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Pricing problems!!
Thread poster: Lucille24
Lucille24
United States
Local time: 02:22
English to French
Oct 1, 2010

Hi everyone,

I have a question regarding the way I should price my work. I am still new to the translation business but do have a degree as well as some experience (only free translations though, so far...). I have placed a bid for a job but was told that my bid was way above their budget. Since this seems to be a recurring issue, I am now starting to second-guess myself. That is why I am turning to you all for advice!

The job was an Iphone App to translate from English into French. I was told that the App was in fact a game made up of questions with multiple choice answers. I was sent a short test, which I apparently passed. I was contacted again later and asked to adjust my bid knowing that there were to be about 2500 questions to translate.

I would usually try to charge somewhere around $0.08 per word depending on the text, which I believe is already low enough, especially when dealing directly with the client, but I need to get the experience in order to be trusted with larger projects. Since this project in particular was very easy and because I was told before that my rates were too high, I went even lower and estimated my translation to be somewhere between $2000-$2500 (each question had an average of 20 to 25 words, and I did not count the answers since most of them were names that did not require translating). That was 50000 words at $0.04 (which feels ridiculously low). I know that I can translate about 500 words per hour, so that was an hourly rate of $20.

My bid was instantly rejected. I was told that they received multiple bids around $200!!! What did I do wrong?? How could they receive not just one but multiple bids that were ten times lower than mine?? I re-read the job description ten times, thinking that maybe I misread it and added a zero by accident, but that was not the case.

I desperately need to gain more experience but how can I compete with such rates? Was there another way to price this translation that I might not be aware of? My bid was so far from what they were looking for that I am really starting to worry about my math skills.

Thank you for your attention, I am looking forward to reading your advice!

Lucille


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:22
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Stick to your guns Oct 1, 2010

Lucille Sucro wrote:
My bid was instantly rejected. I was told that they received multiple bids around $200!!! What did I do wrong?? How could they receive not just one but multiple bids that were ten times lower than mine?? I re-read the job description ten times, thinking that maybe I misread it and added a zero by accident, but that was not the case.

They are probably not being really truthful on this matter. No professional translator will offer that price. If they mean that someone offered them to translate the questions using Google Translate, then they might be right!

I also feel that they are not being quite fair to you as they don't report the number of words in the questions. This way, there is no accurate way of making a proper quotation. The real volume of the work is a critical detail in any quoting process. Maybe next time you can refuse to quote until they give you the wordcount (or the actual text for you to count yourself)?

Lucille Sucro wrote:
I desperately need to gain more experience but how can I compete with such rates?

Yes, this is exactly the situation of every new translator. Although the market is rather competitive, companies and agencies have a clear picture of the difference between professional work (work done by a person with higher education in the matter and/or experience) and the work of an amateur who does not even know what is being quoted, and in fact if you quote too low, they won't value you because they will think you are low-quality. Nobody with good quality quotes too low! Very probably you cannot charge the same as a translator with 20 years of experience, but you should not sell yourself at "Chinese rates" either.

In my opinion, your quote is reasonable (probably a bit low though) for your qualification and experience. If they don't want to take it, you probably don't want to deal with them, since the ultra-low rate might prove to be the least of your problems with them in the long run.

In Spain we have a saying: "Bridge of silver to the fleeing enemy!"


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Lucille24
United States
Local time: 02:22
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Oct 1, 2010

Thank you so much for your response. I am glad to hear that my quote was not totally unreasonable. And you are right, I certainly do not want to be "cheap", and I am pretty sure I would have done at least ten times better than Google Translate. They'll probably get what they paid for...

I guess I'll do just what you advised, I'll stick to my guns

Have a great day!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
That's the internet for you! Oct 1, 2010

Lucille Sucro wrote:
I have placed a bid for a job but was told that my bid was way above their budget.


Hello Lucille,

You don't say where you saw this offer (and please don't say now as it's against forum rules. ) I'm guessing that it was on one of the freelancer networking sites (either translator-specific like ProZ or more general).

I know at least one site where you are given absolutely no information about the poster apart from whether others recommend them - not even a company name. I've seen people quoting $0.02 (yes, that's two cents) for work that I estimate would take most of one hour to complete. How's that for income?

I would usually try to charge somewhere around $0.08 per word depending on the text, which I believe is already low enough, especially when dealing directly with the client


I would have thought that was on the low side of acceptable for someone living in America and dealing with an agency, too low for a direct client.

How could they receive not just one but multiple bids that were ten times lower than mine??


Easy: cut and paste into Reverso/Babylon/...; hit enter; cut and paste back. Done! Maybe, if they're really conscientious, they'll do a spell-check before sending it off.

I desperately need to gain more experience but how can I compete with such rates?


You can't. You need to look for people who will pay a decent rate for a decent job.

Look for other sources, register with agencies, market yourself on the web and locally .... Keep going after every job if you have spare time (you never know, after all) but foster a Gallic shrug and a "delete" for this type of response.

Hope that helps.


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Simone Linke  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:22
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Rate is ok; output maybe a little low Oct 1, 2010

I agree with the previous posters.
Your rate is definitely ok, and it certainly sounds like one of those typical cheap offers found at various freelancing sites on the Web.

I've tested most of these sites, and my conclusion basically is:
If you need to establish yourself at such sites (usually, your chances there increase the more positive feedback you get), you might want to take a handful of jobs at 3-4 cents a word (of course, only for simple texts), but after you've achieved that, you should not give in to those cheap clients.

If you need the money, these freelancing sites are a good way to earn some extra cash, too.

But if you want to establish yourself as a full-time professional freelancer, don't put all your eggs into this basket. These freelancing sites (I guess I'm not allowed to say their names?) will bring you a handful of good clients per year (maybe 1 per month if you're lucky), but the rest of the clients is basically a wild mix of e-book wanna-be writers, multi-level marketing scammers, and clients who simply don't want to understand that quality cannot be achieved with 1-2 cents per word.
I even had a client approach me with a text full of errors, and when I told him my rate (still very low), he still said it was too high and his budget was limited. Oh well, once he's paid three or four cheap translators, he'll realize that he could have gotten his text properly translated for the same total price by hiring one serious translator in the first place.
But I digress...

One thing you might want to reconsider for the job you described is your hourly output. If it really was only simple multiple-choice questions, I would argue that an hourly output of about 800 words is more realistic (do you use CAT tools?). Don't get me wrong, for medium-difficult or really difficult translations, 500 words is totally fine, but for simple multiple-choice questions, this sounds quite slow..

Ok, this still wouldn't make you able to compete with $200 bids, but it may be a fact to keep in mind for other projects that come along..

Anyway, don't let these 1-cent-per-word bids discourage you. And don't base your pricing on these types of bidders!


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:22
English to German
+ ...
A note on US rates Oct 1, 2010

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I would have thought that was on the low side of acceptable for someone living in America and dealing with an agency, too low for a direct client.



Since when are 8 cents/word acceptable? In the United States? Maybe for someone who lives in a cardboard box by the road and uses free Wi-Fi on a McDonalds parking lot. Sorry.

Lucille, your low rates are your problem. Honestly, I wouldn't hire anyone with such low rates = such a lack of self-esteem. How could I possibly trust in you if you don't trust in yourself?


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:22
Member (2008)
French to English
Have a marketing strategy Oct 1, 2010

Lucille Sucro wrote:

I have placed a bid for a job but was told that my bid was way above their budget.


Was this a bid on a job board? If so, this may be the problem, as these job boards seem to attract many low bidders, and therefore low-paying clients.

The better way to find work is to approach clients yourself and offer your services. You can find clients' details from the lists of association members, this and other sites, etc. Its better to have a businesslike marketing strategy - that will immediately make you stand out.

A good marketing strategy + higher rates = more, better clients.

[Edited at 2010-10-01 16:27 GMT]


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:22
German to English
Pricing issues Oct 1, 2010

First, let me say that eight cents/word is a starvation rate in the US, experienced or not.

I'm not taking the part of the client, but it's possible they were taking into account some factors that you, as an inexperienced translator, may not be aware of. In the translation business, pricing is sometimes dependent on the frequency of terms/phrases in the word count of a document. How many of the 2500 questions (or responses) were identical, or largely identical? For example, I frequently translate check lists in which, for example, there are 100 items, each of which is accompanied by "yes / no". To be honest, I charge full price only for the first occurrence of "yes / no" and reduce the price for the next 99, as the translation tool I use automatically inserts "yes / no" in subsequent occurrences. This it is possible that out of the 2500 questions and responses / 50K words, there were perhaps only 10K containing unique phrases (not counting single repeated words in different phrases).

On the other hand, the client may be trying to take advantage of your inexperience. That is, unfortunately, a fact of life in the words for money biz.

There are a number of jobs posted here on Proz that are very short, and you may want to get experience taking these (even at your current rate). Once you become more confident of your abilities (and business skills!), you may want to consider taking larger jobs at a more suitable rate.


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Lucille24
United States
Local time: 02:22
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
thank you again! Oct 1, 2010

Nicole, you are right, I know my rates are very low. You saw right through me and my lack of self confidence. But I am sure I will feel better about myself once I get a few serious clients and they give me some positive feedback.

Simone, the only difficulty with the text was that there was a whole category of questions that were in fact quotations from movies and TV shows. As a conscientious translator, I had to do some research to find the way each quotation had previously been translated in the french version of the movie/TV show so that the players would have a chance to recognize them. I knew that would slow me down a lot, that is why I thought my output would be no more than 500 words per hour overall. But maybe that was more work than an Iphone App deserved...? That's what the client seemed to think, anyway!

Thank you all for your constructive criticism. I really appreciate it! I always knew this wasn't going to be an easy job and I know that I will have to work hard for a long time before seeing any results. But it will pay off, in the end!


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:22
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Suggestions Oct 1, 2010

1. There are, broadly speaking, two types of agencies: those that invite bids from anybody, thus enabling them to start a bidding war; and those who are more selective and look through profiles on ProZ, looking for suitable translators for their particular project. So a good profile is very important. So is a good KudoZ track record.

2. Your profile is not very good. It is rather brief. It does not give any examples of work you have done. It does not have to be paid work -- pro bono or even your own practice efforts all add to your experience.

3. You say you do not have much experience. Very honest of you, but worth stressing the positive rather than the negative.

4. Your profile was last updated in Nov 2009. That is a long time ago.

5. Your specialisms are relatively unusual. Your "Also works in:" are probably more relevant.

6. Your profile is entirely in English. Why not some French, for the benefit of French agencies?


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:22
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Experience should have little do with your rates Oct 1, 2010

If I wanted to work in a field where "experience" was the primary determinant of my income, I'd have gone looking for a job in some bureaucracy or a workplace with a powerful union (or both)... or I might as well go back to my former corporate job and dreary cubicle for 10 hours a day in that case.

The simple fact is that in most fields there are talented newcomers, as well people who have (varying levels of) experience but who are not especially productive or competent. In general, both categories' compensation quickly adapts to match their ability.

Your rates should be set by the quality of your work and what you need to make proper living.

If you feel that your work is not 100% up to professional standards, you can always charge market rates and use the extra money to hire a proofreader, or take some time off to work on your skills in a non-commercial setting. However, if you think you have produced work that has fully met the customer's requirements, why sell yourself short at all?

We need to help people extricate themselves from this "I'm inexperienced/a student so I'll work for cheap/free" mindset. If nothing else, even if you continue working for those same companies, you'll be surprised how sticky those "beginner rates" will be.


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:22
German to English
+ ...
Games are often poorly paid Oct 1, 2010

because a lot of people like translating games for the fun factor. Many game localization companies are based in countries where labor is fairly cheap, and have young and enthusiastic in-house translators they exploit. The translations are sometimes horrible, but many kids don't care about that. The companies outsource to freelancers only if their own capacity is not sufficient. Not all game companies work that way, but developing games can be very costly, and many developers go bankrupt - off-hand I know of two in Germany just this year, and they were fairly successful for a time. Therefore they save where they can - often on the translation. Bad policy, but it is what it is.

I know all this because I occasionally do game translation (and thus try to keep somewhat informed), but only role-playing games because I enjoy doing them as a change of pace from my usual work, not because I think I'll make a lot of money doing it. My forte in this case is dialogs, as I studied and worked in the theatre for quite a few years and can demand better rates as a result, but not many have that qualification. Basically what I'm saying is that you might want to focus on fields that are more lucrative and have had some experience with before, even it was non-paying. Don't let one disappointment discourage you from continuing to try.


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 14:22
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Pricing mathematics Oct 2, 2010

Thanks to Internet popularity, our pricing system is deteriorated very quickly. Economic principle of free trade is not applied here. Diving price will leave nothing but corrupted professional service. In my language pairs, prices demanded by agencies are amazingly lower and lower. I cannot imagine how translators will live on their expected income rationally. It is us, Prozian, who need to prevent this decaying pricing system through a serious discussion and action.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:22
Member (2004)
English to Italian
3 types of agencies... Oct 2, 2010

Peter Linton wrote:

1. There are, broadly speaking, two types of agencies: those that invite bids from anybody, thus enabling them to start a bidding war; and those who are more selective and look through profiles on ProZ, looking for suitable translators for their particular project. So a good profile is very important. So is a good KudoZ track record.



Third type: those who are more selective and look through professional organizations' databases... and you should know that, Peter...


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 08:22
French to Dutch
+ ...
Agree Oct 2, 2010

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

Third type: those who are more selective and look through professional organizations' databases...


Fourth type: those who have a good internal database and, if necessary, contact other translators by way-of-mouth. I got my best clients from my Danish colleagues. It takes years to get into such a system. And back to Lucille's question, if good-paid jobs were available on the internet, we would all rush into it.


[Modifié le 2010-10-02 13:05 GMT]


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