larger projects are more work, not less
Thread poster: Kevin Pfeiffer

Kevin Pfeiffer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:42
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
Aug 17, 2006

From a posting here for 135,000 words (and an academic text, to boot): "Due to the very large size of this single assignment (ca. 135,000 words, 381 pages), we expect your bid to be substantially under your normal price."

I can only say from my own experience: "Don't!" A project of this size will be far more work than your "normal work", not less. You will either be involved in it for a very long time, at the expense of other clients, or you will end up working as project manager, proofreader, and editor -- on your own dime.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:42
Member (2002)
German to English
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No discounts for quantity in our profession Aug 17, 2006

Yes, I totally agree with you, Kevin, and I also adhere to the advice I read in a business book, which stated that discounts for quantity only make sense if you are in the business of selling goods, not if you are offering services. If you are offering a service, each hour's work is as much work as the next.

Astrid


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Todd Field  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:42
Member (2003)
Portuguese to English
A question of economies of scale Aug 17, 2006

Here is the argument I use under these circumstances:

Discounts can make sense for goods/services whose cost/effort goes down with volume, i.e. the idea of economy of scale, "a phenomenon which encourages the production of larger volumes of a commodity to reduce its unit cost by distributing fixed costs over a greater quantity." (www.eyefortransport.com/glossary/ef.shtml)

This is not the case with translation. If it takes someone 1 day to translate 2,000 new words, it will probably take them 10 days to translate 20,000 new words.

Thus, no discounts for volume, in my opinion.

Todd


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Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:42
Member (2006)
English to German
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No economies of scale? Aug 17, 2006

Todd Field wrote:

Here is the argument I use under these circumstances:

Discounts can make sense for goods/services whose cost/effort goes down with volume, i.e. the idea of economy of scale, "a phenomenon which encourages the production of larger volumes of a commodity to reduce its unit cost by distributing fixed costs over a greater quantity." (www.eyefortransport.com/glossary/ef.shtml)

This is not the case with translation. If it takes someone 1 day to translate 2,000 new words, it will probably take them 10 days to translate 20,000 new words.


First of all, I don't totally disagree with what has been said so far. I don't like giving discounts for large projects either, as I personally never see myself saving time or effort, just because I'm working on a large project. I also agree with Kevin here - there tends to be a lot of additional work which comes with larger projects.

However, you could argue that even in translation there is a certain degree of economies of scale. Surely, if you are translating one manual of 20,000 words, for example, you spend less time on it than when translating 10 different documents of 2,000 words each for 10 different projects. You save time on research and on familiarizing yourself with a new subject matter or a new product. So there is some potential to save time there.

The other potential savings obviously come from repetitions and "fuzzy matches" within the text (obviously the longer the text, the more potential for repetition), but that's something you can exactly analyse before starting the work and then give a discount as appropriate (if you wish to do so). I would never agree on a discount based on a client guessing about "quite a bit" or "loads of repetition" (heard that before, but I prefer figures to vague estimates). I would always ask to see the files first, so that I can analyse them in Trados or SDLX or whatever - only then can a discount be agreed upon (or a separate rate for the repetitions, which I think is usually the case, when working with agencies).

[Edited at 2006-08-17 22:47]


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 14:42
French to Spanish
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Substantially? No, but... Aug 18, 2006

...yes, I do give discount for large projects, up to 10-15 %, IF well paid, first of all.

I don't agree with "No discounts for quantity in our profession", nor "...discounts for quantity only make sense if you are in the business of selling goods, not if you are offering services."

Why not? I know, we don't sell tires or hammers. Our brain and hands don't go faster, as a machine could do in order to deliver a large order. Never the less, our work IS a marchandise, isn't it? (And I don't mean I do agree with that, beware). Aren't we in a capitalist system where everything is a good, even services? Go and by 20 plane tickets... you'll have a discount, for shure. Don't fool ourselves. We're no gods. Balzac were paid by word... a genious payed by word... that's why he wrote so much, and so well, should I say.

At the end, we'll earn good money, anyway, and the client will be happy and he'll be back. Guess so.


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:42
The economy of scale in translation... taken to the extreme Aug 18, 2006

I love the following example, shared a while ago by Au, one of our colleagues in this site. I believe it provides a vivid image of where the "volume discount logic" would take us:

"If you are given 5.000 words to translate, let's say they pay you 0.08 USD (even though those who propose this kind of schemes never start with such high rates…)

If you are given 10.000 words, they pay you 0.07 USD
If you are given 20.000 words, they pay you 0.06 USD
If you are given 30.000 words, they pay you 0.05 USD
If you are given 40.000 words, they pay you 0.04 USD
If you are given 50.000 words, they pay you 0.03 USD
If you are given 60.000 words, they pay you 0.02 USD
If you are given 70.000 words, they pay you 0.01 USD
If you are given 80.000 words, they pay you 0.00 USD

STOP. Here, you have to be REALLY CAREFUL, because it is then YOU who starts to pay!

If they give you 90.000 words, you have to pay... how many USD????

At this point, I cannot help you anymore. Up to you to decide how much you want to pay for translating..."

I know it is an extreme example, but how far down the scale will we draw the line?

Of course, I give my very good clients discounts for large jobs, but not based on volume; it depends on a variety of factors (complexity, repetitions, formating, deadline, etc), and it is ME who decides the discount, not them.

Yes, there are two points of view on this subject, but I like this one better.




[Edited at 2006-08-18 01:25]


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:42
Dutch to English
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I do give discounts Aug 18, 2006

If a large project is involved, I usually translate a lot faster. Sorry, but I disagree with most of the statements given. I use a CAT tool for most of my work and if the sentence. Press button X to add the data occurs 100 times in my file, I am quite happy to be paid once for the full sentence and then a percentage of my standard rate for the repetitions. I am also involved in some fairly large projects that go on for years. Mainly software that expands. I would find it very unreasonable to charge and charge again for translating the same text.

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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 22:42
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
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Not necessarily more work Aug 18, 2006

I agree with Thomas. A large project might be less work than several small jobs. But that does not mean we should be oblidged to give discounts based on large volumes only.

I also understand your point, Marijke, but I think it is a different matter to apply CAT tool discounts and to give large volume discounts. I have agreed to CAT tool discounts with many clients, but I would not lower my "base rate" for large volume projects.

[Edited at 2006-08-18 11:06]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 21:42
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
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Large means fixed costs << variable costs Aug 18, 2006

Are fixed costs smaller in case of large projects? Relatively yes, but NOT absolutely - my experience- rather the opposite.

Regarding variable costs - I do see my speed of transition increase with time within a given project. But this is nothing I give the client a discount for. I rather try to keep quality up and consistent through the process - keeping terminology consistent is not that easy.

I throw in a carrot or two - like delivering an ancillary file/vocabulary, create the ancillary and talk it over with the client first, etc - this needs to be done anyhow, but here's the chance to sell it too - setting milestones and keeping them, delivering in steps ... So the agency feels and knows it's getting its money's worth. At least, I hope so...

smo

PS: To do away with one possible cause of misunderstanding: my prices are based on (roughly) 15/60/100 scheme, so what I'm discussing here the base word rate and not the word mix based on repeats vs fuzzies vs non-repeats. My final per word price, I am quoting, may come to say 35% of the base rate, but it would be ludicrous to view this as a 65% discount.

Of course if the translator does not have such a tool in his or her hand (for instance analyse in TWB), than the translatoree may well be forced to talk discounts.

[Edited at 2006-08-18 12:03]


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Kevin Pfeiffer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:42
Member (2004)
German to English
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TOPIC STARTER
the large project is less work is an illusion IMO, and here's why Aug 18, 2006

Niina writes:
> I agree with Thomas. A large project might be less work
> than several small jobs.

Here is where I disagree. In theory, a large project from an agency should offer benefits similar to receiving a large volume of assignments. But in my experience these are offset by the add'l. demands and potential problems that come with a large project, which include:

1. the need to turn away other jobs from existing clients (or split the project in which case you become a project manager)
2. "subject matter weariness"
3. the need to deal with the ramifications of terminology, systematic development, and consistency in a longer work.

With point three, I don't mean the technicial details of CAT, etc., but rather that routine decisions which the translator must make suddenly play a much larger role in a larger project.

Terminology and concepts introduced in chapter one may receive further elucidation in chapter three, requiring not only a reworking perhaps of chapter one, but also that decisions be made: for example, should the terminology and concepts translated in chapter one reflect the reader's state of knowledge at this point in the work, or does the author intend to assume that the reader already has some knowledge of what is to come in chapter three. Often times this is not crystal clear and requires analysis and consideration that would not have been necessary if you had only received chapter one as your translation project.

Another example. Many processes have several names, some more layman-oriented, some more specifically jargon. In a shorter translation these questions are answered on the basis of context, intended audience, and possibly the wishes of the client (if available). All and good. But in a larger work such terminology can occur over and over; suddenly what sounded fine in the first 20 pages is no longer quite working. Why? Is it becoming repetitive? Or are casual constructions being forced into stock phrases? Has the tone changed? Perhaps the author is now writing more generally? In smaller projects one can deal with these problems locally. In a larger work they also have to be dealt with globally -- if only to be prepared for the "why do you call it 'A' here and then later 'B'" questions.

Perhaps, with more experience, this becomes easier. And I am speaking here, of course, not of machine part catalogues where the same stock phrases are repeated dozens of times, but of more complex articles, reports, and treatises (such as the one in the job posting initially referred to).


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 22:42
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
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As always, it depends Aug 18, 2006

Kevin: I didn't say "large projects ARE less work", but that they MIGHT BE... There's no such thing as an absolute truth. Projects, texts and translators' working habits are different.

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:42
English to French
+ ...
Just a thought on CAT tools Aug 18, 2006

To those of you who are using CAT tools and think that because of CAT tools, we can afford to offer discounts, I invite you to think about what were the reasons for you to buy a CAT tool in the first place. I, for one, am a happy CAT tool user.

We can be roughly divided into two categories here, and a third one comprised of the first two. Namely, those who bought a CAT tool because the industry increasingly requires us to use it, those who bought it in order to increase productivity and quality, and those who did it for both of these reasons. Now, I spent a lot of money on Trados and SDLX and I view this as an investment into MY business - not my clients' and not agencies'.

When we buy a CAT tool because agencies and clients require it, we are letting them have the upper hand. We de it FOR THEM, not for us. THEY are the ones taking advantage of it because we are offering them file formats they can work with. However, WE are the ones paying for it. Is this fair?

When we buy CAT tools in order to increase productivity and quality, we are then able to work faster and better. Therefore, the deadlines can be expected to be slightly shorter than before CAT. This, once again, is to the client's advantage. However, WE paid for the CAT tool. How is that fair?

When I invest into office equipment, I do it for ME, for MY business, so I can work less time and have a better life. Why should I give a discount for this? It's like volunteering! I can work faster, therefore, the client pays less. This doesn'T make sense. It should be more like I can work faster, thus I have the same revenue but more free time to enjoy life.

People, this is a high-scale job, we're not cashiers at Wal-Mart. We should get paid for every single word we translate as we invest the same amount of time all over, and for the part of the job that takes less time to do thanks to CAT tools - well, we should rake in the benefits of this.

When my bank laid off several cashiers and replaced them with machines, did they do this to save costs, thereby passing me the savings? No! The fees went up since then, not down. They did it to save costs and make savings for THEMSELVES. And this is what companies all over the world are doing.

The cost of living is on the rise, it's getting more and more tough to find reasonable clients because of globalization, yet rates are going increasingly down, not up. Does this make sense to you? Not to mention the business some of us are ruining for those who do not use CAT tools - these people simply can't afford to give any type of discount, yet they are the ones with the most experience (these are the veterans who never switched to CAT because they were used to their old methods and it is still working for them). If we follow this logic, then soon enough, those who use Dragon Dictate will start offering discounts because they work twice as fast, and they will ruin the market for those who don't like Dragon or can't afford it. Once again, rates will go down for ALL of us - and then we wonder why we work our butts off. It's getting to the point where we start daydreaming of 9 to 5 jobs! A sad perspective, indeed...

So, the bottom line is, when we offer volume discounts and discounts on 100% matches, 75% matches and so on, we are passing the savings to the clients whereas we invested in those savings and should really keep them for us. If we are to pass the savings to the client, then the client should buy us the CAT and we should get it for free.

On a final note, if clients are not taking our work seriously, it is because most of us don't take it seriously either. Food for thought.

[Edited at 2006-08-18 16:04]


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Ramon Inglada  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:42
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Indeed... Aug 18, 2006

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

On a final note, if clients are not taking our work seriously, it is because most of us don't take it seriously either. Food for thought.


I couldn't agree more.


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Chantal Kamgne  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:42
Member (2006)
English to French
The real problem Aug 18, 2006

Well, I am surprised that some people find that larger projects give more work. Is it not true for all of us that as the work goes on, you find it easier, you become faster and more accurate?

The real problems with larger projects arise from elsewhere.

The first one is that you risk loosing some of your best clients because you will be unavailable to undertake potential jobs from them.

The second one is that agencies request discounts based on repetitions, fuzzies, etc.. and this amounts to a substantial loss when you evaluate the potential income lost. This seem to be the not so hidden complain expressed here by those of us who work mainly for agencies. When direct clients ask for discounts, they usually (this is valid for me) do not mention 100%, fuzzies,... so you probably have some chances of being paid full rates for the job you actually do.

But again, I do not think that a large project gives more work.

[Edited at 2006-08-18 19:39]


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