How about agencies as business intermediaries only?
Thread poster: Daniel Frisano

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 17:07
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Jul 16

Many agencies are still quite amateurish about several technical and business aspects of translation*.

Not understanding the uselessness - and actual backfiring - of tests is just one manifestation of this amateurishness. Other examples include introducing errors when reviewing internally (sometimes by the PMs themselves), failing to educate end clients about the complexities and time required to obtain a flawless end product, forcing providers to use tools on the agency's side, needlessly complicating admin procedures, getting into the subtleties of languages they don't master, throwing their translators under the bus in case of a dispute so as not to piss off an end client, and don't get me started on the I-will-pay-you-when-they-pay-me nonsense.

Now, I understand that an agency takes care of the sales aspect. Fine, I can live with that. It would be too burdensome for me to reach all end clients, I appreciate the agency's intermediation and I don't mind paying for it. But please, PLEASE stay away from anything that is related to the translation process itself.

Conclusion: let the agent REPRESENT the provider, rather than replacing them. Once you (the agency) create the initial contact between myself and the client, your job is done. I will negotiate conditions, handle projects and charge the end client directly, and pay you a reasonable commission on each collected payment for a reasonable period of time, say, 1 year after my first invoice to the client. After the initial contact, your job will be thus:
1) Collect your monthly payment.
2) Don't get in the way.

Everything else, I will take care of it myself. Tell me what you think, outsourcers, don't be shy.

Q&A
Q (agency): How do we monitor payments? How do I know that I will actually receive all my commissions?
A (me): You trust me. Knowing who to trust is part of being a professional.




----
*About 70-80% of translators too, but that's a different story.


 

Anthony Teixeira
Japan
Local time: 01:07
Member (2011)
English to French
+ ...
Trust Jul 16

That's more or less how I perceive agencies that just forward files and messages between me and the end client. Their cut is the commission I pay for them to find me work. And I'm fine with the concept as long as I can charge what I want.

Now, making that formal and asking translators to pay commissions on a regular basis? No, trust is too big of an issue. That's precisely why agencies ask even experienced translators to prove their worth with their tests.

To be fair, I used to work in-house and outsource a bit myself, and the lack of reliability of our colleagues can be depressing sometimes. If I was an agency, I wouldn't want to use such a commission model. Too big of a risk. I love the idea on paper, but I don't think it would work well in practice.


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
For balance Jul 16

Given that the point of a business is to make as much money as possible, most agencies do a much better job than most, if not all, translators.

Is it the agencies' fault? After all, most customers just want the lowest possible price.

Automation and other forms of cost-cutting are not just a translation thing.

Could there be a good reason why agencies represent the customer rather than the supplier?

Do good translators need agents anyway?

Just saying.


Dan Lucas
Michele Fauble
123Translations
 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 17:07
Member (2016)
English to German
More than just selling Jul 16

Daniel, how do you propose an agency should evaluate the proficiency of a translator if not with a test?

And how do you think huge projects with translations into a dozen languages should be managed? By allowing every translator to use their own tool? Sounds like a management nightmare.


Dan Lucas
missdutch
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:07
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I query Jul 16

Chris S wrote:

....most customers just want the lowest possible price


That's just an assertion. My counter-assertion: most customers want the best possible translation and are willing to pay for it.


Katalin Szilárd
John Fossey
missdutch
 

Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 17:07
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Tests Jul 16

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:

Daniel, how do you propose an agency should evaluate the proficiency of a translator if not with a test?


You are right but at the same time tests (even paid ones) can be very controversial.
What is the guarantee that the agency will hire the translator for all the client's projects who did the selected (best quality) test translation?
I think a contract could help in that to save the translator's interests.


Joe Ly Sien
 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:07
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
There are simply too many agencies. Jul 16

As I have remarked before, my view is that there are simply too many agencies. In the case of the most common language pairs, these agencies function within a highly competitive market where low price is prioritized over professionalism. In practice, this leaves freelancers holding the short end of the stick. It also generally means that, however happy an agency might be with a freelancer, the tendency will always be to find someone to replace him or her with someone who can do an acceptable job at a cheaper rate. This is the vicious circle.

A side effect of this is the sniping that takes place in the form of malicious/incompetent proofreading that seems to often have the purpose of undermining colleagues and taking away their work. A version of starving rats fighting over crumbs.

Agencies get away with the things many of us find irritating and insulting (e.g., unpaid tests, 90-day payment terms, requiring payment reminders, cattle-call emails, cumbersome onboarding and invoicing requirements) because there are not enough professional translators who refuse to accept such practices. Their attitude seems to be that if this or that translator refuses to play along, someone else can be quickly found.

And the reality is: they are right!

I see the main potential application of Daniel’s idea in a massive portal that would function as kind of an Uber or airbnb for qualified freelancers (i.e., connecting providers with direct clients, imposing and monitoring quality controls, and taking a reasonable cut for their intermediation).




[Edited at 2018-07-16 16:24 GMT]


Michele Fauble
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:07
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Dolce vita Jul 16

Tom in London wrote:
My counter-assertion: most customers want the best possible translation and are willing to pay for it.


Of course they are. Steady work at the best possible prices obviously puts a diligent freelancer in, what, the top 5% of the working population? For example, a JP-EN translator completing 5,000 characters a day, at 15 yen per character, for a leisurely 200 days a year, makes roughly £100,000 p.a. - close to four times the UK median income. Better still, since most customers want the best possible service, there is enough work for the vast majority of freelancers. Happy days.

So, that clears up something that has always perplexed me, namely the hundreds of posts on this site from translators complaining about having too much work, discussing the content of the Financial Times' weekend "How to Spend It" supplement, comparing notes on recent luxury car purchases, and lamenting the difficulty of finding good domestic staff.

If, conversely, there were hundreds of posts on ProZ.com from translators complaining about not being able to find work, not getting paid, and not being treated properly by clients, then Chris might just have a point, but as things stand...

Dan


Michele Fauble
Angie Garbarino
 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 09:07
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree up to a point Jul 16

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Many agencies are still quite amateurish about several technical and business aspects of translation*.

Not understanding the uselessness - and actual backfiring - of tests is just one manifestation of this amateurishness. Other examples include introducing errors when reviewing internally (sometimes by the PMs themselves), failing to educate end clients about the complexities and time required to obtain a flawless end product, forcing providers to use tools on the agency's side, needlessly complicating admin procedures, getting into the subtleties of languages they don't master, throwing their translators under the bus in case of a dispute so as not to piss off an end client, and don't get me started on the I-will-pay-you-when-they-pay-me nonsense.

Now, I understand that an agency takes care of the sales aspect. Fine, I can live with that. It would be too burdensome for me to reach all end clients, I appreciate the agency's intermediation and I don't mind paying for it. But please, PLEASE stay away from anything that is related to the translation process itself.

Conclusion: let the agent REPRESENT the provider, rather than replacing them. Once you (the agency) create the initial contact between myself and the client, your job is done. I will negotiate conditions, handle projects and charge the end client directly, and pay you a reasonable commission on each collected payment for a reasonable period of time, say, 1 year after my first invoice to the client. After the initial contact, your job will be thus:
1) Collect your monthly payment.
2) Don't get in the way.

Everything else, I will take care of it myself. Tell me what you think, outsourcers, don't be shy.

Q&A
Q (agency): How do we monitor payments? How do I know that I will actually receive all my commissions?
A (me): You trust me. Knowing who to trust is part of being a professional.




----
*About 70-80% of translators too, but that's a different story.


I agree with much of what you say, but the way you seem to envision that, every Tom (no offense Tom!), Dick and Harry without any business experience could run an agency, sit back, wait for clients, and enjoy all the fees coming in - they wouldn't even have to have any employees. This would put all the onus of negotiating with the client, agreeing on payment terms, finding a suitable reviewer, and collecting payments on the translator. I for one am happy to leave all that to an agency, provided, as you say, that they are true professionals, use native-speaking proofreaders, and don't insult me by asking for tests or diplomas when they can see all they need to know in my profile.


missdutch
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:07
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
You're fighting nature Jul 16

Daniel Frisano wrote:
Everything else, I will take care of it myself. Tell me what you think, outsourcers, don't be shy.

I think most companies are interested in growth, and that usually involves them trying to absorb more, rather than less, of the value chain for their market.

What you are proposing is that agencies do the hard bit (marketing), then voluntarily cede the rest to freelancers and content themselves with a small(er) slice of the pie. For most agencies, I wouldn't think that's an attractive prospect, but I could be wrong.

Personally, the agencies I deal with are hard-working, professional and careful. I am glad not to have to mess around marketing to end clients, preparing documents and organising proof-reading. I am happy that they benefit from our transactions as much as I do. I realise that others will have other experiences.

Dan


Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Teresa Borges
 

Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 17:07
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Agencies and end clients Jul 16

I'm open to have a partnership with any translation agency that is working according to my standards, terms and rates. Not many are left.... There are too many agencies in the market that produce trash quality: quantity and speed over quality & low rates over decent rates. This should be reversed.
And there are agencies where things just don't work because project management steps are overcomplicated or the agency became so big that 5 or 6 project managers deal with the same small or medium project.

The market should be cleaned. I would wipe these agencies out of the market in the first round or if they want to stay in the market they should make changes. I'm not talking about ISO etc. certifications but easily executable standards that work in real life.

I think there are many end clients who would like to connect with translators directly.
This shouldn't be prevented rather it should be facilitated.
If a project needs to be done in 1 or a few language(s), direct clients can easily find matching translators.
If many languages are involved or special DTP is needed then end clients should look for agencies (from those ones that are left after the cleaning mentioned aboveicon_smile.gif ).



[Edited at 2018-07-16 16:45 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-07-16 18:09 GMT]


Joe Ly Sien
Robert Forstag
Michel Virasolvy
Angie Garbarino
 

Joe Ly Sien  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 23:07
Member (2016)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
agree Jul 16

Actually about managing huge projects, how to negotiate with the client, agreeing on payment terms, finding a suitable reviewer, and collecting payments on the translator, all of these can be done by end client itself or this is something that should be facilitated (that just mentioned by Katalin). Just about month ago, one of world's biggest healthcare company called me and mentioned that they choose me as their translator, they said that they like my translation, they have their own proofreader, they even asked their branch company's people in my country to proofread our translation, they even send NDA letter to my street address, doing a test for end client might be something that we prefer to do, because doing a test for agencies can be so tricky, for example, there are many times agencies said that my translation was being chosen by end clients that drop more than 100,000 words for them, but as we are trying to negotiate better payment term since they have long payment term and we should manage our cash flow for huge projects, you know what, they just leave and assigning this to other translator, they did this without thinking what risks that they're going to take with quality, lying to end client and so on.

Ok back to end client that mentioned above, they don't use any agency, they do it all by themselves, they just assigned some of their people to manage their translators, this is better as they can choose the translator that they want, make sure that translator can get decent payment. But there are some problems about whether all end clients know about this (to have and manage their own translators), I mean most of end clients trapped by agencies' marketing.



[Diedit pada 2018-07-16 18:41 GMT]

[Diedit pada 2018-07-17 09:04 GMT]


Katalin Szilárd
 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 18:07
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Its up to the client Jul 17

Any corporation can assign the job of translation manager to an employee, who would build up a network of professionals for the required language pairs. I have had such contacts and got payment all right. But when the corporation is swallowed by a competitor jobs are no longer forthcoming. If the person in charge does not know about document formatting and how translators work, you are on your own.
On the other hand I have been working for a big manufacturer of agricultural machinery for 12 years and all projects are transferred to me via two (2) agencies. If the client is happy with this and ready to pay the overhead, why not?


 


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