Need to steer corporate members away from bargain-seeking
Thread poster: Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:02
English to Polish
+ ...
Jun 18, 2015

Long story short, the following two things are true at the same time:

  • Proz.com doesn't encourage price-driven competition or low rates. Sometimes steps are taken against it, for example an alert is display when a job poster's stated budget is too low, there is explicitly no obligation to quote within the poster-specified range, and the ethical guidelines speak against the setting of one's prices below the level which enables the quality the clients are after. And there is a widely available programme to distinguish translators with somewhat more credibility than an online directory would normally afford, i.e. the Cert. PRO Network, of which the members even get spotlights on the whole portal's landing site.

  • Still, agencies and job posters largely come here looking for a bargain. They aren't interested in normal collaboration on normal terms. they always want something to the tune of discount from normal rates, waiver of a surcharge, some sort of special treatment. Exceptions do exist, but on some days it looks like everybody always wants a bargain on every single job that gets posted.


In the words of a fellow Cert. PRO when we had a bitter conversation about the bitter state of things:

(…) they all come to ProZ looking for a huge perfect profile (ideally a Certified PRO freelancer, with 10+ years of experience, some dozens of positive feedback, and specializations… so on and so on…) aiming to pay rates of 0.03 euros or 0.04 dollars per word (…)


I think it's necessary to do something to fix Proz's image, to dispel the impression of an oriental bazaar full of great bargains — or one to which you only go for bargains — which so many agencies conceive and instead propel our corporate members towards expecting and seeking normal, standard collaboration and one-off transactions, on standard terms.

Thus, away from constantly looking for incredible bargains, more towards hard work and gradual, responsible building up of a sustainable business.

Frankly, I'm not enough marketing/PR savvy to know what exactly is needed, to get a good plan for this etc., but I believe some action to reshape, reorientate the image is necessary.

Okay, I can speculate to some extent:

1. Perhaps steering them towards normal, standard, sustainable prices (at least 'force' them to view standard rates and to visit the rate calculator that includes cost of living, costs of CPD, hours worked per day, days per month etc.?) could be done by discouraging them from designing their own bargains.

It's very easy to award yourself a discount when you are the one defining your service provider's policy. We would all have plenty of discounts on electricity, water, gas, ISP fees etc., not to mention doctors and lawyers, if we got to essentially write their invoice the way a job poster can do.

2. Perhaps emphasizing the directory more, as well as those get-together functions like member spotlights, could encourage corporate members to approach individual translators more.

3. Perhaps encouraging the better agencies to recruit more proactively and conduct open ongoing recruitment could make them more visible and more accessible.

4. For those agencies that prefer to pay fixed rates (sometimes as fixed as paying the same rate to everyone, regardless of individual qualifications), posting their rates publicly could help. Translators would know what to expect, they would be able to spot and approach the non-bottom-feeders here.

5. Perhaps more proactively alerting job posters and translators to the fact that their budgets or rates are on the low side would be an option? For example already at 20% below the average.

6. It would take some coding, but what about an algorithm to compare the stated volume to stated deadline and alert posters to the fact that they are posting a rush job, especially deadlines & columes like 5K words in 24 hours?

7. Similarly, speaking of 5K words in 24 hours, some of those posters do it like this: They have 5 days for 5K words. Rather than spending 1 day choosing the translator and leaving 4 days for translation, they do it the other way round: They take their sweet time — 4 of the 5 days — choosing the lowest price or most attractive price-to-expected-quality ratio, and then expect the 'fortunate winner' to not charge a rush fee. It would be nice if this kind of silliness produced an alert from the system.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:02
English to German
+ ...
My take Jun 19, 2015

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

Long story short, the following two things are true at the same time:

  • Proz.com doesn't encourage price-driven competition or low rates.


Here's my take on that:

Translation portals give any translation/language agency from anywhere in the world the opportunity to post "jobs." They also afford them the opportunity to describe these jobs, and very often, these descriptions include proposals for price, rate, or rate ranges that the agency would like to pay/work in.
Translators answer these posts as quickly as they can, and to "win" the job, the quickest way is certainly to immediately accept such proposals, i.e. accept the price proposed by the agency and the payment terms that come with it, be they explicitly stated or not, and hope to be among the first ones "quoting" so to have a chance to win.

The steps you mention that are taken against this haven't stopped the onslaught of low-rate proposals or discouraged plenty of translators accepting these jobs. It seems to me it's getting worse.
Without translation portals, the situation would be a bit different.


Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
I think it's necessary to do something to fix Proz's image, to dispel the impression of an oriental bazaar full of great bargains — or one to which you only go for bargains — which so many agencies conceive and instead propel our corporate members towards expecting and seeking normal, standard collaboration and one-off transactions, on standard terms.

Thus, away from constantly looking for incredible bargains, more towards hard work and gradual, responsible building up of a sustainable business.

Frankly, I'm not enough marketing/PR savvy to know what exactly is needed, to get a good plan for this etc., but I believe some action to reshape, reorientate the image is necessary.


I am afraid this ship has sailed. I am not aware of any public translation portal that has changed in a major way in twenty years.

This has been tried before by translators, including some of the ideas you proposed in your original post. I have contributed ideas in various forums of translation portals for years.

But I don't see things changing to the better. That goes for direct contact by agencies through directories as well. Many unrealistic and unreasonable expectations as to price, payment, and time.

There comes a time when everyone must weigh their own personal options. Don't wait for the translation portals to realize your suggestions. They will run their business they way they want to. I don't think they believe anything is wrong with the status quo. On the contrary, I see some portals point to the many ways they have made translators' lives so much better since their inception. My 2 cents.


[Edited at 2015-06-19 04:03 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:02
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Jun 19, 2015

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Here's my take on that:

Translation portals give any translation/language agency from anywhere in the world the opportunity to post "jobs."


Not the best word for a profession with some standing, yeah. I don't use that word if at all avoidable (rather 'assignment' or sometimes 'order').

They also afford them the opportunity to describe these jobs, and very often, these descriptions include proposals for price, rate, or rate ranges that the agency would like to pay/work in.


I'm a bit torn between the benefits of allowing an agency to post all that and rigorously expecting only the service provider (seller) to name the price, not the recipient (buyer) to name a budget.

Translators answer these posts as quickly as they can, and to "win" the job, the quickest way is certainly to immediately accept such proposals, i.e. accept the price proposed by the agency and the payment terms that come with it, be they explicitly stated or not, and hope to be among the first ones "quoting" so to have a chance to win.


I don't think any sort of quoting wherein multiple providers are responding to a single ad can avoid that whole competing and winning thing.

The steps you mention that are taken against this haven't stopped the onslaught of low-rate proposals or discouraged plenty of translators accepting these jobs. It seems to me it's getting worse.
Without translation portals, the situation would be a bit different.


I'm led to believe we'd better off without 'job' posting systems at all. Forums yeah, directories yeah, posting and quoting... nope.


I am afraid this ship has sailed. I am not aware of any public translation portal that has changed in a major way in twenty years.

This has been tried before by translators, including some of the ideas you proposed in your original post. I have contributed ideas in various forums of translation portals for years.


Sorry to hear it didn't work.

But I don't see things changing to the better. That goes for direct contact by agencies through directories as well. Many unrealistic and unreasonable expectations as to price, payment, and time.


Yes, they also tend to expect a bargain.

It's not even just that they have unrealistic expectations. Rather, nobody wants standard terms, everybody wants a bargain. This is a kind of freeriding problem.

There comes a time when everyone must weigh their own personal options. Don't wait for the translation portals to realize your suggestions. They will run their business they way they want to. I don't think they believe anything is majorly wrong with the status quo. My 2 cents.


I still hope to start an avalanche or domino effect, help encourage people, slow down the bad things, hurry up the good.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2011)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Supply and demand Jun 19, 2015

Everyone wants a bargain. You're working at the wrong end.

Prices are low because translators are willing to sell themselves cheap. Get them to charge more.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:02
French to English
Similar idea Jun 19, 2015

Chris S wrote:

Prices are low because translators are willing to sell themselves cheap. Get them to charge more.


As I read through the first posts, my reaction, as it has often been over the last 10 years or so, is that the issue is, frankly, the quality of members on the site (or any other). Loads of high-calibre translators I know avoid this place like the plague (for various reasons). Meanwhile, the site allows people to post literally thousands of terminology questions, tolerates public advertising of unwarranted target languages, operates a laughable self-policed accreditation scheme, etc.

So yeah, it's like a public toilet. Keep it up to a high standard, and most users will do their best to keep it that way. Failure to maintain standards leads to visitors crapping everywhere and failing to flush. Which is what we see now.

A higher standard of membership would almost certainly automatically lead to higher average prices being asked for by members, and thus in time expected by clients. Like wot Chris said.



[Edited at 2015-06-19 11:48 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:02
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Part true, but Jun 19, 2015

Chris S wrote:

Everyone wants a bargain. You're working at the wrong end.

Prices are low because translators are willing to sell themselves cheap. Get them to charge more.


... And the 'but' is big, Chris. Pure supply and demand only exists in course books and theoretical models, and then it can only work like that the contrfactual presumption that market actors are acting rationally. The specific structure of our industry allows the degree of control enjoyed by the buyer or middleman control to more than compensate for demand size greater than supply, and psychology plays a great role.


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Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 15:02
German to English
+ ...
low standard of membership Jun 19, 2015

Charlie Bavington wrote:



A higher standard of membership would almost certainly automatically lead to higher average prices being asked for by members, and thus in time expected by clients. Like wot Chris said.



I agree. The standard of membership is very low: Lots of translators who ask questions in the German to English part of the KudoZ section don't understand the source language. They have no idea of the grammatical structure of the sentence and therefore ask the wrong questions. I don't want to know what the final translation will look like. In my opinion, membership should be reserved to people who have a University degree in translation or any other relevant subject like medecine, law or economics or who have 5 years of documented experience as a translator. These are the people who would also meet the new ISO standard for translation services. The five years of documented experience should have to be examined by independent certification bodies. The European Transcert initiative will follow this direction. At the present state of affairs, I think the only translators who might be able to benefit from the ProZ job offers are the ones who live in low-income countries and who are looking for clients on the global market in order to achieve rates which are above their local market rates. It might also be useful for translators whose target language is a language of a high-income country but who choose to live in low-income countries (such as translators translating into German but living in the Philippines). This is not my case. I have target languages of high-income countries and live in a high-income country. For me ProZ membership therefore has no longer any benefit whatsoever and I will let my membership lapse at the end of this month. I will still use the forums and KudoZ but I will no longer pay a membership fee for a platform which contains nothing but low-price job offers with low quality expectations.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:02
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Client education is the key Jun 19, 2015

I believe that the problem is one of "information asymmetry". It has taken us years to understand the translation "industry", what it takes to provide a quality translation, the pitfalls of paying low rates and hiring amateurs, etc. Furthermore, we understand the languages and the client often does not.

Therefore, it's easy to understand how a client can be fooled by bargain prices, flashy websites and empty promises. They do not want (and are not going to) read a lengthy treatise on the dangers of investing money in .05-a-word translations.

The crux of the matter is how to educate consumers quickly and concisely?

This is where I believe that translation organizations (such as the American Translators Association) could help by producing short viral videos (perhaps humorous ones) showing the dangers of bargain shopping. Or perhaps a group of individual translators could collect money (maybe using one of those fundraising sites) to hire a PR firm to create these videos and campaigns.

Something like this video that went viral a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY only showing the consequences of getting a poor translation. Maybe a "fake/mock" reality show where a super translator comes in to save the company's translation division (like those shows where a business mogul comes into a business to show people things they did not know they were doing wrong, makes changes and saves the day). Or a company that gets laughed at due to a translation error... Picture a CEO: "I don't understand why Germans aren't buying more of our products, we had our website translated..."

At any rate, customer education is the key.

Some will still choose to purchase the poorly-made product to save money, but they will do so knowingly.

What's the difference between a Cadillac or BMW and a Ford or Nissan? Now, what's the difference between the translation provided by TranslationsR-us and WeDoTranslations? (Note to moderator: these are not real names]

[Edited at 2015-06-19 14:12 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:02
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Proz.com is proud of being the site that is open to beginners Jun 19, 2015

This site lets people gain a foothold, which they need before they can approach other sites with higher thresholds.

In the early days the professionals probably outnumbered the beginners, but I am not sure. It inevitably means the site is open to the bottom feeders, amateurs and wannabes who are never going to make the grade anywhere else. So they stay, and others move on!

Sorry, but that is the consequence. Perhaps requiring some degree of serious commitment would help, instead of just admitting anyone who creates a profile. - However, it would be very hard to enforce.

I have the feeling that most of my work comes indirectly from Proz. com. I have been working all week for a very good client who found me here. The trouble is that these good clients are totally invisible on the site. One of the employees at the agency found me several years ago, and I can't count the jobs I have done for them since. If a little red flag appeared somewhere every time I did a job for them, the picture would be completely different.

That is just one client who has found me here. In all my years on the site, I have only bid for a handful of jobs, and as far as I can remember only 'won' one through bidding. That client did not send me any more work.

I have seen good jobs posted after I have regretfully turned them down for lack of time. However, they are greatly outnumbered by the ones with warnings that the rate offered is below 80% etc. (I work in an 'expensive' language pair...)

Even giving the good clients 5-ratings on the Blue Board is not a lot of help.

I have advocated only giving a 4 to good, but not outstanding clients, but who would actually do so? Giving less than 5 is regarded as a serious insult, and I have only done it in a couple of cases where OK, the client pays, but is otherwise generally a pain to work with.

We do need to work on the visibility somehow, and educate end clients... and keep on!


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:02
English to German
+ ...
add-on Jun 19, 2015

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:


There comes a time when everyone must weigh their own personal options. Don't wait for the translation portals to realize your suggestions. They will run their business they way they want to. I don't think they believe anything is majorly wrong with the status quo. My 2 cents.


Hi Lukasz,
You quoted me before I edited that paragraph. So here is the edited version:

There comes a time when everyone must weigh their own personal options. Don't wait for the translation portals to realize your suggestions. They will run their business they way they want to. I don't think they believe anything is wrong with the status quo. On the contrary, I see some portals point to the many ways they have made translators' lives so much better since their inception. My 2 cents.
------

PS: Translation portals are proud of what they do.

[Edited at 2015-06-19 14:48 GMT]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 18:32
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
What clients are looking for Jun 21, 2015

What clients are looking for is to sell or market their products - not produce "works of art" type of translation.

Translation is not their end, but a means to an end. So they are not critically interested in the quality of the translations they buy. The quality aspect is important to them and they incorporate it into their product, not in the translations that they buy to sell their product, except in those cases where the translation is an integral part of the product itself.

This is why clients are dense to the issue of translation quality. They cannot understand it, and they don't consider it important to their primary objective. And this is why it is difficult to make clients pay for quality translation or even demand quality translation, for they don't see any purpose in it. They do it just as a marketing prop, and to spread their bets. Translation is not critical to them or their businesses.

Whereas, translators are vain enough to consider that translation is the beginning and end of everything, and they cannot be blamed for their opinion, for which craftsman doesn't think the world of his creation?

In my view, this is the main issue. Translators consider quality as of paramount importance and even make it their USP, but their clients have different ideas and translation resides way below in their pecking order of important things.

Client education can achieve little because it assumes that clients fall for bad translations because the are ill-informed, but I think clients are far smarter than that, otherwise they won't be supervising billion-dollar businesses which finance translations among other things, and they tolerate bad translation because it is mostly immaterial to them, or their success or failure does not depend on the quality of the translations they buy.

Of course this applies only to commercial translations, but that constitutes the bulk of the translations most of us do. I for example can't remember when was the last time I translated a poem or a short story, it has always been a market survey or a software interface string or a business training module.


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