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Is .04 the new standard rate in the US?
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sep 11, 2007

I know this topic has been discussed before, but I just need to vent.

This week I sent out a batch of resumes to agencies with great BB ratings on Proz.

I was shocked when several of these companies (all located in the USA) informed me that the maximum they pay their translators is .03 and .04 a word. This is insane! Why do these agencies have 25+ positive (5) ratings? Of course they pay on time - they are making a killing. These companies are either making a huge profit from their translators or uncutting the market.

I have spoken with several project managers and I know for a fact that there are many direct clients who pay agencies .20 a word and more for translations.

I cannot maintain even my modest lifestyle at .04 a word. I have not raised my rate in 7 years. Now some of the companies I have worked with for over 10 years are feeling the pressure from these agencies and are asking me to lower my rates.

Please, if you live in the US, do not work for such miserable rates. You are only hurting yourself because you will never be able to raise them later. Maybe this does not affect most of us now who are able to earn higher rates, but how far will this "trend" go?

Should I respond and let them know how insulting their offers are or should I just delete the letters? Or maybe I should just start my own agency and offer translators .02 a word. It seems that the agencies are making more per word that the service providers.

I also can't help but laugh when they claim on their websites that they only employ the most competent and professional translators - not at .04! If only their clients who are paying .20 a word and more knew that the person translating their project is only getting .04 (and the agency is providing little or no additional services).



[Edited at 2007-09-11 20:20]


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:00
English to German
+ ...
Change your marketing strategy Sep 11, 2007

Hi TampaTranslator,
I have spoken with several project managers and I know for a fact that there are many direct clients who pay agencies .20 a word and more for translations.

Looks like you're chasing the wrong end of the market.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Trans-Marie
Local time: 17:00
English to German
+ ...
End clients pay high rates Sep 11, 2007

The interesting thing is that end clients actually pay .20 cents per word. What does that tell us? It means that the claims agencies are making, namely that they have to cut the rates in order to be competitive etc. are ridiculous. They do not lower the price the client is actually paying, they just lower the rates they pay translators in order to make more profit. This is just my personal view.

I have a feeling that prices in Europe are generally higher than in the US and I know for sure that many end clients pay much more to the agency than .20 US cents.

A few weeks ago, the manager of an (German) agency I have been working with for three years was on holiday. An intern who had just started out there accidentally sent me the PO the end client had sent to the agency. This way, I found out that the agency is charging the end client an excessive rate which is three times my rate. I could not believe it when I saw it.

I agree with you 0.04 cents is appalling. The more I think about this the more I am convinced that this should become a regulated profession with set rates, etc.


[Edited at 2007-09-11 21:06]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good BB rate not a reflection of rates offered Sep 11, 2007

You are probably right. But these agencies all had 25 - 48 positive BB ratings from other translators. I guess I was incorrect when I failed to consider that so many would be happy to work for so little and that while the BB may reflect good payment practices, it says nothing about the quality of rates that are offered.


Ralf Lemster wrote:

Hi TampaTranslator,

Looks like you're chasing the wrong end of the market.

Best regards,
Ralf


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xxxPRen  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:00
French to English
+ ...
or... Sep 11, 2007

TampaTranslator wrote:

You are probably right. But these agencies all had 25 - 48 positive BB ratings from other translators. I guess I was incorrect when I failed to consider that so many would be happy to work for so little and that while the BB may reflect good payment practices, it says nothing about the quality of rates that are offered.


or about the quality of translations they have translators willing to work for next to nothing churn out for them.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:00
English to German
+ ...
Profit margin or bad marketing? Sep 11, 2007

Hi MV,

The interesting thing is that end clients actually pay .20 cents per word. What does that tell us? It means that the claims agencies are making, namely that they have to cut the rates in order to be competitive etc. are ridiculous. They do not lower the price the client is actually paying, they just lower the rates they pay translators in order to make more profit. This is just my personal view.

I feel this view is a generalisation - from what I see amongst intermediaries, some of them are buying market share by cutting prices (note that this happens in all market segments, including specialist sectors). Apparently their marketing (and/or negotiating) skills are not up to speed - trouble is, translators willing to work for next to nothing may actually help undercut those outsourcers trying to maintain decent prices. This is one of the reasons why I refuse to outsource at rock-bottom prices, even if someone quotes them voluntarily.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Rodrigo Mencía  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yep... Sep 11, 2007

MV LegalTrans wrote:

The more I think about this the more I am convinced that this should become a regulated profession with set rates, etc.


[Edited at 2007-09-11 21:06]


This would be the best solution, utopia, but even being able to do it... how do we do it all over the world at the same time and with different currencies?

My solution, at least for the moment, is forgetting agencies and working for direct clients.

R.


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Stefanie Sendelbach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:00
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
or... Sep 11, 2007

PRen wrote:

TampaTranslator wrote:

You are probably right. But these agencies all had 25 - 48 positive BB ratings from other translators. I guess I was incorrect when I failed to consider that so many would be happy to work for so little and that while the BB may reflect good payment practices, it says nothing about the quality of rates that are offered.


or about the quality of translations they have translators willing to work for next to nothing churn out for them.



...these agencies lowered the rates they are offering. I have made a few BB entries for agencies I have worked with in the past. Sometimes when I see what these agencies offer in their job postings today, I am shocked, and I don't even want to be listed in their BB any longer. But at the time when I worked with them, their rates were fine.

Stefanie


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 12:00
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It is easy to fling stones Sep 11, 2007

PRen wrote:

TampaTranslator wrote:

You are probably right. But these agencies all had 25 - 48 positive BB ratings from other translators. I guess I was incorrect when I failed to consider that so many would be happy to work for so little and that while the BB may reflect good payment practices, it says nothing about the quality of rates that are offered.


or about the quality of translations they have translators willing to work for next to nothing churn out for them.


and comment on the supposed low quality of translations done by people who will work for less. I know in my case (and the case of many others), when I started freelancing seriously, it was terrifying trying to find agencies, clients, etc. at all, never mind being picky about prices. Of course I find it disgusting that agencies pay so little considering what the end-client pays, and now, at this stage in my work, I have the 20 cent end clients, and even some decent agencies. However, I still find it hard to blame a student, or someone just going back to work after a long while for taking what they can, while they set themselves up.
It is not a quality issue. Sometimes it is a pay the mortgage issue.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
The same thing happened to me Sep 11, 2007

MV LegalTrans wrote:

An intern who had just started out there accidentally sent me the PO the end client had sent to the agency.


This is how I found out as well.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Service providers Sep 11, 2007

What if a roofer offered to put a new roof on my house for $5000 and I offered him $1000?

What if an electrician gave me a quote of $2500 and I offered $150?

What if a lawyer quoted me a price of $200 an hour and I offered her $20.

What if a cleaning company offered to clean my house for $100 and I offered them $1.00?

What if I walked into the local supermarket and told them that I do not pay more than .50 for a gallon of milk?



Most of them would say no because they know what their time and services are worth. It is obvious that a lot of translators do not know the value of the services they offer (or perhaps they do and that is why they charge so little).


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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Is .04 the new standard rate in the US? Sep 11, 2007

Juliana Starkman wrote:

However, I still find it hard to blame a student, or someone just going back to work after a long while for taking what they can, while they set themselves up.
It is not a quality issue. Sometimes it is a pay the mortgage issue.


While I realise the market has changed, when I started translating fresh out of college in 1992, I was charging .08 - .10 a word. Why should new translators accept anything less 14 years later! At .04 a word, you could make more at a fast food restaurant. The problem is that too many new translators do not know the value of their services and are conned by disreptuable people looking to make a fast buck.



[Edited at 2007-09-11 22:34]


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Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 09:00
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
You also forgot to mention... Sep 11, 2007

that the US isn't the cheapest place in the world; especially in the big cities. Ok, so it's not exactly London, and the taxes aren't as high as those in Scandinavia (and we get less from them in return as well), but cheap it certainly isn't. So rates are going down, prices are going up, and...wait, of course this doesn't make any sense!

A lot of this, in my opinion, is directly related to outsourcing, which is a complete myth when it comes to translation. As I said in a previous post, you can't outsource a translation into American English to China or to India (no offense to our colleagues in those countries, but they are the most frequently used examples for outsourcing) because people in India and China are not native American English speakers - I mean, you can, but you definitely shouldn't. Yet agencies wield this as a weapon and say that prices are just going down worldwide and that we have to adjust accordingly. Bull. You're right, we're simply being bullied around.

Even assuming that the agencies are making a killing by charging lower prices (not .20USD per word), here's the math:

-Client pays less
-Agency makes the same amount of money per project by paying translators less, but makes a heck of a lot more money due to its competitive pricing.
-Translator gets sc...well, you figure it out.

The other issue here is that, unlike in countries like Finland or Germany (and I believe that Ralf is missing this cultural issue), Americans don't care squat about everybody else in their business. It's everybody for themselves, and that includes the short-sightedness of ridiculously lowering rates just to get someone else's business in the short run (and hanging oneself by later being unable to raise one's rates) - same thing goes for many employers. It's the way the system works, so now I've ended up doing most of my translation for European clients. In fact, my Mexican clients pay a lot better than .04 per word, and Mexico is certainly a lot cheaper than the US (with some noticeable exceptions - cars, for instance).

I also have to comment on Juliana's post. While I understand that figuring out rates and getting work can get pretty crazy when one is starting out (I remember being lucky enough to be contacted by a German agency that paid a pretty good rate almost right away, so I figured out that pair pretty quickly), a lot of people who are doing the work for .04 are not starting out anymore. And those people will raise hell when someone else decides that .02 is a good way to get all the business for themselves instead, and those...ad nauseam. Sure, it's easy to fling stones, but they do have to be flung....or better yet, new translators have to have a resource that they can consult in order not to get ripped off.


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 12:00
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
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It's true, some people never learn Sep 12, 2007

Marcelo Silveyra wrote:


I also have to comment on Juliana's post. While I understand that figuring out rates and getting work can get pretty crazy when one is starting out (I remember being lucky enough to be contacted by a German agency that paid a pretty good rate almost right away, so I figured out that pair pretty quickly), a lot of people who are doing the work for .04 are not starting out anymore. And those people will raise hell when someone else decides that .02 is a good way to get all the business for themselves instead, and those...ad nauseam. Sure, it's easy to fling stones, but they do have to be flung....or better yet, new translators have to have a resource that they can consult in order not to get ripped off.


Marcelo is right, and I certainly have no sympathy for those who should know better now, i.e. people with long-term clients who should be telling them "you KNOW I am worth more, so now you should pay it".
I just wanted to clarify the difference between starting out, or without a firm client base , and those who are in a position to stand up for themselves. New translators have a lot of resources I think, in terms of calculating rates and finding out what everyone else charges. The problem is building up a client base that's not full of the two-centers...


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:00
English to German
+ ...
Getting established vs. underselling yourself Sep 12, 2007


While I realise the market has changed, when I started translating fresh out of college in 1992, I was charging .08 - .10 a word. Why should new translators accept anything less 14 years later!


The important message is that they don't have to.

We had a French student working at our office during the first half of this year. During her time with us, she built an online presence by developing her ProZ.com profile. When someone offered her a job that was paying along the lines discussed here, I advised her to turn it down. Which she did - and was able to accept a better-paying job that followed a few days later.

Best regards,
Ralf


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