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What is wrong with agencies?
Thread poster: ksbtranslation

ksbtranslation  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 01:51
Indonesian to English
+ ...
Jun 14, 2007

Most translators in Proz' forums are disappointed with some agencies probably practicing a bad business. The question is why they make a generalization, as if all agencies would do the same thing.

Speaking on behalf of my agency, I would like to defend myself.

Here is what we are doing :

- We highly respect our translators and always do our best to back them up. Although it may risk losing this client, we feel that maintaining a good relationship with the translator is more important than anything.

- We never make too much profit from each project. Our profit margin is no more than 2-5%.

- We never reveal anything from our translator, except for the client's indentity.

- We monitor the progress of translation day and night and try to make both the client and translators as comfortable as possible. This is not that easy because most of the time the client and translator have different time zone.

- As for the payment, we try to be frank to the translators. We use the standard payment term and try our best to ask the client to process it earlier so that there will be no delay.

In other words, it is unfair to be treated like this. It would be better if we work together for a better future.







[Edited at 2007-06-14 13:20]


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 20:51
Member
English to Latvian
Delusion... Jun 14, 2007

I think it's because we rarely talk about good agencies, though always talk about the bad ones. Consequently, the delusion occurs.

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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nothing specific Jun 14, 2007

As Evija says, it seems that in this case "no news means good news". People will usually ask for help regarding bad agencies, but will not talk too much about the good ones.

Look: there are good and bad businesses of any sort: good and bad translators, good and bad agencies...

And, IMHO: some freelancers need to learn better business practices before complaining too much about agencies.

This morning I read an astonishing BB comment similar to this:

"a lot of rules to follow, interesting projects, good people, good payment", points: 2...

2? Due to what? To having to follow some rules?... oh, God...

(It's not the first time I read something like that)

Best regards,

Ruth @ MW


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Tina Colquhoun  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:51
Danish to English
+ ...
So true Jun 14, 2007

megane_wang wrote:

And, IMHO: some freelancers need to learn better business practices before complaining too much about agencies.



That is so true. You get the impression that a lot of people here are 'dabbling' and treat translating a bit like a hobby. You only need to look at people's proz profiles - they have as their 'logo' pictures of their cats, dogs, children, spouses, themselves on holiday/in their wedding dresses/at parties. In my opinion totally inappropriate. I mean what professional impression does that generate? No wonder there are so many stories/complaints about translators not being taken seriously.


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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 19:51
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Two separate issues Jun 14, 2007

ksbtranslation wrote:
- As for the payment, we try to be frank to the translators. We use the standard payment term and try our best to ask the client to process it earlier so that there will be no delay.


[Edited at 2007-06-14 13:20]


There is only one point in your description of how you run your business which a translator would be well-justified in questioning.

You say that you request your clients to make prompt payment so that there will be no delay in paying the translator.

I'm sorry, but it shouldn't matter whether the client pays late or not at all. Your obligation to pay the translator on time is entirely separate from your client's obligation to pay you.

Confusing the two - as you have done here - is probably the cause of a majority of translators' complaints about agencies.

Cheers,
Andy


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ksbtranslation  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 01:51
Indonesian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Story about a translator Jun 14, 2007

Tina Colquhoun wrote:
No wonder there are so many stories/complaints about translators not being taken seriously.


I had an experience with such a translator. I assigned a Korean translator to do a rush job. She confirmed that she would meet the deadline. But you know what? when I contacted her a few minutes before the deadline, she was going out for dinner with her friends without bringing her cell phone or even informing me where she had gone. Then I had to lose this client forever but still I had to pay her.

I cannot imagine if she had been assigned directly by this client.

So why is the agency always to be blamed?


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:51
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Good Agencies Jun 14, 2007

I think most of my clients, in a career spanning over ten years, are in this category (of good agencies).

And all of them are aware that I like working with them

I have one who pays immediately after every project. Very understanding and very polite. I was really grateful when he actually extended a deadline because I was sick.

(Thanks for starting this thread... Now, I can thank him here.)

There are only two clients who are not in this category.

The first one was one of my first few clients.

The second one was a good client and is still polite but his payment practices are not so nice.

Others, i.e. negative experiences, that I've mentioned in these forums were not really clients as I never worked for them... reminds me of a very recent posting that I made.

Thank god. Not all are like that.



[Edited at 2007-06-14 14:59]


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ksbtranslation  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 01:51
Indonesian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Nobody wants to lose the money Jun 14, 2007

Andy Watkinson wrote:
You say that you request your clients to make prompt payment so that there will be no delay in paying the translator.

I'm sorry, but it shouldn't matter whether the client pays late or not at all. Your obligation to pay the translator on time is entirely separate from your client's obligation to pay you.

Confusing the two - as you have done here - is probably the cause of a majority of translators' complaints about agencies.


Well, nobody wants to lose the money. An agency should also make sure that the client will not default the payment. However, we will be very grateful if the translator could understand in case such a default payment occurs.


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Ann Bishop  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:51
Dutch to English
+ ...
understand... Jun 14, 2007

With all due respect, but I don't think freelance translators should "understand" when an agency's client defaults on the invoice. It's a regrettable situation, I agree.

As pointed out before, it shouldn't matter whether or not the client pays late or not at all.

Some agencies have told me that due to late payment of the client they can't pay me yet. In other words, if the client finally decides to pay after 4 months, I will get my money in 4 months.

My utilities company, phone company, insurance broker don't understand this either...maybe I should just tell them that I will pay when my agency has finally paid me (in about 4 months from now).

--Ann




[Edited at 2007-06-14 15:10]


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gianfranco  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:51
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Note about the markup applied by the agencies Jun 14, 2007

Dear ksbtranslation,

I'm putting together two sentences from your previous postings and adding some considerations.
ksbtranslation wrote:
...
- We never make too much profit from each project. Our profit margin is no more than 2-5%.
...


ksbtranslation wrote:
...
Well, nobody wants to lose the money. An agency should also make sure that the client will not default the payment. However, we will be very grateful if the translator could understand in case such a default payment occurs.
...



It seems to me that your 5% markup is far too small for running an agency. Of course, it is not up to me to judge your business model, but considering all normal costs associated to staff, premises, telephone and other communications, marketing, stationary and many others, however streamlined may be your business, a 5% markup doesn't look wise to me, by any standard.

Assuming that you have 20 projects, all of them having the same size and all at 5% markup, if only 1 of them goes not well (and they can go bad independently from your fault), for example one of your customers decides to not pay or pays very late, that single project would wipe off the profit of 20 other project of similar size.
As a consequence you have worked for free for 20 projects and you may be unable to respect your contractual obbligation with your translators.

In my experience markup margins from agencies are in the range of 25% to 50%, probably they are more often higher rather than lower and, even if they can vary according to the quality and quantity of the services provided, they cannot be as low as you indicated.
A profit sufficiently high also provides the resources to cope with delays or default in payments from your customers, and not go bankrupt at the first financial problem.

Somebody running an agency may know better than I do, and provide some more specific feedback on the range of margins normally applied.


bye
Gianfranco




[Modificato alle 2007-06-14 15:29]


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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 19:51
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Of course not Jun 14, 2007

ksbtranslation wrote:

Well, nobody wants to lose the money. An agency should also make sure that the client will not default the payment. However, we will be very grateful if the translator could understand in case such a default payment occurs.


Quite.

An agency should make sure the client pays, but for its OWN benefit. What has this got to do with the translator? This is YOUR problem.

In your original post you clearly state that you urge clients to pay promptly so as not to make the translator have to wait.

This is unacceptable as standard practice. It may occur once in a while and if the translator accepts delayed payment, that is their choice.

I work for many agencies (for reasons I won't go into here) and if there is one thing guaranteed to make me see red it's the classic "But the client still hasn't paid us".

So what?

Cheers,
Andy


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:51
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Agree Jun 14, 2007

Ann Bishop wrote:

With all due respect, but I don't think freelance translators should "understand" when an agency's client defaults on the invoice. It's a regrettable situation, I agree.

As pointed out before, it shouldn't matter whether or not the client pays late or not at all.

Some agencies have told me that due to late payment of the client they can't pay me yet. In other words, if the client finally decides to pay after 4 months, I will get my money in 4 months.

My utilities company, phone company, insurance broker don't understand this either...maybe I should just tell them that I will pay when my agency has finally paid me (in about 4 months from now).

--Ann




[Edited at 2007-06-14 15:10]


And it does not happen anywhere in any business so why should it happen in ours?

All of us are in it for profits and not for charity.

There are clear terms of payments and these should be respected. As someone has already pointed out, it is a contractual agreement.


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ksbtranslation  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 01:51
Indonesian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agree Jun 14, 2007

Ritu Bhanot wrote:
All of us are in it for profits and not for charity.


I agree with you, Ratu.


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:51
French to English
+ ...
Unacceptable Jun 14, 2007

Well, nobody wants to lose the money. An agency should also make sure that the client will not default the payment. However, we will be very grateful if the translator could understand in case such a default payment occurs.


As a matter of principle and survival, I ensure that I have sufficient cash available each month to pay my mortgage, electricity, gas, water bills, council tax, buildings insurance, phone bill, etc etc. I have contracts with all my providers which state that I pay for a service that is provided to me. They are not concerned where I get the money from, and they *will* take me to court if I don't pay on time.

If I undertake to supply a translation to an agency, I have a contract with that agency to supply some work to that agency, in return for payment. I am not concerned where the agency gets the money from, and as far as I'm concerned if they don't have good enough cashflow to pay me without waiting for their own client to pay, then they shouldn't be in business.

If such a default payment occurs (and it hasn't, with any agency I have worked for) then I won't 'understand'. I will complain.

In return, though, I do deliver my translations on time, unlike some of your providers. You seem to have been unfortunate in that respect.


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Nicole Johnson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:51
Italian to English
+ ...
Well said Andy... Jun 14, 2007

Andy Watkinson wrote:

You say that you request your clients to make prompt payment so that there will be no delay in paying the translator.

I'm sorry, but it shouldn't matter whether the client pays late or not at all. Your obligation to pay the translator on time is entirely separate from your client's obligation to pay you.

Confusing the two - as you have done here - is probably the cause of a majority of translators' complaints about agencies.

Cheers,
Andy


We are in the business of translation, not banking!!! How I wish all agencies/clients would respect our payment deadlines the way we respect their deadlines for translation deliveries.


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