# We'll soon have to pay to work... let's do some maths.

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We'll soon have to pay to work... let's do some maths.

Francesca Verd
Local time: 08:19
English to Catalan
+ ...
 Dec 5, 2006

Recently posted job. It says:
* This job has been restricted to ProZ.com members -> this means that it costs money to apply for this job. Usually €120 (now €100).
* translators must use Trados -> this costs money too: €636
So... until now we have paid €756 to be able to apply for the job.

It also says:
* answer only if you can accept USD 0,03 per word more Trados discounts

Now, let's take the calculator. USD 0,03 is € 0,0226. If one can translate an average of 2500 words a day, the daily income would be €56,5. And that means € 6,8 an hour. (Now, this is more or less what a cleaning lady gets in Portugal by the hour and this is what I used to get about 20 years ago as a teacher in a language school... and everybody knows that teachers in language schools are very badly paid)

Let's go on with the calculations. It would take about 14 and a half work days to "pay" to meet the requirements to apply for the job. That is, with no Trados discounts. With Trados discounts it might take 20 work days, which is a month.

It also says:
* We guarantee that you will have work for at least 10 months
Wow! Now the question is: Does anyone want to work for ten monts earning €1130 a month (or less, depending on Trados discounts) and then having to pay for business expenses, social security, tax, insurance, etc.? Or even better... can anyone afford it? I actually couldn't afford it. I would actually have to pay to work for these rates.

Oh, well... this post is for people who live in Argentina, or are willing to move there to apply for the job... so, maybe, in other parts of the world, someone can afford it.

But probably the best of all is that this outsourcer scores 4.2 overall and 4.7 in the past 12 months. Amazing.

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Hipyan Nopri
Indonesia
Local time: 14:19
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
 Double KOs Dec 5, 2006

Hi Francesca,

This case sharply describes how a freelance translator would be knocked down twice by a translation agency.

The first KO is the unbelievable US\$0.03 rate per source word.

The second KO is the must-be-certain discount for word repetitions. Certainly, the actual rate will be much lower than US\$0.03.

I wonder if someone would voluntarily lend him/herself to these double KOs.

[Edited at 2006-12-05 12:43]

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Orla Ryan
Ireland
Local time: 07:19
 wow.... Dec 5, 2006

that is some food for thought. I could not afford to work at those rates either.

Orla

[Edited at 2006-12-05 13:09]

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Alfonso Perpiña-Robert Navarro
Spain
Local time: 08:19
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
 ..... Dec 5, 2006

What about....2000 words, 80\$....." Applicants may also considered for potential 40,000 words project."
It sounds great!!!

Saludos,

Alfonso

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David Brown
Spain
Local time: 08:19
Spanish to English
 Working for nothing or less Dec 5, 2006

I agree with your sentiments regarding CAT tools and discounts. They are marketed as helping the translator to be more productive and consistent. They are marketed to companies as being a cheaper, easier and consistent way of translating documents. Proz.com markets them for gain as do agencies and companies. We can't all gain, so someone has to lose. Guess who??

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María José Cerdá
Argentina
Local time: 04:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
 Hi Francesca Dec 5, 2006

You know, even for translators in Argentina, 0.03USD per word (plus discounts, of course!) is a low rate. I also work with Trados which costs in USD and my proz.com membership is also in USD so I cannot make a living either at that price.

Thank you for applying maths to prove once again that those rates are insulting no matter where you are.

Kind regards,
María José

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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 02:19
SITE FOUNDER
 A tool for doing the math... Dec 5, 2006

In relation to this topic, please consider using the rates calculator: http://www.proz.com/rates_calculator

This tool works back from your desired income, encourages you to consider costs and holidays, and estimates your required word rate.

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Francesca Verd
Local time: 08:19
English to Catalan
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
 I never meant to say that this rate is reasonable in Argentina Dec 5, 2006

Actually, I was just trying a little irony with the end of the sentence: "or are willing to move there..."

About ten years ago I charged 5 pesetas per word, which is € 0,03. And that was 10 years ago. And these people are looking for translators who will do the job for less than that.

And what really bothers me is the fact that both agencies (the one who pays \$ 0.03 and the one who pays \$ 0,04) score high on the Blue Board. That really makes me wonder what the Blue Board is about. Does that mean that agencies with a high score in the BB are the ones that bother to pay, even when the rates are, as you said, insulting?

If that is what it takes to get a high score in the BB, then... I am sorry, but I expect other things as well as payment.

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Cecilia Paris
Argentina
Local time: 04:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
 Surviving... Dec 5, 2006

Hi Francesca,

Argentina is a country of "survivors". We've been robbed time and again, and time and again we pull out. It is hard to find local clients willing, or able, to pay decent rates and often are compelled to fill in idle time with meanly paid work, thus helping pay for all the expenses you mention (you forgot to mention bank transfer costs and delays)

The sad part of this story is that often outsourcers from abroad with international clients (and rates) look for translators in Argentina offering the mean local rates. It simply makes you feel like giving up.

But giving up is not an option! Keeping up posts like yours might help soften a few hearts.

Cheers
Cecilia

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Ralf Lemster
Germany
Local time: 08:19
English to German
+ ...
 Ask the people who posted entries Dec 5, 2006

Hi Francesca,

And what really bothers me is the fact that both agencies (the one who pays \$ 0.03 and the one who pays \$ 0,04) score high on the Blue Board. That really makes me wonder what the Blue Board is about. Does that mean that agencies with a high score in the BB are the ones that bother to pay, even when the rates are, as you said, insulting?

If that is what it takes to get a high score in the BB, then... I am sorry, but I expect other things as well as payment.

Rightly so - payment is one of the factors; probably one of the most important ones, but by no means the only one.

If you're uncertain about a given outsourcer's BB record, why don't you contact those who posted entries?

Besides, I fail to see what's insulting about a proposed price - if it doesn't fit my calculations (mind you, I don't need a calculator to figure out that 3 cents isn't worth looking at...), I simply ignore it. If someone thinks they can generate a reasonable income on that basis, good luck to them.

What I'm missing in many discussions (including those on low-priced jobs, CAT weightings - note that I intentionally avoid the notion of discounts, etc.) is the fact that the price per word is of secondary importance. In my view, the key factor in calculations is the amount of income generated per unit of time.

Best regards,
Ralf

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Irene N
United States
Local time: 01:19
English to Russian
+ ...
 To add insult to injury Dec 5, 2006

My personal tip to share with the rest of the gang:

When I check the BB with all its praising comments, I also open a few profiles in attempt to check the rates of happy service providers. An enlightening experience, I must say. Rarely encouraging, in most cases - quite sad.

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JaneTranslates
Puerto Rico
Local time: 03:19
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
 So very true, Ralf! Dec 5, 2006

Ralf Lemster wrote:

What I'm missing in many discussions... is the fact that the price per word is of secondary importance. In my view, the key factor in calculations is the amount of income generated per unit of time.

Best regards,
Ralf

Amen to that! Case in point:

I am doing two large jobs at the moment. One is a bunch of short articles (500-2000 words) at 10 cents per word; the other is a single document of over 20,000 words, at about 6.5 cents. Which is better pay?

Well, the articles are, for the most part, unrelated to each other, and quite specialized. I'm putting in 2-4 hours of research for each article. I kept track of the time, and the longest article (2165 words) took me 10.5 hours. That's about 7 hours of translating at 300 words per hour, plus 3.5 hours of research, and the job works out to \$20.52 per hour. Not bad, huh?

Now, what about the "poor" pay on the long document? I did 2 hours of research initially. Since then I've been breezing along at a rate of about 850 words per hour, and I've marked only a couple of phrases for researching later. At present rate, I estimate that the job will take me 25 hours of translating, plus the 2 hours of research, plus maybe 3 additional hours of research, at most, for a total of 30 hours. And that's well over \$40.00 per hour!

Of course, the example happens to include unusually difficult short articles and an unusually easy long one. Research is not the only factor--my two jobs also have issues regarding clarity of writing style.

My point is the same as Ralf's: my bottom line is how many dollars per hour. You can never know for sure until the job is done, but with long experience (and carefully keeping track of and then analyzing time spent), you can learn to estimate farily well how long a given text will take you--even when all you have is a brief description from the job poster. And that's the deciding factor.

Don't forget to factor in time spent on searching for the job; contacts with client or outsourcer; CVs, contracts, purchase orders, invoices, payment issues, etc.

I have taken jobs at 4 cents per word that ended up being a decent time investment--say, \$18 for 30 minutes of work (maybe 40 including the emails and invoice).

Some of my jobs at better rates required as much as 15 hours of creating/procuring documents, reading and correcting a 10-page contract, arguing for the payment I deserve, writing inane progress reports, and so on.

Money per unit of time, all inclusive. That's it.

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JaneTranslates
Puerto Rico
Local time: 03:19
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
 On the other hand... Dec 5, 2006

JaneTranslates wrote:

Money per unit of time, all inclusive. That's it.

On second thought, though, that's not "it." There are other factors, including:

1. Work done for a good cause (my difficult "short articles" fit into that category).

2. Work done to help out a friend or please a favorite client.

3. Work done for the sake of furthering one's career (such as a low-paying book translation published by a prestigious university press).

5. Any work that you happen to find fun!

Being happy while working, feeling that my career is progressing, and feeling that I'm doing something worthwhile--should I trade that for 2 more cents per word?

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Irene N
United States
Local time: 01:19
English to Russian
+ ...
 Hi Jane:-) Dec 5, 2006

JaneTranslates wrote:

should I trade that for 2 more cents per word?

I would and I do - maybe I'm too old to be enthusiastic about anything but my comfort and my pocket. Nothing else is worthwhile for me, save my family:-) The fact that I love to death what I translate/interpret is a pure coincidence and luck. I do my best not to chase it away and cling to it without any further progressing, I value it immensly as a COMBINATION of pleasure AND a very decent income. What you listed is not definitive of your real business approach, right? Most of it is just occasional stuff. Good causes stand separately. Somehow my annual bottom line proves that 10 cents is better than 6.5 cents in any case:-). Plus, every word for 10 cents vs. 6.5 cents gives me extra 3.5 cents worth of free time. Here we go back to specialization... Pleasing favorite clients is a tricky thing - couple of pages once in a while - yes, sure, but steady "fun for peanuts for the love of client " is hardly a way to make a living. Such clients would not make my Favorite list. A charming smile of a crocodile can't fool me anymore:-) Why would they ask their favorite translators to worsen their lifestyles? They are richer than us and asking us for favors more often than twice a year for a 1000 words total is a mauvais ton after all. They must feed me at least 15K/year to earn such favors. My kind of favors - to accept extra crazy hours in an emergency case, sometimes work myself half-to-death, but I'm paid for it! When after a 12-hour sleep the invoice time comes, I sometimes wonder - who did favor to whom?:-)

No hard feelings, OK?

Best,
Irene

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JaneTranslates
Puerto Rico
Local time: 03:19
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
 Why would there be hard feelings, Irene? Of course not! Dec 5, 2006

IreneN wrote:

What you listed is not definitive of your real business approach, right? Most of it is just occasional stuff.

Of course. I was listing some additional factors that I use when deciding whether or not to take a particular assignment. I weigh each one. My mood (and workload) at the moment also figures in.

Somehow my annual bottom line proves that 10 cents is better than 6.5 cents in any case:-). Plus, every word for 10 cents vs. 6.5 cents gives me extra 3.5 cents worth of free time.

Well, but look at my math--the main point of my first posting was that it's the time that I put in, and how much I get per hour, that counts. An easy job at low pay leaves me more "free" time, or time in which I can do another job.

Here we go back to specialization...

There are so many good, practical reasons for specializing. I have chosen not to, because it's boring, though of course I have several areas that I know a lot about and a few that I flatly refuse to touch (legal, for instance).

No hard feelings, OK?

Best,
Irene

Why on earth would I have hard feelings toward an esteemed colleague whose postings are always worth reading, even when I don't fully agree? That's what forums are for! We all come from very different places, both literally and figuratively.

And I'm very glad to "know" you, Irene!

Jane

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