# 'Sliding Scale': a new variant on volume discounts

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'Sliding Scale': a new variant on volume discounts
Thread poster: Parrot

Parrot
Spain
Local time: 14:32
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
 Jul 15, 2004

Yesterday at around midnight, as I sat brooding before my usual specs, an email popped in in the form of a survey.

Basically, the survey was a kind of feeler regarding what I thought about a "sliding scale" on a monthly basis as applied to rates and wordcounts. To be more specific, I should perhaps paste the survey here:

1) Would a sliding scale as described influence the amount of work that you'd be able to send us?

2) Also, what would you consider would be the correct amount of source-words per month at which to begin the sliding scale:

a) 20,000 source words per month
b) 30,000 source words per month
c) 40,000 source words per month
d) 50,000 source words per month
e) 60,000 source words per month

I'm a numbers freak. I love the logic of numbers. I've looked at Fibonacci, studied the "phi" progression in several variants, done permutations on circles, triangles, pentagons, volutes - you name it, it fascinates me. But what geometry was this? Where was it found in nature? Or was it a crude, man-made arbitrary arithmetic aimed at ... this is the fascinating question. What was it aimed at?

Was it possible the email caught me at the wrong time, faced with 50,000 words that were going painfully slowly, from a long-standing client who had just happily renewed his contract at a higher rate, and who didn't know how to "slide"?

I'm a simple "Parrot". I do a steady 3,000 words a day, and I love my weekends. That means I work 20-22 days a month. 60,000-66,000 would be just about what I would be comfortable with in one month.

It probably goes without saying that no amount of added proficiency, skill, credentials, saintly behaviour, specialisations, etc., is going to wrangle me more than 24 hours a day or 31 days a month. For such is the justice of the Heavens among the mortals of this planet.

Ergo, those 60,000-66,000 words are mine, to allocate to whomsoever I please. And since they seem to move well enough without "sliding", what was the point?

But I'm hooked. It's the principle behind the proposition that I seek to comprehend. What does it operate on? Does it appeal to what's left of my reptilian brain in the event I am a theoretical evolutionary throwback, saying, "take me, and you'll conserve your territory"? (Well, if it was mine to begin with, where do you stand? On the threshold of the prochain-être or the mafia?) I have very little reptilian left in me, would I buy this if I were a crocodile?

I'm not selfish. I've sold off my quota of 60,000 - in spot and futures - and I'm not built to do 90,000 on a regular basis. What for? All that "sliding" could easily bring 90,000 to the price of my 60,000. And what about the inverse? What if I did 45,000 for the price of 60,000 and lived better?

Since I normally apply a surcharge to urgent cases, anyway, shouldn't I rather be collecting double for 90,000?

Then I remembered the famous "illogical series" discovered and published by an Argentinian colleague, by which, at 80,000 words onward, you began to pay the outsourcer ...

NB: the opinions expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the management of this website.

[Edited at 2004-07-15 14:25]

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:32
Member (2004)
English to Italian
 I love sliders... Jul 15, 2004

if I'm working in a factory, do I have to be paid less because I'm working there full time? Strange concept, sliders, aren't they?

Parrot wrote:

I'm a numbers freak. I love the logic of numbers. I've looked at Fibonacci...

Ah, the great Fibonacci... you see, you've made me happy now...

I have very little reptilian left in me, would I buy this if I were a crocodile?

no, because you are a parrot, remember?

Then I remembered the famous "illogical series" discovered and published by an Argentinian colleague, by which, at 80,000 words onward, you began to pay the outsourcer ...

Giovanni

Sandra Alboum
United States
Local time: 08:32
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
 I got this too... Jul 15, 2004

But the thing was, it talked about me sending THEM a specific number of words. When I read this email, it really sounded like they should be sending it out to their clients, and NOT their translators.

So I wrote them back and told them so.

[Edited at 2004-07-15 12:11]

Narasimhan Raghavan
Local time: 18:02
English to Tamil
+ ...
 Such reasoning is meant for nervous beginners Jul 15, 2004

A beginner, anxious to get at regular paying work is likely to fall for this gimmick, because gimmick it is without any doubt. The outsourcer will get the best rate for 100,000 words and will give a small work of say 500 words. That's all. He is likely to come back after 3 years and will be hurt that the translator is demanding the then prevailing rate and if the translator is dumb enough, he will try another ploy of potentially big jobs. I know what I am talking about. This happened to me 25 years back. The only redeeming feature was that I was not dumb enough to fall for the second ploy.

Nowadays if an outsourcer bluffs me with potential big jobs, I don't tell him straightaway that he is lying (he knows it already). Instead I offer to come to his premises three days a week and do translation on hourly rate for 8 hours each day. The only stipulation is that there should be a service contract to this effect for one year, that is to say 156 days a year (52x3=156). The client is taken aback, humms and haws and says perhaps he is not having that much work. Then I offer 2 days a week (104 days a year) at a slightly higher hourly rate (thereby comes the sliding scale in picture) and then proceed to one day a week (52 days). By this time the outsourcer comes clean and admits that the job in hand is the only one requiring translation. Then the negociations proceed on a more normal note.

If you are interested, you can try another reply. Sliding rate for increasing order size is logical for jobs involving manufacturing from dies. Once the dye is made, pieces can be made on a routine basis. But in translation each sentence is like a dye and a die by itself costs a lot of money. In photocopying shops there are volume discounts. But it cannot be justified in translation. Actually negotiations are battles of wits and one has to be vigilant and not allow oneself to be browbeaten.

Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2004-07-15 14:53]

Judy Rojas
Chile
Local time: 09:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
 Another alternative to Jul 15, 2004

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:

Nowadays if an outsourcer bluffs me with potential big jobs, I don't tell him straightaway that he is lying (he knows it already). Instead I offer to come to his premises three days a week and do translation on hourly rate for 8 hours each day. The only stipulation is that there should be a service contract to this effect for one year, that is to say 156 days a year (52x3=156).

I have tried this comeback to clients that promise future big volumes in exchange for lowering my rate on a small project. I ask the prospective client for a monthly estimate of "future" volume. When they comeback with a figure, I then tell them that yes, I will agree to the lower rate, but only if we sign an agreement whereby the client will commit to payment for that volume regardless of whether projects are assigned to me or not.

Hence, if the client is "promising", say, 30,000 words per month and only sends 15,000, the client will have to pay for the full 30,000 words.

This is a pricing method I learned in the airline industry, where travel operators commit to a number of seats per month, regardless of whether they use them or not.

So far, when presented with this option, clients have preferred to go with my normal rate

Cheers,

Ricardo

[Edited at 2004-07-15 14:15]

Parrot
Spain
Local time: 14:32
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
 You're right Jul 15, 2004

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

no, because you are a parrot, remember?

A crocodile would probably make a personal appointment.

Lucinda
Local time: 09:32
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
 More words, reduced fee, less quality Jul 15, 2004

How about this idea of a sliding (down) scale: more words a month, less money per word, less quality because I am overworked and underpaid.

Dear Parrot, I on the other hand am very mathematically challenged and thus cannot even conceive how to operate these "sliding scale thingies." I thus decided a long time ago to not even look at, let along accept these jobs that say: for so many words we pay this and for more less. I do not understand this; all this little reptilian brain knows is: work harder to get food, food intake larger.

Ergo, it all boils down to a simple premise: more work, more money.

If I have to undergo a more complicated operation that will take more time, will I politely ask my doctor to apply the 'sliding scale principle' to pay him or her less. I do not think so.

Lucinda.

[Edited at 2004-07-15 16:23]

Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 07:32
English to Spanish
 Sliding scales are common Jul 15, 2004

Sliding scales are quite common, but they should be applied after the fact, not on a promise.

Say you invoice a customer once per month. If the total number of words is above a certain figure, then he can deduct a percentage.

If it is a regular customer, any discount would apply if they provide additional work over their typical or even maximum monthly volume.

Karin Adamczyk
Canada
Local time: 08:32
Member
French to English
 Ridiculous notion Jul 16, 2004

[quote]Parrot wrote:

Yesterday at around midnight, as I sat brooding before my usual specs, an email popped in in the form of a survey.

Basically, the survey was a kind of feeler regarding what I thought about a "sliding scale" on a monthly basis as applied to rates and wordcounts. To be more specific, I should perhaps paste the survey here:

[quote]

I would write back asking where they got the ridiculous notion that translation is simply a number of words. This is obviously someone who has no knowledge of translation at all.

1. Number of words is simply used as a method for quantifying the work, but does not tell you how much time is necessary to translate the words.

2. It can take a full day to translate ten words, while it is possible to translate 10,000 words in one day (based on not needing to conduct research, familiarity with the topic, databases of terminology, memories from past work, repetitions, etc.). Shouldn't a day's work be paid based on time spent on task?

Take care,
Karin Adamczyk

Parrot
Spain
Local time: 14:32
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
 One way of looking at it Jul 16, 2004

Pablo Roufogalis wrote:

Sliding scales are quite common, but they should be applied after the fact, not on a promise.

Say you invoice a customer once per month. If the total number of words is above a certain figure, then he can deduct a percentage.

If it is a regular customer, any discount would apply if they provide additional work over their typical or even maximum monthly volume.

But my volume is about as constant as a heart rate. If there were three of me, there might be room for this. So I guess Sandra's argument holds water: a client of mine can get twenty more like me and probably afford it, particularly if he works in the 20-cent upward range. (Come to think of it, give me that much and I'll consider sliding...;) ) But now we're talking economy of scale.

Magda Dziadosz
Poland
Local time: 14:32
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
 Sliding to zero Jul 16, 2004

It seems that there is no limits in people's creativity when it comes to cutting costs. Earlier today I had this phone call: "How do you charge for translation, is it per page or per job?" I said that I charge per page of 1600 characters. "And you do it regardless if the job has 10 or 1000 pages, because we have this huge manual...?" So I said yes, you have to pay for every translated page of 1600 characters. Then he goes: "OK, So we will not use your services". I said: Thank you for calling.
He even haven't asked what is the charge per page!

Magda

Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 07:32
English to Spanish
 I like that Jul 16, 2004

But my volume is about as constant as a heart rate. If there were three of me, there might be room for this. So I guess Sandra\'s argument holds water: a client of mine can get twenty more like me and probably afford it, particularly if he works in the 20-cent upward range.

You mind giving your customer my name...

xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 07:32
English to Russian
+ ...
 I got this one too. Jul 16, 2004

Re-read it 10 times and got through... I guess. Does everyone who got it also operate as an agency or is affiliated with one? Then I must be on a right track.

They are not offering cooperation to translators. They are trying to sell turnkey projects. Say, you, an agency, won a bid with the budget of X per word. Next, you turn around and subcontract it to them for X minus 1, and after reaching Y amount of words - X minus 2 and so on while enjoying a full X billed to your direct client.

Please note that I'm not expressing any opinions as to how ingenious or delirious the idea is in itself, but it looks like they either already have a 'sliding scale labour' at hand or have no doubts that they will get one. Haven't we seen 2-cent bids accepted?

What goes around comes around...

Best,
Irina

Parrot
Spain
Local time: 14:32
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
 Makes no sense, IreneN Jul 16, 2004

The turnkey outsourcer organizes the project assembly-line. They don't skim off projects from agencies, and their rates are the sum of the services they outsource plus their own value-added services. Logically, they have the highest rates, over those of their subcontractors. I have several turnkey clients and they're some of the highest and best-paying...

On the other hand, an agency with DTP and/or web design services can offer turnkey arrangements. But their margins have to be calculated over ours, not the inverse.

xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 07:32
English to Russian
+ ...
 Very true... Jul 16, 2004

Parrot wrote:

Logically...

Who said anything about logic:-)

Let me rephrase myself - "their version of a turnkey project" covering a purely translation part. With today's clearly observed tendency of "lightheadedness" regarding translation as a business and a profession I see plenty of chance for a logic aimed at buying for X, selling for X minus 1, and pocketing the difference. Now, how in the world would you miss such an opportunity:-). Haven't we also heard about such attempts to subcontract right here on Proz? Your standpoint of a highly experienced professional could simply bypass their mind...

[Edited at 2004-07-16 16:10]

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