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Rates - is the bottom rising?
Thread poster: José Henrique Lamensdorf

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:31
English to Portuguese
+ ...
May 5, 2009

Today I received an e-mail from a firm in the Far East whose mission statement (as quoted from that message) reads like this:
XXX is a back-office translations provider. We deal only with Translation Agencies, never with the client directly. This enables us to focus less on marketing, more on our main competency, which is turning out fast, accurate and dependable translation work for our clients, translation agencies just like you.


(Btw, I'm not a translation agency.)

Then I checked the rates on their web site - what they charge to their clients, supposedly agencies:
Current Rates
SERVICE / RATE
Translation (standard) / US$0.45-0.055 per word
Translation (technical) / US$0.45-0.075 per word


If I am envisioning correctly the translation supply chain, these guys are wholesalers, while the standard translation agencies are retailers. For the sake of the present argument, it doesn't matter if they are running a global sweat shop, nor that it will mean one extra hop each way in the process every time any issue comes up.

The point I'm trying to make here is that if wholesale is offering translation at $ 0.045/word minimum, it doesn't make sense any longer for a regular "retail" translation agency to offer occasional small and midsize jobs directly to freelance translators below US$ 0.05/word as some of them have been doing.

Bearing in mind that I'm not discussing quality, does this make sense?

If it does, is it reason to celebrate?

It never got so bad for us, translators, but once I was told by an executive that If we shift our software development from the USA to the Far East, its overall cost will drop by 90%.


 

Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 13:31
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Am I reading this right? May 5, 2009

I am not entirely sure of the supply chain, but I would sure like to see the end product here...

[Edited at 2009-05-05 11:54 GMT]


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:31
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
A later note May 5, 2009

I've been warned by some colleagues, to whom I sent the link in private - guess I'm not allowed to post it here though it was not a job posted on Proz.

I had copy&pasted the rates from their site. I suppose they meant:
Current Rates
SERVICE / RATE
Translation (standard) / US$0.045-0.055 per word
Translation (technical) / US$0.045-0.075 per word


(my corrections are in bold)

However my argument here is that the 3¢/word translation jobs either had their rates upgraded, or were moved down to free automatic translation.

I don't care how much these guys actually pay their translators, probably less than 3¢/w, but I think every time less people will work occasionally for agencies with ritzy web sites and geographical locations for such low rates.


 

Kathryn Sanderson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:31
French to English
Can you clarify your last point? May 5, 2009

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote
I don't care how much these guys actually pay their translators, probably less than 3¢/w, but I think every time less people will work occasionally for agencies with ritzy web sites and geographical locations for such low rates.


I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. That fewer translators will work for fancy sites based in expensive countries, if those sites only pay 3 cents/word? I think your larger point is that low rates for translators in cheaper countries will drive the rates down worldwide, but fewer and fewer translators will be willing to work for those rates. And then......

Am I correct? It's a scary scenario any way you look at it.


Kathryn


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:31
Member (2004)
English to Italian
bottom rising... May 5, 2009

translators' bottoms spring to mind...

G


 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 13:31
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Not mine... May 5, 2009

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:
translators' bottoms spring to mind...
G

I would not raise mine at this rate...icon_smile.gif


 

foghorn
English to Turkish
+ ...
Jolly good! May 5, 2009

Oleg Rudavin wrote:

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:
translators' bottoms spring to mind...
G

I would not raise mine at this rate...icon_smile.gif


...but some people just can't help themselves!


 

KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:31
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Bottoms up! May 5, 2009

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:
translators' bottoms spring to mind...


Indeed.


 

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:31
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I don't at all understand your point, José May 5, 2009

What is good about wholesalers who provide translations to agencies at such low rates? Where on earth do they get the translations from anyway? When I outsource, I find my selected colleagues are quite expensive (and obviously I pay their prices, and charge my end clients accordingly).

Astrid


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:31
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Clarification May 5, 2009

Kathryn Sanderson wrote:
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. That fewer translators will work for fancy sites based in expensive countries, if those sites only pay 3 cents/word? I think your larger point is that low rates for translators in cheaper countries will drive the rates down worldwide, but fewer and fewer translators will be willing to work for those rates. And then......
Am I correct? It's a scary scenario any way you look at it.


I mean that anyone hiring the fancier-looking translation agencies will no longer tolerate 5¢ and below quality. Even if these agencies outsource to "peers" located far, far in the East to get them - so they can reassign blame and demand remedy if the quality is as miserable as expected - they won't get the job done for less than 5¢/word.

This means that - if I am correct - we will see less and less specific jobs posted on Proz & alikes for 5¢/w or less. These sweat shops self-labeled as back offices will go after all cheap translators they can get hold of, creating a bottom-end market of their own, to which the "ritzy" agencies won't have access. These poor guys will be pounding the keyboard nonstop, no time to discuss jobs with PMs, just keep 'em comin'.

This coincides with a recent growth in demand for fixing/redoing extremely bad translations, confirmed by a couple of colleagues in my pair. End-clients are getting wary, and not tolerating it any more.

The envisioned result is the developmemnt of a "gap" between the bottom-end group of agencies/translators and the lowest "acceptable" ones. If it was difficult to draw the line, there will be a void there, no line is needed. Wondering about what that line divides? I'll explain it. Crossing the line was something that happened when, for instance, a worldwide mega-corporation hired, say, an unfortunately greedy translation in Manhattan to translate their stuff, and the latter got the job got done for, say 3¢/w.

If sweat shops are raising their rates to 4.5¢/word minimum, that's an improvement!


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:31
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Trying again May 5, 2009

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
What is good about wholesalers who provide translations to agencies at such low rates? Where on earth do they get the translations from anyway? When I outsource, I find my selected colleagues are quite expensive (and obviously I pay their prices, and charge my end clients accordingly).


If a wholesaler translation sweat shop sets their minimum price close to 5¢, possibly paying 2.5¢ to their laborers, it's an improvement from the not so distant days when they charged 3¢ from the agency, and paid 1¢ to the translator.

When such a laborer sees a job offer from a "ritzy-looking" agency - not a sweat shop - offering under 4.5¢ they'll say no!, which will tend to lift the minimum price for translation anywhere. Until recently, now and then we saw jobs offered on Proz for 1¢/word or a fraction thereof. No more, and the difference is considerable.

I'm not saying that this will lift the top rates altogether, but it narrows the overall range, which is good.

I think these ridiculously low prices appearing here and there are what belittles the value of our profession. Some unwary people see that once, and their minds record the fact that translation is cheap.

If the 1¢/w jobs exist chances are people might see them and think that translation is something very cheap. That's why now and then a prospect gets outraged upon being offered pretty normal rates for translation.

Now, if the lowest rate they ever see anywhere for translation is about five times that much, they'll be willing to pay more to get a decent job.

In numbers, to make it very clear. Anyone who ever saw that a translation for 1¢ exists, will strongly resent being charged 5¢ for it. However if the lowest they have seen is 4.5¢, they'd expect a good translation job to cost around 10¢. This was my point.


 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 13:31
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
The market is getting structured May 5, 2009

Taking a more serious note, that's indeed a current phenomenon: clients, outsourcers and translators starting to understand that cheap and good are not synonyms and in many cases, antonyms.

Globalization will inevitably level out the market, at least in certain - disperced - language combinations. (By dispersed I mean combinations in which most providers are concentrated in different, often numerous, countries. EN into RU or EN into ESP are good examples: there are RU translators working from probably twenty or thirty countries, and ESP translator can be found both in Spain and LA. In non-dispersed pairs - take DE into FI as an example - the impact of globalization will not be as severe).

Natural instinct (call it cost reduction if you want) pushes any outsourcer towards the cheapest choice BUT it regularly turns out the cheapest often means the worst. (Incidentally, no amount of reasoning will do the trick; it's only on the basis of real-life experience that outsourcers realize: cheap can occasionally give perfect results, but the general rule is buy cheap = get rubbish). The lesson is learned: the bottom rate, which was approaching $US 0.03 or even 0.02 a year ago, is now rising - not yet to what we would like to have as our "basic rate" but it does!

Whether tre trend continues or not remains to be seen

Cheers,
Oleg


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:31
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You got the idea, Oleg! May 5, 2009

I wouldn't have dared to extrapolate such trend, but as you did it first, I'll do it now.

Translation via Internet is an ubiquitous profession. To a considerable extent, it doesn't matter so much where you are doing it.

So as broadband developed worldwide, all the cost-of-living imbalances became noticeable among translators. Now, as you say, the translation market is finally getting structured.


 

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:31
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Have you noticed such a trend on an unmistakable scale? May 5, 2009

I am quite interested, if that is the case. However, it is scarcely a week since someone offered me work (DE-EN) - for the first time ever - at the rate of very marginally over EUR 0.01 per source word. Needless to say, I had no interest in the matter. However, I do not doubt for a moment that someone was found to do the work.

As for local end clients here, I am finding that one or two wish that I would drop my prices this year - although most of them are paying the usual rates without complaining. Those that wish I would drop my prices tend to go elsewhere when I quote them the "usual" rate, that they paid last year or the year before, but always come back enquiring again the next time - and again go elsewhere when I do not offer them a cheaper price. I have not been observing the phenomenon for long enough to know what happens in the end.

If the market is becoming more clearly divided into playing areas of cheap, medium and expensive, then I would have supposed that the range of rates acceptable in one of those playing areas should not really have anything to do with the range in another area. Or am I wrong about that?



[Edited at 2009-05-06 07:37 GMT]


 

Kathryn Sanderson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:31
French to English
I'm glad I asked... May 5, 2009

I had things backwards. Thanks for clarifying! Now I see your scenario as hopeful rather than scary. Let's hope it really is a trend.

Kathryn


 
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