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New Year Resolution - raise your lowest agency rate?
Thread poster: Christine Andersen

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:27
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Dec 1, 2013

I have a suggestion, which arose from a thread on another site that was going in circles.

Discussions about low rates serve to raise awareness, but they are pointless unless we stand together and actually do something about unacceptably low rates.

As freelancers, we are supposed to set the rates we charge our clients, but very often agency clients propose a rate and claim it is all their budget allows, or it is the 'industry standard', etc. One of these has just given its CEO a bonus well over a million GBP... So it is simply not true.

In fact there is no industry standard. We don't have trade unions or collective agreements to negotiate our pay for us. Indeed, we are not allowed to form syndicates and agree on rates, and this is a glaring loophole that some agencies exploit to press individual freelancers' rates down.

So why don't we all give them some serious resistance in the new year? Without consulting others, comparing rates or any other activity that could be construed as forming a syndicate, why not simply raise the lowest rate you will work for at some time in the New Year? (The sooner, the better!)

Being desperate for work and accepting any rate rather than no work at all is not a long-term solution. Unscrupulous agencies will just press rates even further down, and we have to resist.
If you really need the work, try to negotiate, but keep the possibility open that you will not raise your rate until next time. Then keep on trying to raise it or find clients who pay more.

Give your lowest-paying client(s) notice that from January 1 or in a month or two your rate will be slightly higher than it is at present.

If you have several clients who pay the same rate, either send similar mails to them all, or pick the ones with the tightest deadlines, the most demanding jobs or whatever, but send a mail and raise your rate.
____________________________________________

It is very difficult to lower standards - most translators cannot deliberately deliver poorer quality for a lower rate. So the penny-pinchers are actually providing end clients with the same quality of translation, and undercutting outsourcers who pay translators better rates.

It is very easy to understand end clients who ask why they should pay more, when they get the same service anyway.

When it comes to products like coffee or chocolate, it is easy to see why we should buy Fair Trade products to enable the workers who produce them to make a reasonable living.

Nobody is going to run a campaign for 'Fair Trade' translation unless we do it ourselves!

____________________________________________

Remember to send warm greetings to all those clients who do respect you and pay viable rates!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:27
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My response Dec 1, 2013

Like! Agree! Thanks!

I doubt that I'll raise my rates any time soon, as I lowered them (for new clients) when I moved to Spain in May 2012 because Spanish agency translation rates are lower than in France, and then raised them again as it became clear that I was never going to attract Spanish clients, and had no real reason to charge new "foreign" clients any less than my long-standing clients.

Although I've never accepted the downward spiral, I have been blighted by clients whose own deadlines were sacrosanct yet who didn't see my payment dates as important. Well, after nearly 17 years, I finally seem to have it licked: monthly invoices issued on Friday have all been paid! So they won't be getting rate increase demands!

But I do hereby swear never to accept lower than my lowest rate, which is my minimum posted here, apart from giving a small discount when I'm working on editing fellow freelancers' own marketing material.


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Emma Jansson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 17:27
Member
English to Swedish
+ ...
I will make another plea Dec 1, 2013

As I don't have any customers who pay rock-bottom fees, I will make another plea: As soon as I'm approached by a new client, I will ask for at least 50 % more than my preferred fees. I have enough work to keep me going as it is, so if a new client wants my time, they better make it worth my while.

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:27
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
2014 and its opportunities Dec 2, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Like! Agree! Thanks!



This is a very important poll, so thank you, Christine, for having suggested it.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
I have been blighted by clients whose own deadlines were sacrosanct yet who didn't see my payment dates as important.


This is one important factor in freelancing. It's not only the rate itself, but also timely payments. If a client offers a high, or at least a good rate, but then takes "forever" to pay, it has a vital impact on the freelancer's life.

I am already in the progress of announcing slightly higher rates effective February 1, 2014. Don't want to send them along with the Christmas and New Year's wishes. Knowing a forehand that 2 of my clients will not accept the raised rates, I'm also starting to explore the fields in search of new clients.

As I've stated before in another recent forum here on ProZ, the clients (agencies and end clients) cannot be blamed for lowering the rates or demanding them. After all, they need (or just want to) keep their hands on their pockets. It's the translators who set the rate just like a lawyer or doctor, or any other service provider. For as long as translators accept peanuts for their high-quality work, there's absolutely no reason for any outsourcer to pay more. Again, it always takes two to tango.

I strongly support Christine's idea of a "Fair Trade" for translators. Only we, the translators, can make a difference in terms of getting paid the value of our services.


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KateKaminski
Local time: 16:27
German to English
One thing I do not understand Dec 2, 2013

An argument for lower rates is that translators have to compete with people in countries with lower living costs.

But why on earth do people in such countries charge less? Maybe you can buy a loaf of bread for $0.05 in country X, but undercutting other translators is surely not necessary. Why not charge the same as someone living in the USA and buy yourself a large mansion with pool and vacations in the Bahamas?


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 17:27
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Count me in! Dec 2, 2013

Thank you for this great idea, Christine. I hope we can count with the joined efforts of many colleagues to make this happen.

I know it can be frightening to turn down work - especially as we are so constantly reminded these days that times are hard. But I believe much of it is a perverse fearmongering and brainwashing to keep people subdued and to make them accept ever more degrading working conditions. For example, a few days ago the Portuguese news were showing how much richer Portugal's richest have been getting this year - some have doubled their wealth! All that while the rest of the population is being told to shut up, work more and get paid less.

Mind that by raising your rates, the work that is available won't become less - but bottomfeeder agencies might have to leave their share to more respectful agencies.

Of course I would feel extremely saddened if the bonus of any translation agency CEO drops to under a million because of this, but unfortunately my budget, the market pressure and the worldwide financial crisis don't allow for further reductions of my rate.

Have a wonderful new year!

Anna


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Valery Shapovalenko  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:27
English to Russian
+ ...
Let's make it rolling at the other Translator Sites Dec 2, 2013

I'm pro Christine. The only is, let's every poster make it rolling and circulate at the other sites, say TranslationCafe, etc. Otherwise, Prozians may have found themselves all alone.

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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:27
Member (2005)
English to Japanese
+ ...
I've always wondered the same thing Dec 2, 2013

KateKaminski wrote:

An argument for lower rates is that translators have to compete with people in countries with lower living costs.

But why on earth do people in such countries charge less? Maybe you can buy a loaf of bread for $0.05 in country X, but undercutting other translators is surely not necessary. Why not charge the same as someone living in the USA and buy yourself a large mansion with pool and vacations in the Bahamas?


And I still haven't found an answer to this question.

I live in one of the most expensive countries in the world, and I definitely cannot live on $0.05, but translators working in the same language pair living in an underdeveloped country can. And what's keeping them to charging more? Do they think it's greedy to charge what people in developed countries charge? Or are they just plain stu..., I mean modest?

Like you said, if I were in the same situation, I would charge my present rate, buy a large mansion with a swimming pool with housemaids and butlers.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:27
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Please do! Dec 2, 2013

Valery Shapovalenko wrote:

Let's make it rolling at the other Translator Sites

The only is, let's every poster make it rolling and circulate at the other sites.... Otherwise, Prozians may have found themselves all alone.


I am going to post on the other groups I take part in, but of course there are hundreds of other sites, and no-one has time to look at them all.

Please blog, or do whatever you can think of. The only way to resist the big bottom feeders is to get as many freelancers as possible to stand together.

We simply have to put action behind the words. Some already have, but the pressure has to be kept up.

[Edited at 2013-12-02 12:21 GMT]


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:27
German to English
great initiative, but also prefer Emma's version Dec 2, 2013

Could we reformulate the resolution (in keeping with Emma's suggestion)?

I resolve to find a new client that pays more than any of my present clients (or as much as my best client), so that I can permanently stop working with my worst-paying (or most troublesome) client.

After all, New Year's resolutions are notoriously short-lived.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:27
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Hopefully not this one! Dec 2, 2013

Michael Wetzel wrote:

Could we reformulate the resolution (in keeping with Emma's suggestion)?

I resolve to find a new client that pays more than any of my present clients (or as much as my best client), so that I can permanently stop working with my worst-paying (or most troublesome) client.

After all, New Year's resolutions are notoriously short-lived.


As mentioned before, united we stand (getting paid good rates), yet devided we fall (working for peanuts).

Our colleagues are right. Just because the rates in country X are chronically low doesn't mean that a translator cannot charge the "normal" rate sin country Y.

If there are no translators willing to work for peanuts, then the market will change simply because it has no choice. And then we can all make a living regardless of where we live.

Personally, I don't think it's greedy to ask for a good rate for good work. It's simply following the laws of commerce...like everybody does.


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Marius Reika  Identity Verified
Member (2006)
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Go and see the poor countries Dec 2, 2013

Yasutomo Kanazawa wrote:

KateKaminski wrote:

An argument for lower rates is that translators have to compete with people in countries with lower living costs.

But why on earth do people in such countries charge less? Maybe you can buy a loaf of bread for $0.05 in country X, but undercutting other translators is surely not necessary. Why not charge the same as someone living in the USA and buy yourself a large mansion with pool and vacations in the Bahamas?


And I still haven't found an answer to this question.

I live in one of the most expensive countries in the world, and I definitely cannot live on $0.05, but translators working in the same language pair living in an underdeveloped country can. And what's keeping them to charging more? Do they think it's greedy to charge what people in developed countries charge? Or are they just plain stu..., I mean modest?

Like you said, if I were in the same situation, I would charge my present rate, buy a large mansion with a swimming pool with housemaids and butlers.


In a country where 100 usd (or even less) is an average monthly wage, a translator working for 0.05 usd and doing 20 000 words per month will get 1000 usd. Is this bad? These people should not be happy? If the agency is getting 0.10, I see no problem in this, the problem rises when the agency is getting a lot and giving the translator peanuts. Then it is exploitation.

And please refrain from insults. If you charge more and get more, it does not make you smarter or better.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:27
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
There is always the argument about the cost of living where you live and where the client is... Dec 2, 2013

... so rates will vary a lot from one part of the world to another.

The criterion must be: whether you can afford a reasonable standard of living, a holiday now and then, an education for your children, and to save up, so that you have a pension when the time comes, and something to live on if you are ill.

Taxes, health insurance, state welfare schemes (or lack of them), etc. vary enormously too, so a reasonable rate in some parts of the world is below the poverty line in others.

We cannot change that.
What we do need to change is the way 'bottom feeders' refuse to pay viable rates, and ruin the market for clients who do pay fair rates for their parts of the world.

I know that the poor countries can't always pay top Scandinavian fees - and I may adjust my rates if I know where the end client comes from. However, if I can see that the end client is a big Scandinavian corporation earning billions, why should they pay peanuts to a translation agency in a 'poor' country, who in turn will only be able to afford peanuts for the translator? I charge my full rate, and several agencies have happily passed on the bill...

I take my hat off to them - they are the ones we need to support.
____________________________

PS I make resolutions several times a year - and even if they don't last, I try again in a few months!

My birthday in summer is a kind of 'new year' too, and most faiths have dates or seasons when followers make a special effort...

So 'sometime in 2014' is not too much to ask!


[Edited at 2013-12-02 16:17 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:27
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Resentment Dec 2, 2013

I see so many threads on Proz where the posters seem to be eaten up with resentment about how little they're paid. But you shouldn't have accepted low payment in the first place. If you accept low payment, you're stuck with it and when times get tough, you feel it more; but you have only yourself to blame. It isn't the fault of the agencies with whom you agreed it.

I have no intention of increasing my tariff at the moment. In an economy (Italy) on which I rely for much of my work but which is bumping along the bottom, many of my sources (small export-minded Italian manufacturers) have dried up as a result of cutbacks that have forced many of them to do without translations.

Meanwhile here in the UK where I'm based, the bank interest rate is being held ridiculously low and inflation is officially very low too (although in fact it's much higher).

Under present conditions, even though my income from translation has fallen I wouldn't be able to justify an increase in my rate.

But all the predictions are that throughout Europe, bank rates will soon begin to rise, and so will inflation. Maybe in December 2014 I'll think about increasing my rate, just to keep up.

[Edited at 2013-12-02 16:25 GMT]


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 17:27
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
No Resentment - just a constant reminder and important information for newbies Dec 2, 2013

I have been criticising the repeated complaints about rates in this forum before, but I see them differently now - it is a topic that has to be addressed very regularly, otherwise many newcomers in the business and even experienced translators will fall prey to the constant pressure to lower their rates.

I find the eternal mantra of the financial crisis ridiculous. How do banks and multinationals manage to increase their profits if times are so bad? They do it on our backs. Because we believe them when they tell us "We can't afford to pay you more." I realize that this is a very, very, very generalized picture. There might be plenty of small agencies that are really struggling. But why are they struggling? Because they believed their big clients telling them "Sorry, we can't pay you more.".

In my opinion, the root of this problem is that we have sacrificed everything to profit. The almighty stock markets determine that profits have to be increased. How this affects individuals is all too visible around me - everywhere, people are desperately trying to keep up with rising demands while they see the remunerations for their efforts decrease. Mind that I am not blaming anyone. This mechanisms have pretty much developed a momentum of their own, but anyway we need to reclaim a respectful work culture if we don't want the situation to get worse. And for that it is necessary that we all make it very clear that we will not work for peanuts, on weekends or overnight.

I am well aware that the "nice" PM that asks me to lower my rate for a rush job is in the same (or in a worse) position than me - she is not to blame. Still, she will not hear anything but "No" from me. And hopefully from all others she approaches.

I am not bitter about this, I am not angry. I just see the tendencies. I don't want to live and work under the conditions that are common in developing countries. I'd prefer people in developing countries to live and work in the same conditions as the more fortunate of us.

Another important aspect of this is that tendencially freelancers belong to the quiet type (of course there are exceptions, but someone needs a certain personality to be happily typing away staring at a screen day after day...), with rather less than average business and negotiation skills. Read the questions in the forum about people being unsure about what they should put up with and about what people do in fact put up with. This makes it quite clear to me that we need this kind of discussion and constant reminders and that New Year's resolutions like this are worth mentioning.


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