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Translation agencies adding new freelancers
Thread poster: Anna Poppe

Anna Poppe  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:17
English to German
+ ...
Feb 29, 2016

Hi all,

since I decided to leave the wonderful world of in-house translation to become a full-time freelancer, I have contacted various agencies offering them my services. I am now at the point where some agencies finally get back to me, and I noticed what seems to be pattern: their offered rates are ridiculously low - about 2 to 3 cents lower than other agencies offer for this language pair and field.

So I am just wondering, is this a normal (to be expected) behaviour from agencies?

I know that I basically have 2 options:

a) Give them my counter-offer
b) Bite the bullet and accept some low paid work while continuing to look for direct clients and/or better paying agencies

So far, I always replied with the rates I'd charge for translation work. Needless to say that this approach was not always successful. As I do have 6+ years of in-house experience and do not live in a third world country, I do have some ideas about the usual rates and really do not want to succumb to these methods and rates.

Have you made similar experiences recently? Is this to be expected for a new freelancer?

I'd be interested in hearing your stories and appreciate any advice!

Thanks!


 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:17
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
How low is a low rate exactly? Feb 29, 2016

Anna Poppe wrote:

their offered rates are ridiculously low - about 2 to 3 cents lower than other agencies offer for this language pair and field.


Hi Anna,
please, share with us: What is from your point of view as an earlier in-house translator to be considered as low and what as a normal rate (in € per source word)?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:17
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
They're contacting you as they're the most needy Feb 29, 2016

Anna Poppe wrote:
I am now at the point where some agencies finally get back to me, and I noticed what seems to be pattern: their offered rates are ridiculously low - about 2 to 3 cents lower than other agencies offer for this language pair and field.

There are agencies out there that are continually on the lookout for new (to them) translators. Either the better translators find their rates are simply too low or they have unpleasant experiences, e.g. the agency only has hyper-urgent jobs; always tries for a discount; doesn't pay on time... For one reason or another, translators come and translators go. If you have a feeling that they are that type of agency then you might well find yourself being spammed with 'offers' of low rates for urgent jobs that are totally unsuited to your talents.

The better agencies will have long-term relationships with a large pool of trusted translators. If they're interested in collaborating with you they'll get in touch when they have something that suits your abilities. But you may have to wait until some difficult time (public holiday, year end, August...) when nobody else is available.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:17
German to Serbian
+ ...
A few points. Feb 29, 2016

Anna Poppe wrote:


b) Bite the bullet and accept some low paid work while continuing to look for direct clients and/or better paying agencies


How do you plan to find the available time (and energy) for searching other better-paying clients while your time and energy is booked for low-paid work?

Other than that, I can't comment on how to reply and what to offer or how to approach free tests, as from previous comments I'd say the approach may vary in different language pairs.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:17
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Try for a compromise, but don't accept really low rates. Feb 29, 2016

I am afraid Sheila is right, and that the agencies constantly on the lookout for translators are not necessarily the best ones to work for.
It has certainly been my experience that good clients are easier to 'catch' over holidays and school half terms or other periods when others are taking time off.
Easter is on its way, if you can sacrifice some of your break!

Certainly you should make a counter offer, and push the rates up if you can.

When I have time, I tell agencies what my rate would be, or quote the average on this site for my language pair,
http://search.proz.com/?sp=pfe/rates

-- and occasionally the latest CIoL survey, if it fits. I believe the BDÜ does a rates survey now and then that you might be able to quote.

The average community rates on this site are not high, but they are a starting point. Occasionally an agency will raise their offer a little, and you can decide for yourself how low you will go. But don't accept anything too ridiculous! It is difficult to set rates up later, although I have done it.

Best of luck!


 

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:17
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
You started on the wrong foot Feb 29, 2016

Anna Poppe wrote:

their offered rates are ridiculously low ...

I know that I basically have 2 options:

a) Give them my counter-offer
b) Bite the bullet and accept some low paid work while continuing to look for direct clients and/or better paying agencies



You started on the wrong foot. It should be you setting the rates. Let your prospects make a counter-offer, then you can consider whether to accept the counter-offer, negotiate further, or drop the prospect.

If you wait for your prospect to offer you a rate, you are bound to be disappointed.



[Edited at 2016-02-29 21:45 GMT]


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:17
Member
English to Italian
Some agencies do that... Feb 29, 2016

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:

You started on the wrong foot. It should be you setting the rates. Let your prospects make a counter-offer, then you can consider whether to accept the counter-offer, negotiate further, or drop the prospect.

If you wait for your prospect to offer you a rate, you are bound to be disappointed.


Sometimes it's not a matter of actually "starting" something, as it's the agency itself which proposes a rate off the bat (although that's not particularly common, in my experience). Maybe it's not how it should be, but in a sense that might be a good thing inasmuch as it allows you to avoid wasting your time with tests, agreements, and emails back and forth, only to discover their abysmal rate after jumping through all those hoops...


 

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:17
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Hoop jumping Feb 29, 2016

Mirko Mainardi wrote:

Sometimes ... it's the agency itself which proposes a rate off the bat (although that's not particularly common, in my experience). Maybe it's not how it should be, but in a sense that might be a good thing inasmuch as it allows you to avoid wasting your time with tests, agreements, and emails back and forth, only to discover their abysmal rate after jumping through all those hoops...


My solution to the "hoops jumping only to discover..." problem is to give them my rate, and ask for their agreement to my rate, before doing such things signing agreements or NDAs, translate tests, etc.

A simple
"Dear X,

... I'll be happy to do Y, but before that I'd like to receive your confirmation of our rates (you can do so by signing our attached rates sheet). No point in wasting your time and mine if we are not on the same page about rates and terms of payment..."
usually suffices.

Of course there are prospects that insist they need to see the results of the test (or whatever) before even discussing rates. Usually there is no point in even answering them in such instances, as prospects that act like that would undoubtedly try to impose their own (invariably very low) rates.

Translators (and other freelancers) would do better if they remembered that

  1. It is the supplier (and not the purchaser), who sets the rates
  2. The purchaser is always free to accept the rates offered, try to negotiate them, or reject them


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:17
Member
English to Italian
Context Mar 1, 2016

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:

Translators (and other freelancers) would do better if they remembered that

  1. It is the supplier (and not the purchaser), who sets the rates
  2. The purchaser is always free to accept the rates offered, try to negotiate them, or reject them


Yours is definitely good and sensible advice, Riccardo, however, I also believe that in translation context is all-important. In this specific case, context means language pair, specialization, experience, certifications, published/acknowledged works, and all of the others elements that may strengthen/weaken your position and bargaining power.


 

Wilsonn Perez Reyes  Identity Verified
El Salvador
Local time: 12:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Third-world countries Mar 1, 2016


... and do not live in a third world country, ...


Probably you should move to a third-world country.


 

Anna Poppe  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:17
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Mar 1, 2016

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:
You started on the wrong foot. It should be you setting the rates. Let your prospects make a counter-offer, then you can consider whether to accept the counter-offer, negotiate further, or drop the prospect.

If you wait for your prospect to offer you a rate, you are bound to be disappointed.



[Edited at 2016-02-29 21:45 GMT]


I totally agree, Riccardo. In some cases, however, the agency's offer war already a counter-offer.

Thanks so much to Sheila and all the others for the valuable advise!


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:17
Member (2014)
English to German
I agree Mar 1, 2016

Some agencies appear to have decided on their rates and tell you quite bluntly what they will pay you, e.g. this is the rate for this job as it is calculated according to the client's budget.

Generally, the rates of such agencies are below the rates I can accept, and as I find such an approach quite rude I tend to move on and not wast more time.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:17
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Price negotiation is a perfectly normal practice Mar 1, 2016

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:

Anna Poppe wrote:

their offered rates are ridiculously low ...

I know that I basically have 2 options:

a) Give them my counter-offer
b) Bite the bullet and accept some low paid work while continuing to look for direct clients and/or better paying agencies



You started on the wrong foot. It should be you setting the rates. Let your prospects make a counter-offer, then you can consider whether to accept the counter-offer, negotiate further, or drop the prospect.

If you wait for your prospect to offer you a rate, you are bound to be disappointed.



[Edited at 2016-02-29 21:45 GMT]


I do agree. However I heard straight from the horse's mouth that in some agencies, the policy is to systematically make the translator knock a cent or two off their rate. The horse in question was a young translator I had mentored. She was hired as a PM and was told she would get a bonus if she managed to save the firm a certain amount of money. When she asked me for a quote, I gave a higher rate than I would normally quote for an agency. I then let her gently bully me into dropping a couple of cents. She got her bonus, I got my normal rate and the client got a decent translationicon_wink.gif

Price negotiation is a perfectly normal practice in many lines of business, so it's best to assume it's going to happen.


 

Adrien Esparron
Local time: 20:17
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
One recent experience Mar 1, 2016

Gabriele Demuth wrote:

Some agencies appear to have decided on their rates and tell you quite bluntly what they will pay you...



Right, it happens very often. You are translating to German, so you will understand the following I recieved some days ago :

Ihre Preisvorstellungen erscheinen uns zu hoch - zu diesen Wortpreisen könnten wir Ihnen kaum bis gar keine Aufträge zur Verfügung stellen, da wir sehr viele Kolleginnen und Kollegen unter Vertrag haben, die zu einem günstigeren Preis arbeiten.
Wir möchten Ihnen daher folgende Preise anbieten:
7,5 ct. pro Wort
Zu diesen Konditionen wären wir in der Lage Ihnen eine attraktive Menge an Aufträgen zu bieten.


Ridiculous, indeed! Written by a "normal" German agency in Germany...

Welcome to Hell!

For the non German speakers (summary) : your rates are too high ... we can offer 7.5 cts/word ... a lot of colleagues are working under your conditions... if you accept our conditions, we will be able to offer you a lot of attractive contracts...

La messe est dite !


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:17
Member (2014)
English to German
At Adrien Mar 1, 2016

Yes, but your example I still consider a conversation ... I am sure you could push them higher and each project is different ...

They are trying to get the best price for themselves and if they are a good agency I don't think this would be true? And if not, I wouldn't really want to work with them anyway.

[Edited at 2016-03-01 10:57 GMT]


 
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