Attempt to turn the translator-agency business upside up: I'm partnering with translation agencies!
Thread poster: José Henrique Lamensdorf

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:13
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Apr 28

The article is self-explanatory, being my personal attempt to foster upside-up relationships between me - as a freelance translator - and translation agencies.

http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/for-agencies-1.html

I think that if more translators and agencies join this trend - each one in their personal way - it might be possible to jointly improve the entire translation market, as partners serving the same end-client, not merely links in a supply chain.

Globalization and the Internet have made most translation agencies look alike online.
It's time to make the really good ones stand out again.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2018-04-28 17:29 GMT]


 

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:13
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
typo Apr 28

Sounds good to me, José, but there's a typo in your English headline: "(or pehaps restoring the upside up)".

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:13
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Definitely! Apr 28

Susan Welsh wrote:

Sounds good to me, José, but there's a typo in your English headline: "(or pehaps restoring the upside up)".


I use WebSiteX5 to build it, so editing is in "blocks" (text, table, picture, video etc.).
No spellchecker anywhere, in any language (the program is originally Italian, though configurable to several languages).
So the best I can do is - after it has been published - to copy & paste onto, say, Word, and then check.
Fixing it right now.

Thanks!


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 06:13
German to English
+ ...
having read it Apr 28

There are broad, abstract terms in there: whether agencies are "agents" of their end clients; whether or not agencies and translators are "partners" or "vendors". One would have to explore what such terms mean for each person. It's the same as when an agency invites me to a "collaboration" and what does that mean? I can't think along those lines. Here's how I see it:

End clients are my customers. Agencies are also my customers. Both of them order translations from me. I have end clients who are unfamiliar with translation, and some have been forced to ask for a translation the first time in their lives. As the expert, it is my job to ask them pertinent questions, guide them, find out if they really need my services etc. Then I give a feasible turnaround time, my fee, what I need from them to turn out a good product etc. At some point I get paid and they get a translation.

The agency having been asked for a translation by their client, turns to me. If experienced and knowledgeable, they will have already asked the right questions of their client. Often enough with some I have to ask them to ask other things their client, or explore what is possible etc. We have to work together on this, since they want a happy customer. That's the "collaboration", I guess. Once it's all arranged, I do the work, hand it to the agency which hands it to the customer. I have my own end-clients be part of the loop and give feedback, and I encourage agencies to do the same. I get paid whether or not the agency gets paid. I have only once ever not been paid by an end client myself and that was where they seemed to have gone bankrupt along the way.

I have no idea how this fits into agencies being agents of their clients, partnerships, etc. It's how I work with clients.

Recently a graduate student submitted course descriptions to an agency for a quote. I saw that there were sections that probably wouldn't need translating for the end client's purposes, advised the agency who asked their client if she'd like to edit what actually needed translating. That's a collaboration. I have no idea about the "agent role" or "partnership role".

I would not want to meet up with agencies that I work for. It would not help me do my job better, and I have too little time to do the things I want to do as it is.


 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 13:13
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Perhaps I am missing something? Apr 29

I am struggling to find anything new over a good old agency-translator collaboration. According to the article, the agency gets:

Fair rates
On-time delivery
Reliable expertise
High quality
No re-outsourcing
Full transparency
Non disclosure
Guidance on video
DTP expertise
No competition

Is there any of these aspects that you would NOT provide without a partnership? What are the real benefits for an agency from this so-called partnership?

[Edited at 2018-04-29 00:27 GMT]


 

Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 13:13
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Old days and present Apr 29

Hi José,

Yes, I have read this post of yours and I agree with several points of you.

I don't agree with this one though (at least it cannot be done in many language pairs any more):

"Finally, I chose NOT to be a translation agency, but only a translator. You can read my views on the difference here.Therefore I have no interest whatsoever in ‘agenting’, and see no point in selling my services directly to clients if – by my own personal option – I won’t be able to serve them with anything beyond what I can do myself."

In the old days all translators worked only for end clients. Then there were times when a translator could choose to be "only a translator" (about from 2000-2010). I don't know the agencies you are working for and in what fields, we are also working in different language pairs also, but according to my experience (and as I talked with other translators they also experienced this) in the last 10 years about 60% (if not more) of translation agencies don't add any plus values to their translators' jobs. Translators do everything from A to Z, all stages are done by them. One translator translates and she/he has to do minor or major DTP, this translator creates the TM (if required), then usually there is a proofreader who is doing the proofreading and editing. The whole project is done by 2 translators. The agency doesn't give any plus value to the translation. At the same time these agencies usually write to translators: "we have a small budget" and they try to force translators to work for peanuts. Many translators accept this type of "slavery" for reasons I mentioned in the other thread (where we started to talk about this: https://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/324878-this_trend_of_agencies_deciding_which_tools_the_freelancer_should_use-page2.html ).
In these cases these translation agencies are nothing more than "mafia type of middlemen".

So the market has changed and is changing....


Bests,
Katalin


[Edited at 2018-04-29 10:12 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-04-29 10:22 GMT]


 

Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 13:13
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Our responsibility Apr 29

And we translators have a huge responsibility and impact on how the market is going to change ...

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:13
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That's how the translation business was turned upside down Apr 29

Daniel Frisano wrote:

I am struggling to find anything new over a good old agency-translator collaboration. According to the article, the agency gets:

Fair rates
On-time delivery
Reliable expertise
High quality
No re-outsourcing
Full transparency
Non disclosure
Guidance on video
DTP expertise
No competition

Is there any of these aspects that you would NOT provide without a partnership? What are the real benefits for an agency from this so-called partnership?


The point is that too many translation agencies nowadays simply don't care about any of these.

Instead of a partnership, all they want is (in the same order as quoted above):
  • Low rates and a couple of months' "peace of mind" (aka payment term) before I have the right to start nagging about their default on payment.
  • Delivery at most 2-4 days late; that's how much they shortened the deadline, expecting poor service from what they are paying.
  • Who cares about expertise? For them it's just a matter of getting it translated; the translator is not expected to understand or otherwise enjoy it. If Google can translate it, why would an expert be required? (Anyway, lack of expertise is a good excuse to default on payment, stating that the translation is technically bad... and then delivering it to the end-client and getting paid, no matter how bad it is!)
  • Who cares about quality? Just get it DONE, capisci? We want to deliver and get paid, that's all.
  • They don't care about who does it, as long as it gets done. I had contact with a very nice gentleman in India, who wrote in horrible English. He told me he merely transfers translation work from one agency to another, with a half US cent markup on the word. Said he makes a bundle, without having to open any files that go through him.
  • They don't want transparency, just get it DONE!
  • Non-disclosure is merely an agreement used as a guise to include that: a) if the agency's clients contact the translator directly, s/he must repel them; b) if the agency "doesn't like" the job for no stated reason, it will be entitled to default on payment and, sometimes, to tacitly collect some preset indemnification (I've seen one NDA where it was 30,000 GBP) from the translator.
  • These agencies advertise, but avoid video projects. If they demand Trados absolutely to give the time of day, most video translation specialists don't have any use for it, so they won't invest in buying it.
  • Any competition would be more expensive, as their #1 sales argument is unbeatable prices.


No point in offering this to lowballing agencies. They don't care about adding value, so they don't see any value in having this, if it will drive costs above their groveling rates.

I have the privilege of working with a few agencies that add value to their deliverables, and who regard these perks as highly desirable, especially when they don't cost more than the average market rate. I'm trying to find more of them and grow together with them.


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
In a nutshell Apr 30

Can this by summarised as a desire to return to the model where the agent represented the supplier rather than the customer?

Where they found work to suit our skills and rates rather than vice versa?


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:13
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
PRECISELY! Apr 30

Chris S wrote:

Can this by summarised as a desire to return to the model where the agent represented the supplier rather than the customer?

Where they found work to suit our skills and rates rather than vice versa?


I guess this concept may have been entirely missed by many post-globalization newcomers to the translation industry.

Many old-timers may think things have changed, however they close their eyes to the fact that the core business concepts haven't.

When I tell present teenagers about how things worked in my childhood, they think I'm making it all up.


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 06:13
German to English
+ ...
old days quote Apr 30

I don't know if my post will get a reply. I admit it was long. I was lost, and that is what I tried to express.

I didn't see the "old days" part before which got quoted now:
In the old days all translators worked only for end clients...

How long back are we going for "old days"? My first clients close to 30 years ago were agencies. So is this going back 50 or 60 years or longer? (I honestly don't know how far back translation agencies go.) Starting a bit later than 10 years ago, the proportion of end clients coming my way has been steadily increasing. I have never worked only for end clients.

But I was also lost in regard to the post. That is why I described what the relationship is like working for my clients, to see if some of those terms could be clarified vis-a-vis that. I honestly don't see anything that I'd want to see turned around at my end.


 

Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 13:13
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Old days vs. present May 1

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

I don't know if my post will get a reply. I admit it was long. I was lost, and that is what I tried to express.

I didn't see the "old days" part before which got quoted now:
In the old days all translators worked only for end clients...

How long back are we going for "old days"? My first clients close to 30 years ago were agencies. So is this going back 50 or 60 years or longer? (I honestly don't know how far back translation agencies go.) Starting a bit later than 10 years ago, the proportion of end clients coming my way has been steadily increasing. I have never worked only for end clients.

But I was also lost in regard to the post. That is why I described what the relationship is like working for my clients, to see if some of those terms could be clarified vis-a-vis that. I honestly don't see anything that I'd want to see turned around at my end.


Since this was a quote of mine, I assume your post was addressed to me.
Yes, I meant "in the old days", like till 10-15 years after the World War II. Also it depends on the location and language pairs, but for example in many European countries even 30 years ago many translators didn't know any translation agencies. They worked for end clients.

What I experienced in the last 10- 15 years that in the translation market (for freelancers) the word "end clients" is the biggest taboo.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:13
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
IMO not so 'old' May 1

I mean translation agencies that were operating successfully as such since before broadband Internet, and that have preserved their vision & mission unchanged.

What I'm trying to avoid is the mushrooming quantity of in-betweens whose unstated mission is to buy translation cheap and resell it with a hefty markup, while adding no value whatsoever, thanks to a cleverly crafted web site that makes them appear as if they belonged to the first group.

I think I covered adequately the concept of a translation agency's raison d'être in http://www.lamensdorf.com.br/trxag.html . To the best of my knowledge, nobody to date has challenged those points. Yet nowadays too many outfits labeled and packaged as 'translation agencies' are focused exclusively on making a huge profit with little investment.


 


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