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Solution to the Translation Rate and Quality Issue
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:50
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 13, 2008

The debates, discussions and ranting about rates and quality have been going on for years and little has changed. All of this information presents a very poor image to clients and to potential new translators. We are a large and diverse group living with a variety of economic and cultural realities and we will never agree on exactly what constitutes a fair and just rate.

What I do believe that most of us agree upon, however, is that we are tired of discussing and arguing about this issue and that something needs to be done. Many of us have expressed our concern that outsourcers may be taking advantage of naïve translators and that clients may not be receiving the quality they deserve (or are not aware of what they should/could be receiving).

Understandably, ProZ wants to keep translators happy, but at the same time, the site does not want to alienate outsourcers or enter a potential legal situation related to price fixing. Therefore, I would like to propose the following possible solution as a starting point. Feel free to elaborate or expand on (or shoot down) this idea at your discretion.

In an effort to offer some kind of starting point, I suggest that ProZ create a special section of the site (not a discussion forum, but a series of well-written articles/promotional pieces) dedicated to pricing and quality issues. In addition to appearing on the home page (in a very visible location), a link to this section would also appear on every job posting. Clients outside the translation industry (non-agencies) who log into ProZ (to search the directory) or browse the internet would be directed to read this section of ProZ first. New translators who join ProZ would also be directed to this section at the time they sign up. If people choose to ignore it, there is nothing we can do, but at least the information is there.

Let me be clear - this area would not attempt to regulate rates or mention any specific numbers or companies at all, but merely consolidate and present positive articles and information about translation rates and quality (written by ProZ members or links to articles on other sites) in an effort to educate both translators and potential clients about the hidden dangers of low-cost and low-quality translation work and help consumers and new translators make better informed choices. (The fact that some translators live in areas where the cost-of-living is lower and can therefore charge less would also be discussed in a positive manner). We are not necessarily creating anything new as the information already exists (in the form of knowledge articles and postings in the forums and elsewhere on the net), but my suggestion is to consolidate it so that this information is easy to find and read in one place. This would also put an end to the need for future discussions about rates and quality since people and clients could be directed to this section.

Translators would be free to place a link to this section on their profile pages and/or their websites (increased publicity for ProZ). It could even possibly be integrated into the ProZ professional guidelines.

The main point is that the information must be centralized (available in one section), prominent and easy to find, positive and not derogatory towards any particular country, type of provider, etc. In this manner, ProZ could become part of the solution. Vendors would still be free to ask for whatever rates they want, but it would be akin to setting up a booth selling generic or cheap goods outside a high-end store offering quality products.

As I said, feel free to elaborate or expand on (or shoot down) this idea at your discretion (and/or translate it for other non-English forum sections). We are a large group and there will never be a complete consensus, but I believe that this would a positive start.


[Edited at 2008-08-13 17:48]


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Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:50
Member (2002)
English to German
Nice Aug 13, 2008

Hi Jeff,

I really like this idea and it would be great if ProZ actually implemented it.

Maybe we could make the rate statistics part of this information. Again, not to fix prices but I think that this chart is a valuable piece of information for new colleagues (how often have we had the question "how much should I charge?") as well as outsourcers (who just might not know at all what rates are being paid in the industry).
This graph would give both of them an indication.

So long

Andy

www.interlations.com


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Salima Post
United States
Local time: 08:50
English to French
Great idea! Aug 13, 2008

The only thing I have to say is that is a great idea.

I hope that Proz.com will implement this very soon. As you say it clearly "something has to be done" and this is the right place for doing it.


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Jose Ruivo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:50
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Post rates experienced translators charge Aug 13, 2008

I believe that a good way to inform naive translators at the begining of their carrers, would be to publicly show the rates that experienced translators normally charge.

Say, members of ProZ.com with more than a certain number of years experience - 5 ? - would be invited to post publicly the rates they normally charge.

This would be a good starting point as reference, for both outsourcers and inexperienced translators.

Naturally, I'd be happy to post my "normal" rates: 0.085 euros, or 0.12 usd, per source English word, into European Portuguese.

Regards,
Jose


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:50
English to French
+ ...
Jose's solution is good, but... Aug 13, 2008

I have already thought of what you are proposing, Jose. I have experience and I don't display my rates.

I am unwilling to display my rates because they vary depending on project specifics. For example, the per word rate for an MSDS is much higher than the per word rate for a compressor manual. I would have hoped all of us perceive per word rates in this manner, that is, we don't use the same rate for all work. But I realize that I am doing something different from what the crowd does. Whether I am special or whether it is the crowd that contains too high a percentage of people who don't know how to do business is a mystery. But I think I am better off than those who charge the same rate for pretty much everything.

You already know that you never have the same output on all jobs. For example, my peak speed so far is 1200 words per hour, while the other end of the spectrum was 15 words per hour (these values are evened out over the total duration of a project). If I was to charge, for example, ten cents per word for both, I would be actually paying to work in the second case, and paying heavily.

After a while translating, I realized that my services shouldn't be sold by the word, but rather by the hour. Oursourcers still want to pay by the word, so I convert my hourly rate into a per word rate, by taking into account the project specifics (target hourly rate ($) : projected hourly output (words) = per word rate quoted; it takes a minute to make the calculation and I am always within two dollars of my target hourly rate give or take, so it works out great). They're happy, I'm happy. Of course, this means I never have the same per word rate. And this is why I never display my rates publicly - there are just too many of them.

I think that instead of focusing on rates, we should concentrate on a target income figure. Newbies should figure out for themselves how much they would like to earn (based on what they were taught at school was the average yearly income for their geographic region) and be aware that it is not because the rates "offered" in ProZ job posts are often inferior to what they would like to earn that they should accept them. They need to know that it is possible to achieve your target rate if you take care of it from the start. They need to know that most of the time, ProZ job posters are just trying them on. They need to know that the clients depend on them and not the other way around.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Absolutely agree - in principle Aug 13, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
Oursourcers still want to pay by the word, so I convert my hourly rate into a per word rate, by taking into account the project specifics (target hourly rate ($) : projected hourly output (words) = per word rate quoted; it takes a minute to make the calculation and I am always within two dollars of my target hourly rate give or take, so it works out great). They're happy, I'm happy.


I wholeheartedly agree with the philosophy and the reasoning. And I wouldn't advocate reporting "one flat rate" either.

However, a lot of translators have the [place prefix here]fortune of working with agencies, and agencies are not usually very happy about changing the rate on every project they offer you.

I imagine some translators (such as myself) work with certain agencies only on certain kinds of projects and/or for specific end clients, in which case the material is relatively similar for almost every job. So that's a prime example of where the translator may have a pre-specified rate which has been understood and accepted by both parties.

I don't see anything wrong, however, in potentially stating a range of rates.

After all, if any information about rates were to be given at all, it would have to be specific for language pair, possibly per residence (country) of the linguist, also field/nature of text, etc. So I don't see why this couldn't (or wouldn't intrinsically) contain a range of rates.

Don't ask me how to sort them though, I'll leave that organizational nightmare to others, if and when it may come about.

[Edited at 2008-08-13 18:39]


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Jose Ruivo  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:50
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
*Normal* is not everything Aug 13, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
I am unwilling to display my rates because they vary depending on project specifics. For example, the per word rate for an MSDS is much higher than the per word rate for a compressor manual.


Hi Viktoria,

I believe I understand your point, and often charge diferent per word rates, lower for easier jobs that allow me to translate more words per hour, higher for the opposite situation.

That's why I wrote "normal" rates, same way as ProZ.com asks us what's our lowest rate per word, and our highest rate per word - at least from what I remember when I filled in that part.

Besides, again from what I remember, I believe there's also a place to enter a rate per hour - and you could fill-in that, which is still a good guide, without specifying a rate per word, if you decide not to do so.

Best,
Jose


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:50
English to French
+ ...
Great minds think alike Aug 13, 2008

You are right, Jose. Your average rate and hourly rate can both be used. However, in practice, things are a bit different.

If I post an average rate of, say, fifteen cents, how will I explain to a potential client that I will charge twenty cents per word for their MSDS? "But your profile says fifteen cents..." Never mind that they know very well that that rate is only an average. People try you on, and when they try me on, it's the end of negotiations. That's a lot of negotiations gone wrong, and I don't want to spend my time negotiating without coming to a conclusion. I would be wasting my time. You want to know my rate? Contact me and I'll tell you what it is for that specific project. You don't like it? Have a nice day, Sir, and best of luck finding the perfect quality/price ratio.

The hourly rate is another problem. If you are a fast translator, then your hourly rate (if it was converted from your per word rate) is likely much higher than other translators'. You will come off as expensive even though you are not (you may charge $50 per hour, but you will provide the translation within 3 hours; others charge $35 per hour, but they will deliver only within 10 hours - who's most expensive?). You are then likely not going to get nearly as many offers as others.

This is why I have always favored plain old negotiation behind closed doors. By extension, this is why I never visit the job board (ain't nobody there looking to negotiate).


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
(almost) point-by-point rely Aug 14, 2008

"The debates, discussions and ranting about rates and quality have been going on for years and little has changed. "

One thing has changed though, rates have dropped markedly, whether that's becuase the dollar is weaker, which affects some of my language pairs, or becuase some countries are in recession. Or maybe it's all those factors + ProZ?

"... we will never agree on exactly what constitutes a fair and just rate. "

Because our circumstances differ hugely, but crudely described we can refer to language pairs that are common (easy entry, competition from amateurs*/non-natives*), language pairs that are uncommon, cost of living in different countries)

*I'm particularly affected by non-natives becuase there's a "culture" in Spain of what is called "inverse translation" , a subject taught in the translation faculties. That said, in all fairness, I've come across many VERY bad translations written by natives (amateur translators) ....I stopped editing them years ago.


"concern that outsourcers may be taking advantage of naïve translator"

Not sure what you mean: people entering the field or people allowing themselves to have rates and conditions dictated to them ?

"clients may not be receiving the quality they deserve (or are not aware of what they should/could be receiving)"

I'm pretty sure that a lot aren't (my experience), but also I'm pretty sure that a lot of them don't care, and that there's minority that simply don't know.

"In an effort to offer some kind of starting point, I suggest that ProZ create a special section of the site (not a discussion forum, but a series of well-written articles/promotional pieces) dedicated to pricing and quality issues. In addition to appearing on the home page (in a very visible location), a link to this section would also appear on every job posting. Clients outside the translation industry (non-agencies) who log into ProZ (to search the directory) or browse the internet would be directed to read this section of ProZ first. New translators who join ProZ would also be directed to this section at the time they sign up. If people choose to ignore it, there is nothing we can do, but at least the information is there."

Good idea in principle ... for "principled clients" and "eager" (in the professional sense) newbies. But I have a feeling that noone who seriously knows what translation quality is about is going to look for translators in ProZ, I was member 7000 or so, I was there since nearly the beginnings, and I have seen how the really serious pros have departed in droves. Just the other day I ran a check on who was answering Qs to En in one of my language pairs, and it seems that native speakers have simply deserted Es-EN altogether. They may still be checking out jobs, but I doubt that they'll accept work at 3.5 dollar cents a word..

"... effort to educate both translators and potential clients about the hidden dangers of low-cost and low-quality translation work and help consumers and new translators make better informed choices. "

Are you being realistic? I think that low cost is why people deliberately come to ProZ, whether they expect higher or lower quality is another issue, becuase what seems to be happening in proZ is that there is a downward pressure on prices, and ultimately this means that outsourcers can expect the same or better quality for less than what they paid a few years back. My impressions only--but I'm absolutely staggered at most of the rates that are being offered recently for my combinations,: my cleaning lady earns more.

"(The fact that some translators live in areas where the cost-of-living is lower and can therefore charge less would also be discussed in a positive manner).

This is certainly a variable that affects some language pairs. It's a very complex issue that really needs to be examined on a pair-by-pair basis fro the major languages, and taking into account less typical pairs. It also needs to address the native/non-native issues, becuase this is very much affected by location and by language knowledge.

" put an end to the need for future discussions about rates and quality since people and clients could be directed to this section. "

Rates is indeed a popular topic, but the quality issue is a very vague one altogether. In the forums, it is evident that people who have become "well-established" actually aren't actively looking for clients! Least of all in ProZ (my impression), least of all at ProZ rates.





[Edited at 2008-08-13 17:48] [/quote]

[Edited at 2008-08-14 02:20]


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Drew MacFadyen
Local time: 08:50
SITE STAFF
Great suggestion - Wiki entry on the topic started - please add to it Aug 14, 2008

Great thread. The centralized area for sharing articles and resources and informed opinion on these matters is the ProZWiki. The Wiki is just getting off the ground, but you will see much more promotion in the coming weeks - including articles and links on the home page.

I have borrowed many of your comments and informed opinions to populate the ProZWiki on Rates and Quality along with some detail from the US Dept of Labor here
http://www.proz.com/prozwiki/en:Translation_Rates

The Wiki is a resource for translators by translators.

Please take a moment to add your comments to the Wiki. And keep the suggestions coming.

Regards,

Drew MacFadyen


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:50
English to French
+ ...
Thanks, Drew Aug 14, 2008

Thank you for the article you posted. I already edited it a bit and hope that others will contribute.

Nice job!


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:50
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Awesome! Aug 14, 2008

This is awesome. Thanks! I will definitely contribute as soon as I am finished with the large job I am working on.


Drew MacFadyen wrote:



I have borrowed many of your comments and informed opinions to populate the ProZWiki on Rates and Quality along with some detail from the US Dept of Labor here
http://www.proz.com/prozwiki/en:Translation_Rates




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