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"Price MUST be quoted before seeing document"
Thread poster: Astrid Elke Witte

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:28
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Aug 21, 2008

Dear Colleagues,

For the first time in three years, things appear to be a little bit slack this month, and I have been taking the opportunity to contact various agencies, in order to expand the range of clients for whom I work. In doing so, I have come up against an extraordinary problem. Previously when I have received and answered an enquiry from anybody, including an agency, I have always politely explained that I have to see the document first before I can quote a price. Now suddenly the agencies (many of them) seem to insist that a price MUST be quoted first, before seeing the document. Is this a new trendy practice? Common excuses given include the "confidentiality" one, that the dear end client will only permit the translator who is finally awarded the contract to set eyes on their precious document. What do you all think of this? How many people are giving in to this practice and issuing a blind quote?

Astrid


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Hepburn  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:28
English to French
+ ...
No signed PO: no tie Aug 21, 2008

I often ask to see the document first and so far no one has refused.
If you quote without seing the document, that still leaves you free not to tackle a translation that is beyond your capabilities. Particularly so, if the agency has refused to let you see the document first.

That is my opinion. I may be wrong of course.


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xxxUSER0059  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 14:28
English to Finnish
+ ...
No blind quotes Aug 21, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Now suddenly the agencies (many of them) seem to insist that a price MUST be quoted first, before seeing the document.


What do you all think of this? How many people are giving in to this practice and issuing a blind quote?


Demanding blind quotes is unjust. My clients receive a non-binding statement as to my price range, and a request for the source text.

Claudette Hepburn wrote:

If you quote without seing the document, that still leaves you free not to tackle a translation that is beyond your capabilities.


Some terms of service include such a provision. However, I believe that otherwise, save for really unreasonable circumstances, one would be bound by one's quote. Anyhow, I would not take the risk.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
no problem Aug 21, 2008

Just mention that your quote is unbinding until you will have seen the documents.
Such agencies are very likely to be too "economic" to send out material to translators whom they could not afford anyway, and for you this has the advantage that you can filter out most of the lowballers even before you waste your time to elaborate any binding quote.


[Edited at 2008-08-21 07:35]


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:28
French to English
+ ...
A telling response Aug 21, 2008

Hi Astrid,

IMHO, such a response foreshadows what is to come in working for such an organization...

And it should help you sort with which ones you would indeed like to envisage a professional relationship!

Cheers,

Patricia


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:28
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I agree Aug 21, 2008

Patricia Lane wrote:

Hi Astrid,

IMHO, such a response foreshadows what is to come in working for such an organization...

And it should help you sort with which ones you would indeed like to envisage a professional relationship!

Cheers,

Patricia


I agree with Patricia and Harry, send a non-binding quote that is conditional on seeing the text, but don't expect much from this agency. If that's how they behave before any relationship has yet been established, it doesn't bode well for the future.
Best wishes,
Jenny


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:28
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My response Aug 21, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
Now suddenly the agencies (many of them) seem to insist that a price MUST be quoted first, before seeing the document. Is this a new trendy practice?


I've never had this. What I have had is that new clients insist that I sign and fax back an NDA before they're willing to let me see the document, even if it is a very urgent job. Well, in case, the job was so urgent that the client sent the document and the NDA in the same e-mail but the point is that the confidentiality issue can be resolved using a signed and faxed NDA.

How many people are giving in to this practice and issuing a blind quote?


The real question is whether it is ethical for a translator to quote blindly. Most translators' codes of ethics state that translators will not accept jobs that are beyond their capabilities, or something similar.

Or, to protect yourself, you can make sure that you're careful with your wording. If you are "quoting" via e-mail, ensure that you don't say "I will do it for X" but rather "my usual rate for such texts is X". If the client insists that you send a formal quote (in other words, a Word or PDF file) make sure it says "provisional quote" at the top, and/or put a condition into the quote that you reserve the right to refuse the offer if the task turns out to be beyond your capabilities.

I'm no lawyer, however, and I'm not sure how binding a quote is and how much leeway one possibly can build into a quote.

For example, if I ask for quotes from guys to dig a hole in my garden, I may get several quotes but the fact is that no-one knows what is underneath my lawn and it is impossible to determine beforehand if the hole is in fact diggable. I don't think I could hold a quoter liable if he is unable to dig the hole due to certain unforseseen circumstances (eg if there is a slab of concrete at 2 feet's depth that neither of us knew about).


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:28
Dutch to English
+ ...
Precisely Aug 21, 2008

Patricia Lane wrote:

Hi Astrid,

IMHO, such a response foreshadows what is to come in working for such an organization...

And it should help you sort with which ones you would indeed like to envisage a professional relationship!

Cheers,

Patricia


And FWIW, to make them feel better, they could always have you sign a simple NDA upfront.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:28
English to German
+ ...
No quote without having examined the document(s) Aug 21, 2008

Good morning, Astrid and all,
This happens regularly, particularly with direct clients ("I have a ten-page contract - how much is that, and how quickly can you do it?") - mostly, they understand when you explain that you need to examine the document(s) first.

For those who specifically ask about a per-word or per-line price, I quote our standard pricing range as an indication (clearly marked as such).

Best, Ralf


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:28
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
What if it is full of hidden formatting and tables? Aug 21, 2008

No way!

I have to know what I am quoting for.

Otherwise, as suggested above, you can say it is not binding until you have seen the document, or add that you charge for formatting, Power Point etc. by the hour in addition to your rate per thousand words or however you quote.

If it is a decent agency, they will say: 'of course, so be it.'
If not, then do you really want to work for them?



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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:28
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all your replies Aug 21, 2008

Yes, it sounds like a good idea to offer to sign an NDA if they bring up the confidentiality objection.

Otherwise, as you all suggest, with new enquirers I will stress that any price mentioned can only be a rough guide until I have seen the document.

I realise, however, why I have so few agency customers these days. What I used to do, a few years back, was to enter myself into agencies' databases, via their web sites, stating a fixed price per word for which I would translate any document at all. I believe this is still a prevalent practice and that many translators do the same.

I have not been keeping an eye on the market, because most of the time I am kept so busy with my handful of end clients. However, they are all on holiday at the moment. Nonetheless, regular end clients also expect to be charged the same price automatically each time they send me a document for translation. This expectation is very prominent, among both agencies and end clients. This leads me to believe that individual quotes, given in the professional manner according to the nature and complexity of the document, as well as whether it is a Word or .pdf document and how legible such a .pdf is, have to be reserved for occasional customers, who only happen to want one translation and not another one in the near future. Is this true? Even the lawyers I work for require a fixed price - which is somewhat understandable if the work comes in from them every day. However, in the case of regular customers, I know in advance what their documents usually consist of and can determine how long they will take me and how much per hour I will earn. I suppose this is why many translators give a regular fixed price to agencies. Would that be the case? It has occurred to me that anyone insisting on doing things professionally could well go out of business. For example, if I said to my regular end clients, "From now on I will make you a separate offer each time, depending on what your document looks like", I think I would have no customers left by next week.

Conclusion: it is absolutely necessary to operate unprofessionally, i.e. to give everyone a fixed price in advance that will last a couple of years at least, in order to stay in business. That is what the situation really boils down to, isn't it?

Astrid


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xxxUSER0059  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 14:28
English to Finnish
+ ...
Quotes are not only about price Aug 21, 2008

It should be noted that even if a universal rate has been agreed upon in advance, a quote may be needed in order to bind the translator to a specific job, and to a specific delivery time.

[Edited at 2008-08-21 08:55]


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FHvastija
Slovenia
Local time: 13:28
English to Slovenian
+ ...
It makes sense Aug 21, 2008

As someone who works both as a freelancer and as an outsourcer, I have to say it does make sense.

For example, if I need a translation done for a random language, I might get 15-20 quotes. For an average rate for the language is around 0.07 eur/word, you'd be surprised what people ask for.

Someone may offer to do the job for 0.03, and another freelancer might ask for 0.12. Therefore, I also ask for a quote without bothering to transfer files in order to cut out the unrealistic quotes, but I am aware that the price may change somewhat depending on the project.


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:28
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
How many different prices do you need? Aug 21, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Conclusion: it is absolutely necessary to operate unprofessionally, i.e. to give everyone a fixed price in advance that will last a couple of years at least, in order to stay in business. That is what the situation really boils down to, isn't it?



What is wrong with having a fixed price and then a list of surcharges (for urgent documents, pdf, Excel, PowerPoint, or more complex/technical texts)? It is much easier for the client to understand and estimate in advance how much you will probably charge (and, therefore, whether they want to afford your prices for this particular job). Obviously, it's up to you to decide on seeing the document whether it's complex or not, but surely the first issue is whether you are capable/want to do the translation or not, and you cannot decide that without seeing it.


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Jacques DP  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 13:28
Member (2003)
English to French
What I do Aug 21, 2008

I can understand that an agency sometimes wants a quote before sending the document, for various reasons (document not ready yet, desire to get a rough idea before engaging in more interaction...).

Demanding that everything be ready so that you can provide your quote can slow the whole process.

What I do in that case is to provide a quote (possibly listing a few of the assumptions on which it rests), and then I add at the end that final confirmation will be given upon receipt of the document.

That speeds things up, makes everyone happy and keeps you on the safe side.

Rarely do I then revise the quote when receiving the document, because by now I usually know what to expect, and also because I do show some flexibility. I don't need to get the exact same hourly yield every time; I just make sure the average is satisfactoy (and I ALWAYS calculate and record it at the end of the job, so that I make sure I don't work with a low yield repeatedly for some client).


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