Would you sign?
Thread poster: amfike

amfike
United States
Japanese to English
Oct 17, 2018

A bit new to the game on all of this, but I hope this is a good place to ask about this. An agency I started doing some work for a few months ago just sent out an updated contract they want signed, and I’m wondering if maybe this would be a good time to bow out after having a not-so-good experience with them. Apologies in advance for the ramble, but I thought I would lay out everything that has come to my attention that might inform a decision.

From the beginning, I can’t say th
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A bit new to the game on all of this, but I hope this is a good place to ask about this. An agency I started doing some work for a few months ago just sent out an updated contract they want signed, and I’m wondering if maybe this would be a good time to bow out after having a not-so-good experience with them. Apologies in advance for the ramble, but I thought I would lay out everything that has come to my attention that might inform a decision.

From the beginning, I can’t say things have been the best, but I am admittedly new to this so perhaps I just don’t know better.

It all started with sub-professional documents in the “getting started” paperwork (by this I mean the language of these documents sounded almost like a Google translation). This alone made me a little worried from the get-go because as an agency for translators, you’d think someone could proofread the materials... Then there was a lack of transparency about how apparently there are two different rates for a translation that customers can choose, which I wasn’t told about until after I had signed on with them based on only one rate. They apparently have one per-character rate based on the source language, one per-word rate in the target language (which makes it very hard to estimate payment given how the character-word ratio between the languages is quite different). On this matter, there was an email from someone else who was recently hired who was surprised and off-put by this revelation as well, so it seems like it wasn’t just me. This incident alone made me question things. They also have sent me proofreading jobs when they have never mentioned to me what the rate is for that.

Then there has been a lack of communication from the company on projects (i.e. they send an email out about a large project coming up, you say you’re available as requested and then hearing nothing afterwards—not even something saying it’s been canceled).

In general, they also have just not really had much work (I'm talking long stretches of essentially nothing), although supposedly they’re going to have more near the end of the year.

For people with more experience in translation, what would you do? Is this part of being a translator that should be accepted and worked with? Part of me says to sign the new contract and see what happens, but only because I tell myself I shouldn’t be picky as a newer freelancer. But then part of me also wonders if I’m wasting my time on this agency and that it would be better in the long-run to forgo dealing with a company like that and focus elsewhere. Any and all input would be greatly appreciated.

[Edited at 2018-10-17 18:21 GMT]
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Sounds like a "filler" client at best Oct 17, 2018

amfike wrote:
Part of me says to sign the new contract and see what happens, but only because I tell myself I shouldn’t be picky as a newer freelancer.

This clearly isn't a great client and should never be anyone's main one, but two of the most crucial bits of information are missing: Do they pay a reasonable rate, on time, and without too much hassle in terms of administration? And is the contract reasonable or does it expect you to accept liability for absolutely everything, with all sorts of penalties in case of "errors" (as defined by them, unilaterally)?

In general, they also have just not really had much work (I'm taking long stretches of essentially nothing), although supposedly they’re going to have more near the end of the year.

That sounds as though this IS your main client. In fact, maybe your only client, or close to it. That's a bad position to be in. It's always difficult to start with but I hope you're spending all those non-billable moments doing very productive marketing activities. You should be aiming for at least 4-5 regular clients and twice that number of occasional ones. So even if you do sign and keep working with this agency, don't rely on them. From what you've said, it would be better to turn down work from them than miss other opportunities.


John Fossey
Chris S
Teresa Borges
José Henrique Lamensdorf
 

amfike
United States
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Additional information Oct 17, 2018

Thank you for your input. I have gathered so far that this agency is at best (and using your word) a filler one. They gave the impression when I signed on that the work would be somewhat regular, although naturally with the caveat they couldn’t guarantee that and I know that’s part of the trade.

Based on what I’ve seen on here and elsewhere when it comes to pay, it appears as though this agency starts translators on the low side with .03 USD/character and .04 USD/word. The .04
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Thank you for your input. I have gathered so far that this agency is at best (and using your word) a filler one. They gave the impression when I signed on that the work would be somewhat regular, although naturally with the caveat they couldn’t guarantee that and I know that’s part of the trade.

Based on what I’ve seen on here and elsewhere when it comes to pay, it appears as though this agency starts translators on the low side with .03 USD/character and .04 USD/word. The .04/word rate was the only one mentioned during the initial process. With regards to pay and billing, they have paid me as per their payment schedule, but I did have an issue where the invoice form would require X number from the project info but the projects themselves would have Y number and no X number. X and Y in the end turned out to be the same thing after some emailing back and forth to figure that out, where it seemed like they didn’t understand why I couldn’t find X number. That might be a trivial detail, but it struck me as odd and an issue with consistency. But they did pay like they said they would, which I take to be the most important part.

When it comes to liability, the contract isn’t detailed. Based on the document it reads, simply put, as though translators are responsible for corrections at no charge for omissions and errors and that if quality is not deemed to be met that work can receive a cut in payment. Would that be something to be concerned about? The section doesn’t mention liability specifically but does say that translators are “responsible.”
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Get marketing Oct 17, 2018

amfike wrote:
it appears as though this agency starts translators on the low side with .03 USD/character and .04 USD/word. The .04/word rate was the only one mentioned during the initial process. With regards to pay and billing, they have paid me as per their payment schedule

Yes, I'd say that was "on the low side". But it does help somewhat that they pay on time. Most often the low payers are bad payers; and those who pay more are more reliable.

When it comes to liability, the contract isn’t detailed. Based on the document it reads, simply put, as though translators are responsible for corrections at no charge for omissions and errors and that if quality is not deemed to be met that work can receive a cut in payment. Would that be something to be concerned about? The section doesn’t mention liability specifically but does say that translators are “responsible.”

It's strange that there's little that's concrete about liability. It has to be one of the most important clauses in any contract, especially in a service contract. Has it really been left open-ended, but saying you're "responsible", without saying what the limit is to that responsibility? If so, that could be a major problem one day.

Going back to my earlier post about spending time marketing, I presume you aren't looking for jobs here on ProZ.com as you have so little to interest potential clients in your profile. Even if you aren't actively using the site at the moment, I believe it would pay you to fill out your profile and make it attractive. After all, this is the site used by far and away the largest number of outsourcers. Some of them are worse than the one you've got, TBH, but the good ones are here too.


Teresa Borges
 

Steve R.
United States
Russian to English
List. Oct 20, 2018

Sometimes having a list helps.

(1) Very low rate;
(2) Vague contractual terms;
(3) Demonstrated opaqueness in pricing;
(4) Lack of professionalism;
(5) Poor communication.

Now the question you should ask yourself is whether you can find aspects in working with this agency that can counterbalance the points above.

For me, very few things (e.g. education) can offset or justify those points within a strictly professional context.
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Sometimes having a list helps.

(1) Very low rate;
(2) Vague contractual terms;
(3) Demonstrated opaqueness in pricing;
(4) Lack of professionalism;
(5) Poor communication.

Now the question you should ask yourself is whether you can find aspects in working with this agency that can counterbalance the points above.

For me, very few things (e.g. education) can offset or justify those points within a strictly professional context.

Good luck!
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Mirko Mainardi
Kuochoe Nikoi
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:10
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Far, far too low Oct 20, 2018

amfike wrote:
Based on what I’ve seen on here and elsewhere when it comes to pay, it appears as though this agency starts translators on the low side with .03 USD/character and .04 USD/word.

That's about a fifth of what I would expect to be paid. Even as a beginner, you should be looking for twice or three times that. This agency is an amateur outfit, at the low end of the market, dealing in a space where the primary consideration is cost, not quality. You won't get paid enough to survive. Look for other clients.

Get a proper profile together. Your current one is meaningless. Lots of threads here on how to jazz it up.

Regards,
Dan


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:10
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Do get down to it Oct 20, 2018

Well, you've been a member for more than a year but you still do not state what your speciality fields are and there is no information about you so do you wonder that the concerned agency treats you like that? It probably needed a translator for Japanese

 


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