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Dispute about job size - how can I prevent this from happening again?
Thread poster: fionainrome

Local time: 14:08
English to Italian
+ ...
Apr 28, 2008

I am so mad at the "boss" of the company I regularly work for. About ten days ago she told me over the phone she had about 50 short translations coming in over the next few months and that she would be paying me 25 euros net per typewritten page ("cartella", for the Italians who are reading, since this is where the company is set and 25 euros net is an almost decent rate here). In fact, she actually called it "form" (“scheda”) the first time, so I specified: "You mean 25 euros net per typewritten page?" and she confirmed that TWICE ( I have become a little paranoid since working in the field and always ask for confirmation of rates more than once). I was just about to go on a week-long holiday, so I did one translation and passed 6 others on to my sister since we had a close deadline (the "boss" knew about this of course). The day before I left, I sent her my first translation and an email asking her to keep count of the typewritten pages my sister would be sending them during the week I was away so I would know how much I owed her.
Well, here comes the best part, when I got back from my holiday I found she had sent me an email (conveniently after the date of my departure) saying I had got it wrong, that she hadn't meant 25 euros net per page but per TRANSLATION (which in no way defines the length of the text, it could be 2 pages like 100!) By the time I read the email, my sister had already sent her 6 translations some of which were 6 type-written pages long (the shortest are about 3)! Have you ever heard of a 6 typewritten page-long translation being paid 25 euros !? That is just over 4 euros per page. Absurd to say the least!
This woman is now on holiday and I have spoken to her partner and told her I will not be taking any more of this translating work. The fact is I also do al lot of decently paid subtitling work for them and I was just not expecting this! How can I prevent her tricking me like this again? Moreover, what do you think I should say to this woman when she returns? I am so tempted to be ill-mannered but don’t want to lose the subtitling work (not for now at least). I am also being pestered (almost bullied) by her partner because she wants me to do two more translations before the deadline (in two days’ time). I told her 25 euros per “translation” is just out of this world and she answered, “we are not even charging our client that much.” She also said the price is lower because I’ll be getting a lot of work from the one client.
I am so angry, I feel I have been made a total fool of and upset that my sister got involved in this too. I would appreciate your opinion on what I should say or do.
Thanks to you all.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-04-28 16:02]


Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:08
Member (2002)
English to German
Don't do it Apr 28, 2008

If you do those two jobs now she will bully you around all the time.
Offer to do them for the price previously agreed and if they refuse, then just don't work for them.
I would also insist on the agreed payment for the work already done.
It's not an option to change rates without your agreement.

Good luck



Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:08
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Stay calm and firm Apr 28, 2008

Invoice your delivered work at once according to your rates and inform them, that this is the price you will invoice in the future too. And stay firm.


gianfranco  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:08
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Always get all details in writing Apr 28, 2008

fionainrome wrote: I specified: "You mean 25 euros net per typewritten page?" and she confirmed that TWICE ( I have become a little paranoid since working in the field and always ask for confirmation of rates more than once)...

Only work for them (or anyone else) after you receive clear confirmation in writing about all projects, rates, payment terms and any other relevant details.
Even a simple email is a binding contract, but it would be better to receive any project detailed in a PO (Purchase Order), or "Ordine di acquisto" or similar document, with the company details in it and issued by the person in charge for assigning work to contractors.

A fixed price for documents of variable length makes no sense, in translation as in any other business.


[Edited at 2008-04-28 16:20]


Yamila Sosa  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:08
English to Spanish
+ ...
Non-compliance Apr 28, 2008

It is obvious the the boss of the company has clearly not complied with what was agreed by both of you previously. If I were you, I would enter into written translation agreements in order to clearly state the terms and conditions of the task to be performed from now onwards. As regards this translation job, I think that you should insist on the rates indicated by you. There is no misunderstanding! How have you been paid before by this company?



Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:08
English to Spanish
+ ...
Makes no sense at all Apr 28, 2008

Work by the word; that's it. One man's (or woman's in this case) page can be a postage stamp or a novel... even worse if they are going by "translation" (well, a more than a bit variable), so the way to avoid that is to set forth the price for each job as it comes in, and not before. If she insists, just tell her no way.


A. Terpecheva  Identity Verified
Member (2007)
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
This price is not an absurd Apr 29, 2008

"Have you ever heard of a 6 typewritten page-long translation being paid 25 euros !? That is just over 4 euros per page. Absurd to say the least!"

Dear Fiona,
I agree with Andy and the other translators that you should stay firm and you should not accept the "new" price but pricing 4 euros per page is not so absurd as it seems. I have seen some posts in other translator sites for 7 euros per page (from Belgium company) and there are many companies offering 0.01 EUR per word which means approximately the same price per page!
Nothing is absurd from my point of view regarding pricing. This is a free market after all but we shouldn't change the payment terms in the middle of the project.
Good luck!


Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:08
French to English
Send an invoice Apr 29, 2008

I suggest that you send an invoice now with the work done so far. I don't speak Italian, but it sounds to me a though you should specify the agreed rate per 'cartella', the number of cartelle (is that the plural?) and the total amount.

Do no more for them until that is paid, or some other compromise is reached with which you are happy.

If you do decide to work for them again in future (personally, I would be disinclined), ensure everytrhing is unequivocally and clearly set down in writing first.

What they are charging their client is irrelevant and IF they are not covering their own costs, unless it is some kind of goodwill gesture, then they are fools and ultimately this is a policy that leads to bankruptcy !

As has oft been discussed on these forums, just because you are doing a lot of work for one customer, that is no reason to do the work more cheaply, translation not generally being a product/service where economies of scale and therefore lower marginal costs apply. Tell her to go boil her headicon_smile.gif


Sandra Petch
Local time: 14:08
French to English
+ ...
Put everything in writing Apr 29, 2008


From reading this and another of your posts about a subtitling job, my advice is to put things in writing before starting a job!

Either get a purchase order that clearly specifies the terms (in particular the number of words), the rate and the delivery date.

Or send a quote and have the client return it to you signed.

I think this is the only way to avoid these misunderstandings.

Hope everything works out for you.


LAURA TAPIA ESCOBAR  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:08
English to Spanish
+ ...

If you are going to work per translation then ask the full amount in advance in that way you agree maybe minimum prices but when the money comes all together then that makes a big difference (at least it motivates you!)

Otherwise work per words, in that way no matter how much it comes out, it will always be per word...

good luck!


Carolin Haase  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:08
English to German
+ ...
Invoice Apr 30, 2008

What came to my mind when I read your post and the comments was: what if you invoiced her for the work done at your usual rate? You invoice all text/lines/words that's over the "cartella"-limit agreed upon, so 25€ for the cartella plus an additional 250 words at your rate. Or invoice her six cartellas for the six pages translated you mentioned above. Would that be feasible?

On the other hand, it might be worth a phone call to smooth things out because this client seems to be important to you. Try to negotiate. Because if you had known that it was 25€ per translation and not, as previously agreed, per cartella, you would not have accepted this deal, right?

[Edited at 2008-04-30 04:44]


Local time: 14:08
English to Italian
+ ...
No way Apr 30, 2008

No way, I would not have accepted. My older sister (who now works in another field) has been asking 25 euros per page for years now and no one ever as much as even tried to lower the rate. Two weeks ago I did a two-page translation for a 100 euros and I know that's a lot, but it just goes to show that no matter what some of you say, 4 euros per page (if the translation is tough it can take you up to one hour to do a page without counting the time you spend to go over the thing) is absolutely ridiculous. An hour of my time and hard work is just not worth 4 euros.
However, I wouldn't be this upset if she had simply stated clearly from the beginning that this was the deal (25 euros per translation, no matter the length). Since I have been working for this company they have done nothing but try to cheat me in every possible way and I don't want to go into details here, but I have come to the point I despise them. Stupidly enough I thought that repeating the rate and conditions twice over the phone would be enough, she just got away with it because I left the following day and my younger sister did all the work and sent it before there could be any "clarification".
You will wonder why I stay with them when I despise them. I can't find any other regular work for now and the subtitling I do for them about two three days a week is half-decently paid.
Those of you who live in Italy will probably know how hard it is to get a job here.
Well this where I'm at. I'm just sad that people out there are prepared to lie through their teeth to pay a few euros less (or pocket a few extra themselves as is this case).
However, I will clearly have everything in writing from now on. That's all I can do.

[Edited at 2008-04-30 11:54]


Local time: 14:08
English to Italian
+ ...

I hope you read this follow-up and answer soon. The woman of this company I work for regularly (the only One I work for regularly though I've tried to get another job) has literally threatened me to lose my subtitling work if I don't accept to do these variable-length translations too (for max 30 euros, she has raised the fee by 5 euros..... wow!) We had an argument and I said that not even picking potatoes (with all due respect) is paid so poorly and that there is no way there can be a fixed rate for a translation which could be 1 or 10 pages long.
I don't want to lose the subtitling work as it is the main income I have, but what can I do?
She yelled at me so much I swear I was almost in tears. And I told her it was ridiculous and that no one would accpet such rates, but she just threatened and threatened.
There are fifty of these translationd from now to June.
I have to give an answer by tomorrow.
Please help.


Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:08
English to German
+ ...
Stop working for this customer May 6, 2008

There's only one sensible answer:
I don't want to lose the subtitling work as it is the main income I have, but what can I do?

Start focusing on other customers, market your services (complete your profile for a start) - and get rid of this customer.



Local time: 14:08
English to Italian
+ ...
How can we stop getting treated this way when we do not have other regular work? May 6, 2008

[quote]Ralf Lemster wrote:

(complete your profile for a start) - and get rid of this customer.

By complete your profile do you mean on this website?
However,I'm finding myself forced to partially accept their work (only 15 of the 50 translations they proposed). Even if they first said it would be 50 and now they're still talking about 50 even though ten have already been done (by my sister, when rates were still what we thought they would be, if you read my first post here you'll know what I mean). I don't know if this still means they'll get rid of me rather than me getting rid of them! My other sister who works in an embassy is apalled by the whole situation and says I shouldn't even accept this! That they'll treat me like dirt if I don't put my foor down and say "no"!
The fact is, if they "dump" me I will only be left with occasional work. I have just started working for another company who pay slightly more than them, but I'm not sure how regular this work will be though some of you say it will be very regular as it's still under-paid. (we're taling subtitles here, not translation per page).
This is giving me a nervous breakdown and I literally broke down in tears at the office today (thankfully no one but the secretary was there) AND they got me to get registered for VAT so I'm not even their employee! I will NOT mention the name of this company, as I know that is against the rules, but they would surely deserve it.
Thanks so much for all your support as it's been more than anyone has been able to give me.
I just can't believe the surprises (bad-ones, that is) never seem to end.
PS. The secretary told me the same job was offered to other 5 translators who all refused. I can't say this to the "boss" as I don't want to get the secretary into trouble... but it just makes me realise how terribly I'm being treated.

[Edited at 2008-05-06 23:02]

[Edited at 2008-05-06 23:06]

[Edited at 2008-05-06 23:56]

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