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Any in-house translators here?
Thread poster: Anders O.

Anders O.  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 13:39
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Jan 14, 2016

There is an agency that is very keen on having me as an in-house translator. They want to sign a 1 year contract with me. I am of course very flattered, but I haven't made up my mind.

The positive side to this is that they are great to work with. Not having to constantly bid on jobs is great too.

My seniority is low, as I have only worked with translation for little over a year. An in-house position will definitely boost my career, imo. I think it is great when translation agencies and other companies give fresh translators a chance.

But:

Can I be sure that I will have enough work from that agency alone? They promise between 65,000 and 70,000 words per month, but can I be certain they will keep that promise?

What rate do you think is the lowest I should accept as an in-house translator? How much did you get paid when you started? I ask this not only for my own financial situation, but to not ruin the industry standard for others by being too cheap. (The rate isn't terrible, but not as high as many other freelancers working in my pair demand.)

Any comments from former and current in-house translators would be very helpful!icon_smile.gif


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:39
Member (2014)
English to German
Employment Contract Jan 14, 2016

You would want an employment contract with an annual salary, holiday, benefits ... not a per word rate.

 

cranium
French to English
+ ...
Salary, not rate Jan 14, 2016

An in-house position should be salaried. Then it would not matter how many words a month they "guarantee" you (an empty promise anyway since noone can foresee the future). That volume is too high. IMO a full-time translator can comfortably handle 2-2500 words a day, less when you are starting out and have to research a lot more.

The time I remember seeing an in-house job ad for your language combination, the salary was €81k. (see http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/203230-am_i_being_exploited.html) Hope this helps.

[Edited at 2016-01-14 15:15 GMT]


 

Serena Basili  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 13:39
English to Italian
+ ...
I was thinking the same, Gabriele! Jan 14, 2016

Anyway, Anders if they still would pay you on per-word basis instead, you could ask them to put in the contract the promised words per month, I guess.

Best of luck with your career!icon_smile.gif


 

Anders O.  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 13:39
English to Norwegian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Per word vs. fixed Jan 14, 2016

They say they will pay a fixed salary, and that it is based on that word count, But what if the word count changes quickly etc.? I agree that it should pay a fixed salary and not per word.

[Edited at 2016-01-14 15:27 GMT]


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:39
Member (2014)
English to German
Salary based on word count Jan 14, 2016

I believe they are paying you an annual salary then, and if you know the rate you can work out how much it will be, but don't forget to ask about holiday entitlement.icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2016-01-14 15:39 GMT]


 

Jacqueline White
Austria
Local time: 13:39
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Reply from a freelance, not in-house translator Jan 14, 2016

That number of words a month sounds more like a burden than a blessing to me. Sure, it's possible to translate 3,500 words in a day, but I wouldn't want to commit to doing it day in, day out. I guess it depends on your familarity with the topic and speed though.
Personally, I'd rather agree on a lower word count.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:39
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
I started out in-house Jan 14, 2016

I don't quite understand what your in-house position involves.

If you're working in-house, you should be talking salary not rate, and hours not words.

70,000 is a lot of words if you're working in-house on a salary, because in-house translators invariably get sucked into meetings and other time-wasting activities. I wouldn't want a "guarantee" of having to translate such an enormous quantity in that time-frame.

Usually, the point of having an in-house translator is to always have someone trustworthy to hand because there's lots of work in that language combination. They might have sensitive documents that they don't want to send out by e-mail, or perhaps some awkward clients for whom it makes sense to always be able to rely on the same translator to ensure consistency.

As an in-house translator, I was told that I was expected to translate a minimum of 2,000 words a day or proofread 10,000 words a day. If ever I was less productive, it was because of a lull, and it was the employer's loss. But I was paid the same salary however many words I translated and given other (boring) stuff to do like TM maintenance. The point was that what they needed over and above productivity was consistency, and consistent quality, somebody who could handle accusations of bad quality and quickly translate jobs where finding a free-lancer and making out a PO would take much longer than the actual translation. I know I made myself very useful, because the boss never tried to fire me however much he hated my guts.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:39
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
By "in house", do you mean contracting on their premises, or employment? Jan 14, 2016

Others have addressed the main points already.
Anders O. wrote:
My seniority is low, as I have only worked with translation for little over a year. An in-house position will definitely boost my career, imo. I think it is great when translation agencies and other companies give fresh translators a chance.

Why would it do your career so much good? Of course, you'd get a lot of experience, but it will be with one client, whereas if you were freelancing you'd be working with different clients, in fact different everything from one day to the next. And what about your existing clients? You'd lose your client base, and it probably wouldn't do a lot for some of your other skills and knowledge such as book-keeping, negotiation, marketing, etc. I'm not saying these are massive disadvantages, by the way - just pointing out possible negatives as a balance.
Can I be sure that I will have enough work from that agency alone? They promise between 65,000 and 70,000 words per month, but can I be certain they will keep that promise?

It must surely be taken as a MAXIMUM volume required from you. They will pay you a fixed sum regardless, equal to that number of words. Any words in addition, should you agree to do more, would be paid extra (overtime, if you like).
The rate isn't terrible, but not as high as many other freelancers working in my pair demand.

Again, if you're an employee then you can't equate your salary to a freelancer's rate-per-word. Freelancers have to pay far higher social security contributions, maybe insurances, professional subscriptions, training expenses, higher tax in most cases, etc, etc. We also have to cover for the time we spend on admin, training, sick leave, holidays... You simply can't compare them by just looking at the two amounts.

If you're going to be working on their premises then there are many things that need ironing out, apart from pay. Even if you're going to be working as an "independent contractor", which sounds likely from what you've said so far, you still need to talk about hours of work, free time (lunches etc), leave, travel expenses, perks (do you get what staff get?), sick leave,... and find out whether you are allowed to work for other clients in your free time (or whether there will be a "non-compete" or exclusivity clause in your agreement.

At the moment, with not-so-good rates and high volumes proposed, it looks like they may be setting themselves up nicely - at your expense. But maybe that's too cynicalicon_smile.gif.


 

Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:39
Member (2008)
English to French
Dot your i's and cross your t's Jan 14, 2016

I found that working in-house for 18 months at the beginning of my career was a great boon, even though I earned less than half what I later earned as a freelancer.

Be sure that you actually have a job, not a freelance contract where you have to work on the premises (disguised employment) - a job means a regular paycheck in a set amount, holidays, insurance, benefits, possibly a yearly bonus, etc.

If that is what is being offered to you, take it! Learning how an agency works from the inside is invaluable and the lessons learned will serve you throughout your career, especially if it's a small to medium-sized agency and you have daily contact with the project management and accounting departments - it's a real eye opener!

As a rookie translator, I also found the in-house experience legitimized my translation degree and allowed me to distinguish myself from other freelancers in the same language pair.

From memory, translators were expected to translate around 1500 words a day (no CAT tools... it was a while ago), and if there was no work on a certain day, they worked on such things as scoring application tests from potential freelancers, building glossaries or templates for certain clients or fields. I myself even programmed a macro that took care of a huge chunk of our QA since one of our larger clients had very strict formatting rules, so don't worry, they'll find work for you to do if there's a lullicon_wink.gif


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:39
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Ask for a proper employment position Jan 14, 2016

To me the matter is quite clear: if they want to hire you on an exclusivity basis during the whole working day (i.e. you may not leave the office for a morning or a couple of days to work for another customer), they should offer you a proper job with a fixed salary.

When a company wants a person to be 100% available during certain working hours and certain days of the week, they are offering an employer-employee relationship, not a desk and a seat in their office to a freelancer who is free to come and go at will. In this sense, they should bear the risk of the volume of work you will get or you can reasonably go in your working time, as well as the risk that you get ill and cannot work. If all goes well, they will make a profit on your work as an employee, so they shall offer a salary that is only a percentage of the value of your work as sold to end customers.


 

Adrian MM. (X)
Local time: 13:39
French to English
+ ...
Opportunity to learn from inhouse colleagues Jan 14, 2016

You, Anders, are focussed on wordage & salary, but may also have a chance - as I did - of picking the brains of inhouse colleagues from a number of other disciplines.

Any promise contained in a contract would be hono(u)red, subject to a penalty or damages for breach.

You don't let on about the employment location. I would have no qualms about Norway. But there are a number of countries in the EEA/EU and American orbit with a disporportion of rogue I&T companies-cum-agencies that would or should send alarm bells ringing.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 12:39
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I worked in-house Jan 14, 2016

I worked in-house for 20 years within a team of 16 Portuguese translators (not in a translation agency!). The normal rate we were expected to translate was 2,000 words a day, but our salary was not at all dependent upon that.

 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:39
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Working in-house is an enormous advantage Jan 15, 2016

My per-word rate was very questionable - as others have said, you must have a salary and all the benefits that go with it - taxes, holidays, pension, etc.
In Scandinavia that is a BIG slice of the rate you charge as a freelancer.

I worked part-time in-house, with all expenses paid for me to study for my diploma, so it is hard to say what my actual salary was. That was 1998-2003.
Apart from that, there were enormous advantages in all the suport of colleagues in the same room, safety nets everywhere and being able to pick their brains when I was in doubt.

They were also very good at boosting my self confidence and giving positive feedback. That is just as important as criticism - you need to know when you are really doing fine, when and where you are OK, but there is room for improvement, and when you are really making mistakes. Discussions over coffee are surprisingly useful.

However, the word count of 70,000 is HIGH, no matter how you look at it. You will need a CAT to take quite a lot of it, if you are talking Scandinavian languages. I never promise to do more than about 10 000 Danish words a week, unless my CAT is going to rattle through large chunks.
You may be able to do a little more if you are counting English words.

The agency I worked for used to give the tough, time-consuming jobs to its in-house translators, because we were on fixed salaries. The boss always said we were expensive, but didn't actually complain. However, when I started, 2000 English words a day could be hard work. We did not always manage that much with law or lots of terminology.

We did not use CAT tools much, and CATs have come a long way since then, but I still think they are best for improving quality, more than speed.

If you can negotiate a reasonable salary that you can live on, including proper benefits, I would say go for a fixed-term in-house job. The agency will charge end-clients a good cut more than they pay you anyway.

I hope you end up with good colleagues like mine!


 

Anders O.  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 13:39
English to Norwegian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, guys! Jan 15, 2016

Thank you for all your input, especially you Christine, considering we are both Scandinavianicon_smile.gif

Your input will definitely help me making the right decision in the end!icon_smile.gif


 
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