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What makes a translator accept a 5 cents a word rate?
Thread poster: Lorraine Dubuc

Lorraine Dubuc  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
Jun 23, 2016

Hello everyone,

I just saw a posting for the translation of a novel offering 4 to 5 cents a word and at least 4 quoters to this job.

I believe, some of us do not realize that, by accepting to work under rate they bring our profession to a ridiculous status.

I keep refusing jobs that are unacceptable, precisely to protect the dignity of our work. I find it a shame when I see poor conditions accepted. Nothing will get any better if translators do not stand for their conditions. What do you think? Am I old school?


 

Paulinho Fonseca  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:26
Member (2011)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I keep refusing jobs that are unacceptable, precisely to protect the dignity of our work. Jun 23, 2016

Lorraine Dubuc wrote:

Hello everyone,

I just saw a posting for the translation of a novel offering 4 to 5 cents a word and at least 4 quoters to this job.

I believe, some of us do not realize that, by accepting to work under rate they bring our profession to a ridiculous status.

I keep refusing jobs that are unacceptable, precisely to protect the dignity of our work. I find it a shame when I see poor conditions accepted. Nothing will get any better if translators do not stand for their conditions. What do you think? Am I old school?



I do agree with you, but that is directly related to geographic locations and other urgent needs or lack of professional certification, qualifications, etc. I myself have received many offers even lower; USD 0.03, 0.04, 0.05.

icon_smile.gif


 

Elena Aclasto  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:26
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
Agree Jun 23, 2016

I agree completely and surfing the net I have sometimes seen ridiculous rates.
I don't accept them just because of that ethic, even if it means not working at all....


 

Srini Venkataraman
United States
Local time: 19:26
Member (2012)
Tamil to English
+ ...
rates vary Jun 23, 2016

When translation work can be done by any one in the world, the rates will reach ridiculous levels based on 1. professional/hobby worker 2. tax being paid/ under the table income( unreported etc.) 3. prevailing cost of living in the country of translator.

I have seen the jobs offering 1 to 1.5US cents max per word with due date being yesterday!!! and payment after 30 or 45 days.

I received yesterday one such job for proofreading, which needed actually reviewing- in turn, which needed actually redoing the translation- so I declined. It was pure garbage.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:26
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Low but... Jun 23, 2016

Lorraine Dubuc wrote:
I just saw a posting for the translation of a novel offering 4 to 5 cents a word and at least 4 quoters to this job.

Firstly, you have no idea what they quoted - perhaps double - or indeed maybe they were replying to complain rather than to quote; I've done that before now. Presumably, if you saw it here, the rate was in the box that's hidden from some quoters?
I keep refusing jobs that are unacceptable, precisely to protect the dignity of our work. I find it a shame when I see poor conditions accepted. Nothing will get any better if translators do not stand for their conditions.

Then again, is the rate really so unacceptable for a translator living, for example, in some parts of francophone Africa?

To be honest, I wouldn't see it as an outstanding example of a low rate. Especially if the delivery schedule allows for it to be slotted into quiet periods between better-paying jobs, rather than being the main earner.


 

Lorraine Dubuc  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
A different view point Jun 23, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Lorraine Dubuc wrote:
I just saw a posting for the translation of a novel offering 4 to 5 cents a word and at least 4 quoters to this job.

Firstly, you have no idea what they quoted - perhaps double - or indeed maybe they were replying to complain rather than to quote; I've done that before now. Presumably, if you saw it here, the rate was in the box that's hidden from some quoters?
I keep refusing jobs that are unacceptable, precisely to protect the dignity of our work. I find it a shame when I see poor conditions accepted. Nothing will get any better if translators do not stand for their conditions.

Then again, is the rate really so unacceptable for a translator living, for example, in some parts of francophone Africa?

It said : budget, so I believe it is not going to double

To be honest, I wouldn't see it as an outstanding example of a low rate. Especially if the delivery schedule allows for it to be slotted into quiet periods between better-paying jobs, rather than being the main earner.


This is where I disagree, with all my respect Sheila. If a translator accepts to work for dreadful rates because of a quiet period, he or she is perceived as accepting unacceptable conditions in general in my view. But maybe I am all wrong. I am worried about the damage it does to our profession. That is my main concern.


 

EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:26
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
In some parts of the world, Jun 23, 2016

this is a good rate. In my home market, usual rates are even lower. And I expect in some African or Asian countries they must be much lower still. This is globalization for you...

 

Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
Romanian to English
+ ...
Ad nauseam Jun 23, 2016

Paulinho Fonseca wrote:
I do agree with you, but that is directly related to geographic locations
icon_smile.gif


This has been discussed a thousand times. A translator accepts a 5-cent word rate if the translator has EUR 0-250 rent/credit to pay and has living expenses and bills amounting to much less than EUR 1000/month, in a country where they can afford relatively (or quite) lavish conditions with that money or where the average income is EUR 600 per month, on a local market where rates are much lower for everything, including this.

I really don't understand this debate. Product prices vary, manufacturing costs vary everywhere in the world. This varies, too, mostly for the same reason.

There are multinationals (or even non-profit entities) that pay audaciously big sums to foreign directors and much less to local ones, in some less developed countries. How is that fair/ethical/professional, in the same company, in the same country? At least in the translation business the translators' geographical locations justify the differences.

In conclusion, everyone works with the prices they choose. I think the "professional" argument translators from more expensive countries use is actually a financial one: they simply can't afford living with that money where they live. If they could, they probably wouldn't complain. Translators from cheaper countries can, it's that simple.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 02:26
German to Serbian
+ ...
Really? Jun 23, 2016

Annamaria Amik wrote:
Product prices vary, manufacturing costs vary everywhere in the world. This varies, too, mostly for the same reason.


And why/how exactly is manufacturing of a translation "cheaper" in some countries than in others? In some countries climate is such that producing a translation requires less mental effort and expertise, or is it about something else?

Annamaria Amik wrote:


In conclusion, everyone works with the prices they choose.


Exactly, because the market and market prices are totally unregulated. Even this site doesn't have any bottom rate below which we can report the agency for breaking the site rules.

[Edited at 2016-06-23 18:05 GMT]


 

Lorraine Dubuc  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:26
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You did not get my point Jun 23, 2016

Annamaria Amik wrote:

Paulinho Fonseca wrote:
I do agree with you, but that is directly related to geographic locations
icon_smile.gif


This has been discussed a thousand times. A translator accepts a 5-cent word rate if the translator has EUR 0-250 rent/credit to pay and has living expenses and bills amounting to much less than EUR 1000/month, in a country where they can afford relatively (or quite) lavish conditions with that money or where the average income is EUR 600 per month, on a local market where rates are much lower for everything, including this.

I really don't understand this debate. Product prices vary, manufacturing costs vary everywhere in the world. This varies, too, mostly for the same reason.

There are multinationals (or even non-profit entities) that pay audaciously big sums to foreign directors and much less to local ones, in some less developed countries. How is that fair/ethical/professional, in the same company, in the same country? At least in the translation business the translators' geographical locations justify the differences.

In conclusion, everyone works with the prices they choose. I think the "professional" argument translators from more expensive countries use is actually a financial one: they simply can't afford living with that money where they live. If they could, they probably wouldn't complain. Translators from cheaper countries can, it's that simple.


I understand that different countries have different standards and costs of living. My point is mainly why should an American or French translator work under rate. That was my only questionning. Sorry for bringing up a redundant topic, I do not read much on forums. Thank you for your opinion. I should have asked a question instead : would you refuse to work Under rate in order to saveguard your profession's standards?icon_smile.gif

[Modifié le 2016-06-23 18:11 GMT]


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 02:26
German to Serbian
+ ...
There are too many of them? Jun 23, 2016

Lorraine Dubuc wrote:
My point is mainly why should an American or French translator work under rate. That was my only questionning. Sorry for bringing up a redundant topic, I do not read much on forums. Thank you for your opinion.


Supply exceeds demand and they see no other option but to compete between each other with low prices? Other option is enthusiasts who just find translation so exciting and this excitement makes up for the low rate.

[Edited at 2016-06-23 19:35 GMT]


 

Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
Unfortunately this is globalisation Jun 23, 2016

Though I don't like it, I must agree. The fact that translation agencies no longer depend on the translators around them because delivery is no longer physical on paper, floppy disk or CD-rom, means that they can even ask a translator across the ocean or the world.

Whatever makes people in Western Europe think they should be the standard?


Obviously there will be those who offer their services at too low rates, either because they are clueless or because they don't care, as their earnings are enough to cover their expenses, but it's a fact of life that there are other people like you who will do better or worse than you in one area or another. The only thing you can do is convince people you are better than that other. Cost is not the only thing agencies go by.


 

Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
Romanian to English
+ ...
Rates and reasons Jun 23, 2016

Lorraine Dubuc wrote:

I understand that different countries have different standards and costs of living. My point is mainly why should an American or French translator work under rate.
I should have asked a question instead : would you refuse to work Under rate in order to saveguard your profession's standards?icon_smile.gif


They "should" not, but it seems some would.

The same applies to most countries, I think; probably in every country there are really cheap translators and more expensive ones who probably ask the question why some of their fellow nationals would degrade themselves like that professionally. Here in my country, the top reason why even some excellent translators choose to accept lower rates is probably fear. They are desperate that refusal of any opportunity to make money would lead to total loss of an opportunity like that, and even little money is better than none. They often don't see the cost of making that little money, e.g. less time, more stress, etc. It's a very complex thing. I know outstanding translators who just don't have that flair for selling their excellence to the higher bidder. There are others who are terrific at marketing, while their professional competence is just average.

I noticed, at least on my local market, that it is part-time translators who tend to be content with lower rates. They have a fixed salary anyway, so for them extra income, even if small, just comes at the cost of an afternoon sacrificed every now and then. If they are good, they usually get more and more translation work, they leave their regular job, and then are forced naturally to raise their rates.

As for your second question: no, I would not refuse to work under rate in order to saveguard anyone's "professional" standards, but because I don't want to make less money with the same effort, or to put in extra effort to make the same amount of money. Higher standard follows naturally.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 02:26
German to Serbian
+ ...
Actually it mostly is. Jun 23, 2016

Kirsten Bodart wrote:

Cost is not the only thing agencies go by.


Easiest way to gauge this is by observing the work process and questions asked about me. Agencies commonly ask two questions only: what is your rate and how fast can you do it? Not a single question about me, my profile, my competences, etc.

On the other hand, direct clients ask tons of questions about my background, how I will ensure the quality, my qualifications, etc.

You can't expect the quality when middle men have other priorities.

[Edited at 2016-06-23 19:41 GMT]


 

David GAY  Identity Verified
English to French
+ ...
US or canadian dollars? Jun 23, 2016

US or canadian dollars?
I guess rates are much lower in Europe than in Canada
for this pair. There is no barrier to entry in Europe.
In Canada, you need to be a member of the OTTIAQ.
In Canada, translation is a regulated industry. You have to pass
an exam to become a translator and there may be a numerus clausus.
It's not the case in Europe.

[Modifié le 2016-06-23 21:29 GMT]

[Modifié le 2016-06-23 21:30 GMT]

[Modifié le 2016-06-23 21:33 GMT]


 
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