Why do translators say "Their rates are low" on the BB?
Thread poster: Bjorn Candel

Bjorn Candel  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:58
English to Swedish
Nov 19, 2005

Hi,

I'm going through the Blue Board entries as I'm sending out CV's to agencies, and quite often I come across the comment, "Their rates are low". Now, what does that mean exactly? The agencies I've signed up with so far (a handful) have asked me for MY rates and my assumption is that if they think my rates are too high, they won't take me onboard.

So, if a translator says, "Their rates are low", does that mean that they've been haggling with the agency about rates for a while and finally given in to a lower rate? Or does it mean the translator asks the agency about the agency's rates before they are asked themselves?

Some insight into how freelance translators normally go about this rates business would be much appreciated!

Bjorn


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:58
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Rates Nov 19, 2005

Bjorn Candel wrote:

So, if a translator says, "Their rates are low", does that mean that they've been haggling with the agency about rates for a while and finally given in to a lower rate?


Hi Bjorn,

You have asked a good question and have guessed the main answer to it above. Rates is a big issue amongst translators and there are a lot of opinions. I do wonder about someone who accepts a rate and then complains about it.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:58
English to German
+ ...
Likelihood of Working Again Nov 19, 2005

Hi Bjorn, hi Edward,
Please bear in mind that the numerical part of a BB entry expresses the likelihood of working again for a given outsourcer. Obviously, the level of prices paid has an influence on this likelihood.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:58
Dutch to English
+ ...
Good point Nov 19, 2005

It's an entry I fail to understand either when it's meant as a complaint - of course some just state it to advise the rest of us, yet to say nevertheless the experience was otherwise good, there was support, they paid on time etc. My best client is not my highest paying client but everything else makes it worthwhile.

As for those (and there are many) who complain on BB about rates ex post facto:

Frankly it's up to YOU as the translator to protect your own interests FROM THE OUTSET - i.e. call for the text in advance, determine exactly what the job involves and set your rate and deadline accordingly.

Either the agency accepts it or looks elsewhere. Often I look at a text and can't meet the proposed deadline due to other commitments or feel the rate under the circumstances isn't enough. Just make a counterproposal. If your work is good, if you're dependable and worth having on their books, the agency will generally try to meet you (subject to end-client restrictions).

This is the business world, after all. You are a business in your own right and shouldn't let terms be imposed on you - to produce a good translation you have to feel positive about the assignment, first and foremost. There is nothing like cut rates and impossible deadlines to see that enthusiasm quickly fly out the window.

To work any other way and get "caught" somehow relating to the rate/workload/deadline is simply a case of crying over spilt milk and poor business practice.


Yes, we sometimes fall into the habit of letting our regulars send the work unseen, but in my experience if I've ever encountered a problem I just immediately pick up the phone or e-mail and clarify things right there and then. Luckily, with the agencies I work with, it happens very rarely but then again I specialise in a particular field, which also minimises the chances of it happening.

Good luck with your endeavours
Debbie



[Edited at 2005-11-19 17:27]


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Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:58
Member (2002)
English to German
Two examples Nov 19, 2005

Hi Bjorn,

Just two examples from my experience.

Once I worked for a movie subtitling company that paid by the minute and had its fixed rate. I did it just because I was fascinated doing movies and didn't know how the per-minute-fee would translate in a per-word-fee. When I found out that they underpaid immensely I quit them again.

Another time I worked for a top 10 translation agency for many years and charged them my usual rate that would be considered high by most agencies. Suddenly they asked me to lower my rate by 40% because "everybody" agreed to that rate. I also told them good-bye.

In both instances I might make the comment (Their rates are low) because it helps colleagues to select an agency.

I like those entries in the BB because I don't even bother to send resumes on requests of such agencies so it saves me a lot of time.

Andy
www.interlations.com


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:58
Dutch to English
+ ...
Quite valid to put that rates are low Nov 19, 2005

Andy Lemminger wrote:

Hi Bjorn,

Just two examples from my experience.

Once I worked for a movie subtitling company that paid by the minute and had its fixed rate. I did it just because I was fascinated doing movies and didn't know how the per-minute-fee would translate in a per-word-fee. When I found out that they underpaid immensely I quit them again.

Another time I worked for a top 10 translation agency for many years and charged them my usual rate that would be considered high by most agencies. Suddenly they asked me to lower my rate by 40% because "everybody" agreed to that rate. I also told them good-bye.

In both instances I might make the comment (Their rates are low) because it helps colleagues to select an agency.

I like those entries in the BB because I don't even bother to send resumes on requests of such agencies so it saves me a lot of time.

Andy
www.interlations.com[/quote]

I agree with Andy. I had a similar experience but not with subtitling but transcribing text (Dutch tapes into English Word document). The rate on offer turned out to be too low so I turned the next jobs down. I also have a range of rates (minimum to maximum) for which I'll take on a job (depending on complexity). If a customer wants me to translate a highly complex text but for my minimum rate, then my conclusion is that the rate is too low.

I've also had two agencies ask me to lower my rates by 25%. I said no and now I work for them so now and again but at my rate.

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Stephanie Wloch  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:58
Member (2003)
Dutch to German
Honest to admit that you work for low rates Nov 19, 2005

Andy Lemminger wrote:
I like those entries in the BB because I don't even bother to send resumes on requests of such agencies so it saves me a lot of time.
Yes, I benefit from those entries too. Because I do not work for low rates anymore. But it happen to me with a literary translation (theatre). I knew that rates were lower, but only afterwards I found out that there were even lower than average rates for literary translations.
Sometimes there is no time to check which rates are "average" in a field that is rather unknown to you.
As a beginner you do not even know the so called average rates. Later you make an entry in the BB, in the meantime you've learned more about rates realizing that Agency Pecunialingua paid you really low rates.

[Edited at 2005-11-19 17:48]


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xxxtazdog
Spain
Local time: 05:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
rates that don't change Nov 19, 2005

I stopped working with a few agencies when we no longer agreed on rates. For example, I have steadily raised my rates over the years, but some agencies would like me to keep working for the same rate we originally agreed on a few years before. In those cases, I mention the rates as an explanation of why I probably won't be working for them again (which, as Ralf said, is what the BB rating is all about).

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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:58
Member
English to Turkish
I agree that it is valuable info Nov 19, 2005

as much as it is legitimate to ask "Why work for low rates then, so that you'll complain afterwards?" However, I am inclined to read the message rather differently: a translator might have their own valid reasons to work for lower rates; especially, when in the process of getting established. And then, the message might well be taken to mean, "I accepted to work for their rates for [whatever reason], but are they low! For your information." And this is a valuable information for me, one that saved me time on a few occasions; that is, I changed my mind about sending out my CV or quoting upon this information, especially when this info was added to other factors that were not very favorable from my point of view.

[Edited at 2005-11-19 21:34]


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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:58
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Yes, I definitely think that it is valuable! Nov 19, 2005

To begin with. I always check the BB before I quote on a job and definitely appreciate someone giving me all the relevant info including the bit about the rates.

Lucinda


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Hermann  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:58
English to German
+ ...
Yes, the entry is useful and helps me not to waste my time with them Nov 20, 2005

But at the same time I am always surprised how many translators (or would be translators) approach me, offering their service, and then ask ME what they should charge; they are easy prey for the unscrupulous operators out there.

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Bjorn Candel  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:58
English to Swedish
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! I've learnt a great deal! Nov 21, 2005

Hi,

Thank you so much to everybody who has commented. I've read all the entries with great interest and I've learnt a lot!

I've learnt a great deal about setting/keeping/changing rates, and I understand much better the different reasons why a translator might include a comment about low rates on the BB. Also, I feel much more confident now about what to do if an agency tells me my rates are too high or asks me to lower my rates.

Best regards,

Bjorn


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Why do translators say "Their rates are low" on the BB?

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