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What is really happening in the business??
Thread poster: José J. Martínez

José J. Martínez  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:37
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 1, 2015

I started translating very heavily in 2007. The jobs were coming in steadily and once I joined a New York company as Freelancer, well for me it was like being in a Gold Rush even at the reduce rates that they were willing to pay. I did have to wait for the first 45 days to go by and then started receiving $$ constantly. Other firms became my clients at improved rates and all was great. It was so good that I felt that I was really working for the IRS.

This was the trend until last year. The jobs were erratic from other clients but from my main company things were ok. They did become more demanding in their deadlines but that was ok because with my trusty CAT and huge Translation Memories, I could cope with their requirements.

This year however, I am totally puzzled. The offers are at fees below half of 2007, the jobs are scarce, the subjects not so good anymore. I am sure that many clients are using mechanical translation systems and then manicure their translations.

I want to know if this same thing is happening to most translators. My pair is EN /SP, and even if I have great relationships with my clients, they just claim there is little work in the language pair.

Please inform if you are also going through the dry spell.

Sincerely,

Josejmarti@aol.com


 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:37
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Flexible business strategy needed Jul 1, 2015

Hola, José,

I'm sure you will hear many conflicting reports from many different people here, but my own experience has been that the workload and rates are increasing, not decreasing.

Of course the market is changing, and like any successful company in any changing industry, our own businesses have to be able to adapt to those changes. It could be that what was working for you back in 2007 is no longer working because the market has changed but your business strategy has not.

[Edited at 2015-07-01 18:29 GMT]


 

José J. Martínez  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:37
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What is really happening in the business?? Jul 1, 2015

Thanks for your response Angela. I live in Mexico and have mostly US, Japan, some Mexican and sometimes clients from several European Countries.

I wonder what your strategy is. Of late, I have had to avoid working for companies that are very suspicious, some I can almost bet are not going to pay.

Please provide a small description of what you are doing well.


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:37
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 1, 2015



[Edited at 2015-07-01 18:58 GMT]


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:37
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
What is really happening in the business?? Jul 1, 2015

I get the same response from time to time (and I have five pairs).

I've always suspected that this may not be the truth, especially since there was plenty of work for years.

I almost wish they would just come right out and say that they found someone cheaper because otherwise I am left with the sense that I am inadequate or I did something wrong.


José J. Martínez wrote:

... they just claim there is little work in the language pair.




[Edited at 2015-07-01 19:01 GMT]


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 13:37
English to Polish
+ ...
... Jul 1, 2015

Well, José, it seems you may be at that stage where you need to take your business and your career into your own hands, because agencies — on whom one should normally be able to rely to supply enough jobs to keep reasonably good translators reasonably well paid without need to play businessman — just can't be relied on for that any more.

On the other hand, thankfully, you seem to be just the sort of guy for that sort of thing.

You may actually need to go for high rates, because it can be very difficult to compete in the typical middle-of-the-market, middle-of-the-road section.

You already aren't the cheapest. You have more than enough to differentiate yourself with, and you probably have enough experience in some subject fiels or with some types of clients to go for a more focused strategy. In other words, you may simply need to move upmarket for sheer survival.

It may actually be easier for you to compete there — in the 'premium' region — than it is in the broad market. Actually, there might even not be that much competition to deal with. Choose an arena where you can actually put all your advantages to use. That's going to be more demanding clients, higher quality standards. Except this wouldn't be the usual +20% money for +80% more trouble, you'd be setting the rates to a level that would allow you to actually do all those things you can, without losing money.

Edit: As for what's going on, well, I guess the competition between agencies, as well as their growing deprofessionalization and dehumanization. But it's soon going to remove them from competition with any decent freelance translator because of the quality cap with the kind of rates they're paying (that being less and less).

[Edited at 2015-07-01 20:34 GMT]


 

José J. Martínez  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:37
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What is really happening in the business?? Jul 1, 2015

Very true and I thnk you for all your comments The translation agencies usually sell the translator’s work between 2 and 3 times what they pay. That is, if they pay me USD$0.08 per source word, they will sell the work for 0.16 to 0.24.

What you just told me is a great idea, I will go for principals and avoid agencies altogether.

When I started in 2007 exclusively in translation, I was requested by the main agency to get a specific CAT tool. I did so, and considering the usefulness of the tool, I did not think twice about doing work on the cheap. The other jobs were where I could get USD$0.10 per source word, complementing that. A good thing for me is that I am retired and have several benefits from the companies I had worked formally for as an engineer. Those benefits keep me in the black numbers, if not, I would be asking for handouts.

Therefore, I will start my search as a direct translator, as a real entrepreneur. I can do my own QC or get some of my colleagues to do it. Most probably, working direct takes away a bit of the tension of the short deadlines.

Thanks again.


 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:37
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
What has worked for me so far Jul 1, 2015

José J. Martínez wrote:
Please provide a small description of what you are doing well.


What has worked for me is to diversify my client base and my services, specialise my own work (thus optimising my time) and try to remain flexible to client demands while still being assertive with my own boundaries (i.e. not letting a client exploit my willingness to be flexible where I can be).

So, I have clients across multiple currencies (so I can ride out currency exchange issues, like when the euro suddenly dropped in value recently), some agencies, some direct clients, and I am quite willing to "fire" a client if I have to (although that is ALWAYS a last resort).

I offer more services than "just" translation, such as on-site consultation, project management, terminology management, CAT tool training, etc. So if one part of the industry seems to dry up for a while, the other services keep my cash flow healthy.

But when it comes to my own translation work, I am picky about the jobs I take -- I only take jobs within my area of translation (I'm not a generalist) and that I know I can do well and quickly, and I only make exceptions for jobs that I know I will enjoy immensely. I have no problem turning down work if I have to, because ultimately it is a waste of time and money to do work that I can't capitalise on.

On top of these things, I try to be flexible to client demands but still assertive with my own boundaries. If I can't give them what they want, I tell them no, but try to offer some sort of compromise in return, if I can. Example: recently a long-standing client who I absolutely love asked me to start offering discounts for jobs that are more than 10,000 words. I explained that because translation does not lend itself well to "bulk" discounts since it doesn't get cheaper to produce simply because the word count is higher, I could not agree to a bulk discount. BUT what I could offer was a better deal on specific types of texts that I regularly do for them, because I know them well and they take less time and brain power on my part to translate since I've been the only English language translator working on those texts for them for the past 6 years. I explained that my offer would only apply to those types of text alone, and then I even offered to apply the better deal to any existing applicable texts that I had done in this month which hadn't been invoiced yet. The client was pleased, understood why I couldn't offer the bulk discount across the board, accepted my counter offer, and still continues to send me other work in addition to the specific special-offer texts, even work above the 10,000 word mark. Ultimately clients appreciate it when you show you can be flexible, but you don't have to sacrifice your standards to be flexible.

Another thing I do is always try to stay aware of how our industry is changing and think about ways to adapt to this. For example, at the moment my biggest consideration is how machine translation is going to affect technical translation and what I need to do/be aware of concerning that.

I don't know if any of these things will apply to your case -- I'm just giving you an idea of what has worked for me.


 

Henry Schroeder  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:37
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Interesting subject - DIN 15083? Jul 1, 2015

Similar to you, Jose, I have noticed a decrease in work from higher paying customers, in my case outsourcers. Nothing has changed with regard to lower paying ones.

I work almost exclusively for various outsources in Germany, Switzerland and Austria at different rates. These rates have been set for a number of years, and the translation agencies are pretty large, traditionally requesting far too often for me to accept all the offers.

This year there has been an almost perfect balance. What I have noticed, however, is that the ones who have paid the lowest rates have provided an unchanged volume of work, while the volume has dropped off with the others.

I have wondered if this is not due to the increasing popularity of DIN 15083 translations. The logic would be that outsourcers are attempting to pay the same price for the translation, but include 2 different people in the process, a translator and an editor. I'm not sure that this is the case, but I know some of my outsourcers have this policy.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:07
English to Hindi
+ ...
Broader basket and geographies Jul 2, 2015

Could it be that you are working for too few agencies in too narrow a geography?

At any time, you should have 20-25 highly rated agencies in your portfolio belonging to different translation geographies (US, Germany, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia), so that if one agency or one geography (currently Europe seems to be in trouble) goes phut, you are not devastated completely, and there are others to pick up the slack.

The portfolio needs constant management, moving up the better ones, and dumping the lower one, to be replaced by new ones. If you have such an active portfolio, you should be insulated from sudden drop in jobs and rates.

As far as my experience in my language pair goes, which is English to Hindi and is comparable to yours (English to Spanish) in terms of size and volume of work, it has been seeing a steady stream of work and no drastic fall in rates in the last few years is noticeable.

As far as direct clients are concerned, it is good to have them, but don't depend wholly on them. They would need a different approach than agencies, and are more demanding and the onus on you to provide a finished product becomes that much heavier. If you have too many directs, you will effectively function as an agency, and I wonder if you would feel up to that. We freelancers do love our freedom after all.


 

Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:37
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
business is changing Jul 2, 2015

Translators must start to wean themselves from agencies and target end-clients directly.
Also, the savings from using CAT are oftentimes not passed on to the end-client by the agency.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:37
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
. Jul 2, 2015

.

[Edited at 2015-07-03 07:50 GMT]


 

brg (X)
Netherlands
What is really happening in this business? Jul 2, 2015

Why don't we call it as it is: there are too many translators.

I stopped considering myself guilty for not being in the right niche, for being too expensive, for not changing my business tactics.
I am a versatile translator, I can deliver several kinds of service (included proofreading, DTP, rewriting).
The mere fact that they (clients, especially agencies) are telling a translator, who has a translation education (MA), who has worked as a journalist, has specialist knowledge and worked for 30 years as a complete, high level translator, that his services are "below standards" and that his style is "incredibly bad" and that he is "making 30 errors on one small page" is an indication that something else is going on.
Too many translators, fighting for cheap work, and now the idea that this is "normal".

As someone said above, I am also convinced that norms&standards did much wrong.
Translator and proofreader now have to share the same prices. Often "tender prices".
It does not increase the quality of the translations. Have a qualified translator, instead. And have some confidence in his translation abilities. Build a relationship with him, such as I have with some of my direct clients. Some of them (not all) are able to deliver top notch services.

Translators have been foolish to advertise themselves on a portal like this one.


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:37
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
follow the money... Jul 2, 2015

there is a lot going on in the industry....

A lot of companies are in the downwards spiral for competitive prices, especially those who started out 10 years ago and are batteling with far far away agencies offering "the same" at a quarter of the price...

Another group is the agencies who have thought about their strategy and understood they are ill equiped for a price war, and have gone for quality, higher rates, more interesting jobs - that often require actual skills, knowlegde and experience beyond the linguistics... (technical stuff, legal, medical,...)

Then there is the rise of the Mega-Companies, who actually do the marketing, product shipping, e-commerce and HR for companies and who are not afraid to offer translation well below the cost price, since they make their money (and lots of it) on different services.. basically "translation" is simply an afterthougt here..

And then there are companies / direct clients who skip the agencies and look for reliable, profesional translators for the long term - these are the ones you want....

There are many new and expanding fields - mobile phones, tablets, gadgets, facebook games, e-commerce, website building, pinterest and stuff and probably a lot of other topics depending on your field of expertise....

I've seen a continuous stream of increasing work this year, mainly from countries with a better economy....


 

José J. Martínez  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:37
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What happened here??? Jul 2, 2015

http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/news/2015/07/01/star-group-shuts-down-operations.html

 
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