Differential rates - we could all benefit
Thread poster: Alex Potts

Alex Potts
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 28, 2002

I\'m prompted to comment on rates charged by translators in different parts of the world by the recent addition to ProZ profile pages of a Rates section, in addition to difficulties I and many of my colleages have been experiencing in the recent past.

With increasing use of the Internet, an ever greater number of companies (translation and end-user) are turning to translators based in areas where the cost of living is much lower than certain Western European countries, and who are therefore able to charge MUCH lower rates.

Wouldn\'t it be fairer if, when the client is based in a high-cost country, translators applied a sliding scale and tailored their rates accordingly? That way they would receive a higher income from those clients and other translators wouldn\'t find themselves unfairly priced out of the market. As a Spanish translator living in London, for instance, I cannot possibly afford to charge the same rates as someone in, say, Argentina, or even Spain.


Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:36
Italian to English
Differentiate your service and charge a premium May 28, 2002

Rates are only part of the package, Alex.

If you are selling on price alone, then you are offering a commodity, not a service.

Rather than worry about the rest of the world, look at what local advantages you have. In London, you have unrivalled research opportunities, for example. You can keep bang up to date with developments in your sector of specialisation in a way that someone in Bariloche or Bilbao might find difficult.

So identify your strengths, improve them and charge for them.

If you\'re the only, or the best, translator available for a specific kind of text, work will come to you. Globalisation means more potential customers, as well as more competitors, and if you are sufficiently specialised in the right sector, you won\'t be able to handle all the work that is offered to you.

That way the translators in Spain and Argentina, who have their own, different, strengths - one of which could be price - will become potential collaborators rather than a threat.




Michael Tovbin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:36
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
differential rates May 28, 2002

Sounds reasonable to me.

But in reality this is not feasible because making 3-4 cents (or pence) a word to some people is still better than making nothing at all.

Even if we agree there will still be the odd strike breaker.


Alex Potts
English to Spanish
+ ...
market forces: don't you just love 'em? May 29, 2002

I appreciate your comments and agree with your point of view, Giles, it\'s just that clients don\'t seem to! They are increasingly opting for cheaper rates, without necessarily taking things like expertise into account. I used to be in the situation you mention, having to turn down jobs and being fully booked at least 2 months in advance, but this has changed and, analyzing why, I concluded that one of the main factors is the Internet, which makes place of residence a total irrelevance for a freelance translator (a double-edged sword, of course). It also, incidentally, means that you can keep up to date with developments from anywhere in the world.

It\'s not just a financial issue: generally we have to struggle to make this a respected profession, and undercharging/undercutting doesn\'t help. I was gob-smacked recently so see a job posting on ProZ offering 7 Brazilian reais per page, which at 250 words/page is little more than ONE CENT of a US dollar per word! and the saddest thing of all was that at least 14 translators bid for it...

Personally, if I lived in a lower-cost country, I\'d jump at the chance to net clients who could pay a better rate than one could expect locally; I\'d be doing myself a favour and would feel happier about not undercutting (at least, not by much! icon_smile.gif ). It is the other side of the \"sliding scale\" policy, where you give discounts to charity organizations and so on, and seems, like mtovbin commented, perfectly reasonable.

Whether anything like this happens in practice is, of course (particularly since it is illegal to \"fix\" rates), up to individuals, but it would be nice if we all helped each other.


Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:36
Member (2004)
English to Italian
temporary situation... hopefully! May 30, 2002

in my opinion, the hemorrage of clients opting for countries where the rates are lower will only be a temporary situation. Yes, the Internet is great culprit, but it won\'t last. This is because the translators in countries where the rates are lower will soon start charging on-going international rates. American rates for American clients, British rates for British clients and so on. I\'ve lost a few clients because of that, but I\'m sure they\'ll come back when the \"gain-gain\" situation will be over.



Alex Potts
English to Spanish
+ ...
Fingers crossed May 30, 2002


This is because the translators in countries where the rates are lower will soon start charging on-going international rates.

I certainly hope so - but it wouldn\'t be much good if by then the international rates have all come down! Anyway, this was what I was hoping to encourage, to perhaps get a few translators to starting thinking about doing just that.

Thanks for your encouragement, Giovanni, I hope you\'re right!



Anthony Indra  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:36
Member (2002)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Latest price war: US$0.016 Jun 13, 2002

Check this bid offer: US$5 for 300 words, in a web localization job.


Literally \"Work for a cent\". I just don\'t get it... the bank transfer fee is ten times the cost??


Maya Jurt  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:36
Member (2002)
French to German
+ ...
Quality makes the difference Jun 13, 2002

I do not really agree with Giovanni, sorry. People who look for quality work do not necessarily advertise on proZ. Except some shrewd agencies with qualified project managers who fish for talents at low rates, being lucky once in a while. Considering that they always come back means that their catch must not be very impressive.

But they attract, unfortunately, heavyweights from time to time. Or how come that a very qualified engineer and translator is working for 6 cents in the States, saying that if he would charge more, he would not have any work at all? I know a lot of exemples similar to this one.

We need a new, if possible collective, marketing approach. New ideas. And quality. I have some ideas, and it might work. But I cannot do everything myself.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
I apply differential rates, Alex Jul 2, 2002

And I\'m not afraid to say so. But I call them another thing. These are \"Preferential Clients\" who have stuck with me through thick and thin, need the quality and even officially DON\'T HAVE THE BUDGET (I include top government offices, and curiously not exactly Third World; simply badly informed from the start of a budget year and finding it hard to justify \"international\" increases). Clients whose names on my CV spell big cheese, in the process of re-education. Call it local custom, call it a helping hand to a country that gave me a home in exile and a few lessons in humanism. icon_smile.gif And nonetheless, I draw the line with anyone who doesn\'t have that excuse. But this is a private thing.


Joy Christensen  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:36
+ ...
we need a marketing approach Jul 26, 2002

Maya Jurt wrote on June 13th:

\"We need a new, if possible collective, marketing approach. New ideas. And quality. I have some ideas, and it might work. But I cannot do everything myself.\"

You are right, we need a new marketing approach, and yes it must be collective in the sense that we are a branch of industry. No one will ever get anywhere alone, that\'s for sure.

Part of our problem is that translators have never considered themselves as business people. For example, for many women it was like old-fashioned egg money, something they earned on the side, and whatever it was that was fine.

There is definitely a demand, and a growing demand for quality translation work. And we are a large trade group.

What are the ideas that you have for us?



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