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Do agencies actually have a room for offering higher rates?
Thread poster: Elena Volkova

Elena Volkova  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 13:04
English to Russian
+ ...
May 30, 2014

Hi everyone. I received an email from a new agency asking me to sign up to their database in view of upcoming projects in my language pair. I don't usually have time for such applications unless a concrete project is already offered so didn't reply. Then the PM approached me again. And then again, referring to his previous messages and pointing out that their project was about to start soon so they would really like me to apply.

They sounded very professional so I filled out the form and agreed to do a piece of specialised test translation. Afterwards the PM emailed back saying that I had passed their quality check and asked about my rates. I quoted the average of what I charge other clients for similar translation (which is apparently lower than the standard rate stated on ProZ).

The PM said it was too high compared to what their other suppliers with similar skills and expertise offer and suggested the range which was about 25-30% lower than that my quoted rate. I gave them my rate for general translation which was still a bit higher than their range. So not sure if I will hear from them again.

Now the question is: do agencies actually have a room for offering higher rates? That agency looked serious and, as I said, quite persistent so I didn't expect that they would be offering such low rates for the specialised translation especially since they were very particular in their requirements in the application process.

Is it a good idea to still register for such clients for "slow periods"? But then how would it look to accept such reduction in the rate compared to what I quoted originally - it's like I asked for too much in the first place?

Many thanks in advance for your views!


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 13:04
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
They always try to drive the rates down May 30, 2014

You could say your rate was 0.00 EUR/word and they'd still claim it was 20-30% lower than what their other translators work for! Don't fall for it. Also, don't do free tests before/unless you reach a (preliminary) agreement on rates. In this process, you should always assume agencies have room to negotiate. Whether they actually do is irrelevant.

[Edited at 2014-05-30 03:26 GMT]


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Elena Volkova  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 13:04
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What's the best way of going about it? May 30, 2014

Mikhail, thank you for your view.

So how should I act in similar situations in the future?


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:04
German to English
Stick with a sensible rate May 30, 2014

There's a tool somewhere on this site that functions as a rate calculator. You input what you expect as a wage, and the utility will calculate the rate you need to charge.

That said, there's no way to anticipate the margin an agency is using when quoting a rate to an end client. An agency providing value-added services such as editing, desktop publishing/layout, other services will need a greater margin than an agency that merely functions as a paper-pusher, functioning purely as middleman between the client and translator.

That said, do not sell yourself too cheaply. Once you've established a price with an agency, it's difficult to increase it.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Of course they have! May 30, 2014

Elena Volkova wrote:
The PM said it was too high compared to what their other suppliers with similar skills and expertise offer and suggested the range which was about 25-30% lower than that my quoted rate. I gave them my rate for general translation which was still a bit higher than their range. So not sure if I will hear from them again.

I think it makes sense to suggest that, next time you are approached by an agency, you negotiate the rate before investing any time in tests, forms, etc.

As for your question, who and what decides the price for a translation? Low rates are only the result of the mechanism of supply and demand (i.e. there is a lot of competition), and agencies of course try to achieve both a margin and a competitive edge by trying to lower our rates. However, if you fancied a nice Audi A8 and asked the dealership to sell it to you at the price of a Vauxhall Corsa, they would give your child an Audi lollipop and would politely show you the door.

We must interiorise the fact that it is us who have to maximise the income we make for our working time (and throughout our career), and therefore must be firm when it comes to charging our desired rates. Negotiating is good, and an interesting customer is always worth some flexibility, but I stop negotiating when an agency says that I am "about 25-30% higher than others". If they like other people's work better, they should certainly use them!

[Edited at 2014-05-30 05:29 GMT]


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Elena Volkova  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 13:04
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Better give a range? May 30, 2014

Thanks a lot everyone for your opinions.

Is it wise then to give a range if the agency asks you to provide your rate?


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
No. May 30, 2014

I would never give a range, because they'll just insist on paying the lower figure.

You imply that you're busy already, which suggests that your rates are realistic. I wouldn't worry about losing this one company - they're operating in a different segment of the market to you.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not a good idea May 30, 2014

Elena Volkova wrote:
Is it wise then to give a range if the agency asks you to provide your rate?

I don't think it is a good idea. It's best to give your expected rate and negotiate from there, although not going down more than 10-15% in the negotiations. May I also say that one should generally only negotiate when there is interesting palpable work immediately available, not just some uncertain big wondrous future work.


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Haytham Boles  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:04
Member (2010)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Do agencies actually have a room for offering higher rates? May 30, 2014

Tomas wrote:

I think it makes sense to suggest that, next time you are approached by an agency, you negotiate the rate before investing any time in tests, forms, etc.

As for your question, who and what decides the price for a translation? Low rates are only the result of the mechanism of supply and demand (i.e. there is a lot of competition), and agencies of course try to achieve both a margin and a competitive edge by trying to lower our rates. However, if you fancied a nice Audi A8 and asked the dealership to sell it to you at the price of a Vauxhall Corsa, they would give your child an Audi lollipop and would politely show you the door.

We must interiorise the fact that it is us who have to maximise the income we make for our working time (and throughout our career), and therefore must be firm when it comes to charging our desired rates. Negotiating is good, and an interesting customer is always worth some flexibility, but I stop negotiating when an agency says that I am "about 25-30% higher than others". If they like other people's work better, they should certainly use them!

Hello Elena,

I agree with what Tomas said. I think that we should not work for low rates because as professional translators we are providing high quality translation that takes a lot of effort and time. Of course, there will be other translators who would offer to work for (much) lower fees, but the question is "Is their translation of high quality?" Personally, I do not think so. Any qualified translator would want to be recognized for his/her skills and paid fairly. It is important to show the value of our services to the customer/agency and sometimes to alert them about what they can get in return for low fees.

Best wishes,
Haytham Boles


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jotranslator  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 13:04
Russian to English
+ ...
Many agencies looking for rock bottom rates though May 30, 2014

Haytham Boles wrote:

I agree with what Tomas said. I think that we should not work for low rates because as professional translators we are providing high quality translation that takes a lot of effort and time. Of course, there will be other translators who would offer to work for (much) lower fees, but the question is "Is their translation of high quality?" Personally, I do not think so. Any qualified translator would want to be recognized for his/her skills and paid fairly. It is important to show the value of our services to the customer/agency and sometimes to alert them about what they can get in return for low fees.



I agree about the lower rates. However, the problem with many agencies advertising here is that they are looking for the lowest rates ($0.05/source word and I've been asked to work for less than that) and there are enough people who will work for that rate.

As others have pointed out, negotiating your rates before you do a free test is the way to go -- most agencies will disappear at this point if your rates are higher than rock bottom. This gets rid of the agencies that operate in this market sector.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not our market May 30, 2014

joannapa wrote:
I agree about the lower rates. However, the problem with many agencies advertising here is that they are looking for the lowest rates ($0.05/source word and I've been asked to work for less than that) and there are enough people who will work for that rate.

Quite honestly, I do not think this should be the concern of the quality-counscious translator. The sooner we realise that cheap agencies are not our market, the better. Let them handle their market, and let us work professionally for companies who need quality translations.


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CCJK CCJK  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:04
Member (2003)
German to Chinese
+ ...
Writing and Translation Market is getting competitive May 30, 2014

Hi Elena,

This market is getting competitive as more and more translators are joining freelancing platforms like Elance, ODesk, and Freelancer almost daily. Usually, translators from third world country offer much lower rates to their clients, which is creating supply and demand issue. However, quality translators are still in huge demand, if you have the skills and enough experience to pick any job relevant to your target languages and areas then you should stick to your rate as a quality translator.

Believe me a mature company understands the importance of a quality translator!


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 12:04
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Agencies must have room for realistic rates May 30, 2014

Most languages have a proverb on the lines of not selling the skin before you have shot the bear, or not counting your chickens before they are hatched.

Why do some agencies promise ridiculous rates to their clients before they have even asked the translators what they will charge?

And there is no industry standard!! Or at least nothing you are bound by.

The tale about 'all our other suppliers' is like schoolchildren who tell their parents that 'all the others' in the class are allowed to stay out in town until midnight. If the parents talk to each other, they really want their youngsters in bed two hours earlier!

If agencies try to press your rates, call their bluff. Tell them you deliver quality and don't follow the crowd. THAT sorts the good clients from the mere paper-pushers.

Some agencies at least can sell quality translations at reasonable rates, so we should firmly resist the downward pressure.


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:04
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Useful links with rates applied by agencies May 30, 2014

Companies that participate in tenders cannot hide their price lists forever. Here is a treasure trove with rates of hundreds of companies that work with US federal agencies: http://tinyurl.com/GSA-res . And that's for US federal agencies, so they are likely to charge many other clients considerably higher fees.

Here are two other links for EU tenders: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/translation/workwithus/calls/closed/index_en.htm http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/translation/workwithus/calls/closed/contractors_web_en.pdf

Best,
Attila


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 19:04
Japanese to English
+ ...
Interesting stuff May 30, 2014

Thanks, Attila.

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