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Poll: What to you see as the biggest threat to your business income?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 22:57
Jun 19, 2017

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "What to you see as the biggest threat to your business income?".

This poll was originally submitted by Muriel Vasconcellos. View the poll results »


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Combo Jun 19, 2017

But people offering low rates is probably the main driver.

PS: Perhaps not the "biggest threat", but for me the most irksome intrusion, would be translation by non-natives. For example, I wouldn't translate into Catalan, and I expect the same respect from my peers.

[Edited at 2017-06-20 06:45 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Local time: 06:57
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A combination Jun 19, 2017

1. Favored clients leaving the business: Only this year, I have lost two of my long-standing clients, one went bankrupt and the other one died suddenly on vacation.
2. Translators working for low rates, low agency rates and machine translation: Aren’t these intertwined? I must say that when I started translating some 40 years ago no one paid peanuts rates, and most freelancers would not work for minimum wage as they knew they were worth much more.


Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:57
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Insistence on CAT tools Jun 19, 2017

Well, like others, I face a combination of the threats listed but, in my particular case, I dislike CAT tools and the increasing insistence on their use is probably what affects my translating income the most.


Ana Vozone  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:57
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A combination Jun 19, 2017

... but mostly translators offering and agreeing to work for low (ridiculous) rates.

Somebody once said that there will always be someone in the middle of the desert, on the top of a mountain, on another continent, willing to work for less. And the internet certain makes this possible...

Over a decade ago, at a meeting arranged by the European Commission delegation in Lisbon, a EU official said: "It's the market..." Through regular tenders, EU Bodies have managed to successively bring down the prices they pay for their translations. If they paid around 40 euros per page (40 ecus then) over 25 years ago, through their competitions they have brough the prices down to nearly half that amount. Needless to say their own salaries are updated every year... and many (if not all) have a fantastic package of perks... it's their "fundamental right", I suppose.

Of course, this is just an example!

[Edited at 2017-06-19 09:02 GMT]


Elena Aleksandrova  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:57
Member (2009)
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
I don't see any real threats Jun 19, 2017

Every business is dynamic. No business stays still for too long. If we don't adapt, we accept every change as a threat so I believe we all have to be flexible and to accept any threat as an opportunity.


EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:57
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
My own laziness Jun 19, 2017

and everything that has been mentioned, of course.


Gitte Hoveds (X)
Local time: 07:57
Danish to English
+ ...
Procrastination on my own part Jun 19, 2017

It would be so easy to blame somebody else when business is slow, but to be honest, I am aware that there is an obvious correlation between the amount of work I dedicate to cultivating clients, and the amount of work I get, and consequently, the amount of money I make.

The type of clients I prefer to work with wouldn't look for machine translation, nor would they look for the lowest price, but for the best quality.


Toni Faisal  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:57
Member (2017)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Low rate translations from agencies in development countries Jun 19, 2017

May be some of you guys found that low rate translations come from agencies in development country... Is it okay because they are in development countries then the rate becomes low?


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:57
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Translators working for low rates Jun 19, 2017

Now and then an e-mail inadvertently slips with a cost estimate or an invoice, and I see that someone I had every reason to consider as a high-rating qualified, competent, and zealous professional is charging despicable rates.

Now and then clients use my services to rate the translation tests they get from online applicants. About one out of every five is acceptable. The remaining 80% are actually worse than free online machine translation. About 5% of the total dares to submit the raw output from Google Translate, perhaps to check on whether anyone is looking.

Translation is - or should be - a services-providing business like any other. The provider supposedly has invested in his/her qualification to do it, as well as in equipment and services. It's a matter of ROI, like any other business: how much one should get in return for whatever they've invested.

A translator is essentially selling his/her time to do a certain amount of work performed, and their composite investment (knowledge, experience, computer hardware and software) has some direct influence on how much work they can deliver per time unit. The investment is composite, because a fledgling translator using state-of-the-art computer hardware and software will probably yield less production that a seasoned one with pencil and paper. So, for general convenience, the price is stated in terms of results, the quantity of words translated.

The first question that arises is: Am I charging/expecting/demanding too much?

Considering a number of colleagues whose qualification I consider equivalent to mine, who work in the same language pair I do, and who live in the same country where I am, with whom I team up now and then, and who team up with me now and then, NO. We all charge about the same, when not exactly the same. Considering the Proz Community Rates, NO again.

Is the quality I deliver adequate to the price I charge? My recurring clients say yes.

So the biggest threat to my income is from:
a) translators who are selling their services for less than they are worth in the marketplace;
b) translators offering cheap low quality services to clients who either don't know the difference or simply don't care about it.

I expected FREE online machine translation to rid the market from cheap lo-grade translators, but this failed to happen. Apparently clients are willing to pay - no matter how miserably - for the privilege of having a human being they can blame for inadequate quality.

Assuming the rate I and the aforementioned colleagues have adopted is right, and considering the intel I have from scoring translation tests, I'd say that the overall quality delivered by the free Google Translate is equivalent to human translation done at HALF the proper rates (though the flaws will differ in their nature). In a nutshell:
  • Pay 100% for high quality human translation;
  • Pay 75% for so-so barely acceptable human translation;
  • Pay 50% for low quality translation and have someone to blame;
  • Pay 25% and waste money; or
  • Pay nothing for machine translation; if you get complaints, blame yourself!

Staying on the top of the heap when the entire heap widens with globalization is not easy.


Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:57
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Although... Jun 19, 2017

I voted a "combination of the above", but to me the real threat and a fairly new development is the multiplying number of agencies competing solely on price... this drives the rates down. We know that there always be translators accepting low rates, but agencies that know how to do their job properly - promoting quality and awareness of the translation process and the associated costs - are a must in our profession, IMO.


Anne Schulz
Local time: 07:57
English to German
Other Jun 19, 2017

Not so much the colleagues offering translations for low rates, but the clients accepting the poor quality which is almost invariably associated with low rates (and frequently not even noticing the difference, as José and Giovanni confirmed).


Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Corporate overlords Jun 19, 2017

I am concerned about the way large perfect felines and the rest are buying out many of the boutique agencies that were once so pleasant to work with. I am very glad to help an outsourcer make a good living by doing the detail work that allows me just to translate; however, it makes my skin crawl to know that profits in the billions are being made by the individuals who own these mega-companies. Meanwhile, I have to arm-wrestle the PMs just to keep my rates as they are. Under the traditional capitalist system, these profits are supposed to be reinvested into the business, creating more jobs and wealth all around, but as far as I can tell, these people are simply salting away these funds in tax havens.


Nina Khmielnitzky  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:57
Member (2004)
English to French
Agencies that delay payments Jun 19, 2017

I work mainly with 2 Montreal agencies. One has a defined payment system: I submit invoices twice a month and get paid 60 days after. The wait is long, but they pay on time.
The other has never specified any deadline for payment, so on each invoice, I write the date by which payment is expected. It's been a year, and I ALWAYS have to remind them that they are overdue. Sometimes, I simply tell them I'll go pick up my payment (they are located near my place) or tell them I will not accept new assignments until they have paid me.
I really have to work on getting new direct clients with better rates and payment practices, but that's a whole other story.


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:57
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thank you for your responses! Jun 19, 2017

I was hoping to see if others are experiencing the same pressures.

My business took a huge hit in early 2016 when I lost three of my favored direct clients due to retirement/departure of my contact in the organization. However, I have recovered from that and am nearly back to my former work flow.

More insidious, I find, is the steady lowering of rates paid by agencies. Instead of going up to keep pace with economic indexes, they are actually gong down. My friends have confirmed this trend, and now I see it confirmed here. I was shocked to see from Ana that the EU, by negotiating bulk contracts, is now down to half what it was paying 25 years ago.

What cements this trend is people willing to work for the low rates.

As freelancers, we should be making enough to get by, but we can't do that anymore and still keep up with the cost of living in a major Western city. Which means that many good translators can't stay in the business and bottom feeders are taking their place. The profession is changing for the worse and we have ourselves to blame.

[Edited at 2017-06-19 18:06 GMT]

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