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Clients who pay proper rates: where have they gone?
Thread poster: Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:25
French to English
Dec 11, 2013

Dear ProZ family,

FR>EN translator here, mostly film/TV, lit, marketing and general communications. Big question I imagine many of us are aksing: where are the clients that pay proper rates? I have been translating for seven years for .15 USD on average. I took a break over the past two years to focus on studies and writing. Now I'm back in the game and I can't even find a client who will accept .10 USD. Am I dreaming? I would love some advice on how to find the clients that are still paying what's workable.

I don't use Wordfast or Trados as the writing I work with tends to require a literary ear for style and voice, you know, the thing a translator is hired for. Are clients honestly believing they can get an equivalent document by asking .05 because a computer did half of it for me already? Are quality standards simply lowering?

I'm imagining others have faced similar situations. What do you do?

Kind Regards,
Justin


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
How many clients have refused to pay your rates? Dec 11, 2013

Is this something that's happened over and over again, or just a couple of people? I work in similar areas to you, and in my experience your expectations are perfectly realistic. $0.15 is slightly on the high side for a US agency, but $0.10 is low.

There are still plenty of good payers out there, and ones who realize that TM is mostly unnecessary for the kind of work you and I do.


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Steve Kerry  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:25
German to English
Gone to the pictures with Grandpa Dec 11, 2013

"Boy, where's your grammar?"

"Gone to the pictures with Grandpa, Sir!"

Sadly, rates - along with grammar - seem to be on a downward spiral. No, your expectations are not unreasonable and I do achieve these rates or better. But as you say, the number of agencies expecting quality translations for peanuts is, sadly, increasing.

Steve K.


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Justin Taylor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:25
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
thank you Dec 12, 2013

Thanks for your corroboration.

To answer your question, Phil, I have been asked to work for .03-.06 over and over. It could be that I have stumbled on a greater number of desperate recruiters and the decent ones still have yet to come out of crowded the forest.

I suppose I simply keep quoting what I think my work is worth until someone agrees. I would like to work, though.


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SYTham  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 20:25
Chinese to English
+ ...
Direct clients, perhaps? Dec 12, 2013

Sad to say, but I have never worked with any agency who is willing to pay such rates. On the other hand, all my direct clients easily accept them. They're more pleasant to work with too.

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chym77
China
Local time: 20:25
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
+ ...
minimum wage? Dec 12, 2013

Shall we have a minimum wage here?

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:25
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
There is also the fact that... Dec 12, 2013

...almost once a week a new website pops up where amateurs can work for free in order to "share knowledge and improve your language skills", "gain experience" and my favorite: "liberate content from the boundaries of language" while "having fun" and more rhetoric like this.

You just create a "community", offer people colorful shiny electronic badges like "EXPERT" translator or "COMMUNITY LEADER" and allow them to accumulate points, credits or gold stars and thousands and thousands of amateur linguists will gladly translate content for free (blissfully and joyfully unaware of how much they are being taken advantage of and the damage they are causing to the very profession they are so desperately striving to enter). Of course, you and I know that the results will be unreliable, but the client doesn't care because it's free...



[Edited at 2013-12-12 14:23 GMT]


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Remy van Tol  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 07:25
Dutch to English
+ ...
That's life Dec 12, 2013

Well, Jeff, that's the way it is, so either adapt or get extinct. Evolution-stuff. However, if one is a star translator, finding a job for $0.15/w shouldn't be much of a problem. Anyway, in this particular case the lesson to be learned is that as a translator you can't afford sabbaticals.

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Robert Dunn  Identity Verified
Panama
Local time: 07:25
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Stand out and offer value Dec 13, 2013

I work part-time for a supermarket on the weekends here, and even though our prices are a tad bit more expensive than Wal-Mart, we make up for it by offering the customer high quality products (in-house) and premium customer service, whereas Wal-Mart's in-store conditions are pretty shabby, dirty, and paying for items takes at least 15+ min. due to long lines.

People will be willing to pay a bit more if they see a real benefit in your value proposition. I would rather have a clean shopping experience with high-quality meats, products, and quick check-out lanes than wait 20 minutes to pay for toothpaste in a dirty, unkempt Wal-Mart, so if you are confident in your services, abilities and value that you add to your client's business transaction, then you shouldn't have a problem looking for those "high-end" clients.




Jeff Whittaker wrote:

...almost once a week a new website pops up where amateurs can work for free in order to "share knowledge and improve your language skills", "gain experience" and my favorite: "liberate content from the boundaries of language" while "having fun" and more rhetoric like this.

You just create a "community", offer people colorful shiny electronic badges like "EXPERT" translator or "COMMUNITY LEADER" and allow them to accumulate points, credits or gold stars and thousands and thousands of amateur linguists will gladly translate content for free (blissfully and joyfully unaware of how much they are being taken advantage of and the damage they are causing to the very profession they are so desperately striving to enter). Of course, you and I know that the results will be unreliable, but the client doesn't care because it's free...



[Edited at 2013-12-12 14:23 GMT]



I agree


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Ezequiel Fernandez
Local time: 14:25
English to Spanish
+ ...
Have you tried to approach your former clients for a start? Jan 8, 2014

... maybe they will be willing to get back to you at a - possibly - still decent rate.
However, as someone has pointed out above, I'm afraid rates have been on a downward trend for the past two-three years, so it's somewhat naive to expect the same rates as the pre-crisis period.

Best of luck,
Larrú


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Mark Benson  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
Dying trend Jan 9, 2014

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

...almost once a week a new website pops up where amateurs can work for free in order to "share knowledge and improve your language skills", "gain experience" and my favorite: "liberate content from the boundaries of language" while "having fun" and more rhetoric like this.

You just create a "community", offer people colorful shiny electronic badges like "EXPERT" translator or "COMMUNITY LEADER" and allow them to accumulate points, credits or gold stars and thousands and thousands of amateur linguists will gladly translate content for free (blissfully and joyfully unaware of how much they are being taken advantage of and the damage they are causing to the very profession they are so desperately striving to enter). Of course, you and I know that the results will be unreliable, but the client doesn't care because it's free...



[Edited at 2013-12-12 14:23 GMT]


I know what you're talking about Jeff. First of all, I think this phenomenon is decreasing in popularity inasmuch as the forms through which it takes expression are solely exploitative.

Second, I think the kind of activity we're talking about now is mostly popular with really quite young people, who could arguably have no way of being prepared for an actual translation project.

I think mental maturity generally leads to an ability to see through this kind of stuff. At least I want to believe so. If not, the increasing necessity to support yourself, rather than 'helping out' online, must step in to prevent this stuff from ever appearing as something it isn't.

And it certainly doesn't have any connection with the profession you so prominently represent. With regard to the way there's an impact on the translation market, I would prefer if seasoned pros, with a great wealth of knowledge and experience, like yourself, could find ways of facilitating the way out this unfortunate gutter of the translation industry for possible talents, rather than just cursing its existence.

To Justin: Hang in there brother, I know you will get through this! Personally I don't have time for as much development as I want right now, so I'm not exactly sure, but various axons seem to indicate to me to that Chris Durban has the answers you're looking for.

All the very best/
Mark

PS: http://www.proz.com/profile/818306

[Edited at 2014-01-09 00:21 GMT]


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 15:25
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Well-paying clients are still there... Jan 11, 2014

...but finding them is getting more and more difficult.

There are quite a number of factors:
- The amount of generated data that needs translation is so huge that decent rates are unaffordable for certain (many) areas, businesses or organizations.
- Many texts that are to be translated will hardly even be read (like manuals, for example); and even if they are, they won't last longer than the products they come with. What is the average like of a product manufactured these days? A great proportion of them are actually of one-off type.
- No bisuness in sound mind will buy expensive linguistic services unless the latter brings additional profit.
- With the industry-like structure forming in the translation market (MLV's with their regional offices subcontracting local translation agencies that outsource to freelancers). the part of the initial rate paid by the end client approaches zero.
- Rates level out on a global scale: unlike the pre-internet age when rates were set in specific countries, we are in the global world now, and the inflluence of cheaper markets (Latin America, former Soviet Union, India, China) affects the general situation.
- Due to the size of projects or number of languages involved, an increasing share of language service buyers prefer to deal with agencies instead of individual translators.

In figures, the qualtity of well-paying clients hasn't probably diminished, but they are fewer in proportion to those that don't want, can't or won't accept rates above .0X (and it's going to be .0X-.01 in another year or two).


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:25
English to Polish
+ ...
Get a blog, blog it? Jan 13, 2014

Perhaps you may want to write a short piece about the value of translation – or good translation – and put it up on your website or blog, explaining this at least to your own potential clients.

Some people come with some sort of arbitrary preconceived ideas that translation should be cheap or not cost more than this or that or whatever they feel comfortable paying. Others just can't find it in themselves to value translation highly. In many cases, I suppose, merely raising the issue can get them to think consciously about it and question those presumptions.

For example: If you spend thousands on a marketing campaign, why should it be such a problem to pay 100-200 quid/bucks/euros for a brochure you need translated? Or if your contract is so important or if the presentation you have here, which is intended for your AGM, is so important to you, then why skimp so much on it and take risks just to save a couple dozen bucks on translation? Also what about equivalence between what you require and what you'd like to pay? How about the costs of the education one needs to fulfil those requirements? And so on.

Again, those are probably rather easily dispellable preconceived notions rather than firmly grounded convictions that would need some serious debunking. A well written 2-3-paragraph story could do the trick.


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Rob Prior
Germany
Local time: 14:25
German to English
We are contributing to the problem Jan 13, 2014

If the proz community is serious about the rates issue, the best thing it could do would be to drop the reverse auctioning of jobs on the website where everything goes to the lowest bidder and new members of the profesion often see it as the primary way to get work. Just sayin'...

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Elina Sellgren  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 15:25
Member (2013)
Finnish to English
+ ...
What Rob said.. Jan 13, 2014

I don't think I've gotten any permanent client by bidding or applying for a job here. I did get one that accepted my rate without negotiation, but I had to drop them due to unreasonable payment practices.

I do check out the job postings regularly but usually the rate offered is ridiculous, or it's a specialization I don't have, or they are looking for much more experienced people (though the rate they offer can still be ridiculous!).
I have, however, gotten several good clients by being on Proz as a member, as agencies/outsources have contacted me directly.


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