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Upset about low rates? Proz's new TM Town isn't helping!
Thread poster: Catherine Howard

Catherine Howard
United States
Local time: 06:53
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jun 23, 2016

Hey folks, have you noticed the rates being offered through Proz's new TM Town platform? It's making it easy for clients to search for translators offering rates as low as $0.04 a word-- so easy, in fact, that you could say its actual effect is to promote such rates.

For any Proz translators who've been around for a good while, they may remember when the emergence of Proz at the turn of the millenium had a powerful impact on the translation profession by making it easy -- too easy, many argued -- for clients to comb the globe for the lowest bidders through its reverse auction platform. The simple existence of the platform unleashed a set of processes that exerted inexorable downward pressure on rates across the board globally -- not the only factor, but a significant one nonetheless.

At one point, Proz members protested so loudly about how the platform was promoting lower rates that a minor cosmetic change was introduced: Proz started labeling exceptionally low rates with a small box stating that the offer was below the average rates of Proz members in that language pair. It hasn't done anything to stem the flood of low offers, but one could argue that it has a bit of symbolic value.

Well, even that symbolic gesture by Proz authorities is now getting undermined by its shiny new directory, TM Town.

Take a look at Proz's TM Town website, if you haven't already. In the Search Directory on the left, you'll see a set of filters that clients can use to find translators. Among those filters are ones under "Budget (per word)." Click on that and up pops a set a options -- starting with $0.04 a word. Click on that, maybe along with your language pair, and you'll see a slew of your colleagues' profiles pop up who have unabashedly publicized their willingness to work for this rate. As more and more translators get sucked into TM Town, that number will only grow.

Imagine you're a client who'd dealt with professional translators before and who believed them when they said that respectable rates should not be less than $0.20, $0.15, $0.10, whatever. But then they see this option of $0.04: "Wow," they think, "Let's take a look!" They click on the option and voilá, up pops a host of TM Town translators willing to work for $0.04 per word OR LESS. There are so many, in fact, that this hypothetical client might get the idea that this is a perfectly acceptable rate. After all, TM Town marketing promises that its translators are the "professionals" who, through the TM Town engine, are ideally matched to the client's job. "Wow, I'd love to save money on this project," the client thinks. Some clients may be lowly project managers whose eyes glow at the thought of how pleased their boss will be with having come in way under budget. "Won't that look good when it comes time for year-end bonuses..."

Oh, and even if the client didn't search for translators by "Budget (per word)," there are still plenty of other enticements dangled in front of the client's eyes if he or she happened to land on your profile page. Maybe the client was even on the brink of contacting you for a job -- until scrolling down and seeing the words in huge letters, "Similar translators." The clients starts looking at their profiles and, in no time, finds some offering far lower rates, down to the subterranean depths of $0.04 and less.

As Proz's TM Town expands, these and other functions are going to not merely enable but, I'd argue, actually encourage clients to consider the lowest possible rates for translation. This hurts not just individual translators, but the entire profession itself. And it makes TM Town's claim that its mission is "to serve translators" ring hollow indeed.

I would respectfully request that Proz and TM Town authorities reflect on what their engines are promoting. I would further ask them to remove the buttons with the lowest rates, add a pop-up warning to translators who try to post such low rates that informs them that their rates are below those considered acceptable by the Proz community, and include a link for clients taking them to the Proz charts showing the results of rate surveys. It was encouraging to see Proz and TM Town respond yesterday to members' objections about the links at the bottom of their profiles luring clients away to TM Town competitors; I hope this same responsiveness is shown over this issue.


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 12:53
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
I agree Jun 23, 2016

I believe that Proz.com and TM Town are in a strong enough position to lead an effort in this direction. At least make the average rate for the respective language pair visible to the clients to make them aware of what a normal rate for the required service looks like.

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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:53
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
low rates Jun 23, 2016

It may be time to cancel membership in proz.com which has apparently become an enabler of bottom-feeder rates.

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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:53
Member (2012)
French to English
Doesn't surprise me Jun 23, 2016

I'm quite sceptical about Toy Town - it's not really for people like me, I'm afraid.

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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:53
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
+1 Jun 23, 2016

Definitely agree with the OP.

Here's hoping this thread won't be "hidden" (under the carpet) like the one Catherine mentioned.


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Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 13:53
Member (2002)
English to Russian
Many translation agencies charge low rates as well Jun 23, 2016

I deleted my comment here and moved it to another thread:

http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/303629-what_makes_a_translator_accept_a_5_cents_a_word_rate.html

[Edited at 2016-06-23 22:09 GMT]


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Catherine Howard
United States
Local time: 06:53
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Focusing on one problem at a time Jun 23, 2016

Vladimir, I certainly agree with you that there are many other players in the translation "industry" who are bringing down rates, notoriously those of bottom-feeding agencies. I also agree that there will always be clients looking for highly qualified translators. And I'm not surprised at the miserable results of the paid translation test you got back. I had a chuckle myself over one of my colleagues in TM Town who offers less than $0.04 per word, who claims to be able to translate out of her native language into English, and who advertises herself as being "Accurated." With competitors like that, who needs friends (to quip an old saying)?

However, for strategic purposes in solving the widespread problem of ever-lower rates in our profession, I strongly believe it's best to focus on one problem at a time. There are many strands to this issue: the purpose of this thread is simply to ask the owners of Proz and TM Town (whose platforms we support financially and who claim to work in our interests) to prevent this new factor from adding yet another arrow to the quiver used in battle against translators.

I think it's great that there are many other discussion threads focusing on different strands of this problem. For the moment, I hope to hear more discussion of this particular one and, ideally, responses from the Proz and TM Town owners. Thanks!


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 12:53
English to Croatian
+ ...
PMs who are clueless about English. Jun 23, 2016

Catherine V. Howard wrote:

Vladimir, I certainly agree with you that there are many other players in the translation "industry" who are bringing down rates, notoriously those of bottom-feeding agencies. I also agree that there will always be clients looking for highly qualified translators. And I'm not surprised at the miserable results of the paid translation test you got back. I had a chuckle myself over one of my colleagues in TM Town who offers less than $0.04 per word, who claims to be able to translate out of her native language into English, and who advertises herself as being "Accurated."


They will not even notice the error, they will pick this translator to translate into English, because of their low rate. Accurated or not.

The other day I had a German PM requiring translation from my language into English, then coming back to me saying how they picked someone else whose rate is twice as lower as mine. As this PM corresponded in a very broken and flawed English, how are they in a position to select a competent into English translator quickly, for an urgent project? How can they even gauge that? The only thing that mattered was the rate.


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Catherine Howard
United States
Local time: 06:53
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
this should worry even those who haven't signed up in TM Town Jun 23, 2016

Even if you haven't or do not plan to sign up with TM Town, its promotion of the lowest rates is going to hurt you sooner or later. It is now owned by Proz and is closely integrated with it. As more and more translators fall for the bait, its influence on individual Proz translators and those in general will only increase.

I think it's better to nip this in the bud before it does serious damage. I hope the three changes I proposed will be accepted by the Proz and TM Town owners.

Do other people have suggestions to consider for solving the TM Town promotion of rates such as $0.07, 0.06, 0.05, 0.04, and lower?


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:53
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yup.... Jun 23, 2016

I've been a member for 13 years and I'm seriously considering making this one my last.

Michael Newton wrote:

It may be time to cancel membership in proz.com which has apparently become an enabler of bottom-feeder rates.


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Jared Tabor
Local time: 08:53
SITE STAFF
On rates, translators, clients, ProZ.com, TM-Town Jun 24, 2016

My subject line was too long, here is what it would have been if it could have been:

Assisting translators in setting the rates they want, assisting clients at getting the translations they need, is the right idea

Hi all,

I'm sure no one here needs me to clarify this for them, but here I go!

You set your own rates. Neither ProZ.com nor TM-Town will do that for you. The client won't-- or should not-- do that for you. The translator sets the rate for their work.

I take the opportunity to repeat this here because it's important, and because discussions I have seen on the subject often erroneously attribute much more power in the matter to ProZ.com than it could honestly or factually claim.

Catherine, you talk about a "minor cosmetic change" made on the site, I believe in regard to changes made in the job posting system, which, while the most public, is not the most important channel for work on ProZ.com. If that is the case, I will differ with you on this opinion, and invite those not familiar with the job posting system changes, who are interested, to http://www.proz.com/about/ipetition/ . Anyone who wants to discuss whether those changes were merely cosmetic, or what the actual result has been, let's do it (in another thread, of course). Bring your facts with you!

That said, if there are things that can be done that will better assist translators in arriving at the rates they wish to charge, or things that can be done to better educate potential buyers of translation services about how to buy and what to expect for different levels of investment in those services, I'm all for them. Catherine, as I understand your points they are along these lines, is that correct?

Jared


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Natalia Postrigan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:53
Member (2016)
English to Russian
+ ...
If you leave... Jun 24, 2016

Folks, I'll be concise. If you leave because you protest against low rates, it will only bring down the average rates even further. Can we come up with a better solution?

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Catherine Howard
United States
Local time: 06:53
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
proposed changes to avoid bottom-feeder rates in TM Town Jun 24, 2016

Glad to get a reply from you, Jared. It will be great if those who run Proz and TM Town continue be responsive to our concerns and take constructive criticism seriously, as they did in response to the "Two objections" thread ( http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/303212-two_objections_regarding_tm_town_related_advertising.html ).

I'd say my requests are quite straightforward. To repeat, I respectfully request that those who run Proz and TM Town reflect on what their engines are promoting and make changes that will promote best practices in the translation profession through three specific steps:

1) by removing the lowest rates in the TM Town search directory under the button "Budget (per word)";

2) by including a link next to the "Budget (per word)" button, or which opens up when they click on that button, that takes them to the Proz charts showing the average rates by language pairs -- http://search.proz.com/employers/rates ;

3) by adding the same link next to the box where TM Town translators enter their rates, and create a pop-up warning to translators who want to post rates below the average "Minimum" rate in the same rates page, with a message informing them that their rates are below those considered acceptable by the Proz community. If translators still want to post lower rates, that's their business -- but inform them first.


The purpose of these changes are to educate clients, educate translators, and prevent unleashing processes that inadvertently exert downward pressure on translator rates in our community. This will prevent accusations of hypocrisy against TM Town (and therefore Proz, which owns it) when claims are made, likes Kevin's yesterday, that they have one business model: "We serve translators."

There are certainly other steps that could ensure that TM Town does not contribute to the race to the bottom, but let's start with these three practical ones.

What do you say?


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Kevin Dias
Local time: 20:53
SITE STAFF
@Catherine Jun 24, 2016

Hi Catherine,

First, as it seems you are not a member on TM-Town, you may not be familiar with how it works with regards to rates.

1) We allow translators to set a rate range if they so choose. To keep things simple and consistent for clients browsing the site, the rate range is specified in USD (U.S. dollars). You can read more about that in this blog post.

2) We make it very clear to clients visiting a translators profile page:
*The listed rates are a general range for this translator. Every project is different and many factors affect translation rates including the complexity of your source text, file format, deadline, etc. Please contact this translator with the details of your translation job for a more specific rate quote. Rates on TM-Town are always listed as USD for consistency. A translator may have a different preferred currency.

3) We allow translators to set a "Don't Bother Me Rate". Below this rate we will filter any job messages and not send them on to you. When a client uses the "Message Translator" button one of the fields they fill in is their budget:
- Entry Level (less than $0.07/word)
- Intermediate ($0.07/word - $0.14/word)
- Expert (greater than $0.14/word)

When a job message comes in we check that budget against your "Don't Bother Me Rate" before sending on the message to you.

4) On the page where translators enter their rate ranges (if they so choose) there is the following message:
The rates ranges you select below are intended to give potential clients viewing your profile a rough indication of the rates you typically charge, with the understanding that further negotiation is often needed to set an appropriate rate for a particular job or client. If you are unsure where to set your rates, we recommend using the ProZ.com community rates page as a guideline. To make it easier on clients browsing TM-Town, all rates ranges will be listed in USD (U.S. dollars), so please be aware of that when you are setting your rate ranges below.

---------------

OK, so it seems that you are upset about the "Search by per word budget" dropdown on the directory search page. You don't like that it starts at $0.04. I understand your point.

I just updated that in 3 ways:
1) I reversed the order of the dropdown so that it starts from the higher number first (i.e $0.50)
2) I removed the $0.04, $0.05, $0.06 so that the lowest value is $0.07 which seems to be about the average "minimum" listed on the ProZ community rates page.
3) I added a link to the ProZ.com community rates page

However, I did not change the dropdown for what translators can set as their rate range though. I 100% agree with what Jared says:

Jared Tabor wrote:
You set your own rates. Neither ProZ.com nor TM-Town will do that for you. The client won't-- or should not-- do that for you. The translator sets the rate for their work.


Here is my opinion on the subject. I think in general translators underestimate the sophistication of clients and agencies. Of course every now and then there will be the end client who has zero knowledge of the industry. However, for the majority of the translation jobs that are happening every day this is not the case. Clients are educated and know how to evaluate your profile and your credentials.

The client can and will evaluate your profile. They can see the grammar and spelling mistakes (or lack thereof). If you are specialized and experienced you can earn very high rates, and clients will be happy to pay them.

Yes, there are bad clients out there. There are clients that don't care about quality. There are clients that won't pay more than $0.04 no matter what. Is that really the client you want though?

Have you ever thought of it in the reverse? A low rate range can be a very negative signal to a prospective buyer. If I am going to buy a new computer, or a washing machine, I don't just automatically choose the one with the lowest price. In fact, sometimes that low price is often a big flashing signal..."the quality of this product is not good and it will break in a year".

---------

I'm very happy to listen to your thoughts and ideas, and as I said in the other thread...it is very easy to email me directly (instead of a first reaction of starting an angry forum thread). Talk to me directly. I don't bite, and since the start of TM-Town I have been very open to feedback and changes suggested by our members.

For example, you say "There are certainly other steps that could ensure that TM Town does not contribute to the race to the bottom, but let's start with these three practical ones." Great, please email them to me.

Ask anyone that has emailed me directly. I'm very responsive. Plus there is the added courtesy that entails in lieu of starting an angry forum thread ("bottom-feeder", "race to the bottom") in a forum segment that I do not monitor.

Yes, I stick by what I said - "We serve translators." Our revenue comes from translator memberships. Our interests are aligned with yours, plain and simple.

Kevin

[Edited at 2016-06-24 06:05 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:53
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Not me Jun 24, 2016

Kevin Dias wrote:

Our interests are aligned with you, plain and simple.

Kevin




Not with mine, they're not (I think, or hope, you meant to write "Our interests are aligned with yours")

[Edited at 2016-06-24 06:02 GMT]


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