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Agency rates offer - a total disgrace!
Thread poster: xxxJana 1977
xxxJana 1977
Local time: 02:42
Nov 1, 2011

Hi all, I'm a relative newcomer to the online business of translation so when I got an email from an agency offering me work I got quite excited. However, when I saw they were offering $0.07 per word my smile disappeared. I declined the "generous" offer. That's not the point though. The point is that when I looked on their website there were a couple of examples of how competitive their translation rates are ("Our translation prices are the most competitive on the market", in their own words!). 25o words into Norwegian/Danish = only 45 EUR; 1985 words into Danish, Swedish, Dutch and German = only 345 EUR. I make that (if my maths is correct) 0.17 EUR ($0.23) and 0.18 EUR ($0.24) per word! Obviously, I understand they need to charge clients more than they would pay their translators BUT we are talking 3,5 x more! Do ordinary clients really pay that? I suppose they do!
It wound me up and I just wanted to share my outrage with you fellow hard working folks. Right, I shall leave it at that and do a bit more work on my own translation website that I am creating, can't wait for it to be finished so that I can start charging "competitive" rates Just one question to the ones amongst you who do have your own website (hope it's not too impertinent of me to ask): How useful do you find having your own website and has it brought you (a lot) more business?
Thanks.
Jana


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:42
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Incredible! Nov 2, 2011

Jana Garnsworthy wrote:
Obviously, I understand they need to charge clients more than they would pay their translators BUT we are talking 3,5 x more! Do ordinary clients really pay that? I suppose they do!

WOW!

I think --although I am not sure at all since it is none of my business-- that most of my customers charge their customers about 50-70% more than what they pay me. Such a margin sounds like perfectly reasonable to me, since they are the ones who do all the selling and working with the customer, translating the customer's wishes and expectation into a rather standardised job I can easily work on. I only have to deal with people who understand my work, instead of having to spend lots of time educating the customer.

If your agency customers are serious, honest people, you also do not need to worry about being paid in due time, as it happens with many direct customers, so this is another thing I like.

All in all, and although I am aware that I would --at least in theory-- make more money with direct customers, I tend to prefer to work for agencies.

Jana Garnsworthy wrote:
How useful do you find having your own website and has it brought you (a lot) more business?

Your own website is a must. To many customers, it proves that you are serious about this profession and that you do your best to promote yourself. Accounts in translator portals like this one and others are also a must, so that customers can find you.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:42
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Amazing Nov 2, 2011

Yes, agencies do have to charge their customers more than they're paying their translators - for known reasons.

Still, some agencies offer such low rates, e.g. USD 0,02 for highly technical or financial translations or USD 0.04 for proofreading, a rate which includes keeping a protocol of every single proofread word with it's translation and, in case of mistakes, a suggestion for a better term including a handwritten justification of one's choice/suggestion, that in order to earn e. g. USD 30.00 the translator will need 4 - 5 hours, especially in the latter case.

This might be due to the agency's location which might have an overall lower income rate in general. Other agencies provide the translator with an exact amount they are willing to pay that, at times, results in payment as low as USD 0.018 per word. The amazing thing is, they actually do get their translations done at such a rate!

Yes, a professional website is mandatory for freelancers.


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xxxinge van dri
Local time: 03:42
German to Dutch
+ ...
Yes Nov 2, 2011

Jana Garnsworthy wrote:
I make that (if my maths is correct) 0.17 EUR ($0.23) and 0.18 EUR ($0.24) per word! Obviously, I understand they need to charge clients more than they would pay their translators BUT we are talking 3,5 x more! Do ordinary clients really pay that? I suppose they do!


These are quite normal rates for Western Europe, agency to client or independent translator to direct client. For legal translations about 0.20-0.25 EUR and for specialized financial translations up to 0.40 Eur. One can be expensive, but then the work must meet high standards.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
Par for the course Nov 2, 2011

In my main pair (Spa-Eng), a lot of freelancers like myself are working for 7-8 cents /wd basic rate in Spain. This is considered an average-low rate, although agencies often offer rates of 2 cents/wd, but I think this is mainly aimed at the L-Am market, where prices are likely to be more variable.

However, I consider your language pair more recondite, so perhaps you should be looking for more - I don't know anything about the demand in that pair so can't really help you there.

As for the website question - I don't have one myself and it doesn't seem to have done me any harm. I do intend to get one up and running sometime, but mainly just so that I have it ("to look the part") and not for any specific purpose of networking, client capture or self-promotion.

As you are just starting out, it does seem like a good idea. My general advice is to keep it as simple and uncluttered as possible - most clients don't have time to click through lots of pages and graphics to find what they are looking for.


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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:42
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Yes, clients pay these rates, - not for a translation but for a service Nov 2, 2011

Jana Garnsworthy wrote:

....BUT we are talking 3,5 x more! Do ordinary clients really pay that? I suppose they do!


Yes, clients pay these rates, but don't forget, that you might just be a small cog in a big wheel.
Somebody has to do the sales and marketing to get the project
Somebody has to manage it
Somebody might have to prepare the text before it is sent to you
Somebody has to translate it
Your text might go to a editor/proofreader
Your text might go through extensive inhouse QA
You text might have to be postprocessed to be presented to the client in the format they need

I am not saying the agency you are working for does all this, but it is quite normal that several people in several roles are involved in translation projects and the all want/need to get their share.

Ok, 3.5 times the rate you are getting, sounds a bit steep to my ears, but there might be a reason for this and it is not always greed.


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Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member because it was not in line with site rule
Isabelle F. BRUCHER  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 03:42
English to French
+ ...
The point is not what the agency charges, but how much you need. Nov 27, 2011

How much the agency sells your translation is not the point since, as other people mentioned, it also depends on how much work they have to put into this order (post-editing, desktop publishing, what have you...).

The main point is: how much do you need a) to survive; b) and, if possible, to live well and to be able to reinvest in the long term ?

What is the taxation rate in your country?

What do other translators charge for the same language pair and the same specialization field?

Don't forget that you will have to buy a new computer every 4 or 5 years or so.

You will need a second computer and a backup storage system (external hard disk,...).

CAT tools are expensive, so are the upgrades every two years or so, as well as the related training courses...

And so on, and so on...

I mean, you will have to reinvest part of your earnings into your business, and save money for harder years (and for retirement)...

We are already in hard years, since 2009, but - who knows - the situation might get even worse, so try to earn as much as you can and save part of it...


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Sarai73  Identity Verified
English to Swedish
+ ...
Yes... Nov 27, 2011

...I think these rates are pretty standard, even quite good actually. I've been paid less from agencies, though I'm fairly new in the game and so am building up my experience. But nothing to be shocked about, unfortunately. Some US agencies pay a lot less.

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xxxJana 1977
Local time: 02:42
TOPIC STARTER
Ok... Nov 27, 2011

...interesting opinions. After all that I still think that charging direct clients three times as much as you pay the translator, who in my opinion is THE MOST IMPORTANT COG in the wheel by the way (the wheel would fall to pieces without us, wouldn't it?!) IS a rip-off. I guess I'm in quite a fortunate position as I have another very profitable business and therefore don't have to worry about going without work. As such, I feel I don't have to accept what I deem to be ridiculous rates and hopefully in time I will be able to build up a base of sensible clients who understand that we are professionals and not skivvies. However, I do understand that some people might not be so lucky and having a low paid job might be better than having no job at all... And if you're new to the profession it's even worse - you read other translators' profiles and realize that they have 20 odd years of experience and have translated for God (not literally obviously), so the only thing you think you can compete with these people on is price. How sad but unfortunately true. Although saying that, my first job through Proz was a 3000 word not too technical translation for £0.10 per word, which I got after a short test translation - now wouldn't that be the fairest way to decide every job on here

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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:42
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
if you can translate 400 words per hour Nov 28, 2011

Jana Garnsworthy wrote:

Hi all, I'm a relative newcomer to the online business of translation so when I got an email from an agency offering me work I got quite excited. However, when I saw they were offering $0.07 per word my smile disappeared. I declined the "generous" offer. That's not the point though. The point is that when I looked on their website there were a couple of examples of how competitive their translation rates are ("Our translation prices are the most competitive on the market", in their own words!). 25o words into Norwegian/Danish = only 45 EUR; 1985 words into Danish, Swedish, Dutch and German = only 345 EUR. I make that (if my maths is correct) 0.17 EUR ($0.23) and 0.18 EUR ($0.24) per word! Obviously, I understand they need to charge clients more than they would pay their translators BUT we are talking 3,5 x more! Do ordinary clients really pay that? I suppose they do!
It wound me up and I just wanted to share my outrage with you fellow hard working folks. Right, I shall leave it at that and do a bit more work on my own translation website that I am creating, can't wait for it to be finished so that I can start charging "competitive" rates Just one question to the ones amongst you who do have your own website (hope it's not too impertinent of me to ask): How useful do you find having your own website and has it brought you (a lot) more business?
Thanks.
Jana


it is $28 per hour. To most translation companies, that is a luxury salary for a freelancer!


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 03:42
English to Czech
+ ...
A few thoughts Nov 28, 2011

Jana Garnsworthy wrote:
...interesting opinions. After all that I still think that charging direct clients three times as much as you pay the translator, who in my opinion is THE MOST IMPORTANT COG in the wheel by the way (the wheel would fall to pieces without us, wouldn't it?!) IS a rip-off.

Personally, I'm absolutely NOT interested in how much the translation agency charges its clients. The only thing I'm interested in is how much the translation agency is willing to pay me. As Isabelle put it, you don't necessarily know the value the agency adds to your own work. Moreover, if the agency pays me € 0.10 per source word and charges its client € 0.30, I would never think that the agency is ripping me off. I can only think that I haven't been good enough to win such a generous client myself.

I guess I'm in quite a fortunate position as I have another very profitable business and therefore don't have to worry about going without work. As such, I feel I don't have to accept what I deem to be ridiculous rates and hopefully in time I will be able to build up a base of sensible clients who understand that we are professionals and not skivvies.

Indeed, that's a very strong starting position. As for me, I have plenty of clients who pay rates that are rather mediocre. But my income is very nice nevertheless. That said, I didn't have to work for yet another bottom feeder for the past four years and patiently waited for clients who pay better. My patience has been rewarded.

However, I do understand that some people might not be so lucky and having a low paid job might be better than having no job at all...

This may not necessarily be the case. I don't think that "blowjob is better than no job". Laurent K. often says in these forums that if you put the energy, you invest in a poorly paid job, into looking for better clients, the results will be much more rewarding, though they may not become visible immediately.

PS: I hope Laurent won't hack my profile for paraphrasing his words?


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 03:42
English to Czech
+ ...
One more thought Nov 28, 2011

jyuan_us wrote:

if you can translate 400 words per hour it is $28 per hour. To most translation companies, that is a luxury salary for a freelancer!


First of all, freelancers don't have salaries; they have some turnover, some expenses, i.e. some income. TBH, $28 per hour would be quite mediocre for a freelance translator even in post-communist Central Europe where I live.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:42
English to German
+ ...
just say no!!! Nov 28, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

WOW!

I think --although I am not sure at all since it is none of my business-- that most of my customers charge their customers about 50-70% more than what they pay me. Such a margin sounds like perfectly reasonable to me, since they are the ones who do all the selling and working with the customer, translating the customer's wishes and expectation into a rather standardised job I can easily work on. I only have to deal with people who understand my work, instead of having to spend lots of time educating the customer.


WOW!!! Your comment/attitude tells all - the downfall of the translator and the seemlessly unstoppable rise of the agencies.

No, a 50-70% profit margin is unprofessional, dishonest, and should be vehemently opposed. A 25% margin is more like it and that's too much. Without translators, these agencies are absolutely nothing. Their work load is also nothing compared with that of a translator. Their work as middlemen actually makes it more difficult to get the client what he/she wants.
With your comments, you encourage agencies to pay unacceptable monies to professional translators.

Just say no!!!


PS: the flight of these unscrupulous agencies will end at one point, I am sure. It will happen when the majority of translators will no longer play their game.



[Edited at 2011-11-28 05:32 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:42
English to German
+ ...
don't get drawn into a downward spiral Nov 28, 2011

Jana Garnsworthy wrote:

How useful do you find having your own website and has it brought you (a lot) more business?
Thanks.
Jana


Hi Jana,
I recommend to you having your own website and be as specific with keywords as you can - especially with location but also with subjects.
And I must agree that business practices of most agencies these days are a disgrace, to say the least. They treat translators like cattle and pay them with "leftovers". It is inconceivable to build a future as an independent translator when one relies on such cheap agencies.
Seeking direct clients and working in teams of translators (and not working for translation agencies at all) is what I recommend.

Best of luck,
Bernhard


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