Baffling logic of translator payment claims.
Thread poster: Phoebe Indetzki

Phoebe Indetzki  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:10
German to English
+ ...
Apr 29, 2013

Having seen a DE>EN job posting that looked interesting, I checked out the website of the translation company involved and was rather baffled by their payment logic. I quote:

The facts:

When you pay $.07 per source word for translations with site "O", the translator only receives $.05/word; which means they only keep 71% of the price of your translation they have worked so hard for.

Compare that to a "standard" source word price of $.06 with site "G" and you will see that they only pay their standard translators $.03/ word; or only 50% of the translation price. But they occasionally offer cookies and T-shirts to their top translators...

We not only pay our translators, we pay them quickly and fairly!

Since we pay our translators over 80% of the total translation price we keep them happier than our competitors who only pay their translators 70% (on the higher scale). Quite frankly, we like to ensure that our translators are not frustrated. We have also found that a happy translator means a happy customer and a happy customer means referrals. Hurray for the world of win-win!

(End of quote).

As they charge their customers 0.06$ per word, I am baffled as to why I should be so much happier to receive 0.048$ per word (80% of 0.06$, in other words) than 0.05$, the 71% of the 0.07$ fee.

Not that I would be happy to work for either rate, to be honest.


Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Quite Apr 29, 2013

Often people mistake high percentages with high amounts. I don't care about the percentage I get of the price, I care about the amount. After all, 100% of 0 is still 0. This is a rubbish and badly formulated pitch.


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:10
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Bad assumptions Apr 29, 2013

Too many translation outsourcers build their "business equation" based on shaky premises.

Most of these flawed-equation outsourcers think that translation clients' first and foremost (and often sole) concern is low cost (= low rates). Were it so, free online machine translation servers would be permanently overloaded.

Many of these assume that translators owe them eternal gratitude for any job they are assigned, oblivious to such event being a business transaction. These tend to envision assigning a job as an act of charity, and now and then seem to feel insulted when a beggar-translator refuses alms-jobs.

They simply ignore that more often than not the translation is expected to be used for some worthy and possibly profitable purpose, therefore quality requirements should be taken in consideration.

Recent attention has been drawn to how much translation agencies make on the rates they pay to translators. I simply don't care, as long as I get paid my fair market rates and on time. I can only hope that this markup is commensurate with the value added by these agencies in the process, so they will be sustainable as companies.


LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:10
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
These new start-ups always start from the wrong end... Apr 29, 2013

They think, I have to charge the customer X (because price is their own selling point) and I need to make Y, so I will pay the translator Z. Instead of starting with: the translator charges Z, I need to make Y, so I need to charge the client X, so what services can I provide to justify this rate to the client.

Since they generally know nothing about translation and fail to realize that good translators are not willing to work for just any rate, they soon discover, contrary to popular belief, that there is no farm of starving translators grasping and clawing to take their jobs through their "magic translation portal"

All it takes is one large project paid at a low rate dispersed to multiple naive translators and a linguistically savvy client and the entire house of cards comes tumbling down.

For .06 a word, I'd rather be paid entirely in T-shirts and cookies...

[Edited at 2013-04-29 22:38 GMT]


Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Local time: 01:10
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
I'm lovin' it Apr 29, 2013

This reminds me of the "1 $-for charity" post we had in the forum a couple of weeks ago.

Yet another client that wants our work for free / for a box of cookies / for $0.06 and on top of that still argues we should be feeling privileged about it, with this "We're among friends here and all in the same boat"-logic.

Sorry, "friends", but I remember all too well from my hippie community days that "being all friends" and "share the good vibes" usually doesn't yield any useful results. Mostly, it doesn't yield any results.

If I was forced to work for someone that pays me a low rate, I'd rather do it for someone that doesn't have to wrap his greed/bad business skills into a happy-hippie-philosophy. That is just downright degrading for all participants. Just like a certain phrase on the shirts of the workers of a certain fast food chain.

Best regards,
Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:10
Chinese to English
"We add no value... Apr 29, 2013 you don't have to, either!"


Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:10
English to Polish
+ ...
They're probably comparing themselves to others in the same bracket Apr 29, 2013

They're probably comparing themselves to other translation companies in the same pay bracket.

Strickly speaking, I don't really have enough information to decide if I feel better receiving a higher percentage of the customer price or lower when my absolute earnings are the same, but I do appreciate the knowledge that when I'm not getting urgency surcharges or an extra for working at night the agency isn't either. On the other hand, I'm decidedly upset when the opposite is true.

As for rates, they're different in different parts of the world, which doesn't always overlap with the languages used in offers, unlike the languages of translation. Six cents a word is a fortune compared to what we're getting paid here in Poland, and it's not much better when companies from more affluent countries are paying. Most folks work for less than three cents per word in local currency. We have a really ailing market here.


Eileen Ferguson  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:10
Member (2012)
German to English
+ ...
0.01 USD per word to cover overheads? Apr 29, 2013

I also viewed this website earlier today, but did not really try to wrap my head around the calculations once I saw the 0.06 USD per word to the end customer. The agency brags that it only keeps 0.01 USD per word to cover overheads. Seriously? Even if the "overhead" is made of thatch how can an agency operate on 0.01 USD per word?


Faroe Islands
Local time: 00:10
Danish to English
+ ...
It is better to work for less at a higher percentage, than for more at a lower percentage Apr 29, 2013

Because supply and demand for services fluctuate, translators need to face the reality, that what they will be paid per word will go up and down. Sometimes it will suck, but other times will be fantastic. But even if you work for a company that pays more than others, your pay will suck when supply of labor is up and the demand is down, and it will suck for everyone. Not only will it suck for everyone, but the ones who earn the most will be those who can provide competitive services for the median price, not those who charge the most for their services.
Agencies will always seek to charge the median price over the long run, and deviation will always result in lower earnings. If the median price sucks for the moment, and right now the median price does suck for most languages, your rates will suck and you will need to work your butt off. But atleast you will be earning more than the guy who is being paid ten percentage points less than you, but charges a higher rate.

From an economic standpoint, the company's logic isn't flaw, as long as their rate is the median market price.


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