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Reminder: you get what you pay for
Thread poster: Israel Garcia

Israel Garcia  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:26
Member
English to Spanish
Aug 28, 2013

I think we all have to bring grist to the mill when facing the tradeoff between accepting or not accepting an underpaid job proposal. One might argue that competitiveness is good for any market purpose, and yes, it is good, but it has to be balanced with a fair amount of honesty. Is your work really worth that money? I think we have to think this twice or even three times before accepting that income as a measure of our job, because otherwise it will become more and more difficult to find real professionals as prices drop down, as far as nobody can make a living under certain earning goals.

It is our duty to make a pledge about setting a red line under wich our job has to be considered as low-paid and so unacceptable, and stick to this rule to the bitter end. It may be tough but I think we do not have any other chance.

Do you think we do?


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 23:26
Japanese to English
+ ...
... Aug 28, 2013

Yesterday I received a job offer from a former client. The pay was around $90. After figuring out the number of words, I realized the job was really worth at least $300. I told him that I would have to get at least that much to consider taking the job. He sounded disappointed, then told me he'd think about it. About 2 a.m. this morning I got an email from him saying to go ahead and do it for $300.

So I would agree that we just need to stand our ground and not be scared to tell people what we want to receive. The markup that agencies are putting on things is astronomical in some cases. It's kind of like when you see a new car advertised with a special sale where you can get $7000 cash back. How can they afford to give you such a discount? Because the markup is so insanely high that even that seemingly large figure doesn't cut into their bottom line too much.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:26
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Stand our ground Aug 28, 2013

And why shouldn't we? Everybody else does, including the agencies.

If a client contacts them with a job, they will definately not say: okay, how much are you willing to pay us for the translation/proof-reading/editing or interpretation assignment? Far from it. They quote their prices and it's then up to the client to accept it or go somewhere else.

So will any a doctor, lawyer, mechanic or the bakery around the corner. They are the vendors. Therefore, it its their prerogative to state their price - which is usually not negotiable. And nobody will argue over it, but instead either pay the price or leave.

We, the translators and interpreters, are the vendors. Therefore, it is our prerogative to state our price. That's my 2 cents.


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felicij  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:26
German to Slovenian
+ ...
I agree with above Aug 29, 2013

although I must say it is easy for people to demand higher pay if they have enough suppliers. A person that has not had enough work for a long time will be desperate and will accept even low-paid assignments...

Speaking of cars, I recently bought a new car that was advertised as "you can get it for 22k €". That of course meant the lowest possible equipment. My wishes amounted to 26k but after negotiating I got the car for 23K. My point is that everything is negotiable...


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:26
English to Polish
+ ...
That works sometimes Aug 29, 2013

Orrin Cummins wrote:

Yesterday I received a job offer from a former client. The pay was around $90. After figuring out the number of words, I realized the job was really worth at least $300. I told him that I would have to get at least that much to consider taking the job. He sounded disappointed, then told me he'd think about it. About 2 a.m. this morning I got an email from him saying to go ahead and do it for $300.

So I would agree that we just need to stand our ground and not be scared to tell people what we want to receive. The markup that agencies are putting on things is astronomical in some cases. It's kind of like when you see a new car advertised with a special sale where you can get $7000 cash back. How can they afford to give you such a discount? Because the markup is so insanely high that even that seemingly large figure doesn't cut into their bottom line too much.


I know that works sometimes, but thanks for reminding me anyway.

I've already had thoughts before of how bald some of those offers are. People just make what should be seen as a desperate attempt, except it works. They're prepared to pay $300, but they still try offering $90 first.

[quote]Thayenga wrote:

And why shouldn't we? Everybody else does, including the agencies.

Agencies don't always. Sometimes their manner of negotiation with end clients is rather timid.

[Edited at 2013-08-29 20:27 GMT]


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Francisco Ferres  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:26
English to Spanish
+ ...
Free market Aug 30, 2013

The problem here is that translation is not a commodity. Every translator will deliver a different translation and it is you, and only you, that know exactly what your price is.

There will be many prospect clients that you might need to tell them “I do not have the product you’re looking for” and just let them go if they’re just price sensitive. Some groceries sell the best products, some offer the cheapest price. In between both extremes, where do you fit? You decide.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:26
German to English
worry about the other end of the equation Aug 30, 2013

"Setting a red line" is putting the cart before the horse: (1) It won't help you, because it won't bring you more and better-paid work, (2) It won't help the industry, because there will always be an endless supply of translators with a more modest "red line" (or with none at all).

Worry about actively pursuing clients who pay better rates, about working faster, about specializing (to increase rates, quality and speed), etc. and earning as much as you can - that is the only good way to insure that you'll earn enough. It is also the only thing that you can really do to help the overall market (by dumping agencies and direct clients who pay too little and forcing them to run the gauntlet of finding new translators who are willing to work for very low rates).

Sincerely,
Michael


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:26
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Look at it this way Aug 30, 2013

The message to transmit is that "competitiveness" works both ways. Agencies also have to agree to competitive prices from the service provider's point of view. There comes a time when a planting potatoes in a garden allotment may yield more than what they offer, so why buy a computer, pay social costs, and consume the electricity at all?

Sorry to other folks if comes across as shocking - I'm writing from the point of view of one who lives where the poster does, also considering that any attempt to "set a red line" is quashed by the national CNC. Even official colleges have had to pay stiff fines.

But bear in mind that a company can only survive providing certain acceptable levels of quality. This isn't a die-cut trade you can discount volumes on. I've known agencies to try that and close up in two or three years. Now, you wouldn't want to have a collectible with an outfit in that situation.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:26
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Several interesting points Aug 30, 2013

techparlance wrote:

Is your work really worth that money?

It is our duty to make a pledge about setting a red line under which our job has to be considered as low-paid and so unacceptable, and stick to this rule to the bitter end.

Why should we set a red line anywhere?
I think we should set our prices, like any other trade, and make sure they match what we offer in the marketplace.

If I'd charge, say, $150 for a job posted on Proz, and the prospect says there they'll pay between $100 and $200, I won't ask for $200 just because they'd be willing to pay that. OTOH, if they ask me, "Would you do it for $100?", my answer will be "No!".


Thayenga wrote:

So will any a doctor, lawyer, mechanic or the bakery around the corner. They are the vendors. Therefore, it its their prerogative to state their price - which is usually not negotiable. And nobody will argue over it, but instead either pay the price or leave.

We, the translators and interpreters, are the vendors. Therefore, it is our prerogative to state our price. That's my 2 cents.

My take is that this unique tradition of customers telling translators how much they should charge stems from some relatively widespread 'habit' of using unemployed or retired bilinguals in lieu of professional translators. It's equivalent to hire the local janitor in his off-hours to do plumbing or electrical work - it relies heavily on luck.


felicij wrote:

although I must say it is easy for people to demand higher pay if they have enough suppliers. A person that has not had enough work for a long time will be desperate and will accept even low-paid assignments...

This is the recipe a freelancer should use to balance their workload, taking great care to avoid Murphy's Law: after a long stretch on a slump, if they commit to a demanding and large underpaid job, it will be likely to prevent them for taking a much more profitable one that may come up next in the meantime.


Michael Wetzel wrote:

Worry about actively pursuing clients who pay better rates, about working faster, about specializing (to increase rates, quality and speed), etc. and earning as much as you can - that is the only good way to insure that you'll earn enough. It is also the only thing that you can really do to help the overall market (by dumping agencies and direct clients who pay too little and forcing them to run the gauntlet of finding new translators who are willing to work for very low rates).

This is some thoroughly sensible advice.


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:26
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Leaving money on the table Aug 30, 2013

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
If I'd charge, say, $150 for a job posted on Proz, and the prospect says there they'll pay between $100 and $200, I won't ask for $200 just because they'd be willing to pay that.


But why not ask for the $200, if you know the client is indeed willing to pay that much?
It doesn't make any economic sense to knowingly fail to maximize your utility in a transaction.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:26
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Competition Aug 30, 2013

Rudolf Vedo CT wrote:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
If I'd charge, say, $150 for a job posted on Proz, and the prospect says there they'll pay between $100 and $200, I won't ask for $200 just because they'd be willing to pay that.


But why not ask for the $200, if you know the client is indeed willing to pay that much?
It doesn't make any economic sense to knowingly fail to maximize your utility in a transaction.


In this example, I know that my deliverable will be worth $150. I keep this figure (i.e. my rates) under constant surveillance: it is adequate compensation for my investment in efforts and resources, and my past clients consider it a fair return for their money.

If I demand $200 just because they are willing to pay more, unless they are stupid (or had no intention to pay anyway), they are likely to find a competitor doing it for $150, which is the "fair market value" as I determined it to the best of my own knowledge. In this case, bottom line will be... I wanted $150, demanded $200, got zilch.

A corollary here is that I don't know how much that other $150 vendor's delivery is worth. I had a relatively recent case where I gave a prospect my price. A few days later, the client called to tell me she had found someone who would do it for 25% less. I thanked her for the heads-up, so I wouldn't stay awake waiting for her order, mentioning that few people are so considerate. Yet she rebutted, "But I want YOU to do it!". My response was stern: "Well, you know my price. I know that it is a fair value for what I'll deliver. This 25% cheaper vendor, I have no idea on what they will provide you, since I don't know who they are. If I could do it 25% cheaper, I'd have stated so when I gave you my first estimate. If I lowered my price now by 25%, my first estimate would have been thoroughly dishonest, and that's not my style. However you are the client, the choice is yours."

Dropping the other shoe, yes, I got that job right then, at my initially stated price. Yet I imagine thousands of translators that would have immediately given her a 25% discount. The sad thing is that I'll never know whether she really had someone offering to do that job for 25% less...


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:26
English to Polish
+ ...
Those who never stand up never know Aug 30, 2013

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Dropping the other shoe, yes, I got that job right then, at my initially stated price. Yet I imagine thousands of translators that would have immediately given her a 25% discount. The sad thing is that I'll never know whether she really had someone offering to do that job for 25% less...


A friend of mine has recently delivered a series of refusals when asked by local agencies to accept rates more favourable than she was comfortable with. As far as I can recall, she experienced a short-term decline in the volume of business coming her way, but after half a year so the dust settled, and agencies accepted her rates.

The market would be healthier if agencies really did what their name suggests instead of being resellers that rely on secrecy to avoid a bloody riot.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:26
English to Portuguese
+ ...
You really get what you pay for Aug 30, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

A friend of mine has recently delivered a series of refusals when asked by local agencies to accept rates more favourable than she was comfortable with. As far as I can recall, she experienced a short-term decline in the volume of business coming her way, but after half a year so the dust settled, and agencies accepted her rates.


Not too long ago I realized that I've kept my translation rates in my local currency (BRL) unchanged since July 1994! Developments in IT that increased a translator's efficiency covered the local inflation.

In 2009, the USD plummeted from BRL 2.0 to 1.5. So my international jobs caused me a significant loss in income. Nevertheless, I stuck by my guns throughout that year. In Jan. 2010, I'd had enough of it, so I raised my rates by 20%, trying to share the damage.

The good clients understood immediately, and complied. The so-so ones, those that I always wondered whether they were worth keeping, vanished forever.

I was prepared for a downturn in demand. Yet it didn't happen! I was quickly 'taken' by a whole flock of new clients who demanded that very same quality I had been providing all that time, however who were skeptical about being able to get it 20% cheaper.

I think it was in 2012, the USD recouped. Yet I didn't lower my rates. Considering the hefty Brazilian interest rates, as well as PayPal's outrageous fees, I began giving discounts for very short term payments, e.g. COD. Those good new clients rejoiced at the idea of getting the level of service they expected to get, for the rates they expected to pay, and still enjoying great discounts at the expense of PayPal and greedy Brazilian banks.


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Israel Garcia  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:26
Member
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
About colored lines Aug 30, 2013

When I first thought about this post I knew it would become eristic. All right guys, I face the music.

Michael:

I agree with you, we have to take care of our service quality, thriving and seeking for those clients that will make our job worth the effort. I think we all have this in mind. But using your words on the equation simile you know the other side (clients-agencies) has already set a bottom line just like every other business, namely your operation costs plus your profit.

You mention there will be other translators with lower bottom lines. That is competitiveness. You will have to provide better quality instead of lowering your rates. Keep in mind we supply services, hence we set the prices and the other part will make a choice based on a price-quality tradeoff.

Parrot:

I share your view but sometimes competitiveness does not work the same in both directions. In business big fish eats the small one, and if we are sole traders we will likely be the weakest part.

José:

I think we both stand on common ground although I am coarser with my harangue. We are free to set out prices, you bet!, but I am not sure if we must be willing to sell our service under certain levels. I always try to be mindful of jumping through hoops as far as I think it´s kind of bread for today and hunger for tomorrow.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
English to German
+ ...
A dangerous path Aug 30, 2013

felicij wrote:

... A person that has not had enough work for a long time will be desperate and will accept even low-paid assignments...



Yes, but that is a dangerous path. First, it plays into the hands of unscrupulous agencies that will always try to exploit whoever seems to think they have no other choice.

Secondly, you can't continue to work for unacceptable rates to stay financially afloat. It's an impossibility! You work yourself to death and have no money left again!
And just waiting for that great job is not going to be enough.

My advice is to beef up your advertising - at least here on Proz.com, better yet on your own website, and point to all the aspects that make you stand out among the crowd. Visit a few profile pages and their links to the translator's own website and compare.
And stick to what you consider an acceptable rate to you, not the client.
As a freelancer, you provide the service, you say what it costs!!

If that doesn't help, consider a different job, even if it's just for now.
But to become a successful translator, you have to be able to be reached anytime and be able to reply to inquiries.

Don't accept unacceptable rates! It's not good for you and it's not right!
(And I don't mean you, felici, I am speaking in general terms).


B

[Edited at 2013-08-30 20:03 GMT]


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