Feedback on translating for the EU Institutions via agencies
Thread poster: Liza Chase

Liza Chase  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 18:01
Member (2013)
English to German
+ ...
Jan 12, 2016

Hi there,

I have been invited to participate in a 4-year project translating for the EP and the EU Commission.

I would just like to get some feedback from others that are translating for EU institutions via translation agencies.

My main questions:

- What kind of workload can one expect?
- Can one live on such a project alone, or does one need to translate for other
clients as well?

Any other feedback would be welcome as well.

Thanks in advance.

Liza


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:01
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Vague Jan 12, 2016

My experience with agencies were generally not very positive when it comes to EU tendering. The reason is that they promise a pile of work, take and use your CV as part of the tendering process and, if they succeed (which is sheer luck as there are very many agencies competing for these projects), they end up using cheaper translators for the work. The EU should clearly look more into what happens to their work once the work is granted to an agency.

If you are asking because you need to decide a rate to propose to an agency who has approached you, do not necessarily believe the workload the agency is promising or the chances they see in winning the tender.

My approach with tenders lately is to ask the agency whether they would be willing to sign a contract automatically assigning any work to me in the first place, and to other people only if I reject the work. Agencies do not like to be bound by such commitment, and therefore my participation in EU tendering has come to a minimum.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 22:01
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Agencies do not like to be bound by such commitment Jan 12, 2016

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

If you are asking because you need to decide a rate to propose to an agency who has approached you, do not necessarily believe the workload the agency is promising or the chances they see in winning the tender.

My approach with tenders lately is to ask the agency whether they would be willing to sign a contract automatically assigning any work to me in the first place, and to other people only if I reject the work. Agencies do not like to be bound by such commitment, and therefore my participation in EU tendering has come to a minimum.


I just only to confirm "Agencies do not like to be bound by such commitment" is a significant sentence when I had contact with a German agency lately. They intended to distort my contractual requirements by using some unexpected procedures e.g. a short note style letter of intent.

Soonthon L.


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 17:01
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Negotiate Jan 12, 2016

Liza Chase wrote:


- What kind of workload can one expect?
- Can one live on such a project alone, or does one need to translate for other
clients as well?

The only possible answer to those questions is, "It depends". Generally, one needs to pursue other jobs as well. The workload depends on how much work your agency wins (which of course also depends which tender it is) and how much of it they decide to assign to you.
While I think that the "Assign all jobs to me and I will pick and choose" approach has essentially zero chance of working, you have options. You can ask the agency to assign to you at least €XXX amount of work at €YY rate per month on average over the course of the project if they win. If they are not willing to commit (preferably in writing) to giving you a reasonable amount of work, you can walk away.


 

Meta Arkadia
Local time: 22:01
English to Indonesian
+ ...
EU BS Jan 12, 2016

Liza Chase wrote:
I have been invited to participate in a 4-year project translating for the EP and the EU Commission.


I suppose this should read "I have been invited to participate in a tender for a 4-year project translating for the EP and the EU Commission."

- What kind of workload can one expect?


You can't tell, really.

- Can one live on such a project alone, or does one need to translate for other
clients as well?


Nope, you can't live on it, and I do two source languages (for more than five years now).

Apart from that, it's extremely difficult (most of the times). For the first couple of jobs, I was happy if I could do 1,000 words a day. However, there are some tricks to make it worthwhile.

Tomás wrote:... which is sheer luck as there are very many agencies competing for these projects


Undoubtedly, but the agency I work for, always wins. There are probably some 5 agencies that always "win." I have a list of them somewhere.

...sign a contract automatically assigning any work to me in the first place, and to other people only if I reject the work.

Good idea. Participating in a tender is no guarantee (at all) you'll get the job, besides, you'll have to hand in a lot of paperwork (also by snailmail), for each and every new tender.

Cheers,

Hans


 

Liza Chase  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 18:01
Member (2013)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your feedback so far - much appreciated! Jan 12, 2016

well, I have already been hired by one agency and am waiting for the result of a test translation from another agency for another of my translation language combinations. So, I am mainly wondering how much work I can expect.

 

Stuart Hoskins
Local time: 17:01
Czech to English
+ ...
Positive experience Jan 12, 2016

I translate for two agencies who have won general EU tenders (one for CS>EN, the other for SK>EN, although unfortunately for me I think these two language pairs are going to be combined into one in the new tender). This work mainly covers behind-the-scenes work (not the stuff you see on the websites) and tends to encompass national legislation, operational programmes and various annual reports concerning the European funds. The work is enjoyable on account of its diversity, but can take a lot of prepping (sometimes it takes two days or so of research into the relevant underlying documentation before you can actually start translating).

In response to your question on the workload: I could live off of this work alone if I so wished (hundreds of pages a month), though it can occasionally ebb and flow.

In response to Tomas: I can assure you that the EU pays close attention to the work it outsources. Translators must sign confirmation for each translation that the work is theirs (to prevent the issue you raise, i.e. that unscrupulous agencies might pass the work on to cheaper translators). All translations are checked (for completeness, in detail, or on the basis of a certain percentage of random pages). Six criteria come into play here: 1. elegant translation solutions; 2. understanding of difficult concepts; 3. use of EU-specific or other terminology; 4. command of style and register; 5. clarity of expression; 6. layout and formatting. There is also a space for comments (a more personal level of feedback) at the end of each evaluation. If you score lower than the highest grading (“very good”), there is a risk that the agency will be demoted in the list of suppliers.

As for “sheer luck”: you may be right. Prior to working with my current agencies, I worked for their “predecessors” (for a period now stretching back for more than 12 years). However, every four years I do panic that my lucky streak will be coming to an end.


[Edited at 2016-01-12 10:02 GMT]


 

Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 17:01
German to English
+ ...
Agencies neet to get authorization to replace subcontractor. Jan 12, 2016

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

The EU should clearly look more into what happens to their work once the work is granted to an agency.



They do look into what happens. First of all, to replace a subcontractor, the agency needs to get authorization from the EU institution concerned. The new subcontractor has to have the same level of experience and education as the old one. Second, the quality of the translations is checked by in-house revisers. If the quality is not acceptable, the agency we will be ranked lower on the ranking list and therefore receive less (or even no) work in the future.

[Edited at 2016-01-12 10:16 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:01
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Still the same response Jan 12, 2016

Liza Chase wrote:
well, I have already been hired by one agency and am waiting for the result of a test translation from another agency for another of my translation language combinations. So, I am mainly wondering how much work I can expect.

The fact that you've been hired does not guarantee you any work at all, and indeed there's probably quite a high chance of getting some but not much. So don't put anything else on hold. Don't forget that our contracts don't kick in until you've received a text and they've authorised you to start work. And each contract stops once you've delivered and been paid. You may have signed a contract that talks in terms of years, but that's just to cover them.

Do also remember that a freelancer should never be aiming to work with only one client. It's even illegal to do so in many jurisdictions. You should have several main, regular clients plus many occasional ones. Otherwise you are risking too much.


 

Liza Chase  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 18:01
Member (2013)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Sheila Jan 12, 2016

I do have a number of regular clients and the feedback you gave me is exactly what I was looking for - that I am only bound by the contract once I have actually accepted a EP translation job and that outside of that I should basically just continue as usual and not put work for my regular clients on hold or even reject it (which I have not done so far:)) Thanks again!

[Edited at 2016-01-12 10:11 GMT]


 

Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 17:01
German to English
+ ...
Amount of work is set out in the tendering specifications Jan 12, 2016

Hi Lisa,
the amount of work put out to tender is set out in the tendering specifications, which are published on each institution's website. It also depends on the ranking position of the agency for which you are going to work. If it is ranked second, it will receive work only, if the agency ranked first is unavailable. The ranking list is also published on each institution's website.

By the way, it is always advisable to participate directly in these tendering procedures, without going through an agency.


[Edited at 2016-01-12 10:17 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-01-12 10:18 GMT]


 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:01
Member
French to English
+ ...
No guarantees Jan 12, 2016

Liza Chase wrote:

My main questions:

- What kind of workload can one expect?
- Can one live on such a project alone, or does one need to translate for other
clients as well?

Any other feedback would be welcome as well.


In my experience, the simple answers to your questions are: (1) there's no way of knowing, and (2) unlikely, though it does depend on how much you need to live!

I used to participate in these tender procedures via agencies, but do so extremely rarely nowadays as what I started to find was that I spent time on paperwork but never heard anything further from the agency.

Tender procedures are often for multiple language pairs, and my understanding is that agencies can sign up multiple translators for a given language pair (if they didn't, there would be a risk they wouldn't be able to deliver translations as freelance translators aren't available all the time). So there are no guarantees that the agency will assign work to you when it comes in, it could go to another translator. That's why my answer to (1) is that there's no way of knowing, even if the tender specification indicates specific volumes (and I haven't yet seen a tender specification that does, but maybe some do for all I know!)


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Jan 12, 2016

It's not worth responding to requests like these. The only jobs I've had for EU institutions have been from agencies who are already approved suppliers. As Maria says, it's better to bid in person, though the process is horrendously complicated.

 

Liza Chase  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 18:01
Member (2013)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all! Jan 18, 2016

Thank you all for your very valuable feedback - I have a much better idea of what to expect now. As it happens I was just assigned my first EU translation job a few days ago, so it is actually happening now. However, I will continue to work for my regular as well as ad-hoc clients via Proz.com job postings.

 


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