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Dear translator: we've lowered our rates, please accept
Thread poster: Benno Groeneveld
Benno Groeneveld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:42
English to Dutch
+ ...
Apr 7, 2015

Received this recently from a translation agency that I worked with for a couple of years. Plus my response.

Hello [me],

I am writing to you on behalf of [translation company] regarding certain upcoming changes. As you are aware, we work in a very competitive industry and we must remain within our clients budget in order to continue earning their business and growing our company. In order to do so, we have developed cap rates for every language, and we must ensure that we adhere to these rates moving forward. For [my language], the cap rate has been set at [my standard absolute minimum rate minus 20%] per source word for translation.

You have been a crucial part of our company for many years, and we recognize that the quality of your work has been outstanding, which is why we feel the need to bring these urgent matters and changes to your attention. It is not easy for us, as a company, to ask our preferred vendors to lower their rates, however, we have no choice at this point, as our clients have high demands which we must adhere to. We understand that this proposal will affect your invoices, however, we ensure that we will keep the workflow constant, assigning you as high volume of work as often as possible. We value you as part of our team and we hope to continue our working relationship with you.
[...]
If you agree to the rate of [20% of my absolute minimum] per source word, we will send you an updated service agreement and make sure the Project Management team is aware that you are available for consistent work.


My answer:

I don't get it (oh well,I do get it, but you know). Do you still work for the same salary you received 30 years ago? Does your boss? Does your client?

30 years ago when I started translating professionally, I received [a certain amount] per word. Now, 30 years later, you "offer" me to lower my rates by [20%] a word from what I was paid 30 years ago? In a time when even minimum wages are going up?

And the "promise" that you'll keep a flow of work coming, is a hollow promise. As if words get cheaper by the pound. Next thing you know, translation agencies and clients will refuse to pay more than one time for the translation of words like 'the' and 'and' because the translator doesn't have to translate those words more than once!

If clients are content with sub-quality but cheap translations, that is their problem and I won't be part of it.

So no, I will NOT lower my rates. There are enough agencies out there that willingly pay me [even more than my absolute minimum] per word. And they they still survive and even flourish.

Good luck. And please contact me again if you come to your senses and are willing to pay translators (almost) what they're worth.

Oh well, at least I've been 'a crucial part of our company' and my work has been 'outstanding'. That really impressed the person running the cash register at the local supermarket!






[Edited at 2015-04-07 20:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-04-07 20:27 GMT]


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ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 06:42
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Good Job Benno Apr 7, 2015

I would add that "my translation quality will suffer by at least 20 % if I go by your new rates, and I am not willing to take that risk."

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:42
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Good for you!!!!! Apr 7, 2015

I haven't raised my rates for 20 years and I'll be damned if I'm lowering them now. Based on what rates were 25 years ago, our current minimum rate should be at least thirty to forty cents per word.

[Edited at 2015-04-07 20:54 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:42
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Say goodbye and teach them a lesson Apr 7, 2015

Any translation agency that can't even write correct English, as in ...

“we must remain within our clients budget”

“we must ensure that we adhere to these rates moving forward”

“our clients have high demands which we must adhere to”

“assigning you as high volume of work as often as possible”

....should be dumped ASAP. What they're doing here is trying to maintain their own profit margins by reducing their rates to translators. If they can't manage their business properly they deserve to fail.

Benno, don't accept any more work from them and if you have any payments outstanding, make sure you get them paid now. I get the impression that this agency is about to go bankrupt.

[Edited at 2015-04-07 21:15 GMT]


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Clients budget Apr 7, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Any translation agency that can't even write correct English, as in ...

“we must remain within our clients budget”


At least they didn't claim to be 'reaching out' to Benno, asking him to regularly 'touch base', to mention two of my pet hates from modern business jargon. Anyone using that sort of language should be sacked on the spot.


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Robin Levey
Chile
Local time: 00:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
Hello [them], Apr 7, 2015

Hello [them],

I am writing to you in my own best interests regarding certain upcoming changes. As you are aware, we work in a very competitive industry and must remain conscious of our client’s budget in order to continue earning their business - whilst sustaining our own. To that end, I have developed non-negotiable floor rates for each of my language pairs, and you can rest assured that I shall adhere to these rates as from today.

For [your language], my floor rate has been set at [your standard absolute minimum rate plus 75%] per source word for translation.

You have been a minor contributor to my revenue stream for many years, and you surely recognize that the quality of my work has been outstanding. It is not easy for me, as a businessman, to ask my preferred clients to raise their expenditure; however, I have no choice at this point, as my family-member’s stomachs have high demands to which I must respond on a day-to-day basis. I understand that my new, non-negotiable, pricing strategy will affect your incoming invoices; but you know the classic solution in the event of cash-flow problems: you simply pass the cost increase on to your own clients.

If you agree to the rate of [your standard absolute minimum rate plus 75%] per source word, I will send you an updated service agreement and arrange to be available for future assignments, subject always to availability limitations deriving from work for other agencies who have already expressed their agreement with rates at, or in numerous cases above, the above-mentioned floor rate.

I value you as part of my team and I hope to continue my working relationship with you. Whether that is going to happen depends entirely on you. Please advise soonest.


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Marek Buchtel  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:42
Member (2005)
English to Czech
+ ...
Generic e-mail Apr 7, 2015

I got the same message.
The funny thing is that I've never done any job for them (I think my rates are simply too high for them), so the part about a crucial part and outstanding quality really made me laugh.


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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 04:42
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Worthy of immediate deletion Apr 8, 2015

Any text in English containing the expression "moving forward" should result in its author being immediately taken out and shot.

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andyhd  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
German to English
+ ...
Jargon Apr 8, 2015

Andy Watkinson wrote:
the expression "moving forward"


.. commonly used to mask the opposite intention of what it denotes.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:42
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Moving backwards? Apr 8, 2015

I think Benno might well have included the expression "moving backwards" somewhere in his stimulating reply - I mean, the reduced rate the agency was offering was moving back to a rate acceptable decades ago.

I, too, loathe the modishly Blairist term "moving forward" instead of "in future". e.g. We'll be rolling out a whole raft of new measures moving forward.
Rather than rolling out part of an old raft of measures moving backwards? Eeeek!


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Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 05:42
Member (2002)
English to Russian
Low rates offered by translation agencies Apr 8, 2015

I have just come across a website of a well-known US-based translation agency. They advertise "affordable business translation services" on the landing page.

They offer three packages:
Basic (from US$0.08 per word): 100% moneyback; quality assured; native translator; project management included.
Premium (from US$0.09 per word): Basic + FREE quality software review (By the way, as I see it, this quality software review is not free; rather, it is charged at US$0.01 per word)
Ultimate (from US$0.12 per word): Premium + review by 2nd translator, and unlimited post-revisions (The latter commitment seems to constitute a serious risk, doesn't it?)

One can only wonder what rates they offer to their translators and reviewers/editors/proofreaders. Yet, they have a "4.7" BB rating (220+ entries). Only a few entries contain complaints about very low rates (why did those translators opt for working with the agency in the first place?). On the other hand, there are lots of positive comments to the effect that "I am happy to work with them", "I enjoy working with this outsourcer", "So I would most definitely be delighted to work again with ...", etc.

For your information, the situation is even worse with Russian translation companies and agencies. Many of them advertise rates as low as RUB 400.00 per page (1,800 chrs incl. spaces), which roughly translates (pun intended) into US$0.03 per word. Generally, as soon as a prospective client submits his or her material for quoting purposes, they start adding mark-ups and surcharges (for urgency, extremely technical nature, complicated formatting, you name it). Still, the final rates agreed with clients seem to be extremely low, judging from what they offer their freelance translators (and their in-house staff as well).

This is the primary reason why I stopped working for Russian agencies back in 2006. And I keep saying "thank you, but no" to any existing agency client that sends a similar "Dear Vladimir" (or even "Dear linguist") letter.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:42
German to English
seems reasonable to me Apr 8, 2015

It seems like a fairly polite and reasonable message to me. I'm not as wordy, but that is more or less the gist of what I write to existing clients when I raise my rates (I've enjoyed working together, but I need to close the gap in fees between long-time clients and new clients: I hope it works out, but understand if it doesn't ...)

Benno Groeneveld wrote:

As you are aware, we work in a very competitive industry and we must remain within our clients budget in order to continue earning their business and growing our company.


This is the only sentence that I take exception to. We do not work in a very competitive industry. We work in an exponentially expanding industry where demand wildly exceeds supply once an interest in even a minimal amount of consistent quality is important to our customer base.

This particular agency has chosen a business model and a pricing policy that prevent them from consistently competing effectively on the basis of anything but price. They ought to be honest enough to admit that: "Because we have failed to specialize and develop a clear USP based on working with a limited base of tried-and-true translators and editors, we are reducing our price in order to generate more sales in the short term. We are aware that this will likely lead the inconsistent quality of our translations (the reason for our present pricing difficulties) to become consistently bad, which will lead to the need for even lower prices and thus to a downward spiral ending in our own demise. But, what the hell: No one lives forever."


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Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 05:42
Member (2002)
English to Russian
Failure by some agencies to compete on anything but price Apr 8, 2015

Michael Wetzel wrote:

This particular agency has chosen a business model and a pricing policy that prevent them from consistently competing effectively on the basis of anything but price. They ought to be honest enough to admit that: "Because we have failed to specialize and develop a clear USP based on working with a limited base of tried-and-true translators and editors, we are reducing our price in order to generate more sales in the short term. We are aware that this will likely lead the inconsistent quality of our translations (the reason for our present pricing difficulties) to become consistently bad, which will lead to the need for even lower prices and thus to a downward spiral ending in our own demise. But, what the hell: No one lives forever."


Good point, Michael.

Throughout my career, I have been trying to work in the higher-end translation markets (for direct clients, and very professional and reliable agencies), even if it meant taking on just 10% of translation jobs offered by first-time clients, with only 1-2% of them joining a small group of my regular clients.

[Edited at 2015-04-08 10:14 GMT]


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Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:42
Member (2013)
English to Italian
Pointlessly rude Apr 8, 2015

Sorry, I disagree with the answers you've been given so far.

While clearly unacceptable, their message was a simple request - you could simply say no, and that's what I would have done if I were you.

Your answer is a bit too rude, and I don't think you'll ever receive any projects from them at your rate now. Who knows, if you just replied 'Thanks, but no thanks', maybe things would have been different.

Just my 2 cents.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:42
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
And next? Apr 8, 2015

Good thing you were honest with your former client, Benno!

Praising the high quality of your work and expressing their interest in working with you, if you would only... what? pay them to give you work?

This company seems like the perfect candidate for MT to then pay "proofreaders" 0.0001 (of any currency) per 1.000 words to PE their text and to help them tripple their profits.


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