Outsourcing and Pricing
Thread poster: MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA
Local time: 12:05
French to English
+ ...
Dec 6, 2007

Hello,

Do any of you who are individual freelancers outsource work in languages you do not know? If so, what percentage do you take from the outsourcer as a commission?

Thanks for your help.

MaryAnn Diorio, Ph.D.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:05
French to Spanish
+ ...
Dont' like to do it... Dec 6, 2007

...for an obvious reason: I don't know the language and that's risky.
But, well, when I do it, very rarely, around [censored] %.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:05
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Cost analysis Dec 6, 2007

As I understood you, you're considering a scenario in which a potential client asks you to translate a document from Language X (which you don't speak) to English and, instead of saying something like, "I'm sorry, I don't know Language X," you'll set it up so that Mr. Y, a translator of Language X, translates it and you provide the translation to your client. Some things to consider:

a. Since you don't know Language X, your reputation is going to be tied to Mr. Y's skills/habits/integrity. If Mr. Y blows a deadline, comes up with unusual parsings, or turns in work with lots of misspelled words, that reflects on you. This requires you to vet Mr. Y somehow and/or check his work.

b. There may be a delay between the time you turn in the translation and the time your client pays you. And sometimes there are clients who don't pay you at all. Do you have enough liquidity that you can pay Mr. Y?

c. Since you live in the US, if Mr. Y also lives in the US, the IRS has some rules that apply. If you pay him over a certain threshhold (I think it's $600) in a given calendar year, you must file a Form 1099. If he lives somewhere other than the US, simply putting a check in an envelope and mailing it to him is probably not an option. These are associated with costs to you. (Check with an accountant if you want to pursue this.)

What you're proposing is similar to running an agency. Most agencies that handle multiple languages don't pay a specified percentage of their take to the translator. They collect from their clients an amount and come to an agreement with the translator about what to pay him/her without mentioning what their client is paying (usually). On some languages, the profit margin is going to be higher than on others.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:05
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
No. Dec 6, 2007

If I am able to pass work I cannot do on to a colleague, for this or any other reason, I do not charge commission, I just hope the goodwill created will mean that my action will be reciprocated if the occasion should arise.
In fact, this happens to me two or three times a year, because some years ago, I was offered a short free entry in the Yellow Pages of the area telephone directory, When it appeared, I was just described as a translator, with no mention of language pairs. So I am occasionally called by someone looking for a translation of something into a language I do not know, not well enough to work in anyway. I belong to the local branch of the ITI, and I have a list of its members, so I can often pass the inquirer on to another member of this group. When the yellow pages entry first appeared, I tried to get it altered, but it stayed the same, so since then it has appeared year after year, and I am happy to let it do so, precisely because it enables me to help other translators.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Giulia TAPPI  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:05
French to Italian
+ ...
Neither do I Dec 6, 2007

I also prefer to pass on work to a colleague and hope he/she will do the same, but it does happen to me to be contacted by other people who want a percentage, and I think something between 10 and 20% is fair.
Nevertheless, beware!
I had bad experiences with people who pretended to be colleagues and turned out to be completely unprofessional.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
Italian to English
+ ...
Me neither Dec 6, 2007

I'm happy to give people the names of translators in other languages (or other fields in my own language pair), but with the understanding that any arrangement they come to is their own affair.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 19:05
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
That depends on what you are planning to do... Dec 6, 2007

MaryAnn Diorio, Ph.D. wrote:

Do any of you who are individual freelancers outsource work in languages you do not know? If so, what percentage do you take from the outsourcer as a commission?


Whether it's a language you don't work in or a job you can't accept due to high workload or a job outside your specialization area, the principle is the same:

Every successful freelancer would eventually find themselves in situations when they face a choice: to say no to a client or say yes and outsource a job.

If you intend to stay a freelancer without any plans to become an agency in the future, the best options would be (a) to say no; (b) to refer the client to someone who can do the job, and (c) to accept the job and outsource it (probably with no commission, just a fraction to cover your own operational costs) - well as a kind of a favor to the client. The third option is obviously the most disadvantageous because if the subcontractor fails it will be your fault and choosing the third option means increasing the risk level manyfold.

On the other hand, if you consider becoming an agency in the future or earning extra via outsourcing it's OK to accept the job. The risk is the same but you will know at least that you take it in order to get profit.

Now, the question is not "what percentage do I take as a commnission" but "what rate can I pay to my subcontractor to get a good quality translation". You get a job at the rate of XX cents a word and, knowing the situation in this language combination, speciality etc, you are sure you'll be able to outsource at YY cents a word and get a good quality job. Your commission would be ZZ = XX minus YY. That's one way (of many) to make conduct business, get a profit and feel "fair".

Cheers,
Oleg


Direct link Reply with quote
 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:05
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I refer to a colleague Dec 6, 2007

Whenever a job is outside my court, which encompasses not only my language pair (EN/PT), but also my knowledge areas, I give the prospect as much information as I can to contact a colleague I know that will be adequate to do a good job.

For instance, I don't translate medicine. I keep in touch with some colleagues who specialize in this field in my own pair. I don't discuss rates, deadlines, nothing, with the client. I let them deal directly with them. Anyway, I tell them that if they can't get the ones I've recommended to do that job (for any reason whatsoever, from rates to availability), they can get back to me and ask for more referrals. I have a "hot list" of colleagues in my pair for the specialties I don't cover. I don't get any money from this, just count on some goodwill from both. Usually I don't even tell the translator, except - when it's the case - to reassure them that the client has been an outstandingly good payer with me so far.

The same procedure applies to cases where the desired language pair is different from mine - IF I can help with referrals.

There are, however other situations, when the whole job does not involve translation alone. It may call for actual video dubbing (I can do subtitling only), CD/DVD duplication, printing, web design, programming, DTP in a program I don't use, etc. In these cases, I can refer the client to adequate vendors, or, if they wish, manage such tasks for a 20% fee. This does not however include my personal involvement in such operations. For instance, if the client wants me - the translator - present at the dubbing studio while it's done for quality assurance, I charge an hourly rate (which does not incur in the 20%, of course).

The goodwill-based referral exchange among translators works! A translator must choose, or at least rigidly prioritize between being a translator or a translation agency, otherwise s/he might do a poor job in both.



[Edited at 2007-12-06 09:53]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Julia Esrom  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:05
German to English
+ ...
Powwows are great for networking and referrals Dec 6, 2007

Why should a freelancer outsource jobs in a different language? It sounds like a lot of trouble and waste of time when you can use that time more productively translating the language you know. Quality control would also be a serious issue to deal with. I totally agree with the good-will argument of the other posters. If I get a job inquiry outside my language or competence, then I tell the agent and perhaps recommend another translator. By the way, I find powwows are a great place to meet other translators who might be good contacts in these situations. I have been to a couple and collected business cards, just in case. So far, I think there is still plenty of work out there for all of us to share.
Julia


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 19:05
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
In addition to my earlier posting... Dec 6, 2007

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
The goodwill-based referral exchange among translators works! A translator must choose, or at least rigidly prioritize between being a translator or a translation agency, otherwise s/he might do a poor job in both.


I can only vote with both hands for what José says: trying to be both at the same time is he best way to ruin a lot you have achieved as a freelance translator and fail as a newbie agency.

Cheers,
Oleg


Direct link Reply with quote
 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:05
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Answer to Julia Dec 6, 2007

Julia Esrom wrote:
Why should a freelancer outsource jobs in a different language?


Though it's not so common among translators, I also do DTP, subtitle videos, and author DVDs.

I can do all these in any pair among both my active (EN-PT) and passive (IT-FR-ES) languages. So sometimes a client needs a multilingual catalog or DVD. They can either hire the appropriate translators or have me handle the whole project. Sometimes, due to a short deadline, even the translation in my own language pair gets (wholly or partially) done by someone else.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA
Local time: 12:05
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Outsourcing and Pricing Dec 6, 2007

Thank you, Everyone, for your generous and expert help. I deeply appreciate it.

Warmest regards,

MaryAnn


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Outsourcing and Pricing

Advanced search







CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »
PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search