment required before you could start translating. Now you can become a translator in less than five minutes by creating a profile.

Just like clients can't tell a good agency from one that takes their .20 a word and outsourcers the job to a translation agency in India for .02, I don't envy the task of agencies who are faced with ever-shrinking deadlines and customer time expectations in trying to differentiate professional translators from those who "took a semester of French in college and need soime money to buy a new TV".

In addition to those who just think they can translate, agencies also have to deal with deliberate scam artists (such as those who accept 50 projects a day, do a poor job (perhaps using machine translation) and hope that they will get paid in at least 50% of the cases either because the client won't notice or they will just threaten the agency with negative feedback - after all, they have nothing to lose).

The bottom line is that the less a company pays their service providers, the more micro-managing they will have to do. In addition, unlike agencies that pay well and can establish a database of providers, agencies that pay little will never, ever be done with recruiting because translators will either give up and disappear when the job is too difficult (or because they are desperate for money and accepted a job they are not qualified to do) or move on to higher paying work. A bottom-feeding agency has to spend less effort on sales and getting work because price is their only marketing tool, but as a result, they will have to constantly spend lots of time on recruiting, quality control or micro-management. It's all a matter of how you would rather spend your time. You can't have it both ways - you either have to pay your translators well and hire a strong sales team, or work very very hard managing every single aspect of every single project and constantly need to find and evalute new translators for each and every project. This is why a lot of translators do not just open up their own agencies - they don't want to be on the bottom end of the market and they don't want to be involved with sales.

You didn't mention your rates, but if you are paying less than .08 a word, the situation you described will just be your reality for the foreseeable future. You either have to earn your cut by investing in the cost of translation and pay translators more, do a better job recruiting and sales, or you earn it through micro-managing, constant anxiety about whether jobs will be done on time, constantly dealing with dissatisfied customers, or cultivate a list of clients who don't realize what they are buying and will accept anything as long as it's dirt cheap, etc. You really can't expect people being paid so little to care.

Also, please do not refer to translators as linguists (or vendors).

[Edited at 2015-06-24 17:23 GMT]


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:36
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Agency work is a balance Jun 24, 2015

I can sympathise to an extent. I have had translators go AWOL right when a huge deadline is due. The most recent situation involved 40,000+ words of Finnish and a "hard disk failure" that supposedly occurred the night before the files were due to be delivered. After the initial message about technical problems and a delivery of a measly 4000 words, the translator dropped off the face of the earth, reappearing every 4 hours or so to send me indignant self-righteous replies about how he was trying his best to recover the work on the failed drive -- but with the total lack of communication and the quality of the "recovered" files he did manage to deliver, it was difficult to believe his story about the computer failure.

As outsourcers we walk a fine line between the client and the translator. Part of that balance is managing client expectations and keeping them sweet, while also representing the interests of our suppliers by providing a buffer between the translator and an unreasonable or difficult client, and of course by fulfilling our obligations to suppliers by providing them sufficient information to do their job properly and paying them on time and as expected, if the product they deliver is fit for use.

The problem then is when the product is not fit for use. Because language is subjective to an extent, this can be a tricky problem, especially if the translator disagrees about whether or not an error has occurred, and even then, whether the error is actually their fault (because let's face it, some source texts are so poorly constructed they are practically begging for mistakes).

In the case of the French linguist specifically, if mistakes happened and the linguist agrees that they are at fault, I would try to negotiate a discount to their fee on that basis. In these negotiations, emotions can run high because the translator feels attacked on the one hand, and you are losing money and facing a damaged client relationship on the other. But I believe that if you keep your cool, stick to the facts, and treat the other person with respect and empathy, these negotiations do not have to end in fireballs of damnation and regret.

In the end, acting as an agency means acting as a middle man, and sometimes the messenger gets burnt. You win some jobs, you lose others, you make money on some, you lose money on others. The best approach then is to be very careful about which suppliers you use, truly value and appreciate the goods ones you have, and try to keep the lines of communication open so no one feels hard done by. And if things go wrong, keep in mind that your goal at some point has to shift from making money to minimising damage, which may mean accepting a loss on the job if you can't manage to negotiate the client up and remain fair to the translator at the same time.

If you were wrongly flagged in the BB, that is unfortunate. But if a bunch of different translators have done that, perhaps your approach is off. I don't want to make assumptions, but it is worth looking at how you dealt with that situation and seeing if you were being unfair, overbearing or otherwise approached the situation in a way in which the suppliers felt disrespected. I'm not saying you did -- but if it's happening more than once and with different jobs, the common element is you and it may be worth investigating that angle to see if you could have handled it better.

Another aspect that may need to be investigated is how hard you are fighting on behalf of translators when a client complaint comes in. In this industry, the customer is not always right, and clients will find a mistake or two and then try to maximise on that by refusing the pay for the whole product. Or clients will find what they think are mistakes. In my opinion, a major role that we play as outsourcers is to champion our suppliers wherever possible. If a client comes back to us with alleged mistakes, our first response should be to tell the client "I'll look into this" (not "I'm so sorry you're totally right") and then turn to the translator and ask ("this has come up, do you mind giving me your thoughts?") rather than tell ("There are mistakes and your product is faulty, fix it and explain why you can't do your job properly") It's all about approach and keeping in mind that translators are fallible, but so are clients.

I may be preaching to the choir here and I don't want to offend you, Chinmayi -- I don't know you and I don't know how you work and you may be doing everything right. But these are some points that may be worth considering if you are having these problems time and again.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:36
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
One more thing Jun 24, 2015

I have been a member of ProZ for over 13 years and in my experience, it really takes a lot of evidence to get banned from posting jobs.

[Edited at 2015-06-24 17:29 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:36
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Maybe review your procedures? Jun 24, 2015

Chinmayi Sripada wrote:
However, there was a time when the linguists I worked with gave me shoddy work due to which my end client did not pay and I couldnt negotiate on the working terms. I had already paid 50% to all the linguists.

I can't imagine why you'd already paid them before getting any feedback from your client. Of course, you can't make them wait for payment beyond the contracted payment date, but I would assume you stipulate to your clients that they need to alert you promptly if they are not happy, don't you? That way you can raise any issues with translators before their payment is due.

Maybe one or two in several years did have a real-life problem. I imagine that has to be expected once in a while. But if it has happened more often, are you sure you selected the right person for the job? Did you accept the lowest quote, or did you look for the best fit? Did you look for any evidence that they were qualified and/or experienced in this type of text? Did they provide testimonials or samples or did they do a test? Something other than price needs to qualify them for the job.

And what did you add to the projects? Did you have their work proofread before delivering it to the client? Really, sub-standard work should never be delivered to the end client. It should be returned to the translator for review. S/he should be given the opportunity to correct any mistakes, rather than being paid less than 100% - I believe that's a legal right, at least in most parts. And where there's more than one translator working on a project, it's up to the agency to make sure that all parts of the job are not only up to standard but are also consistent in terms of style, register, terminology etc. Three translators could all produce acceptable quality, yet the project as a whole might be rejected by the client if not properly coordinated by you.

I started a language translation company out of sheer love for languages
is a very odd reason for setting up an agency. It might be partly true of a freelance translator - after all, it would be pretty sad if we didn't have a love for language. But agency owners spend their time marketing, negotiating, managing projects... in short little of the job has anything to do with languages other than using them for communication.


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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:36
French to German
+ ...
Your procedures... Jun 24, 2015

Nobody starts a translation company out of love for languages only, but also to make some money.

Acting as an agency means to carefully select your service suppliers. If your customers reject the translations you send them, there might be two reasons:

- The translations are really of poor quality and you did not choose your translators carefully enough. Maybe you had a go for the cheapest ones and not for those who would have been the most competent? In this case you'll have to rethink the way you select the providers you want to work with. As Sheila explained there are several ways to insure yourself to get delivered high quality work.

- The translations were not that bad and your customers either did not want to pay because they were not of good faith or they actually thought to find some mistakes which were not really mistakes.

To be honnest after having had a look at your Blueboard, I wonder how you could get quite a few 1s of translators who do have between 25 and 50 WWAs, some from well known, reliable agencies...

[Modifié le 2015-06-24 20:33 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:36
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Mystery solved Jun 24, 2015

Andrea Halbritter wrote:
To be honest, after having had a look at your Blueboard, I wonder how you could get quite a few 1s of translators who do have between 25 and 50 WWAs...


All of the translators that gave her a 1 rating (except one, who has only one WWA) are not really translators but are agencies themselves (look at the number of language combinations they offer). The WWAs they got relate not to themselves as "translators" but to some of the translators to whom they outsourced their work.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
I can't imagine why you'd already paid them before getting any feedback from your client.


Although it is not unusual for agencies to pay translators only 30, 60 or 90 days after the job or after the client said that he's happy with the translation, there's nothing wrong (even from a business point of view) with paying translators upfront or paying half of the fee upfront. Some translators are willing to work for slightly lower rates in exchange to getting paid much quicker.

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
I have been a member of ProZ for over 13 years and in my experience, it really takes a lot of evidence to get banned from posting jobs.


Were you involved in attempts to get agencies banned from ProZ.com?



[Edited at 2015-06-24 21:19 GMT]


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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:36
French to German
+ ...
Other agencies Jun 24, 2015

You're right, Samuel, did not realise that the 1 ratings were from agencies.

Does sees mean you did outsource projects to other agencies, Chinmayi? Didn't you look for your translators yourself?


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:36
English to German
+ ...
It's mostly about the money Jun 24, 2015

Angela Rimmer wrote:

I can sympathise to an extent. I have had translators go AWOL right when a huge deadline is due. The most recent situation involved 40,000+ words of Finnish and a "hard disk failure" that supposedly occurred the night before the files were due to be delivered. After the initial message about technical problems and a delivery of a measly 4000 words, the translator dropped off the face of the earth, reappearing every 4 hours or so to send me indignant self-righteous replies about how he was trying his best to recover the work on the failed drive -- but with the total lack of communication and the quality of the "recovered" files he did manage to deliver, it was difficult to believe his story about the computer failure. ...


Two things. Strange that you don't mention rates or money at all when it is well known that you get what you pay for.
Secondly, when there are software or hardware failures, and you have hired a pro, it's not likely he or she is lying. With a crazy deadline, anyone would try to keep working and get the job done asap.

Here's another piece of advice: if you need to deliver to your client at 9:00 am, don't make 7:00 am the deadline for your translator. There should be at least 24 hours between these deadlines, if not much more. Depending on the size of the project.

[Edited at 2015-06-25 00:58 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:36
English to German
+ ...
About objectives Jun 24, 2015

Chinmayi Sripada wrote:

I started a language translation company out of sheer love for languages and of course, we cannot survive on fresh air.

I looked to Proz in the beginning to find linguists while establishing the business for experts working in language pairs I didnt already have contacts to. This forum proved to be a great place to find outstanding talent.

However, there was a time when the linguists I worked with gave me shoddy work due to which my end client did not pay and I couldnt negotiate on the working terms. I had already paid 50% to all the linguists. However, when I told the linguists that the client had flagged work of 3 from a team of translators that worked on a big project, they all proceeded to flag my BB page here on Proz. One of the Malayalam linguists vanished close to the deadline saying an uncle had an accident (deaths and accidents are usually the easiest excuses that I have heard here) The admin could not resolve the issue and it seemed to me that it was all very one sided. I ended up bearing the losses of the assignment plus a ban on Proz. Inspite of the fact that I have paid most linguists on delivery of a project and those who have worked with me since 2005 can vouch for this.

I thankfully didnt have to post too many jobs and there were other forums I could find linguists on should I need them.

However the question here is I am facing a similar issue with a large project we worked on. 12 languages of which French and Korean work was flagged. I had to get the work retranslated. Now the linguist whose work was rejected demands to be paid. Now, I have had to take a pay cut for this language alone and was paid for the French since I got the work retranslated. The client undertook the Korean translation themselves with their counterparts who were Koreans.

The French linguist was gracious to agree and I made a payment equivalent to the number of pages that was sent from here which were not machine translated.

I verified this linguist's work with another linguist and she too sent me a report flagging several mistranslations and misinterpretations and hence I knew that the client was not trying to rip me off. The linguist whose work was questioned agreed that the report was correct and she agrees to the comments.

In this scenario, why do I always have to bear the brunt of arm twisting by linguists on forums like these when I am not at fault at all? And why do forums like these taint businesses negatively and always seem to be on the side of the linguist even if they err?

How do I deal with this issue in a righteous manner?


My advice: use the services of professional translators, pay their adequate fees, and change your company objective - go for quality clients.


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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:36
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Problems with Translators Jun 25, 2015

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:36
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Low pay is no excuse for low quality Jun 25, 2015

Michael Newton wrote:
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.


I'm not suprised (but still amazed) that half of the replies in this thread blame low rates, even though rates were never an issue in this case. Some of the replies even excuse the translators' low quality in the light of the rates presumably paid. But although I agree that there is generally a correlation between rates and quality, I disagree that any translator is excused from delivering poor quality (in this case, reject-grade quality) because of a low rate. Unless the translator has warned the client that he'll do slipshod work for the slipshod rate, he must deliver high quality if he accepts the rate.

Also, the fact that the original poster got a bad apple this time does not say anything about the effectiveness of her recruitment process overall. Her Blue Board page shows lots of 5s, meaning these translators were paid, meaning their translations were not rejected by the clients. But no matter how careful we are, we sometimes misjudge whether a translator will deliver good quality. The solution to Chinmayi's problem is not to "overhaul her recruitment procedures". If those procedures are adequate in 99% of cases, then the fault (and the solution) does not lie there.

Chinmayi Sripada wrote:
In this scenario, why do I always have to bear the brunt of arm twisting by linguists on forums like these when I am not at fault at all? And why do forums like these taint businesses negatively and always seem to be on the side of the linguist even if they err?


That is a valid question, but if you ask it, you'll only get more of the same.

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
Strange that you don't mention rates or money at all when it is well known that you get what you pay for.


This is false logic. The adage that "you get what you pay for" is often true, but it can't be used as a rule to determine what rate was probably paid (i.e. if the quality was poor, then the rate must have been low).



[Edited at 2015-06-25 09:08 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:36
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Puzzled Jun 25, 2015

Chinmayi Sripada wrote:

..... I had already paid 50% to all the linguists


Why?


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