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How fast can the rates change?
Thread poster: xxxCompany15
xxxCompany15
Local time: 20:07
Oct 1, 2013

The company I'm working for uses the services of freelance translators, sometimes we need translation just into one language, sometimes we have multi-language projects. I've been working for the company for a few years and we tend to work with the same translators for many years.

I thought I knew the prices, at least for the translators we use on a regular basis. However, I've been recently shocked by one of the translators who quoted the price 2-3 times more than I expected. When I asked why the price was so high, I was told that the formatting was quite complicated, I pointed out that we didn't need formatting and I asked how much it would be to translate the file if I send a Word file. I got no answer.

So my question is how fast the rate can be changed?

P.S. The language pair: English into Chinese, the price quoted - $0.3 per word vs. the old price $0.10 - 0.14 / word


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:07
English to Polish
+ ...
... Oct 1, 2013

Well, I'm as puzzled as you are. As regards the problem with the formatting, I'd say a tripled rate can be the result of tripled time. This is because, as you probably know, translators are asked to do quite a lot of things which aren't really translation but which require time to do. Those activities are sometimes of a not particularly prestigious kind, so there's an expectation that they won't cost as much as translation, and some translators play along while others insist that they time costs the same regardless what they do. This, however, does not explain the silence. (Presuming that that there was not too much manual formatting left to do, no particularly awful segmentation/tagging in the CAT of choice due to OCR issues etc.)

Translators are sometimes a little socially awkward. The job line attracts people who don't always fit too well with the rest of the society or the typical social expectations. Some may behave in a little odd ways.


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Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:07
English to Spanish
Let's face it, we can be "a little" socially awkward Oct 1, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

Translators are sometimes a little socially awkward. The job line attracts people who don't always fit too well with the rest of the society or the typical social expectations. Some may behave in a little odd ways.


Thank you so much for the hearty laugh, Łukasz. Your psychology insight is remarkable, and your comment was really funny.


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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:07
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Maybe they just didn't want to do the job Oct 2, 2013

That is the only explanation I have, really.

I don't know what your working relationship is and how frequently and for what volumes you hire the translator. What your payment terms are. How much revision you expect. Etc.
It may well be that the person considers it too much hassle to work at the given rate for whatever reasons.


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Fida Malki
Local time: 03:07
Arabic to English
As a translator all I want to do is translate! Oct 2, 2013

I can tell you from my own experience that, honestly, I detest formatting my translation files. I don't want to deal with graphics, excel sheets, charts, graphs etc. All I want to do is work with words, period! I wish clients can eliminate these mundane tasks from jobs they offer translators, it would make the job so much more enjoyable, faster, and pure. I sadly charge the same rates I do for files that do or do not contain formatting, not very smart I realize, but I work in a small market with too much competition, thus I feel my only competitive advantage would be to offer competitive rates for the services rendered including extras.

This is just a friendly reminder to all those seeking translation services, try to purify the source material and if at all possible limit it to simply translation. Much obliged!


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:07
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Rates really don't change that fast Oct 2, 2013

In fact, there are plenty of long-standing professional translators who admit to not having increased their rates, even if only to index-link them, in the past 5 years.
I don't think that your supplier followed any logic inherent to the profession in increasing his/her rates threefold on the spot. Only that person can really be expected to provide any answer as to why this was. Maybe it was even a mistake.
Or maybe it's time to find some new suppliers!


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Sarai Pahla (MD) MBChB
Germany
Local time: 02:07
Member (2012)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Enjoyed this too! Oct 2, 2013

Miguel Carmona wrote:

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

Translators are sometimes a little socially awkward. The job line attracts people who don't always fit too well with the rest of the society or the typical social expectations. Some may behave in a little odd ways.


Thank you so much for the hearty laugh, Łukasz. Your psychology insight is remarkable, and your comment was really funny.


So true - guilty as charged!


Still, they should provide an explanation/breakdown - this is completely reasonable for any freelance professional. I completely agree with dianaft that perhaps they were just quoting a high price to indicate that they are not interested in the job - I've heard some people say that they do that so that they discourage the client/agency without having to directly say "I don't want this job". This may not apply to other job, however, just to this particular job.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
Same here Oct 2, 2013

Fida Malki wrote:
I can tell you from my own experience that, honestly, I detest formatting my translation files. I don't want to deal with graphics, excel sheets, charts, graphs etc. All I want to do is work with words, period!


My sentiments exactly. I explain this to my (direct) clients and tell them that formatting etc means the job will take longer and may cost more, and they usually try to take this into account. Agencies though are another kettle of fish and with them it's usually a case of "like it or lump it".


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:07
German to English
maybe the translator has had success Oct 2, 2013

I'd say that 0.10-0.14 USD is a very low price for a direct client, but English>Chinese may be a very difficult market (difficult for the translators, easy for the clients). 0.30 USD seems pretty high, but certainly not unreasonable if the translator is reliable and a specialist in something your company needs.

Maybe the translator has simply found better-paying clients. In that case, it is a win-win situation for everyone: You presumably have other translators to replace the translator and the translator presumably has other clients to replace you.

I would say that "market prices" are basically a red herring when it comes to good translators, because "the market" is almost completely irrelevant to them: Regardless of their language pair and specialty, they will never need more than some fraction of a single percent of the clients in that market and every market contains enough elite customers to make a fair number of translators very happy.

That said, all of the other explanations also seem reasonable.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 02:07
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
No hard and fast rules Oct 2, 2013

Perhaps the translator found a new client who pays more.

I tend to push my rates up with new clients, but carry on with long-standing clients at the same old rates. Being familiar with their routines saves time, I know they will pay, and the rates are not THAT bad, etc.

However, I do sometimes tell an agency 'You are my lowest-paying client, and from (date), my rates will be... and I raise them. How much they pay (or don't pay) for formatting etc. and how much hassle their invoicing system involves are more critical than their actual rate per word!

I do ask clients to pay extra if a lot of formatting is involved. Otherwise I end up turning down better paid work because I can't take on all the jobs I am offered.

That way the lowest paying agencies tend to get dropped from the list, or perhaps asked for a raise in rates.

However, my raises are more like 5 - 10% than doubling or trebling the rate...

And I am definitely one of those who lack social graces
My friendly tone on the Internet is mostly hypocrisy, but it saves trouble!


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Theo Bernards  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:07
English to Dutch
+ ...
It seems this translator tries to turn the tables on his/her own Oct 2, 2013

Company15 wrote:

...I've been recently shocked by one of the translators who quoted the price 2-3 times more than I expected. When I asked why the price was so high, I was told that the formatting was quite complicated, I pointed out that we didn't need formatting and I asked how much it would be to translate the file if I send a Word file. I got no answer.

So my question is how fast the rate can be changed?

P.S. The language pair: English into Chinese, the price quoted - $0.3 per word vs. the old price $0.10 - 0.14 / word


I have often experienced that translation agencies have no qualms in forcing rates down by offering to pay a mere percentage of what is regarded a more usual rate. It seems a matter of "if we keep on doing this, they will cave in", so the downward spiral in rates takes at times a break-neck speed. It seems only a matter of time before translators, individually or in a more concerted effort, try to reverse that downward spiral, even if we as professionals are not exactly prone to organising ourselves to make our number count ☺.

This example, though, seems a bit over the top, unless you didn't tell us everything. Was the source file an awkwardly formatted or unusual document type that needs to be converted before it can be uploaded in a CAT-tool? If clients come to me with a faxed document that they scanned, I automatically up my rate as well, albeit not as dramatically as your translator.

Formatting might not be asked for, but a client I once had did not really understand the concept of colons, full stops, commas and exclamation marks, and quotation marks were really sorcery in the eyes of that client. In order to translate the rambling-like text (which it looked like), I had to format the whole shebang first, figure out who said what in the document (a case study with lots of dialogue), and I certainly was not doing that for free, so I negotiated a hefty surcharge on the rate per word (close to double, if I recall correctly). Could something similar be the case with 'your' translator?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 23:07
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Services offered may vary a lot Oct 2, 2013

Fida Malki wrote:

I can tell you from my own experience that, honestly, I detest formatting my translation files. I don't want to deal with graphics, excel sheets, charts, graphs etc. All I want to do is work with words, period! I wish clients can eliminate these mundane tasks from jobs they offer translators, it would make the job so much more enjoyable, faster, and pure. I sadly charge the same rates I do for files that do or do not contain formatting, not very smart I realize, but I work in a small market with too much competition, thus I feel my only competitive advantage would be to offer competitive rates for the services rendered including extras.

This is just a friendly reminder to all those seeking translation services, try to purify the source material and if at all possible limit it to simply translation. Much obliged!


Fida,

No problem with that, there is definitely a market for text translation, and I do it quite often.

On the other hand, I offer a relatively wide array of services peripheral to translation, such as DTP, video translation for dubbing, video translation for subtitling and subtitling itself, video editing and DVD authoring, PDF and PPT translation & layout adjustments, sworn translations...

Of course I charge separately for each type of work I do. If the client simply wants text translation, we are equals (though in different language pairs). However some clients want a turn-key complex job done. In these cases, I'd suggest you develop a reliable network of providers for the services you don't offer yourself. This will spare you from having to turn down any job offer because it involves more than text translation.


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xxxCompany15
Local time: 20:07
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Oct 2, 2013

Thanks for responses, here are some comments:

1) we are close to translation agency rather than to a direct client, and the prices I listed were what the translator quoted us before;
2) the same file was translated into a few other languages, so the prices for the other translators were fine, the problem was with Chinese;
3) I promised to send the file in Word (BTW, one of the translators send us just the translated text with no formatting, it was fine with us);
4) I've been working with this translator for a few years, so if she didn't want to take the file for translation, she could tell me she was busy with some other project, it's fine with us, rather than basically break us the business relationships.


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xxxCompany15
Local time: 20:07
TOPIC STARTER
Formatting Oct 2, 2013

Theo Bernards wrote:

I have often experienced that translation agencies have no qualms in forcing rates down by offering to pay a mere percentage of what is regarded a more usual rate. It seems a matter of "if we keep on doing this, they will cave in", so the downward spiral in rates takes at times a break-neck speed. It seems only a matter of time before translators, individually or in a more concerted effort, try to reverse that downward spiral, even if we as professionals are not exactly prone to organising ourselves to make our number count ☺.


So you think that the rate of 0.10-0.14 US cents per word is a low rate for English into Chinese? The thing is that we usually ask a translator what he/she wants to be paid, since I work with some of the translators for many years, I know their usual rates. I'm only trying to understand why the price went up so high.

Theo Bernards wrote:
This example, though, seems a bit over the top, unless you didn't tell us everything. Was the source file an awkwardly formatted or unusual document type that needs to be converted before it can be uploaded in a CAT-tool? If clients come to me with a faxed document that they scanned, I automatically up my rate as well, albeit not as dramatically as your translator.

It was a brochure in PDF, I was converting it myself into Word (but I guess it doesn't count), I didn't have a file ready at the moment, so I told the translator she would receive it later with the confirmation to proceed. Basically, the page should be separated into a few columns, nothing complicated. And again, I needed some time to finish the Word file.

Theo Bernards wrote:
Formatting might not be asked for, but a client I once had did not really understand the concept of colons, full stops, commas and exclamation marks, and quotation marks were really sorcery in the eyes of that client. In order to translate the rambling-like text (which it looked like), I had to format the whole shebang first, figure out who said what in the document (a case study with lots of dialogue), and I certainly was not doing that for free, so I negotiated a hefty surcharge on the rate per word (close to double, if I recall correctly). Could something similar be the case with 'your' translator?


Well, the file was translated into several languages, one of the translators sent us the plain text, we were fine with that. And again, the word file with formatting that one can use in TRADOS was also available, I just didn't have it ready when I was asking for quotes.


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Jean@LA  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:07
English to Chinese
+ ...
Culturally, 3x price might be easier than a direct "NO" Oct 2, 2013

Most Chinese (not including me) find it hard to just say "NO" or refuse someone an offer directly. What we sometimes do is just "make things difficult" for the other party so he or she will get the implied message and back up on his or her own. It took me many years of living in the States to learn to say "NO" firmly yet politely.

Just a guess.


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