Off topic: Of bullies and the translation market
Thread poster: Evelyna Radoslavova

Evelyna Radoslavova  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:14
English to French
+ ...
Feb 8, 2005

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Translation English - French Canadian. HR Document approx 2000 word count. Pls give me your lowest rate. It is an extremely competitive market, client has tight budget, if you don't give me a lowest quote, I cannot get back to you for future business.

This is a "quote request" that I received yesterday. I replied politely requesting more information and (surprise!) didn't get an answer. And since it has been bothering me all day, I would like to unload my heart and share some thoughts with you.

I have often received requests from potential clients where they would say: "We are a charitable organisation and our budget is very tight, can you help?" or "Unfortunately, I can't afford to pay more than X$". This is very understandable and I work with the client to find common ground. The above e-mail, however, is very different. To me, it sounds like bullying and basic misunderstanding of our profession.

Correct me if I am wrong, but there are various levels of competition in our market: one is price-based, and a lot of translators believe they have to lower their rates to get work. I have, however, discovered that there is very little competition, and a lot of cooperation, among professionals who choose quality and customer service as their main selling point.

In an ideal world, we wouldn't have to explain to a client that translation is a professional activity requiring knowledge, experience and talent as much as any other. As it is, the least we can do is not to give in to "market pressures" of the above type, stick to our guns, and work for agencies and clients who are willing to treat us as professionals.

I just had to vent!

[Edited at 2005-02-08 23:15]


Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:14
English to German
+ ...
Not worth answering... Feb 8, 2005

...messages such as this one go straight to the bin.

Best regards,


Alp Berker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:14
Turkish to English
+ ...
Unfortunate Feb 8, 2005

It is unfortunate that certain individuals have to result to such intimidation in order to try to get the lowest bid. They are trying to take advantage of the free-lancing market. What an unprofessional approach. If this is their approach just to get a quote, I wonder how unprofessional and unethical they would be when it comes to making payment and providing a quality customer service translation for a customer. Just something to think about. Such individuals lower the bar, not the translators.
Don't let people like this bother you to muchicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2005-02-08 18:25]

[Edited at 2005-02-08 18:26]


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:14
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
We should also care about the customers Feb 8, 2005

What I mean is: if we except low prices from some customers we not only risk our own income but also those customers who pay decent rates. Because the work will flow in the direction of low-rate countries. That's why I do not offer lower rates to East-European agencies. It would be unfair to our other customers.


Adrian MM. (X)
Local time: 12:14
French to English
+ ...
Double your highest rates as a fitting punishment Feb 8, 2005

As only you and your existing clients are privy to the range of your rates, give a non-binding estimate - not contractually binding quote - doubling the charges at the top end of your price band and see what the reaction is.

I adjust my rates downwards only for deserving cases: a welfare benefit claimant is unlikely to be charged the same 'whack' as a rich and greedy law or management consultancy firm.

Maybe there is a competitive market in Eng.>Fre - but NOT Bulg.>Eng.>Bulg.

[Edited at 2005-02-09 09:25]


Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:14
German to English
+ ...
Of bullies and the translation market Feb 9, 2005

Evelyna Radoslavova wrote:

It is an extremely competitive market, client has tight budget, if you don't give me a lowest quote...

Typical nonsense from an outfit obviously incapable of selling translation services itself except at dumping prices.

Isn't it interesting how translators are so ignorant of their own profession that they have to be told just how competitive the market is?



Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:14
Dutch to English
+ ...
Competitive market Feb 9, 2005

Ralf Lemster wrote:

...messages such as this one go straight to the bin.

Best place for this type of message. It does not even merit a reply! Not even a snotty one because you will be wasting your time!


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:14
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
They've obviously spent all their money on the other professions... Feb 9, 2005

Pressing prices on translation is like buying a top-quality car and then asking the garage to fit cut-price tyres and save on oil changes.

The documents we are asked to translate are often prepared by doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers and designers, all with top educations and salaries to match. OK, it's expensive setting up in a flashy office, and a translator can work under the stairs... but other professions' clients pay the rates for the job.

Our education and training is in fact just as long and demanding as any of these professions. We have to understand what they are working on, maybe not in the same detail, but in two languages and two cultures.

Bullying 'offers' like the one Evelyna started this discussion with should simply be deleted. But if anyone is willing to discuss rates reasonably, this is an argument.

Ask if any of the others would work for the rate you get per hour, and don't let people treat you as an unskilled amateur.

Happy translating - I hope the good clients keep coming too!

[Edited at 2005-02-09 10:53]


Anne Gillard-Groddeck  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:14
German to English
Of doctors and lawyers Feb 9, 2005

[quote]Christine Andersen wrote:

The documents we are asked to translate are often prepared by doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers and designers, all with top educations and salaries to match.

Your comparison with the medical and legal professions does not really stand up, Christine. The only point of comparison is the long period of training for some, although certainly not all, translators.

Doctors get paid by insurance companies or some sort of insurance scheme. They don't have their services auctioned off on websites. In the case of lawyers access to justice can be a serious problem in some cases, but the role played by insurance shouldn't be overlooked here either.

Let us just suppose that, in some far distant future, all insurance schemes, including governmental medical care systems, went bankrupt and doctors were forced to sell their services on the market. Let us suppose that somebody with no medical training whatsoever came along, set up a website somewhere and started bullying doctors into selling their services at the "most competitive price" (qualifications don't matter, i.e. whether you are actually qualified to perform surgery is irrelevant – only the price matters).

As "doctor" now means nothing, a large number of people for the most diverse number of reasons, start calling themselves a "doctor". They may have studied medicine or not, they may be qualified surgeons or perhaps not, perhaps some of them have an A-level in biology and think that's enough; some of them may be totally illiterate. However all this is irrelevant as the market gets to decide on the basis of price alone. The nature of the service is irrelevant. After all anyone can use a knife, so anyone can perform heart surgery. It only stands to reason, surely.

Now let us suppose that the doctor, still a member of a professional association, although this obviously means nothing at all, tells Mr "Bully Here, Slick Marketer There" (this being the sole qualification), that he would like to get something a little more than the "competitive price" for his services after studying (and running up debts let us not forget) for many years. Mr "BH SMT" simply tells him, "take it or leave it" and goes elsewhere.

Meanwhile Mr "BH SMT" is telling the world that he offers the finest medical services for the cheapest price on the market and everyone believes him. His business booms. Other service providers, let us call them for example, "Mr Ask Here, Sell There" (Mr AH ST), find they are having a serious problem in competing. In order to lower their prices they stop asking for qualifications at all and instead of the doctor now take the biology student. After all it doesn't matter.

The medical profession is now up in arms and writing furious communications here, hoping that somebody somewhere will finally believe in their qualifications and there while Mr "BH SMT" (in the meantime a millionaire), having destroyed the medical profession, now moves into the, now vulnerable market for legal services and starts offering "barristers for 1 cent an hour" (on a website, of course). Mr AH ST is rather disturbed as he thought he had found a nice little market and has previously been offering the barrister for 3 cents an hour. We all know what's going to happen to Mr AH ST (who shies away from the bullying tactic).

So you see, the comparison between translators and doctors/lawyers does not make any sense at all - not yet that is!


Louise Dupont  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:14
English to French
Received the same e-mail Feb 10, 2005

I received the same e-mail without the last portion. (It is an extremely competitive market,...).
Checked the Blue Board and decide to tell them I was busy.
Only 1 comment, but I din't want to take a chance.


Melina Kajander
English to Finnish
+ ...
If it was only an isolated case... Feb 10, 2005

...but unfortunately, the language of this e-mail sounds a bit too much like many job ads on this site!
And what really *****s me is the very, very common expression "please give your BEST rate" (or something similar)... The "best" for agency seems of course to be the lowest rate, but, needless to say, it's definitely not the best for the translator... Why don't they just say "lowest", pure and simple (at least the e-mail mentioned above had the honesty to do so...icon_smile.gif )

(I know this has been discussed often before here, sorry, but I just had to vent, too!)


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