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Is lowering rates with recession a clever move?
Thread poster: Elizabeth Kelly
Elizabeth Kelly
Ireland
Local time: 09:15
English to German
+ ...
Jul 3, 2009

I know there has been a lot of threads on the low rates and so on, but what I would like to know is, whether any of you have actually lowered yor rates recently in view of the global recession? I have been working as a freelance translator in Ireland for the last 6 years and could never complain about the volume of work. I am still working with the same agencies, but the work flow has slowed down, not to say nearly discontinued. Instead I seem to be getting a lot of queries for proofreading, which makes me wonder...... Therefore I was wondering, is it a clever move to re-negotiate and lower my rates, which, by the way, have not change in the last 6 years. I would be very curious, if anyone has experienced the same situation and what your opinions are on this. Thanks a millon

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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:15
English to Dutch
+ ...
It's your call, but... Jul 3, 2009

...I wouldn't and I don't.
As you already imply, our rates aren't not very affluent as they are, plus, when you do lower them, will they ever go up again?

But the slow business of late is making me nervous too...

However, there is already some recuperation showing in world affairs - the recession won't last very long anymore. I'm sticking to my guns, and see it out.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:15
French to English
In a nutshell - no Jul 3, 2009

But it depends on your reasoning and personal circumstances.

I wondered the same thing myself, to be honest, wrote down my thoughts, and it comes to about 5,000 words! The conclusion I reached was "no". But that is appropriate to my circumstances. I could wack it up on my website if you're interested, on the understanding it is a WIP. And a long WIP at that


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Elizabeth Kelly
Ireland
Local time: 09:15
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Great to hear that Jul 3, 2009

...Jan Willem. I have been sticking to my guns so far, too. Just started to get paranoid lately thinking that maybe I am the only one ;-0

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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 10:15
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Short term: okay, Long term: bad Jul 3, 2009

Meaning, that perhaps you would get some work here and now when lowering your rates, and this would obviously be a good thing, but on the long term you would have a very hard time raising your rates again once this "crisis" is over.

You should also be aware that some agencies/clients try to make the crisis look worse than it actually is. For instance, I have two clients who continue to offer me around 1/3 of my usual per word rate referring to the crisis, but when I tell them that my rate is non-negotiable because it is already quite low, I get what I ask for after only a few minutes of consideration on the part of my clients.

This makes me wonder, you know?
If the crisis has really lowered prices so drastically, howcome my clients can so readily pay me my usual rate when I stand my ground on rates??? And this has been going on for at least 4 months now, and still my clients have not turned to other translators.

As to the increased amount of proofreading jobs, please do yourself a favour and look through the documents before accepting, because there is a higher risk now of receiving sub-standard translations for proofreading, because agencies try to higher cheaper translators.
I have recently had to ask for editing rates in stead of proofreading rates for a number of sub-standard translations within a very short period of time, so just be alert. ;o)

To sum it up - do what you believe is the right thing to do, just remember the long term prospects ;o)


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:15
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Do that, Charlie! Jul 3, 2009

I would love reading it.

Elizabeth, there is no good reason to drop rates under the current circumstances I think, though depending on your situation other strategic changes might be useful.

Consider looking for better agencies or developing relationships with direct clients. I've discovered that a number of companies are bringing their translation management in-house again (1) to save costs and (2) to have more control over the quality. There are simply too many bait and switch games going on with some agencies, and quality is often a roll of the dice, especially with some of the larger LSPs. Given the current economic climate and the need for better quality to sell and survive, companies are more open than ever to cutting out agencies and working directly with translators.

And - just so you remember this - rates paid by direct clients are significantly better. In some cases you can command a better rate than they would pay to an agency if you can deliver good, consistent quality. And in hard times like these quality is more important than ever, and smart companies pay for it and cut corners in less critical areas like "entertainment" fees in the local brothel. (I'm not sure where they stand on this in Wolfsburg these days, but I'm not impressed with the translation policies. Others do better.)

As many here know, I actually prefer to work with good agencies as a matter of convenience, and the good ones more than earn a fat cut of the rate. But I think these LSPs are a minority. I've blown off a lot of chaff to find the golden grains in my basket.


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Peter Berntsen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:15
English to Swedish
+ ...
Improve your services - make a long-term plan! Jul 3, 2009

Lowering prices is not the way to go. On the contrary, improve your cv and your offered services instead, and set as a (long-term) goal to get paid more! Make a long-term plan, from where you are now to where you want to be!

Practical suggestions:

1) Specialize! Check what jobs are posted at Proz and other sites, what do agancies ask for in your language pairs? What do they not get many quotes for? Study fields where you think it pays to know the subject and the terminology.

2) Develop long-term relationships with customers and agencies.

3) Learn the tools! Not only the CAT tools, but also DTP and web tools. The more you understand, the better you can handle web-related and DTP-related translations. Some customers appreciate if the translator can also do part of the DTP work. Another way to get paid more is to simply work faster, by making use of all functions in your tools.

4) Add another service to your company. This of course depends on who you are, what you are interested in and what you are good at, but there is always something that people around you ask for. The more "extras" you have, the less likely you are to run out of work (since different industries and customer segments often are at different places in the cycle, som are hit first but then recover before others).

5) Work with your language(s)! The web is the perfect way to read up on things in both your target and your source language(s). Read similar articles and compare, memorize and make your own little glossaries for areas where you think you can get work.

6) Avoid the translating "spotmarket", that is, do not bid on simple translations that anyone can do and the asker is obviously looking for the lowest possible price.

(I know I am fortunate to have a native language that is pretty small but still has a large demand for translations, but I do hope the above works for most languages.)


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Elizabeth Kelly
Ireland
Local time: 09:15
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I am delighted to see that I am not the only person forced to think about this. Jul 3, 2009

Yes, PCovs, that is exactly what I meant. I have a feeling the agencies get unqualified people to do the translation for half my rate and then want me to improve its quality. So far I have actually turned down these jobs, because I believe that a translation done by a qualified and experienced translator does not need proof-reading. And then they always come back to me, when they need something very specialised or urgent.
As for the good agencies and working with clients directly, Kevin, I do believe it's always "trial and error", but the end of the day, they all want to make profit on us. Most of my clients are multinational companies, who would get their documents translated into several languages and therefore prefer to get an agency, which can provide all the translations, rather than working with 10 different translators.

I just hope things' ll pick up again soon.......


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xxxJPW  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
With the cost of living... Jul 3, 2009

...in (your part of) Ireland these days, you should be putting your prices up!!!!

Or failing that, you could move to another (cheaper) part, let's say, oh, I don't know, the north, perhaps - where the grass is greener and the craic is mightier.



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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:15
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Wrong Jul 3, 2009

Elizabeth Kelly wrote:
Most of my clients are multinational companies, who would get their documents translated into several languages and therefore prefer to get an agency, which can provide all the translations, rather than working with 10 different translators.


Those are not your clients. The agencies are. It's the multinationals who are often ditching the agencies now and bringing project management for translation in-house again. I know, because they have been calling in increasing numbers over the past two years. It's a solid trend and the agencies are the losers there. Use that to your advantage.


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dzhusti
Albania
Local time: 10:15
Member (2009)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Be flexible Jul 3, 2009

This is an issues that concerns all services' areas, including translation.
I am working in the freelance translation market since 2003 and have worked with different international agencies.
In my experience, when you're looking to expand your collaborations you have to be flexible with rates, cause there will always be another one getting that job, and you wouldn't want that.
When you have already established a good working relationship with the agency/client, then you can negotiate about prices, but once you have it in your pocket and they already know they need you and your qualitative work.
I have been lucky with one of the agencies I go on working, because they have decided all the way to increase rates) I have started with a lower rate, then with an average and after that with a (relatively) higher rate. I am always open to negotiations in order to not lose my clients. Of course, there is a limit, or a base price, under which you don't want to go.

So, i would suggest to make steps case by case and be as flexible as you can.


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Elizabeth Kelly
Ireland
Local time: 09:15
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Now I get You ;-) Jul 3, 2009

Those are not your clients. The agencies are. It's the multinationals who are often ditching the agencies now and bringing project management for translation in-house again. I know, because they have been calling in increasing numbers over the past two years. It's a solid trend and the agencies are the losers there. Use that to your advantage. [/quote]

I see Kevin. That's actually something I didn't know. I will definately look into this and see if I can build up a business relationship with the companies I have worked for under the agencies. Thanks for that Kevin


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xxxJPW  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Check your agency agreements first Jul 3, 2009

I see Kevin. That's actually something I didn't know. I will definately look into this and see if I can build up a business relationship with the companies I have worked for under the agencies. Thanks for that Kevin


They may have clauses built in that specifically make this an actionable cause on their part, in other words, if you 'poach' that client from the agency, they will not be too happy about it...

You might not be too bothered about this, Elizabeth, but if you have any electronic or printed copies of agency agreements, it wouldn't do no harm to read through them to see what they say (or don't say) on the matter.


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Marian Vieyra  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:15
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Caveat Jul 3, 2009

Elizabeth, be careful about contacting clients directly. The contract you sign with most agencies usually contains a clause precluding you from working or contacting any of their direct clients for about a year or so after working for them!

Marian


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:15
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
A note on end clients Jul 3, 2009

Just to point something out to you, Elizabeth:

The agency's clients are often local ones, in their own town.

Your end clients should be local ones in your own town. You get end clients by physically moving around in your own community and meeting people. They come to you because they know you personally. However, at the very least, companies wanting a translation done usually phone an agency in their own town.

Astrid


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