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Translators asked to lower rates?!
Thread poster: Channa Montijn

Channa Montijn  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:26
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Oct 10, 2004

Dear all

Just an e-mail I received yesterday from an agency... what do you think of this (I replaced the name with XXX for privacy reasons)?

"Subject: Price reduction in order to preserve the competitiveness of the XXXGroup and its clients. The markets demand it.

Today, international markets insist upon the highest quality at very low prices: this is the fundamental advantage of globalization, of which the ramifications never cease to increase. As XXX offices are "glocalized"-global yet local-they must assure their clients (more than 6,500 across four continents) maximum competitiveness at extremely cost-effective prices. With regard to linguistic quality, as you know, there is none better than XXX thanks to our multi-localization strategy that we are continually developing (see, for example, our Newsletters on our website).

The quality of your services, which our offices constantly check and verify, is not being called into question. What is now being targeted concerns prices: clients ask for radical reductions, as the competitiveness of their products requires it.

We are therefore forced to keep our suppliers on the condition that they too reduce their prices in practical terms. This is the strategic partnership that we expect to establish with our freelancers: client-oriented service in order to gain new markets.

Our Project Managers are in touch with your expectations, ready to find suitable financial solutions in the task of modernizing our globalized linguistic services market."

Thanks for your input!
Channa


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Carley Hydusik  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:26
Russian to English
+ ...
If you can... Oct 10, 2004

go elsewhere.

Sigh... I hate to hear this kind of thing. If the prices get really low everywhere, we can just take our years and years of study and go work at McDonald's, taking orders in several languages.

Good luck. Really, really!


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Timothy Barton
Local time: 21:26
French to English
+ ...
Am I studying the right subject? Oct 10, 2004

The way the rates of pay are going, I'm starting to wonder whether I made a wise choice deciding to study translation. If I'm not going to be able to earn a decent living out of it, then what's the point? And judging by the profiles of most people on this site, anyone who understands another language can find work translating! I've read one profile in which the author has written several paragraphs trying to convince us how bilingual he is, saying how long he's been oversees, what he spoke with his wife and children etc... As if somehow being bilingual makes someone a good translator. If that were the case, anyone not brought up in a bilingual situation may as well give up, as they'll always be loads of people who are perfectly bilingual. Of course, this isn't the case. Translation is a skilled profession and requires the same level of training as, for example, teaching.

Unfortunately, most clients don't seem to realise this, and seem to be willing to pay ridiculously low rates for ridiculously poor quality translations written by ridiculously under-qualified people. And if those of us have the necessary preparation want to compete, we have to accept the same kind of prices.

Is there a way out? Well, in Catalonia, one organisation is campaigning for a professional association to be set up, with membership being compulsory in order to carry out the profession legally (like with doctors, physiotherapists, etc...). I think this has to be the way forward. Why can someone be a translator without being properly trained, yet not a doctor? I don't know whether this kind of iniciative is being followed in other parts of Europe, but I think it's the only way to save our profession.


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
A cover-up for their own probs Oct 10, 2004

I received the same mail. The firm (relatively) recently moved from a very luxurious location, where they had been for over 10 years, to a very non-luxurious location. Personally I think they want to lower rates because they themselves are in financial probs and are using the globalisation issue as an excuse. Mismanagement seems more likely.(Owners/managers seem to change at regular intervals). Their rates (to translators)are definitely not high. I stopped working for them several years ago. My 2 c€nts.

[Edited at 2004-10-10 10:24]


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
blablabla Oct 10, 2004

Quality has its costs, and so it has its price.
This is a fact which cannot be discussed away.

In contrary, I recommend to raise the rates, to allow for a higher quality. And "Quality sells" is a well known marketing "secret".

Even if you ask the economy experts, they will confirm that they prefer a little inflation to any deflation.

Another fact to back up this point of view: the customs duties.
If you import anything from an underdeveloped country into the EU, the customs duties are very low, mostly between 1% and 4%. If you import something in the other direction, into an underdeveloped country, the duties are usually 50% to 100%. Why is that so?

It is not true, that their governments are so much more greedy than ours. They simply have to protect their local economy, because they could not sell the goods produced in their country to their people, if they would allow our products to be sold freely on their market. They would be over-competited, in spite of our high costs and expensive products. Because quality sells.


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Channa Montijn  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:26
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree with you all Oct 10, 2004

and fortunately I have never worked for this company (but probably sent them my resume once...).
I find it just very worrying and I think the only way to 'turn the tide' is to refuse to work for low rates.
The major problem there is that if you do not have any work for a couple of weeks or months, you will have to decide for yourself if you should accept jobs for a lower standard rate, simply because you'll have to eat.
This has been discussed several times already, I know, but I have never received an e-mail from an agency with this kind of bs (pardon the expression). And again, I am very worried this kind of (mis) managment could just be one of the first and that other companies will follow this policy as well.
As to organisations to protect qualified translators and interpreters... we have that in Holland as well (NGTV). However, they are not allowed to set rates ( I think it is against the law here).

Regards
Channa

[Edited at 2004-10-10 12:20]


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Jasmin Carow  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:26
Greek to German
+ ...
Depends on the country Oct 10, 2004

Hi,

basically I agree with you. However, rates must be appropriate depending on the country the client is living in. I am living in Greece and my experience is, that most agencies are in fact not being able to pay higher rates, so, if one is not willing to lower his rates, he possibly will lose a lot of jobs.


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Erika Lundgren  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:26
Member (2003)
Spanish to Swedish
+ ...
Raise you rates Oct 10, 2004

I have also received e-mails like this. I have refused to lower my rate and of course lost the agency. But this has luckily never ocurred with the agencies that give me the most jobs, but only with agencies that have been giving me a few per year.

On the other hand I raised my rates a year ago, and received to my surprise very positive reactions from many. I lost a few agencies but won others and in the end I work less and earn more, which is of course a very happy equation. I think it is true that quality sells, and that if you hold higher rates, you signal better self-confidence and better quality.

It is true that rates have to be adapted to the different countries. But translation does not have any borders really. If they do not pay enough in the country where you live, look for agencies to work with in countries where they pay more. I assure you many agencies do the same, the opposite that is...






















[Edited at 2004-10-10 16:28]


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Klaus Herrmann  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:26
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Tail wagging its dog Oct 10, 2004

Jasemi wrote:
most agencies are in fact not being able to pay higher rates.


May I suggest that these agencies train their sales staff and/or search for better-paid freelancers, thus improving the quality of their service. This will put them in a more competitive position.


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Hans G. Liepert  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 21:26
English to German
+ ...
Beware of compulsory associations! Oct 10, 2004

Timothy Barton wrote:

Is there a way out? Well, in Catalonia, one organisation is campaigning for a professional association to be set up, with membership being compulsory in order to carry out the profession legally (like with doctors, physiotherapists, etc...). I think this has to be the way forward.


Oh well, illegal translators working in clandestine cellars of secluded villages the Pyrenaen mountains, formerly used by the ETA. Why should I order with a member from this association? Outside of Catalonia some people are speaking Spanish very well. Can you imagine people from South America working for a rate which ridicules this famous organization? What about Spanish speakers from outside Catalonia - are they allowed to translate or do they have to pay royalties?
You can't force the market, some states tried to do it - in vain.


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sandhya  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:56
German to English
+ ...
... especially in "low-cost" countries Oct 10, 2004

Hi,

I am based in India and I often receive inquiries just cos it is expected that my rates will be much lower than translators based in the West!
Frankly, I don't get the logic:-) If we believe in globalization and considering today most translators operate via the Internet, how does the location of the translator matter?
One client asked me to lower my rates when the Euro rate hit a high a couple of years ago.... saying my profits were higher, so I must lower my rates. I wrote back asking if he would agree to pay me higher rates should the Euro rate fall drastically? Obviously, I never heard from them again!

Yet another potential client claimed my rates were too high considering I came from an "underdeveloped" country, communications were poor, quality was not on par with international standards and more! I replied asking why they chose to work with Indian translators if they had to face soooo many problems, they should find their service providers elsewhere!

Sooo, lowering rates because of market situations is just a gimmick. I think if you are established enough and can afford to lose a client... lose him/her/them!

cheers
sandhya

[quote]Channa Montijn wrote:

Dear all

Just an e-mail I received yesterday from an agency... what do you think of this (I replaced the name with XXX for privacy reasons)?

"Subject: Price reduction in order to preserve the competitiveness of the XXXGroup and its clients. The markets demand it.

Today, international markets insist upon the highest quality at very low prices: this is the fundamental advantage of globalization, of which the ramifications never cease to increase. As XXX offices are "glocalized"-global yet local-they must assure their clients (more than 6,500 across four continents) maximum competitiveness at extremely cost-effective prices. With regard to linguistic quality, as you know, there is none better than XXX thanks to our multi-localization strategy that we are continually developing (see, for example, our Newsletters on our website).


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Konstantin Kisin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:26
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
offtopic: bilingual matters (IMHO!) Oct 10, 2004

Timothy Barton wrote:
And judging by the profiles of most people on this site, anyone who understands another language can find work translating! I've read one profile in which the author has written several paragraphs trying to convince us how bilingual he is, saying how long he's been oversees, what he spoke with his wife and children etc... As if somehow being bilingual makes someone a good translator.


1. Understanding another language and being bilingual are two _very_ different things.


2. Actually, yes, anyone who understands another language CAN find work translating (what work is another issue).

3. Being bilingual (as any other single quality, for example having a degree in translation) does NOT, in itself, make you a good translator. What makes you a good translator is (hehe) the ability to translate well, which inevitably comes from experience. In my mind, anyone who can consistently produce quality translations is a good translator, even if they never went to primary school

If that were the case, anyone not brought up in a bilingual situation may as well give up, as they'll always be loads of people who are perfectly bilingual.


There are actually very, very few people who are perfectly bilingual (don't tell anyone but I keep forgetting words in my mother language), and not everyone who is (perfectly) bilingual is a (good) translator. There are non-bilingual people who don't have a translation degree either but are outstanding translators, and there are bilingual, trained translators who produce low-quality work.

From someone who is bilingual, and who doesn't have a degree in translation (I started translating when I was 16, and have never had any negative feedback from clients, ever), I can tell you that it is quality (and punctuality) that is always appreciated (financially), not a framed piece of paper on your wall. If your work is good, sweat-shop labour will not be a problem for you - you'll be in a totally different market niche.

As for the actual subject of this topic (:)) I'd suggest avoiding working with cheapskates, if you possibly can. Then again, its still better to work with cheapskates than to not work at all...

Just my humble o


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 16:26
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Comments Oct 10, 2004

Channa wrote
clients ask for radical reductions, as the competitiveness of their products requires it.


This isn’t true. This agency thinks that translations are cheaper elsewhere and wants to lower its rates paid to translators, but as calling for new translators is more risky than writing to those who are already in their database, they first try with those ones. If their clients keep coming back to them because of their quality, they shouldn’t be afraid of globalization.

Jasemi wrote
However, rates must be appropriate depending on the country the client is living in. I am living in Greece and my experience is, that most agencies are in fact not being able to pay higher rates

Yes, it’s the problem or the situation in many countries, and I feel comfortable asking for different rates when the client is in my country and needs a local price or when the client is in another country where rates are higher. This is not only for my own advantage, it’s just a way of showing respect for the translators of that country too.

But you can start having doubts, as I had recently, when the real client (I mean not the agency, but the one that needs the document) is not from that country and the languages involved are not from that country either. These are generally agencies who fish clients with the argument of being cheaper because they are in a cheaper country, and I don’t like that at all.

Sandhya wrote
I am based in India and I often receive inquiries just cos it is expected that my rates will be much lower than translators based in the West!
Frankly, I don't get the logic


I think that there’s no logic, but some freelancers are guilty for having used the “cheaper cost of living of their country” argument for attracting clients. I think that they are going to be the victims of their own tactic, starting with the low rates they work for.

Claudia


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 21:26
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Would anyone ask lawyers, doctors or accountants to lower their rates? Oct 11, 2004

Any other profession would just laugh and delete a mail like that.

Yet when these highly-trained people have finished, (and they often get paid more than we do) what do the global companies do? They look for a translator.

Mistranslations can cost a lot of money, time, expenses, even loss of life and limb if things go really wrong.

Who do you want to translate texts about food standards, medicines, pharmaceuticals, product specifications, safety instructions... ? The cheapest person with a dictionary, or someone who is properly trained, and keeps their training up to date?

The best translators have spent just as long at university as the other professionals. If they don't understand what they are doing, they cannot translate accurately.

Tell the clients to pass that on to their customers. Don't be greedy, but insist on decent pay. Then give value for money.

Have a nice day!

PS You don't have to learn your languages at university, of course, and you do have to do a lot of groundwork outside university as well, as Konstatin must have done. But a good translator is a skilled professional.

We should not sell ourselves too cheaply - I prefer to do a job for free (and I do) when I know the client can't afford the going rate.

[Edited at 2004-10-11 14:41]

[Edited at 2004-10-11 15:16]


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Ruxi
German to Romanian
+ ...
Again and again Oct 11, 2004

I do not trust this kind of agencies either. It seems to be a kind of promotion. Agencies have to live, translators have to live and customers too.
The sad reality is that the countries (all of them) get poor, that more and more people choose to work as freelance translators and the result is ...lower prices."In house" jobs for translators are only a few.
Doctors, lawyers, translators, everybody has to go to lower prices if this is the market and if they want to have clients and live.
Being proud and hungry does not help anybody.
If translation demands are too few and translators too many, this is the market.People have to live, to attract clients. It's easy to say "Don't accept lower prices" and everybody would like higher prices and incomes, but if there is not possible?
It is not about poor countries where prices are lower, but about languages which are not needed and if anyone accidentally needs them must go to those specific countries where a lot of people are waiting for better paid jobs. Of course it is unfair for a client to offer a lower price just because "so are prices in your country", but if for him it is more efficient...he has to do so.
It's hard but true.
People with less used languages don't move in other countries because they will not have clients there and die of starvation.
Wether we like it or not we have to accept some things (reality), unfortunately or fight and change it.
The other subject: Quality has nothing to do with price.People accepting low prices don't automatically have a lower quality for their work, they just have to live.
Quality is a result of native talent and work (studies of different fields and languages and as a result certificates and diploma).
Experience comes from work and not vice-versa.Yes, from a point you can say you get work as a result of your experience, but first you have to accumulate this.
Bi-or polylingualism helps of course. It is a Joker, for that person, because indeed you handle good those languages, better than others and you have experience in them. This is valid both for native polylingualism and that received as result of marrying or living in different countries many years.
People who don't have certificates get jobs. If they are good,if they know the languages and have a talent in handling them...In many countries such studies and certificates do not exist or are not used, i.e demanded. If I am not wrong (please correct me), I understood that USA is one of these countries.
It's not the people who translate without them guilty, but those who accept and hire them.
I once said: a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a.s.o can not work without a diploma. Why should a translator do?
An exam to test their ability and skills and as a result of this a certificate, would do.At least for people who do not graduate philology universities, because those kind of universities do not prepare people for technical, law, financial or medical translations.

Ruxi


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