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New system from a translation buyer's perspective
Thread poster: a2ztranslate

a2ztranslate  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 21:28
English to Japanese
+ ...
Apr 3, 2010

Have been following the debate on the new proposals, but haven't seen much from the buyer's side. A bit of background first though.
Agency based in New Zealand
Don't pay the highest rates by a long way ($NZ does not go far in Euro!)
Blue Board of 5; take pride in paying on time (even when client goes bust!)
We face the same issue (rates reduction) with our clients as translators face, and tend to refuse (ever so politely) those idiots that ask us to do 500 words at 0.01.

In all honesty, I think the new proposal is just lose (buyer)-lose (translator)-lose (ProZ). It fails in several areas, but here are a few I think relevant.

1. There is no "set" rate for translation for one language pair, let alone between different language pairs. As an example, in our database of translators, for EN-FR we have translators who set their minimum rate in a range from 0.02 through to 0.24 per word. Translators have always had the ability to set their own rates; just because I post a project 25% below your minimum rate does not mean you have to change your rate.

2. An experienced translator can actually set a lower rate than a new translator, as the experienced translator will be able to complete more words per hour than a new translator, in order to achieve the target hourly/weekly income. So we end up shutting out new translators if they are not able to accept lower priced projects to get experience.

3. A huge waste of time for both translators and buyers sorting through applications for a project when we can't define the rates. Why would translators want to waste time applying for a project they have no hope of getting as their personal rates are higher than the target rate? And why would I, as a buyer, want to waste time on sorting through applications that don't fit the project profile?

4. I have a budget to work to. That is set by my client. There are times when I have to refuse a project because I know I won't be able to find translators to meet the budget. But in those marginal cases isn't it better that translators have the option to take on some work to fill in a gap in their schedule, even if it is less than their target rate?

To me, what will happen is that if buyers end up spending too much time on projects posted in ProZ (and particularly if they get a lot of proposals at rates that are ridiculously high, and believe me we get them!), then they will just switch translation portal. After all, there are plenty out there. So there will be less jobs on ProZ, so less translators will pay full fees, so slowly the portal will die.

I think a far better option is for ProZ to go out (e.g. annually) and survey a sub-set of experienced translators (say full members for minimum 3 years) in each language pair, and then publish those rates, words per hour etc. for buyers to have access to, so buyers can be educated and come to an understanding of what realistic pricing is.

Finally, 83% of translators who have responded to the survey here on ProZ want to see the translation buyer's target rates and budget. So, is this new system something that translators really want? More importantly, is it something the genuine buyers want or could agree to? Has ProZ surveyed its regular buyers to see what effect this system will have on them?


 

foreevermore  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:28
Russian to English
+ ...
I agree whole-heartedly with Point #2. Apr 4, 2010

Without a minimum bid proposal, new translators who are trying to get experience (and haven't earned enough to buy fancy Translation Memory programs to lower their rates) do tend to get shut out.

Also, new translators who do try to lower their rates just to get jobs to earn experience so that they can charge according to their capabilities are caught in a Catch-22, where asking for next to nothing (without experience) may cause the potential client to think that the rates are lower because of poor-quality work. Also, from my other experiences on freelancing websites, I have found that it is difficult (even if you are overqualified in your actual professional/education history - not necessary talking about translation here) to find work whenever you become a member, because when you're first starting out, you don't have any "points" or "feedback" on that site, although in real life you might have wonderful contacts for references. As a result, I have found that I've been bidding significantly lower than what would average out to be minimum wage for high-quality work, simply to try and get some jobs so that I can charge my usual rates outside of the internet. On these same sites I've been declined many bids simply because I have no previous feedback on that site, although I had about 5 years worth of experience working in the same industry as an actual employee, just not as a freelancer online.

I realize that Translations for Progress and similar sites are already based on this concept, but I wonder what the ProZ community thinks about having a similar "pro bono" or "trial translation" section (for students, newcomers, the benevolent or even experienced translators branching out into a new field of translation), so that new translators can get experience and feedback listings on the same site where they are also applying for paid jobs. (The main reason that I suggest this is also because in the past, I have found that, while applying to multiple freelance translation jobs, I may spend two weeks working on a "trial translation" (e.g., a book chapter) for four or five different providers, which has added up to over 20 hours of unpaid work in the past, only to have the bid declined due to lack of feedback on the site or someone with a lower bid...so even though a significant amount of time and effort has gone into unpaid "trial runs" in the hopes of getting a minimally paid job, that work (or feedback) is not reflected on the freelancing job sights. This might be a good venue for agencies looking to hire new translators for future paid work, so that way both parties can get an idea of what is expected from the other side, and hopefully with the extra feedback, new translators may be able to cut down on the number of "trial runs" that they have to do before paid work.

This idea obviously has drawbacks, in that it might detract from paid listings, but if there were some sort of guidelines (for example, a cap on the number of volunteer jobs a buyer can list per quarter, or limiting the number of pages (say 5 pgs. or so) or words for the "voluntary trial translation," may help both parties, so that organizations can get an idea of what a new ProZ member can do and find the best fits for the larger, paid jobs they have, as well allowing new translators to acquire specialized vocabulary and experience as well as feedback, without exhausting themselves trying doing tests/trials for free in order to get a paid job.

Also, I think that having translation contests more often would also be helpful for the newbies; in the past when I have been asked for sample work, I find myself in a bind as a recent graduate just starting to get into freelance work, because most of the work that I have done (either in translation, editing, proofreading, etc.) I don't feel comfortable sharing with a third party due to confidentiality reasons, and at times when I have done sample translations for new clients, they don't speak the other language, so they don't know the quality of the work that has been done. (I have actually had employers copy/paste my translations into "Babelfish" to check the accuracy of my work, and machine translation doesn't always produce comprehensive, especially, for example, when dealing with "oscilloscopes" in Japanese or Russian as compared to syntax and alphabet of the English version.) So, translation contests with public domain content that will be evaluated by fellow translators who understand both languages would be very helpful, but they don't seem to be held very often.


 

Andrej  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:28
Member (2005)
German to Russian
+ ...
A nice approach Apr 4, 2010

a2ztranslate wrote:

2. An experienced translator can actually set a lower rate than a new translator, as the experienced translator will be able to complete more words per hour than a new translator, in order to achieve the target hourly/weekly income. So we end up shutting out new translators if they are not able to accept lower priced projects to get experience.


So you mean that I have worked hard, gathered experience and invested my money and time in education, books etc. with the only aim to give you a big discount as I became a really experienced translator in GE-RU pair now? I am terrible sorry, but I thought that I did all these things to earn more. Your approach is the strangest one I have ever seen.


 

Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Algeria
Local time: 10:28
English to French
+ ...
I agree on that one Apr 4, 2010

Andrej wrote:

a2ztranslate wrote:

2. An experienced translator can actually set a lower rate than a new translator, as the experienced translator will be able to complete more words per hour than a new translator, in order to achieve the target hourly/weekly income. So we end up shutting out new translators if they are not able to accept lower priced projects to get experience.


So you mean that I have worked hard, gathered experience and invested my money and time in education, books etc. with the only aim to give you a big discount as I became a really experienced translator in GE-RU pair now? I am terrible sorry, but I thought that I did all these things to earn more. Your approach is the strangest one I have ever seen.


More experience = more money !


 
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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:28
German to Spanish
+ ...
New system from a translation buyer's perspective Apr 4, 2010

a2ztranslate wrote:

Have been following the debate on the new proposals, but haven't seen much from the buyer's side. A bit of background first though.
Agency based in New Zealand
Don't pay the highest rates by a long way ($NZ does not go far in Euro!)
Blue Board of 5; take pride in paying on time (even when client goes bust!)
We face the same issue (rates reduction) with our clients as translators face, and tend to refuse (ever so politely) those idiots that ask us to do 500 words at 0.01.

In all honesty, I think the new proposal is just lose (buyer)-lose (translator)-lose (ProZ). It fails in several areas, but here are a few I think relevant.

1. There is no "set" rate for translation for one language pair, let alone between different language pairs. As an example, in our database of translators, for EN-FR we have translators who set their minimum rate in a range from 0.02 through to 0.24 per word. Translators have always had the ability to set their own rates; just because I post a project 25% below your minimum rate does not mean you have to change your rate.

2. An experienced translator can actually set a lower rate than a new translator, as the experienced translator will be able to complete more words per hour than a new translator, in order to achieve the target hourly/weekly income. So we end up shutting out new translators if they are not able to accept lower priced projects to get experience.

3. A huge waste of time for both translators and buyers sorting through applications for a project when we can't define the rates. Why would translators want to waste time applying for a project they have no hope of getting as their personal rates are higher than the target rate? And why would I, as a buyer, want to waste time on sorting through applications that don't fit the project profile?

4. I have a budget to work to. That is set by my client. There are times when I have to refuse a project because I know I won't be able to find translators to meet the budget. But in those marginal cases isn't it better that translators have the option to take on some work to fill in a gap in their schedule, even if it is less than their target rate?

To me, what will happen is that if buyers end up spending too much time on projects posted in ProZ (and particularly if they get a lot of proposals at rates that are ridiculously high, and believe me we get them!), then they will just switch translation portal. After all, there are plenty out there. So there will be less jobs on ProZ, so less translators will pay full fees, so slowly the portal will die.

I think a far better option is for ProZ to go out (e.g. annually) and survey a sub-set of experienced translators (say full members for minimum 3 years) in each language pair, and then publish those rates, words per hour etc. for buyers to have access to, so buyers can be educated and come to an understanding of what realistic pricing is.

Finally, 83% of translators who have responded to the survey here on ProZ want to see the translation buyer's target rates and budget. So, is this new system something that translators really want? More importantly, is it something the genuine buyers want or could agree to? Has ProZ surveyed its regular buyers to see what effect this system will have on them?



So, I am an expert translator. I have been working now in the translation arena for more than thirty years at all levels, from freelance translator to project manager. I have spent a small fortune on translation tools and other office gadgets. And after all this, I should work more at the same price for you to take the big bills? I am afraid, I can say you only one thing: Do it yourself.

As for less experienced translators that have to charge less, it is imho quite near to a laughable argument. If a translator that comes fresh out of the university has the will and the ability to work with the same level of precision and quality that other more experienced one, he is entitled to be paid exactly the same. Period. After all these years, I have seen less experienced translators advance me in certain areas without great difficulties, because when I started translating more than thirty years ago, neither the current resources, nor the translation faculties did exist. So those arguments do not have much basis, I think.

And to stay updated on the market facing the competition has been and is a further cost to us, as near all of us have to attend training courses. Do agencies also pay for our permanent training? Obviously not and they also should not. It is not his business. But, we have to write it down. And this has a cost and a price too.


 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:28
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
But that's the point! Apr 4, 2010

a2ztranslate wrote:

4. I have a budget to work to. That is set by my client. There are times when I have to refuse a project because I know I won't be able to find translators to meet the budget. But in those marginal cases isn't it better that translators have the option to take on some work to fill in a gap in their schedule, even if it is less than their target rate?



But isn't that the whole point of the intended change? How come your client can "set" a rate? The usual procedure would be that you submit a quote to the client, in which you state your rate (which you've determined by finding a suitable translator and asking him for his rate for this job, beforehand!). It is good to hear that you'll refuse a project if you think you can't find a translator for the rate "set" by the client. Why not take the next logical step and behave like a vendor in any other industry? You're falling into the same trap here, only on a different level of the chain.

Edited for typos.



[Bearbeitet am 2010-04-04 11:12 GMT]


 

a2ztranslate  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 21:28
English to Japanese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
In reply Apr 4, 2010

I think everyone here has made valid and relevant comments, and I would like to respond.

I did not intend to say that the value of an experienced translator (their training, experience, software, hardware etc.) approximates anything near that of a new translator. But we have been in really tough economic times in the last 18 months or so, and no more so than in the translation industry. As a service industry, most corporations look at services first to cut costs. That is just plain business reality. So we cop it first and hardest.

So perhaps I should rephrase item 2. My point is, that when times are tough, an experienced translator, because they can do more words per hour than a new translator, can actually work at a lower per word rate and still make a "livable wage" (as per the original petition, whatever that means). Just as a builder with 20 years experience can work a lot faster and more efficiently than a newcomer, in these times that experienced builder has to reduce his hourly rate to meet the market. Anything else is just sticking your head in the sand.

As to the comment "More experience = More money", I would respond "More experience = Able to do more in a shorter time/to a better level = Able to take on more work = More money". More experience does not automatically equate to more money, it is the ability to put through greater volume at greater efficiency that means more money. Hence the focus of CAT software, increasing volume throughput far more than increasing quality.

As to "How come your client can "set" a rate?". This is the real world! Everything is based on ROI, and this is defined by the accountants. The marketing department says "We need it!", the sales department says "We must have it!", the IT support staff say "It's essential!", but the accountant says "If I spend X, I can reasonably expect a return of Z, which means a profit/cost saving. But if I have to spend Y to get Z, then I have no profit/cost saving, so I won't do it." That is why a client will set a budget. That is the way business works.

Tell me, for those of a similar age, can you remember those terrible VHS instruction manuals from the '80s? Most of the time they were unintelligible (at least the English translations were). And they never got better until translation costs dropped in the 90's and it made sense, from a ROI perspective, to have them translated properly. Nothing to do with complaints from buyers, it was purely dollars and cents.

And to everyone, I appreciate your comments, but please don't automatically start bashing the agencies. Give agencies their due. Agencies are the ones who expand the translation marketplace. Agencies are the ones who grow the translation market. Agencies go cold calling to corporations, businesses etc. and explain the benefits of quality translation. Agencies are the ones who explain why Google translations are not the best for front page of the website; agencies sell professional translation. Agencies are the ones who take away the hassle of "managing" the translation process from the client. Agencies solve the "its too hard" problem and actually generate the work. And when the client gets comfortable with the process they dump the agency and go direct with freelancers (Guess why? Lower cost!). But don't forget that the agency got the client onto the translation cycle in the beginning.

Of course, agencies are in it for a $, just as translators don't translate for free, but how many individual translators actually try and cold sell translation to potential clients (especially outside of their language pair)? How many translators have researched a potential client, then walked up to a company and said "I think you should have your website in languages X, Y and Z"? How many translators spend hours and hours doing market research, proving a potential market, drawing up ROI proofs and powerpoint presentations, and going through endless meetings with marketing executives in client organisations? It is not all beer and skittles at this end of the operation! If an agency goes and cold sells a client into translating their 300k word website to 10 languages, how many translators, editors and proofreaders benefit from that? Again, I am no Saint, I'm not doing this for free, but I do feel that agencies perform an essential part of the cycle, in that, from a translator's point of view, agencies create a large % of the total market in the first place.

I wonder if translators have any idea of what % of business just walks in through the door of its own free will, and what % has to be actually sought out and sold to.

Come on, be fair, agencies are not the enemy here. Please don't use this to try and bash when i am just trying to point out what are, from an agency perspective, obvious issues with the proposal.

Please feel free to respond to my other points. And finally, if the proposal to remove rates from projects is so strongly desired by translators, why have some 83% of respondents to the survey stated that they want to know the translation buyer's budget/rates?


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:28
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Several points worth discussing Apr 4, 2010

It's great when an outsoucer is willing to discuss matters with translators so both sides struggle together for a win-win outcome. I do my best to play fairly and openly with all my clients, but of course this will be a fraction of a drop in the market 'bucket'.

Let's take your points, one at a time, wherever I have my 2¢ to toss.

a2ztranslate wrote:
Have been following the debate on the new proposals, but haven't seen much from the buyer's side. A bit of background first though.
Agency based in New Zealand
Don't pay the highest rates by a long way ($NZ does not go far in Euro!)


Exchange rates are a problem everywhere now, as some 'leading' currencies, such as USD, EUR, and GBP have issues of their own, relative to each other currency. So, on top of language-pair translator availability, now we have exchange rates in the equation.

I live in Brazil, so I pay all my bills in BRL. As Mr. Obama is openly willing to solve some of his large country's problems by keeping the dollar exchange rate low, thus making American products more attractive worldwide, now I'd have to charge some 20% more in USD to pay my same bills with the same amount of my work. Bear in mind that some of my services (e.g. translating instruction manuals, tenders, service literature) may add to the cost of these same products that America is trying to make more attractive pricewise in Brazil. So it's one minor chicken-or-egg variable in an equation that is growing in complexity.

Of course translation usually doesn't mean so much in the cost of a product, however the individual hiring it will have receved instructions to cut costs.

a2ztranslate wrote:
Blue Board of 5; take pride in paying on time (even when client goes bust!)


This means you are a serious player, you are in the game to stay.

a2ztranslate wrote:
We face the same issue (rates reduction) with our clients as translators face, and tend to refuse (ever so politely) those idiots that ask us to do 500 words at 0.01.


As you are in the game to stay, it means that you offer a solid product/service. Those idiots are like their counterparts who go into the market looking for bargains, even if they are 'fakes', like the proverbial $10 Rolex. Free machine translation is the answer for them, not you. If they need the real thing, they've got to pay what it costs.

a2ztranslate wrote:
In all honesty, I think the new proposal is just lose (buyer)-lose (translator)-lose (ProZ). It fails in several areas, but here are a few I think relevant.

1. There is no "set" rate for translation for one language pair, let alone between different language pairs. As an example, in our database of translators, for EN-FR we have translators who set their minimum rate in a range from 0.02 through to 0.24 per word. Translators have always had the ability to set their own rates; just because I post a project 25% below your minimum rate does not mean you have to change your rate.


You are missing one important variable here: level of specialization.

The 2¢ translator competes directly with automatic translation. A 7¢ translator may be adequate for translating the instructions leaflet for an alarm clock. On the other end, you may really need the 25¢ translator to work on that nuclear power plant technical proposal. Of course, it's a waste of resources to use the advanced brain surgery specialized translator for the gizmo leaflet.

a2ztranslate wrote:
2. An experienced translator can actually set a lower rate than a new translator, as the experienced translator will be able to complete more words per hour than a new translator, in order to achieve the target hourly/weekly income. So we end up shutting out new translators if they are not able to accept lower priced projects to get experience.


This doesn't make sense to me, unless you are referring to hourly rates.

I hate to charge by the hour, as it will be unfair either way. Most outsourcers want to pay for DTP services by the hour.

Okay, after 20+ years using it, I'm a whiz with PageMaker. Using PM, I can do any DTP lightning fast. So I should have a high hourly rate: a) because I'll finish a lot of work quickly; and b) because I invested years in acquiring the experience to do so.

Conversely, if you want me to use Quark - of which I know very little - to do the same job, I'll have to charge you much less for the hour: a) because I'll spend most of the time looking for help, and on trials-and-error; and b) because it will take me much, much longer to do it. As I only have 24 hours per day - like anything else on this planet - I won't be a good choice in this case.

Again, specialization is an important issue, but not in the way you put it.

a2ztranslate wrote:
3. A huge waste of time for both translators and buyers sorting through applications for a project when we can't define the rates. Why would translators want to waste time applying for a project they have no hope of getting as their personal rates are higher than the target rate? And why would I, as a buyer, want to waste time on sorting through applications that don't fit the project profile?


Some outsourcers request applicants to put their rates on the subject of an e-mail. They show their true colors right away. It's a waste of time for all involved that they are not using free machine translation.

Let's take an analogy. if you are about to die of dehydration, and have no money to afford any bottled liquid, you'll drink tap water if it's available, or water from any river or lake... and bear the consequences! ... like using MT.

My view of a translation outsourcer or agency is an entity able to quickly (or at least faster than an end-client) find a suitable translator in terms of language pair, specialty area if there's any, skill level, availability, and cost/benefit ratio offered (not just low rates!). That's what their specialized work is all about. All the rest is sheer vendor management, that any business is expected to handle in other areas.

a2ztranslate wrote:
4. I have a budget to work to. That is set by my client. There are times when I have to refuse a project because I know I won't be able to find translators to meet the budget. But in those marginal cases isn't it better that translators have the option to take on some work to fill in a gap in their schedule, even if it is less than their target rate?


No, you don't have a budget. In any normal business deal you ask your vendors how much they'll charge, add your project management services markup (including profit), and give the client an estimate.

If you need to buy anything, you must have an idea of how much it costs. If you have $ 100 to buy a car, you'll walk, ride a bus, or buy a bycicle, but you wn't buy a car. If you have no clue on how much a car costs, find it out, especially if you are buying it for someone else at a profit.

a2ztranslate wrote:To me, what will happen is that if buyers end up spending too much time on projects posted in ProZ (and particularly if they get a lot of proposals at rates that are ridiculously high, and believe me we get them!), then they will just switch translation portal. After all, there are plenty out there. So there will be less jobs on ProZ, so less translators will pay full fees, so slowly the portal will die.


You are afraid that being prevented from stating your budget will make translators quote at $1/word. They are not that dumb; they know that if they do so, any of them bidding at 99¢/word will get the job, and if one offers 98¢, they'll scoop it, so they'll tend to quote at the minimum rate that is worth the effort for them.

You may switch portal. I can't mention one portal's name here, but everything is free there. Apparently they live on selling translation outsourcers lists for translators to spam. Many agencies fish with a net there... they permanently need translators in all language pairs offering low rates and credentials. You can probably imagine such agencies, I call them "file-pushers".

a2ztranslate wrote:I think a far better option is for ProZ to go out (e.g. annually) and survey a sub-set of experienced translators (say full members for minimum 3 years) in each language pair, and then publish those rates, words per hour etc. for buyers to have access to, so buyers can be educated and come to an understanding of what realistic pricing is.


There is the PRO-tag program for this purpose, and Proz has a statistical survey on rates per language pair. What I have been suggesting them is to give some incentive (Kudoz, Browniz, peanuts, whatever) for translators to keep these updated quarterly, and also to stratify the stats, i.e. all, paying members, PRO-tagged, so outsourcers would have a clear idea on market prices to give sensible estimates to their end-clients.

a2ztranslate wrote:Finally, 83% of translators who have responded to the survey here on ProZ want to see the translation buyer's target rates and budget. So, is this new system something that translators really want? More importantly, is it something the genuine buyers want or could agree to? Has ProZ surveyed its regular buyers to see what effect this system will have on them?


IMHO this is a temporary desire, just to give translators some assurance that they are not wasting time with bottom feeders who should be hunting elsewhere. It might take some time, but these cheap operators - after these changes on Proz become effective - will gradually move to automatic translation or to sea-bottom translation market e-venues.


 

Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:28
Romanian to English
+ ...
Good point, Andrej Apr 4, 2010

Andrej wrote:

a2ztranslate wrote:

2. An experienced translator can actually set a lower rate than a new translator, as the experienced translator will be able to complete more words per hour than a new translator, in order to achieve the target hourly/weekly income. So we end up shutting out new translators if they are not able to accept lower priced projects to get experience.


So you mean that I have worked hard, gathered experience and invested my money and time in education, books etc. with the only aim to give you a big discount as I became a really experienced translator in GE-RU pair now? I am terrible sorry, but I thought that I did all these things to earn more. Your approach is the strangest one I have ever seen.


Indeed, experience normally means better quality (not necessarily compared to others, but compared to your earlier level of knowledge), and better quality REQUIRES higher prices. As I've grown more experienced, and clientele has been increasing, I find it totally counterproductive to offer lower rates; on the contrary, I am somehow "forced" to increase my rates, because I am unable to find other criteria for filtering out clientsicon_smile.gif

The better your "product" is, the more you can (and actually, have to) charge - I think this is called simple market logic...


 

Charlie Bavington (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:28
French to English
Beg to differ Apr 4, 2010

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

a2ztranslate wrote:
Blue Board of 5; take pride in paying on time (even when client goes bust!)


This means you are a serious player, you are in the game to stay.



I'm afraid the "even when the client goes bust" bit made me think the opposite of "serious". There is an implication in that comment that a2z may believe it is OK to pay late or indeed not at all if a2z's client goes bust. Which of course is very much not OK.

And then of course there is the much discussed point 2 in the OP. I'm fairly sure the logical flaws in that have been beaten to death in this forum more than once, although it sounds reasonable on the face of it.

I fully accept the point that when a budget is indeed definitely fixed and limited, it can waste time on all sides if people make proposals that have no chance of being accepted. Unlucky all round, I say, no system is perfect.

It is interesting that a2z says his client sets his budget. This would be in contrast to being asked to propose a price, and then negotiating, or not. This situation is, of course, something translators have complained about for years; that there is a (large?) segment where the client (agency, in the case of translators' complaints) sets the price. If the economics of the situation are operating in such a fashion, it is because it is a buyers' market, and the implication of that is that the service offered is indistinguishable from the service offered by thousands of other suppliers, except perhaps in terms of price.

I agree entirely with many of a2z's comments about the role agencies can and should play, but given some of the other comments, I'm left wondering about the true added value...


 

Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:28
French to German
+ ...
Nothing to add to José's post,... Apr 4, 2010

except a warm-felt "Thank you" for the courage you showed by stepping into the arena. We always seem to be missing outsourcers in the fora.

[Edited at 2010-04-04 12:56 GMT]


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:28
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Clarification Apr 4, 2010

Charlie Bavington wrote:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
a2ztranslate wrote:
Blue Board of 5; take pride in paying on time (even when client goes bust!)

This means you are a serious player, you are in the game to stay.


I'm afraid the "even when the client goes bust" bit made me think the opposite of "serious". There is an implication in that comment that a2z may believe it is OK to pay late or indeed not at all if a2z's client goes bust. Which of course is very much not OK.


IMHO a translation agency - like any business - will take all necessary steps to ascertain their client's credit, before granting them some.

Many don't, under the lame rationale that the translator is doing all the actual work; if the end-client defaults, I'll only lose my possible profit, but no more. This applies to those I call file-pushers: they only push (unopened?) files back and forth between end-client and translator, and make a buck on the "e-transportation" business.
icon_smile.gif


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:28
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Classic example... Apr 4, 2010

a2ztranslate wrote:

Have been following the debate on the new proposals, but haven't seen much from the buyer's side. A bit of background first though.
Agency based in New Zealand
Don't pay the highest rates by a long way ($NZ does not go far in Euro!)
Blue Board of 5; take pride in paying on time (even when client goes bust!)
We face the same issue (rates reduction) with our clients as translators face, and tend to refuse (ever so politely) those idiots that ask us to do 500 words at 0.01.

In all honesty, I think the new proposal is just lose (buyer)-lose (translator)-lose (ProZ). It fails in several areas, but here are a few I think relevant.

1. There is no "set" rate for translation for one language pair, let alone between different language pairs. As an example, in our database of translators, for EN-FR we have translators who set their minimum rate in a range from 0.02 through to 0.24 per word. Translators have always had the ability to set their own rates; just because I post a project 25% below your minimum rate does not mean you have to change your rate.

2. An experienced translator can actually set a lower rate than a new translator, as the experienced translator will be able to complete more words per hour than a new translator, in order to achieve the target hourly/weekly income. So we end up shutting out new translators if they are not able to accept lower priced projects to get experience.

3. A huge waste of time for both translators and buyers sorting through applications for a project when we can't define the rates. Why would translators want to waste time applying for a project they have no hope of getting as their personal rates are higher than the target rate? And why would I, as a buyer, want to waste time on sorting through applications that don't fit the project profile?

4. I have a budget to work to. That is set by my client. There are times when I have to refuse a project because I know I won't be able to find translators to meet the budget. But in those marginal cases isn't it better that translators have the option to take on some work to fill in a gap in their schedule, even if it is less than their target rate?

To me, what will happen is that if buyers end up spending too much time on projects posted in ProZ (and particularly if they get a lot of proposals at rates that are ridiculously high, and believe me we get them!), then they will just switch translation portal. After all, there are plenty out there. So there will be less jobs on ProZ, so less translators will pay full fees, so slowly the portal will die.

I think a far better option is for ProZ to go out (e.g. annually) and survey a sub-set of experienced translators (say full members for minimum 3 years) in each language pair, and then publish those rates, words per hour etc. for buyers to have access to, so buyers can be educated and come to an understanding of what realistic pricing is.

Finally, 83% of translators who have responded to the survey here on ProZ want to see the translation buyer's target rates and budget. So, is this new system something that translators really want? More importantly, is it something the genuine buyers want or could agree to? Has ProZ surveyed its regular buyers to see what effect this system will have on them?



of why we find ourselves in this situation...


 

Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Algeria
Local time: 10:28
English to French
+ ...
... Apr 4, 2010

a2ztranslate wrote:

I think everyone here has made valid and relevant comments, and I would like to respond.

I did not intend to say that the value of an experienced translator (their training, experience, software, hardware etc.) approximates anything near that of a new translator. But we have been in really tough economic times in the last 18 months or so, and no more so than in the translation industry. As a service industry, most corporations look at services first to cut costs. That is just plain business reality. So we cop it first and hardest.

So perhaps I should rephrase item 2. My point is, that when times are tough, an experienced translator, because they can do more words per hour than a new translator, can actually work at a lower per word rate and still make a "livable wage" (as per the original petition, whatever that means). Just as a builder with 20 years experience can work a lot faster and more efficiently than a newcomer, in these times that experienced builder has to reduce his hourly rate to meet the market. Anything else is just sticking your head in the sand.

As to the comment "More experience = More money", I would respond "More experience = Able to do more in a shorter time/to a better level = Able to take on more work = More money". More experience does not automatically equate to more money, it is the ability to put through greater volume at greater efficiency that means more money. Hence the focus of CAT software, increasing volume throughput far more than increasing quality.

As to "How come your client can "set" a rate?". This is the real world! Everything is based on ROI, and this is defined by the accountants. The marketing department says "We need it!", the sales department says "We must have it!", the IT support staff say "It's essential!", but the accountant says "If I spend X, I can reasonably expect a return of Z, which means a profit/cost saving. But if I have to spend Y to get Z, then I have no profit/cost saving, so I won't do it." That is why a client will set a budget. That is the way business works.

Tell me, for those of a similar age, can you remember those terrible VHS instruction manuals from the '80s? Most of the time they were unintelligible (at least the English translations were). And they never got better until translation costs dropped in the 90's and it made sense, from a ROI perspective, to have them translated properly. Nothing to do with complaints from buyers, it was purely dollars and cents.

And to everyone, I appreciate your comments, but please don't automatically start bashing the agencies. Give agencies their due. Agencies are the ones who expand the translation marketplace. Agencies are the ones who grow the translation market. Agencies go cold calling to corporations, businesses etc. and explain the benefits of quality translation. Agencies are the ones who explain why Google translations are not the best for front page of the website; agencies sell professional translation. Agencies are the ones who take away the hassle of "managing" the translation process from the client. Agencies solve the "its too hard" problem and actually generate the work. And when the client gets comfortable with the process they dump the agency and go direct with freelancers (Guess why? Lower cost!). But don't forget that the agency got the client onto the translation cycle in the beginning.

Of course, agencies are in it for a $, just as translators don't translate for free, but how many individual translators actually try and cold sell translation to potential clients (especially outside of their language pair)? How many translators have researched a potential client, then walked up to a company and said "I think you should have your website in languages X, Y and Z"? How many translators spend hours and hours doing market research, proving a potential market, drawing up ROI proofs and powerpoint presentations, and going through endless meetings with marketing executives in client organisations? It is not all beer and skittles at this end of the operation! If an agency goes and cold sells a client into translating their 300k word website to 10 languages, how many translators, editors and proofreaders benefit from that? Again, I am no Saint, I'm not doing this for free, but I do feel that agencies perform an essential part of the cycle, in that, from a translator's point of view, agencies create a large % of the total market in the first place.

I wonder if translators have any idea of what % of business just walks in through the door of its own free will, and what % has to be actually sought out and sold to.

Come on, be fair, agencies are not the enemy here. Please don't use this to try and bash when i am just trying to point out what are, from an agency perspective, obvious issues with the proposal.

Please feel free to respond to my other points. And finally, if the proposal to remove rates from projects is so strongly desired by translators, why have some 83% of respondents to the survey stated that they want to know the translation buyer's budget/rates?


What you are saying is that an experienced translator have to help you because you have it tough !!

Sorry but I don't see the point in working for someone who can't afford me...More experience = more opportunities...

If you have it tough, you just have to do something else !!!


 
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