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Low rates
Thread poster: Ilham Ahmadov

Ilham Ahmadov  Identity Verified
Azerbaijan
Local time: 19:33
Member
English to Azerbaijani
+ ...
Jan 15, 2015

I would like to understand the rationale of people who offer very cheap or low rates and thus confuse clients about the actual cost of a translation.

Today, I was approached by a direct client, who was not a translation agency, for a large volume of proofreading job. I believe I quoted a very good price for this client, who then came back to me and said that my colleague with 9 years of experience, linguistic degree and what is more important PRO status offered to do this job for the half of the rate I quoted and as a result he was not interested in working with me anymore.

Now, I understand that some people may be desperate to get jobs at any price, but this can not substantiate working for a very cheap compensation. I know I am better off not working for the client who is looking for a cheap labor. I wonder if you have faced this kind of situation before and what all of us can do to avoid this in the future? I think the key is that everyone should have an understanding of the average value of his/her job. As long as some people do not have this understanding we will face these situations where we are accused of exaggerating the rates, which in fact is not the case. Your comments are very much appreciated.

Kind Regards,

Ilham Ahmadov


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
It is exasperating Jan 15, 2015

I think many of us are exasperated by this race to the bottom. Just a few days ago, a potential client in a Baltic nation told me that my standard rate of €0.10 per source word from French to Danish was "intimidating". The client didn't even have a Blue Board record, but as it would have been small jobs initially, I was prepared to give them a chance.

I can understand translators who live in countries with low living costs can quote lower rates than those of us in Europe, but still? Others may do it as a side income to a partner earning more and conclude that earning a little with low rates is better than fighting to find work with normal rates.

Of course, we can all see the result in badly translated manuals. In the best cases, the result is hilarious. In the worst, the manual is unreadable, as I had to conclude while trying to chew my way through what was intended to be an English version of a Samsung satellite receiver manual many years ago. Fortunately, there was a readable Danish manual. I guess they hadn't found any South Korean claiming to speak Danish.

But I don't see any solution.


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ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 18:33
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Agree 100 % Jan 15, 2015

I completely agree with you. We have exactly the same issue here in Turkey. This is probably one of the longest standing problems faced by most ProZ members. It is also one of the most difficult to solve.

When someone in ProZ approaches me with a question regarding the rates, I always refer them to the Community Rates under the Tools menu. I believe Community Rates are very useful and informative. There you can find objective and statistical rate information which is also very realistic and true.

It is rather sad that this information is not available in PDF format for us to download. If we had a PDF version of Community Rates, we could readily attach it to our e-mail messages in order to convince whomever needs to be convinced. If a ProZ employee is reading this, I would like this message to be a formal suggestion to have the Community Rates (or parts of it) in PDF format. Thank you.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
PDF Jan 15, 2015

@Atil, in Google Chrome, you can always print any page and choose to save it as PDF instead of physically printing it.

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Michelle Kusuda  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
Let them have it! Jan 15, 2015

When people quote very low rates, it is best to let them have those jobs. Soon enough they will be so overwhelmed, they will not be able to take the good paying jobs when these become available.

There really is no rationale for a colleague quoting such a low rate unless they think they are winning by getting a job, despite the low fee.

Also, good clients know the price of quality. Think about it, if you wanted to have some sort of surgery, would you use the Doctor that quotes you $3,000.00 USD for a procedure that is usually priced at $2500-3500 or would you go to the doctor that offers to do it for $500?

Good luck!




[Edited at 2015-01-15 18:12 GMT]


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Mireille BOULANGER  Identity Verified
France
Member (2013)
English to French
Agree on everything which was said.. Jan 15, 2015

I have been facing the same problem recently on several occasions...giving my rates which are based on community rates then being offered less than half of the minimum rate because the budget was low and this was very exceptional...after some time sending and answering mails to and fro, the agency (which is on the Blueboard) found a translator who accepted the job at this very very low rate 0.03€ per source word...
Today was a bit different because there was no translator involved but I was contacted by an agency, not on the Blueboard this time, with lots of nice comments ( they just contact the best translators as they deliver high quality and so on..), asking me to fill a form on their website. So I filled the form and when I got to the rate part, I was asked to put a rate per page stating that the average word count by page was 250!!!! Without thinking I made a calculation and put my rate for 250words...Ten minutes later, I realized that it was daylight robbery and sent a mail to explain this point should be clarified before going any further. I never got an answer...after checking my own translation projects, I noticed that there was between 500 and 700 words per page depending on the police, titles and so on....
I think it is a good idea to send community rates to agencies and customers and I might use Thomas' suggestion of printing and scanning it to use it whenever it is needed to clarify rate matters.

I don't have any solution either for this issue...


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:33
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Are you sure about that? Jan 15, 2015

Ilham Ahmadov wrote:
Now, I understand that some people may be desperate to get jobs at any price, but this can not substantiate working for a very cheap compensation.


The colleague who - or so your client claims - took the job at very low rates must have a rationale for this. Most likely it's because your colleague is not confident that another, better-paying job will appear shortly. If he did, he would have waited, surely?

So his view on the part of the market in which you are both active is different to your view. Maybe he cannot wait but needs some income as soon as possible. After all, if you need to put bread on the table for your children, is it better to stick to your guns and not feed them or take a low-paying job?

If there were plenty of work about in your part of the market then your colleague would reject low-paying jobs. This is what the market is all about. It is not about vast, impersonal forces (as somebody recently argued in another thread) but about the combined effects of the web of decisions made every day by the individuals who supply and buy services. If translators have lots of work and are busy, prices will go up.

When your client is calling around, he's testing the market, trying to find out what sellers will accept as a lowest rate. If the client you talk about above has five pieces of work and absolutely must get them done by tomorrow, and if he can only find three translators willing to accept his proposed rates, then he will have to offer higher rates to get those last two translators, right? Then the boot is on the other foot.

Solution: find a niche where there is more demand and less supply. It's not one big market but dozens of markets, each with their own supply-demand conditions.

Dan


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Jesús de Cos
Spain
Local time: 16:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
As Michelle said, lets them have it! Jan 15, 2015

In matter of prices, of course, I have (and you surely have) much more stories with a sad end that with a happy one. But let me tell you one of the happiest I lived.

Some time ago, a client asked me a quote for a book of, maybe, 300,000 words. I made my quote and he told me that another translator offered him the same job done by half the price. "Well –I said–, you know, this is a market, you get what you pay for." My client gave the book to the other translator.

A couple of months later, my client called me: “Look –he said– this guy made an awful translation. Could you please proofread it?". I accepted and the client sent me the bad translation of the book: as you might have guessed, it was the book he offered to me and then passed to the half price translator.

Frankly, the translation was not bad, it just was not a translation. After looking at it, I said the client I could not possibly proofread the thing; besides the strange grammar and sintaxis, you could see many phrases translated into something different or just the opposite of what the original said. “Well –he admitted–, in fact, the technical proofreader who is in charge of the book told me something similar." So he gave me the translation to me to make it from scratch. At my price.

Well, this is a market. We need to be competitive, sometimes make discounts, fight for every cent we know we deserve for an excellent word and loose more than win. But I suppose it is the same in other professions. Today, the client who tried the half price solution is one of my bests. He needs quality and I need to earn my living.

So, as Michelle said, lets them have it!


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Pavel Mondschein  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 16:33
English to Czech
+ ...
Standard pages? Jan 15, 2015

BOULANGER MIREI wrote:

I noticed that there was between 500 and 700 words per page depending on the police, titles and so on....



They probably ment "standard pages" - 1800 chars (with spaces). This is 250-300 words indeed.


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trans-agrar  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:33
English to German
+ ...
Brain washed Jan 16, 2015

In my opinion, many translators simply do not know what the rates for direct clients really are. They have worked for agencies most of the time and simply are not aware of the margin that is built into those rates the agencies pay them. So when they prepare their quote they are simply too shy to quote a "real price".

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trans-agrar  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:33
English to German
+ ...
We live and work in an unprofessional industry Jan 16, 2015

This is a bolt statement but it holds a lot of truth. It is so easy to declare yourself a translator in as many languages you like from the comfy of your home office. And it will always be like that. And as long as the rate is our only selling point we simply have to quote the lowest rate possible. That's the law of price driven markets. But there is also the content/quality driven market. For us that means specialisation. Why do so few colleagues choose that path? Because they fear losing business. But the contrary is true. After direct clients have learned the hard way that it is necessary to look for expert translators, they all too willingly pay the rates expert translators charge. And they also queue up and wait patiently until your calendar shows a time slot to fit in their job. They are just happy that finally they found someone who does their jobs properly. This has been my experience for 20 years now.

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:33
Member (2008)
Italian to English
My opinion Jan 16, 2015

Patiently, over the long term, we need to educate outsourcers about the true value of the work that we translators do, and the correct rates that should apply to this work.

This will be a slow and gradual process but over time I'm sure it will get better. I

t's up to each individual translator (you, me) to personally educate their own contacts by consistently refusing work that doesn't meet their requirements in terms of rates, and explaining why.


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Vadim Kadyrov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 17:33
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
Some thoughts Jan 16, 2015

Well, being solely a language service provider here, I have never posted any job offers here. But some weeks ago my wife asked me to find a freelance SEO specialist (a guy who would move your web-site up the search results page in Google).

That was the first time when I was, well, behind the enemy lines.

The thing is that SEO (search engine optimization) is a very obscure area of expertiыe. One can never tell you the exact price right from the start. The amount is always approximate. Too many factorы, too many details, too many questions, etc. (I once used to do some SEO, and that`s only PARTIALLY true).

This is the strategy that can be applied by translators too. Of course, there will always be clients who choose the cheapest contractor here (and, frankly speaking, proz is the place to post such jobs). Our ultimate goal is to find clients who want details first - your credentials, experience, etc.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It's exasperating, yes Jan 16, 2015

Ilham Ahmadov wrote:
I would like to understand the rationale of people who offer very cheap or low rates and thus confuse clients about the actual cost of a translation.


Some translators are simply unaware that they're charging too little, and they're afraid that if they charge more, they won't get any jobs.

I believe I quoted a very good price for this client, who then came back to me and said that my colleague with 9 years of experience, linguistic degree and what is more important PRO status offered to do this job for the half of the rate I quoted...


Yes, very frustrating. However, other than inviting translators in your language combination to join a private price fixing group (is price fixing legal in your country?), there isn't much you can do about this. Have you written to this other translator to voice your opinion about their low rate?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 13:33
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It's like wine, calls for individual action Jan 16, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Patiently, over the long term, we need to educate outsourcers about the true value of the work that we translators do, and the correct rates that should apply to this work.

This will be a slow and gradual process but over time I'm sure it will get better. It's up to each individual translator (you, me) to personally educate their own contacts by consistently refusing work that doesn't meet their requirements in terms of rates, and explaining why.


While I agree with you, "we" can educate translation outsourcers as much as wine producers can educate consumers. As a matter of fact, they do.

This page lists mostly 4-digit USD priced wines, while this page lists wines considered "good" in spite of their 1-digit USD price tags.

Okay, as translations are not left aging in casks, our range is not so "exponential". Nevertheless, just as a reasonable $50 quality wine maker has to provide reasons for consumers to prefer theirs over a bottle of $3.50 wine (yes, Brazilian Chapinha), since both are wines, we - translators - have to provide reasons why our translation is worth what we charge for it.

Our case is simpler, because though wineries often produce different ranges of wines, a translator's output should be reliably stable, qualitywise. Yet each individual translator must be able to justify their rates.

While most translation clients respect that a Romanée-Conti should cost much more than most other wines, many seem to think that since the aforementioned Chapinha is acknowledged by Brazilian tax authorities as "wine", a translation should be priced like that cheapest wine.

Each translator's job includes providing specific reasons why their translation work should be higher in the range than the Chapinha wine.


(Note to EN speakers: "Chapinha" in PT means "little plate". "Cheap" in PT is "barato". Hence there is NO such cheap/chapa association implied or intended.)


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