Recent rate dumping on the Spanish market. What do you do when your rates don't get accepted?
Thread poster: Maria Feifel

Maria Feifel  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:14
English to German
+ ...
Dec 15, 2013

The last six months I've been working for several agencies and private clients and back then I wasn't having any problems getting them to accept my rates. Lately, I've been carrying out a translation campaign to find new clients and agencies and most of them are interested in the beginning since I translate from English and Spanish into German. Then I send them my rates and most of them don't even answer back. Some are at least as kind as to let me know that the indicated rates are above their budget and if I could accept theirs. We're talking about German translations for 0.05€.

Lately, all my offers get rejected and I find myself forced to accept those rates because I'm not working as much as I did before anymore. In the end it's all about making ends meet.

When should you accept such rates? When is enough enough? Has anyone of you had similar experiences? Maybe my expectations are really too high, although I doubt it very much or at least I want to. Can anyone recommend another market, obviously better off financially, that requires a high volume of German translations than the Spanish one? I appreciate any kind of feedback a lot!


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Jekaterina Kotelnikova  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:14
English to Russian
+ ...
Hi! Dec 15, 2013

I really know what you mean when the only answer you get is: your rates are too high for us. Recently I had a lot of offers that went as low as 0,01 USD... which is ridiculously low - I usually can translate 2000-2500 a day and I don't even want to think how much I would need to work to pay the rent.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:14
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Your market is worldwide Dec 15, 2013

Maria Feifel wrote:
Can anyone recommend another market, obviously better off financially, that requires a high volume of German translations than the Spanish one? I appreciate any kind of feedback a lot!

Does that mean you are only approaching Spain-based companies? I would advise you to contact potential clients across the world. There is absolutely no reason why you should limit yourself to the Spanish market just because that's where you live (personally, in 18 months in Spain I have written one 30€ invoice to a Spanish company). If I were you I would target the German market, and all the English-speaking countries, as well as the Spanish-speaking ones. Maybe your main direct-client base will be in your source language countries, but I can imagine a Spanish company that's looking for quality contacting an agency based in Germany for its translations into German. Anyway, as a French to English translator, I've had clients as far away as Japan - ours not to reason why.

Secondly, why do you need a high-volume market? You can only manage 10-15k words per week, can't you? You don't need companies with massive requirements, just a few (5-10) that have enough work to keep you busy. Mass volumes = price-cutting and plenty of competition willing to undercut you ; niche markets = quality pay for quality work from those who can deliver it.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Spanish translation market Dec 15, 2013

I translated over 250,000 words from Spanish to English for agencies this year for rates ranging from .10 to .18 per word. I am currently working on a 40,000 word S>E project, so the work is out there and I always find it odd when people complain about Spanish translation rates.

Yes, I do get about 20-30 emails per day offering rates in the .05 - .07 range, but that is what the delete key is for. I do not even bother responding to them anymore. I may have no work for a few weeks, but when I do get work, I am well rested, my quality is better and I end up working less for the same amount of remuneration.

Like Sheila mentioned, you only need a handful of good clients to keep you busy full time.

[Edited at 2013-12-15 19:51 GMT]


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:14
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
The Spanish translation market suffers from globalization Dec 15, 2013

Dear Maria,

The Spanish translation market suffers from globalization. South America is online and has entered the global Spanish into English and English into Spanish market. Spanish agencies have become accustomed to low rates. From a Spanish agency's or PM's perspective it's hard to pay 0.05 per source word into one language and 0.12 per source word into another language. I translate from German, French and English into Dutch and there's only one Catalan agency that still sends me the odd job.

Seek your clientele in Germany. Build a German website and translate it into English and Spanish (proofed by native speakers). State your standard rates clearly.

(More than ten years ago I searched the Internet for weeks to try to find out how much translators charged. To my surprise nobody wanted to reveal that information. From lack of other USPs, I decided that being frank about my throughput and my rates would be my USP. I published my website, tweaked it to rank high in AltaVista, and had several customers within weeks. I was ahead of my colleagues but they soon caught up, also by joining ProZ. This website is a blessing and a curse: they invite translators to state and/or publish their bottom agency rates. Any Googler or paying member can find information that wasn’t available ten years ago.)

Good luck,
Gerard


[Edited at 2013-12-15 18:08 GMT]


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Maria Feifel  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:14
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all for giving me such good advice and support! Dec 15, 2013

First of all, I really appreciate the support. The translation market is a tough one and when you study at university nobody really makes you understand that you have to be just as much an entrepreneur as a translator. I'm still getting used to make my stand although I do have a couple of years of experience. It's such a dynamic market that you have to constantly adapt to it.

To Sheila Wilson:

I am contacting agencies and possible clients all around the world, but indeed have focused more on the local market. My mistake!
What I also found is that even German translation agencies have told me that my rates are too high. That's why my surprise. I expected a little bit more margin in Germany, but I guess I just have to keep contacting until I find the one that is ready to pay a decent salary. You're absolutely right with high-volume output. I must have had a wrong idea. Thanks for clarifying.

To Gerard de Noord:

Thanks for all these great ideas. I have to give the German market another chance and maybe the Dutch one as well, since the Netherlands export quite a lot to Germany.

Thank you Jekaterina as well! I hope it works for you too in the end.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:14
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Don't reduce them Dec 15, 2013

Maria Feifel wrote:

.........most of them are interested in the beginning since I translate from English and Spanish into German. Then I send them my rates and most of them don't even answer back.


Get used to it. And don't let it bother you. Above all, don't reduce your rates.

This happens to me all the time, but I get plenty of high-quality work from people who understand that "you get what you pay for".


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 10:14
Chinese to English
The psychology of rates Dec 17, 2013

I agree with Jeff and Tom. It's all about how you think about it. Of course, it's terrifying when you go a period without much work, but if you get into a spiral of cutting rates to get more work, you just end up on the floor. I have always found that if I raise rates and maintain quality, eventually the work finds me. The agencies don't like it, and they haggle, but they will pay, because we've got what they need.

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don't even try to land that market Dec 18, 2013

As a freelancer, I tend to regard agencies as a kind of marketing arm, to do the selling work I'm not cut out for. But there are agencies and agencies, and if you need an AGENT (think: you're Meryl Streep), I've found that Spanish agencies leave much to be desired. Most are painted into a kind of crisis corner, and while that may be circumstantially true, I can't understand why they can't manage to sell abroad. Your average PM or agency owner isn't exactly that keen on multilingual management - and yes, your fellow translators talk and sell better. (Maybe they need language lessons? Maybe this goes to show where they would be without us?)

Rise above it. As Sheila has said, you don't really need high volumes. Six steady good ones can already take up all your time.

And that's something agencies can't say. THEY need volume, particularly if they refuse to venture outward. But -- at the risk of repeating myself -- no amount of dumping is going to raise a demand if it doesn't exist to begin with.


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Maria Feifel  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:14
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It really looks like business is outside of Spain Dec 19, 2013

It's so good to know that you are all of the same opinion, DON'T DUMP YOUR RATES, WORK WILL COME IN THE END!

The Spanish market is really difficult, but it is also true that much of that so claimed crisis is in their heads. If you cave in to that and believe it every day, business will eventually just get worse.

So I'll stay positive and keep doing what I've done so far and more. The answer I guess is ”exporting”.

Thank you! This community is absolutely stunning.


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Anna Heath  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:14
Spanish to English
Include Spanish agencies, or any low-paying agencies, on your CV? Apr 2, 2014

Thank you to all of you for this useful discussion!

When applying to agencies outside of Spain, do you include the names of Spanish agencies (or any low-paying agency), if you've worked for them in the past, on your CV, website, Proz WWA, or other promotional material?

Do translators get around this problem by simply providing a wordcount? Is a wordcount without the names of agencies advisable, given that recommendations have no value without the names of those agencies? Or is a wordcount without any names or recommendations viewed as a weakness?

I am just breaking down a number of questions with regards to the practicalities of Maria's query, for the benefit of any translation students reading this. It does seem to be true that a number of Spanish agencies are now asking for €0.05... it's not even possible to get by on that, and it simply does not reflect the true business value and nature of translation.


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 05:14
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Ask for permission first Apr 2, 2014

Anna, I wouldn't mention any names unless you have the agency's express permission to do so. Of course, you could ask a couple of clients of yours whether they would be willing to give you references here on Proz, for example (although not all clients accept WWA entries as references).

I only provide references upon specific request, and even then I first refer the asker to check my WWA entries. I don't list any agency clients on my Profile or CV, just examples of projects I've done / I'm still working on, including the project type, language pair, word count, and start of collaboration. Additionally, my website shows the WWA feedback I've received, as well as any recommendations clients have sent voluntarily by other methods.

[Edited at 2014-04-02 12:56 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:14
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You're supposing that there are "rules" Apr 2, 2014

Anna Heath wrote:
When applying to agencies outside of Spain, do you include the names of Spanish agencies (or any low-paying agency), if you've worked for them in the past, on your CV, website, Proz WWA, or other promotional material?

Do translators get around this problem by simply providing a wordcount? Is a wordcount without the names of agencies advisable, given that recommendations have no value without the names of those agencies? Or is a wordcount without any names or recommendations viewed as a weakness?

There are absolutely no rules - translation is an unregulated profession in most countries in the world, and certainly in Spain.

It's up to each one of us to display the best possible CV, profiles etc that we can possibly come up with. If you think that the thing that's really going to sell your skills is the fact that you can translate some really tricky terms, you can just list them in your CV - it might work.

But even if/when we don't actually sign NDAs, client confidentiality is something that should always be uppermost in our minds. "An agency in Spain specialising in..." would be all the information I would give, although I might narrow it down to Madrid/Barcelona...


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