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what it's like working with agencies in Italy
Thread poster: Ken Fagan
Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:04
French to English
Nov 5, 2009

I recently spoke with a highly experienced Italian to English LEGAL translator to see what it was like to work with Italian agencies (N.B. this post refers to agencies in the NORTH of Italy --Rome and below certainly wouldn't be any better) and she made it sound very unpleasant indeed, for these reasons:

1. She said that they take forever to pay (other translators had told me that 60 days end of the month was the norm in Northern Italy),

2. She said that native Italian speakers working at these agencies would contact her (after receiving her translation) to ask her all sorts of silly questions (and expect her to spend significant unpaid time replying to these questions) that a native English speaker would never have asked. Again, she is highly experienced.

3. She said that most Italian agencies are only able to think of pricing in "cartelle" (so there's no point in quoting them rates/word).

I'd be very grateful to hear about your experience with agencies in Northern Italy, especially if you're highly experienced.

Many thanks in advance:-)

Ken


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sabina moscatelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:04
Member (2004)
German to Italian
+ ...
Well, I live in Milan Nov 5, 2009

and I've been translating for over 20 years now and I will try to give you a couple of answers.

1) Yes, true. Agencies in Italy usually pay after 60 days. This is often the (unwritten) rule.

2) I see no real point in this, but a naive opinion. Silly native speakers are spread worldwide, as far as I know. Let me say that they are no peculiar feature of our region.

3) Pricing: I never (not a single time) quote in "cartelle", but in words. The old habit of reasoning in cartelle is disappearing.


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:04
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
"after 60 days" = Nov 5, 2009

Hi Sabina,

First of all, I congratulate you on your excellent English!

Q: When you say "after 60 days", do you mean right after, or a few weeks after?

Thanks again:-)


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:04
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
one not enough Nov 5, 2009

Hi Laurent,

Well, I'm going to have to congratulate you for your English, as well:-)

It's not fair to judge a country (any country) based on 1 agency. I'm looking for people who work with 5 Italian agencies at the very least.

Thanks


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simon tanner  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:04
Member (2007)
Italian to English
+ ...
payment Nov 5, 2009

Hi Ken,

I've already mentioned this to you elsewhere, but I'll post it here for general viewing too. I work, or have worked, with at least a dozen agencies in Italy (actually probably more like 20, but I stopped counting). I negotiated (but didn't get) payment at 30 days end of month with only one of these. Most of the rest were 60 or 90 days, and one was 120. Having said that, not all of the 60-day bunch are/were punctual. Moreover, seeing as nearly all agencies will only accept invoices at the end of the month, you're still looking at an average of at least 90 days between delivering your translation and getting paid.

A bit depressing, n'est-ce pas?

Simon


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simon tanner  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:04
Member (2007)
Italian to English
+ ...
quoting rates Nov 5, 2009

oh, and by the way, it is true that many Italian agencies still reason in cartelle, but this is definitely changing, and I've seen a couple of my agency clients switch over recently. I always quote in words to new agency clients. If they then want to translate it into cartelle, that's their affair

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xxxBrandis
Local time: 16:04
English to German
+ ...
not reliable payers Nov 5, 2009

Hi! even at low rates, my current experience is that italian agencies are bad or no payers. Caution needed. Brandis

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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:04
Italian to English
Curate's Egg Nov 5, 2009

In other words, true in parts.
I have worked for about a dozen Italian agencies. None has ever defaulted.

Timescales may be longer than elsewhere but they represent Italian business practice in general, not just the translation sector. Italy has always suffered from a shortage of investment capital and this is the side-effect. One of the major agencies however pays within 4 days of the month end.

All my clients have accepted my per source word charging basis.

Some PMs' questions can be a bit irritating but, if you establish a relationship based on trust, this is not excessive. The problem here is that everyone knows English - or thinks they do - and there is a shortage of English native speakers with adequate knowledge of Italian to act as PMs, proofreaders etc.

Obviously I have a certain bias, as Italian is my only working language and my motivation is based on a passion for the country and an empathy with its culture.


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svenfrade  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:04
French to German
+ ...
3 agencies Nov 6, 2009

Well, I can only tell you about my experience with three Italian agencies, not more, I'm afraid.

Their rates are all on the low side, but I haven't had any serious problems with getting paid.

For one of them, I did one job, after that they still tried to send me legal jobs (which I don't usually do) and forgot me after a while. However, I got paid after one reminder the agreed 60 days + 1 reminder and 7 days. The rate based on word counts.

I worked with another agency in Northern Italy for quite a while. My rates for them were based on cartelle, however, when I tried to negotiate a higher rate, I didn't hear from them again (apparently I was too greedy;-)). I got paid after 30 days end of month for a large book translation, all other jobs were paid after 60 days (also + 1 reminder and 7 days).

And last but not least, there is one agency I have been working with for almost two years now. They pay 15 days end of month and are extremely reliable. Rates are based on word count. I have not really had any problems with their PMs, only (and fortunately very rarely) with their so-called proofreaders, but that's a different story ...


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:04
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
I've been too nice... Nov 6, 2009

And to think, all this time I've been paying my 30 domestic staff (at my home on Lake Como) 1 month in advance. From now on, I'm going to pay them 90 days end of the month...

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Giulia TAPPI  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:04
French to Italian
+ ...
What about other countries? Nov 6, 2009

I am, I suppose, what you call an experienced translator (I started working in 1983), native Italian and living in France.

I am not trying to defend Italian agencies in any way, but I am just puzzled by your questions.

In France also, 60 days is the rule (well, not 60 days end of the month, but 45 days end of the month OR 60 days from the day you send your invoice). And even so, I spend a lot of time sending reminders to all my clients, both agencies and direct ones. Just this morning I got payment from a client who should have paid on October 21st; that means he took 60+15 days, and I had to send several mails to him!

Concerning "cartelle", I simply do not understand. It is exactly the same to price per word or per standard page. The only question is : how many words a standard page (cartella) contains? When I was a student, the standard page was 300 words (30 lines of 10 words). Now I have seen in Italy it is just 220 words, but the only thing to do is to clarify the issue before. Personally, in France also I set a price by standard page. I prefer to bill 500€ than 498,76€!

As for people asking stupid questions in order to feel important, I also think it is the same all over the world!


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T F F  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:04
English to Italian
Silly questions Nov 6, 2009

Could you please provide examples of these "silly questions"?

As for your other questions, Mr. Brad Pit...ouch, sorry, Mr. Clooney!

- 60 days is the usual payment practice between any businesses in Italy, and so Clients > Agency > Translators is just one of the possible scenarios (if you deal with the public administration it is 120, or more...and - in my opinion - this is the source of the problem).

- cartelle WAS the standard...Globalization is changing the world, Italy included!

- 0.06 is a rate you would have to be happy with...most probably you will be proposed a very lower one...And yes, higher is possible, if you are really unique, but it's very difficult to be considered "unique" in Italy - it's not your problem, Mr Clooney, is it?

-Silly questions from agencies...examples, please

my two (old) lira,
Renato


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:04
Flemish to English
+ ...
La dolce vita. Nov 6, 2009

1. Payment after 90 days.
2. Indeed, they started asking silly questions: why didn't you translate the words "start" and "stop" on the picture of the machine from English into Dutch? (identical words in both languages).
Why didn't you include the drawings? I was expected to translate, not to include drawings.

3. This grave "error" caused a delay in payment.
After all, the translation was not "finished" due to this "omission". So, they just added a month.
Delivery of translation: May. Payment 16th of September of that year after I threatened to take a plane and come to Milano to get my money at their premises so that the check would not get lost. Three days later, the amount due was on my bank-account.

Conclusion: Working for Italian agencies NEVER again.

60 days is the usual payment practice between any businesses in Italy ???
So, for Italians EU-guidelines such as
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32000L0035:IT:HTML
and their implementation are just words on paper. Parole, Parole.

But then, in Italy everything takes time to implement.
This directive have become law in 2002 and perhaps after 8 years, Italian business might understand it. I admit E.U.-regulations are sometime difficult.
Perhaps the owners of agencies should buy new glasses:
As far as I can see, it says 30 days and not more than 45 days, but perhaps Italian agency owners see 60 days.

With regard to public adiminstration, an addendum has been made to this guideline to force public administration to pay after 30 days or be liable for interest fees.

Old habits never die.

[Edited at 2009-11-06 09:57 GMT]


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simon tanner  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:04
Member (2007)
Italian to English
+ ...
late payment Nov 6, 2009

As Russell and others point out, it is fair to say that translation agencies are no different to any other Italian businesses in terms of how long they take to pay, not that this changes the fact that many of them ARE slow. I should also say, however, that despite having to chivvy them up fairly often, I have always been paid the agreed price and have never had to take serious action to receive payment - a couple of e-mail reminders at the most.
Obviously, most work from Italian to English, which is my only pair, is here in Italy, so I at least am stuck with it, but I must admit that I do prefer working for agencies abroad, who on the whole pay higher rates, more quickly and without needing to be reminded (actually, I'm so used to the Italian pace of life, that they often send ME reminders to send them an invoice!).


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