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How honest are people with their rates?
Thread poster: xxxwonita
xxxwonita
China
Local time: 02:36
Aug 4, 2010

Once a colleague was offered a job by an agency for x Cent per word. While the colleague was checking the the BB record of this agency, he found an entry made by Mr. Y, who habitually preaches high price for high quality, and whose rate is supposed to be 10+x Cent . With this knowledge in his mind, the colleague tried to negotiate a better price for himself. But the agency replied: What you are asking for is unrealistic, we never pay our translators this rate. The colleague tried to argue, with Mr. Y as an example, "Yes you do pay that rate because Mr. Y's rate is 10+x Cent". Agency laughed: No no, he worked for us at x Cent per word.



[Edited at 2010-08-04 08:24 GMT]


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Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 08:36
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
I don't know, but... Aug 4, 2010

... I have to share a moment of unexpected frankness from a translation agency. I offered to take the job for X euros and they told me no can do, because X euros is what they are getting paid for it.

I quoted again a little bit lower, thinking the difference is what they deserve...

(I finally didn't do the job because of deadline and availability issues).

My experience is colleagues are fairly honest about rates, however, rates are alway high, low, good, lousy... people rarely reveal exact numbers.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:36
English to German
+ ...
Let's rephrase that. Aug 4, 2010

Bin Tiede wrote:

Once a colleague was offered a job by an agency for x Cent per word. While the colleague was checking the the BB record of this agency, he found an entry made by Mr. Y, who habitually preaches high price for high quality, and whose rate is supposed to be 10+x Cent . With this knowledge in his mind, the colleague tried to negotiate a better price for himself. But the agency replied: What you are asking for is unrealistic, we never pay our translators this rate. The colleague tried to argue, with Mr. Y as an example, "Yes you do pay that rate because Mr. Y's rate is 10+x Cent". Agency laughed: No no, he worked for us at x Cent per word.



[Edited at 2010-08-04 08:24 GMT]


How professional and ethical are those people and can you take them seriously?

Let's start with candidate #1. The one who tried to get jobs by undercutting his colleagues rates. He even used them as an argument. If this is his only USP, I wouldn't even call him a colleague.

Next candidate: The PM at the agency. No decent agency on this planet will ever reveal the rates of their translators to their competitors / colleagues, whatever. This is a no-no. This PM should be fired.

So, shall we draw conclusions regarding the honesty of the entire translators' community based on a story about some not-so-recommendable fellows?


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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:36
German to Spanish
+ ...
How honest are people with their rates? Aug 4, 2010

Bin Tiede wrote:

Once a colleague was offered a job by an agency for x Cent per word. While the colleague was checking the the BB record of this agency, he found an entry made by Mr. Y, who habitually preaches high price for high quality, and whose rate is supposed to be 10+x Cent . With this knowledge in his mind, the colleague tried to negotiate a better price for himself. But the agency replied: What you are asking for is unrealistic, we never pay our translators this rate. The colleague tried to argue, with Mr. Y as an example, "Yes you do pay that rate because Mr. Y's rate is 10+x Cent". Agency laughed: No no, he worked for us at x Cent per word.



We all have business running costs and taxes to pay and need a business profit to make a life. If someone is silly enough to work below their costs it is his business. But it will not last long in business. Moreover, the agency can be as honest or dishonest than the translator ...


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:36
Member
English to French
How honest agencies are with their translators' rates? Aug 4, 2010

Agencies pay a given rate because they believe it is worth it. Translators ask a given rate because they believe it is worth it. It is up to the translator/agency to justify the rate they ask/pay.

Personally, I think stating that "Mr Doe is paid so much so I should expect the same rate" is not a valid argument to negociate rates with an agency. What an agency offers can always be negociated, but certainly not in such a way.

Reversing roles, I have had many times the "we pay all our translators so much for this combination". The thing is, what they pay others is none of my business. And it is not a valid argument either. Maybe they take on only simpler texts, have an output of 5000 a day, have poor marketing skills, are philanthropists or want to prove their worth before increasing their rates. Or the editor spends twice as much time to iron out the translation.
I'd rather hear "No, such a rate is not viable for us". Which means the price they sell their translations at is not enough for the rate you ask.

Also, rates as such are not the main criterion. There is a balance to find between output and earnings per day. There are moments where it is better to agree on a lower rate when you know that your daily productivity will be much higher (subjects you know like the back of your hand, easy text, CAT/ no CAT...).
At the end of the day it is the money you make in a day/month/year that makes the business worthwhile. Or not. Arithmetically, people who charge 6 carbocredits and are able to sustain an output of 5000 a day while keeping their customers are better off than those who charge 10 but can only deliver 2000 a day.

Of course it is my opinion only, and everybody is free to apply whatever strategy to succeed in this global environment.

Have a good day,
Philippe


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Veronica Lupascu  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:36
Dutch to Romanian
+ ...
hm... Aug 4, 2010

I was once contacted by a proZ member for a 70 + pages project. He/she mentioned that the job is a low budget one, so competitive rates [????] would be an advantage.

I was free at that time and quoted for the job, with my usual rate, because it was half less than his/her usual rates stated in his/her ProZ profile. Then I was contacted back, because my rate is apparently too high. I knew I don't want to take the job anymore, but I asked him/her anyway how much can he/she pay for this job. The answer was 0.02USD per word.

So I just believe that this colleague had the wonderful idea to outsource 70 pages and to receive at least 6 times more than the translator. I understand that it is a common practice between agencies, but I really didn't expect that from an apparently respected colleague.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:36
French to German
+ ...
Philippe... Aug 4, 2010

made the point very clearly.

As many, many colleagues throw in the words "free market" on ProZ.com and elsewhere, they should be aware that freedom also applies when negotiating between agencies and freelancers.

A reference rate does not mean anything at all.


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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:36
German to Spanish
+ ...
How honest are people with their rates? Aug 4, 2010

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:

made the point very clearly.

As many, many colleagues throw in the words "free market" on ProZ.com and elsewhere, they should be aware that freedom also applies when negotiating between agencies and freelancers.

A reference rate does not mean anything at all.


Probably, but this has other implications. You have to know exactly what your actual costs are at any time, which is not so simple. And if I were the owner of an agency, I would not take very seriously a translator that change his rates every now and then...


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 07:36
English to Croatian
+ ...
Multiple issues. Aug 4, 2010

Bin Tiede wrote:

Once a colleague was offered a job by an agency for x Cent per word. While the colleague was checking the the BB record of this agency, he found an entry made by Mr. Y, who habitually preaches high price for high quality, and whose rate is supposed to be 10+x Cent . With this knowledge in his mind, the colleague tried to negotiate a better price for himself. But the agency replied: What you are asking for is unrealistic, we never pay our translators this rate. The colleague tried to argue, with Mr. Y as an example, "Yes you do pay that rate because Mr. Y's rate is 10+x Cent". Agency laughed: No no, he worked for us at x Cent per word.



[Edited at 2010-08-04 08:24 GMT]


So, the guy in question breached Mr Y's privacy by making it clear to the agency Mr Y does disclose his rates to others ( nvm they are false, he's sharing them), and the agency breached confidentiality by disclosing Mr Y's rates to the first guy.

And yes, a lot of people like to brag about their rates on public boards, while they are just not true. I don't see a Clause by which they are obliged to disclose true rates, though.

Anyone who bases their rates on other people's statements on public boards has no idea how to establish and estimate the value of their own work.

In conclusion, people are mostly dishonest about their rates, but on the other hand, people aren't honest about many other things either, so this doesn't strike me as a surprise.


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Dawn Montague  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:36
German to English
+ ...
I don't think the issue is honesty Aug 4, 2010

Frankly, I think it's foolish to always charge the same rate for every job, and even though ProZ has made some improvements in their rates display system, it still isn't as flexible as I would like it to be. It is also foolish to tell others that you work for such and such a rate and that this never changes.

For instance, I have price sheets with two sets of rates - one for agencies and one for direct clients, and both sets of rates vary widely. Direct client prices are roughly twice that of agency clients because I cannot deliver to a direct client without paying an editor to go over my work, for instance. Agency clients usually provide the editor, prepare the text for a CAT tool, etc. (at least the ones I keep working for...). The agency adds value and takes care of things that I do not have to do myself when I work with a direct client. They also do the marketing. Therefore, my rates differentiate between the two types of clients.

But which set of rates do I display on ProZ? I decided to enter my direct client rate range because I did not want a direct client thinking that I will work for less than a certain amount. For a while, I displayed these, but it seems that potential clients don't even pay attention to them. Also, I have to look at a document before I can make a quote anyway.

The bottom line, as someone else has said, is how much you can make per hour, or how much you can make in a reasonable work day and still do a good job.

I think it is reprehensible for an agency to talk about what they pay a specific translator (especially for the purpose of driving the price down), so I would not work for such people if I knew this was going on. But it is just as reprehensible for a freelancer to try to use someone else's rate to justify their own. My rates are my rates, carefully adjusted by a number of factors, not least of which are what I need to live on, the requirements of a particular document, and the market. They all work together. And what someone else charges is their business. Period. The market is big enough.

Perhaps the translator in question got carried away with bragging (from what I've seen, we all do), but if he charges 6 cents per word to one agency and 20 cents per word to another, he may still be making the same hourly wage, depending on the type of work. Or he may be choosing very, very carefully what he does for the 6-cents-per-word agency to make sure he gets his average $60 or $75 per hour - or whatever his target hourly rate is.


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Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 06:36
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
Everything's so secret... Aug 4, 2010

I always wonder about this secretism regarding the rates.

I live and work in Portugal and can you imagine - I have no agency subcontracting me in Portugal ! All my clients are either Portuguese end clients or agencies elswhere, even in Brazil

When I try to investigate rates applied in Portugal, I see that some translators find 0,05 eur/word ridiculously low and that they wouldn't take anything below 0,07.

But when I tell to an agency that in my rare linguistic combination, in legal/finance/technical translation area I charge 25 eur/page which corresponds to approx. 0,08 eur/word, agencies tell me it's not even discussable ! Total confusion.

Last Saturday, I went to a workshop with an agenda including the topic "Prices practised in the market". Do you think that question was at least touched? Nope. I raised my hand and asked it straightforward - afterall, that concerns everyone. The answer was, "The value of a translation is determined by... ". Very well, but what are those values ?? I did have to insist three times on the question (persistent I am ) before we heard the lower and the higher margins. But nothing about separate linguistic groups, or areas of expertize, or subcharges for urgency, discounts for volume, etc.

Actually, I guess that topic was one of the most attractive on the agenda and we - especially expats in Portugal, or the young translators - did want to hear some info, even if just as a mere guideline, but it seemed it was a big, big secret

I wonder, does such secrecy exist in other countries, too?


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Dawn Montague  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:36
German to English
+ ...
Good question Aug 4, 2010

Inga Petkelyte wrote:

I always wonder about this secretism regarding the rates.

.............................

I wonder, does such secrecy exist in other countries, too?



It's probably a combination of things. Some people do charge low rates and don't want others to know. Others do not want to be tied to a certain rate so that they can quote per job. I have noticed that many people who are quite expensive do not publish their rates for just this reason, but it doesn't mean they are bragging about high rates and charging low. Being able to quote per job rather than per word can be a huge advantage. And then there is the fear that if you advertise your rate, that others will purposely undercut you. That certainly makes sense, in an intuitive way, but I think the reality may be very different. For example, Mercedes and Rolls Royce do not worry that Hyundai or Toyota will undercut them - those are completely different markets.

I think it's really important to talk to other translators about rates, but in the U.S., for example, we can't talk about it in ATA forums because of antitrust laws. What you have to do is go to meetings and ask people directly, or find a mentor over the internet and talk about it privately. I hate it that this is the situation, especially since I was so naive in the beginning. It makes me angry to think about it now. Ten years ago, my prices were at the low end, but I thought that's what I had to do in order to get work - and I usually received the opposite of encouragement and honest assessments of the market from others, with a few, treasured exceptions who helped me figure out how to bring my rates up and make a decent living. Although I certainly knew what the bottom of the market looks like, I had no idea, until very recently, what the top of the market looks like (it's 50-60 cents per word or more - for proof see here: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/sep2004/sb20040928_3743_sb006.htm. See also the recommendations of the Swiss Translator's Association at http://www.astti.ch/media/site/tarif/tarife_trad.pdf). It seems counter-intuitive, but the competition appears to be the fiercest at the bottom end, with everybody trying to bid lower than the next guy.

So.... it really isn't a matter of honesty. It's a matter of becoming educated about the market and using it to your advantage. Don't worry about what the other guy charges or doesn't charge. You have to evaluate your own work and decide where in the market you want to be.


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 12:36
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Economical rate pricing policy? Aug 5, 2010

Philippe Etienne wrote:
Agencies pay a given rate because they believe it is worth it. Translators ask a given rate because they believe it is worth it. It is up to the translator/agency to justify the rate they ask/pay.
------------------------------
Reversing roles, I have had many times the "we pay all our translators so much for this combination". The thing is, what they pay others is none of my business. And it is not a valid argument either. Maybe they take on only simpler texts, have an output of 5000 a day, have poor marketing skills, are philanthropists or want to prove their worth before increasing their rates. Or the editor spends twice as much time to iron out the translation.
-------------------------------
At the end of the day it is the money you make in a day/month/year that makes the business worthwhile. Or not. Arithmetically, people who charge 6 carbocredits and are able to sustain an output of 5000 a day while keeping their customers are better off than those who charge 10 but can only deliver 2000 a day.

I totally agree with Philippe.

In my 30 years career, my translation rate slightly go downward (if inflation is not taken into account). There are a number of reasons: more competitors, more customer bases, better technology (I can work quicker and more with newer computers, dictionaries, OA equipment etc.), diversified customer locations. My income grows gradually with more jobs, not with a higher rate.

If you see the software price e.g. Microsoft Windows, lower price with more consumers makes the seller earn more money, not with more sophisticated products and higher price.

I am thinking seriously to lower my rate with larger customer groups and more income. It is a kind of economic motivation. If we preserve our classical way of working, our rate may not be lower with higher earnings. I propose a mass production process of our translation career.

Regards,

Soonthon L.


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Andreas Baranowski  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:36
English to German
+ ...
Just set your own rates Aug 5, 2010

I wouldn’t put too much stock in what people say they charge. Some translators hate to admit that they are working for less and some agencies love to talk about it. Got nothing to do with ethics or professionalism. Just don’t take it if you don’t like it.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:36
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The rate versus the usual rate Aug 5, 2010

Bin Tiede wrote:
The colleague tried to argue, with Mr. Y as an example, "Yes you do pay that rate because Mr. Y's rate is 10+x Cent". Agency laughed: No no, he worked for us at x Cent per word.


The rate that Mr Y indicates on his web site is his usual rate or his base rate. That is the rate that he offers in the first round of negotiations. It was a mistake for the colleague to assume that Mr Y never agrees to anything below that rate. There is no dishonesty here -- only a misunderstanding on the part of the colleague who took certain things for granted.


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