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Discussion: should ProZ.com enforce a bare minimum rate for translations?
Thread poster: BNN Medical Tr.

BNN Medical Tr.  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:29
Member (Aug 2017)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Sep 5

Let me say right off the bat that this topic is meant only to discover what other translators think about this issue. It is not meant as a complaint or call to action to proZ.com.

Some time ago, I saw a job offer that was due for the next day it was posted, was over 7000 words, and whose budget was so low I found it offensive. The quoting page even warned it was below what 80% of proZ members charge as their minimum. I kid you not, I clicked the "report job to site staff" button in hopes of finding a "degrading job conditions" or similar option.

I thought that surely no one would bring themselves to accept so many words in such an urgent time frame for so low (when the urgency would prompt for a surcharge instead!), unless they were desperate, because it would be demonstrating they have no regard for the minimum standards and pride of the profession. Sadly, at the time I saw it, 3 quotes had been submitted.

Now, I don't presume to judge the people who submitted those quotes, as they may truly be desperate and need any money they can get right away. But in any case, it stands to reason that this type of thing becomes frequent, it will have a negative effect for all other translators, bringing prices down over time and devaluing the profession.

It got me thinking that it could be interesting if proZ and other similar sites enforced a minimum rate, so as to try to maintain the profession's dignity. What do you guys think?

Again, this is not a suggestion or call out to proZ in any way, I only want to learn what my colleagues think about this (most likely) controversial subject.

- Eric of BNN


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:29
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
A different question Sep 5

CAN ProZ enforce a bare minimum rate for translations?

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:29
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
No one is bound to accept the proposed budget Sep 5

In principle, anyone can bid for a job and ask for a higher rate, although they would probably be wasting their time when the starting point is quite unacceptable.

Outsourcers do not have to propose a rate at all, and strictly, it is the translator who should ask for a rate. The client/customer cannot dictate rates, although of course they try. But if they do, they are really like children in a candy store, asking what they can buy for their pennies!

It is probably impossible to enforce a minimum rate - outsourcers would just post jobs without mentioning rates at all, and try to push them through with arguments that someone, somewhere would accept their rate, after translators have already bid for the job.

One reason I don't like official minimum rates is that it can be difficult to ask for anything higher. It may be the lowest acceptable rate, but it has been officially approved as acceptable. So why should anyone pay more?

I sometimes quote the average rate. http://search.proz.com/?sp=pfe/rates
However, there can be many reasons to vary the rate - difficult formatting, tight deadlines, special terminology that takes time to find and check.
Or the text may be easy and full of repetitions that just rattle through a CAT tool.
Rates that are quite acceptable in some parts of the world are hopelessly inadequate in others - the cost of living varies...
There is no way to fix a minimum rate that can be reasonable for all situations.

Apart from that, forming syndicates to fix rates is forbidden in many countries, so it might be regarded as illegal, and certainly would not be accepted as valid.

As you observed, the warning appears when the proposed rate is below what 80% of ProZ members charge as their minimum.

The only way to go is to keep discussing the matter and hope translators will stand together and insist on viable rates. What they charge is ultimately their decision, not the client's!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:29
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Recurring topic, discussed very frequently and at great length Sep 5

It would really be a good idea to search the recent topics of discussion, Eric, as we've all discussed it time and time again. Just a couple of brief points:

- There's no guarantee that those replies to that job were offering to do the work at all. I sometimes spare a few minutes to "educate" such posters (although less often nowadays) and I know others do too. You can also quote whatever figure YOU think is justified. You probably won't get the job if you quote four times their budget, of course, but maybe if nobody accepts their derisory budget they'll find some more money. I've heard of rates being doubled several times, and indeed it's happened to me once. Remember that these offers are often from agencies who may already have committed to delivering the work. We're in a very strong position at that point.

- On the subject of minimum rates, it would be lovely if ProZ.com were able to figure out a way to do it fairly. But is it really fair to impose exactly the same minimum rate on an English to French translator living in Switzerland who has a PhD and 25 years' experience, and someone with the same pair who lives in a French-speaking country of Africa and has little education or experience? Clearly the latter will be very happy with a far, far lower rate. And because we're all mobile and connected, you can't tie it down to nationality, residence, client's residence, or anything else.


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BNN Medical Tr.  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:29
Member (Aug 2017)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Sep 5

Thank you for your great answers so far, ladies!

It would really be a good idea to search the recent topics of discussion, Eric, as we've all discussed it time and time again.


I'm sorry. I normally do so, but I find proZ forum's search system to be atrocious. I can't search by topic name only (if there is such an option, it's not obvious), so I keep getting multiple result hits for the same topic, which is too inefficient.

CAN ProZ enforce a bare minimum rate for translations?


No, they can't in practice, only in principle. In any case, ProZ is a platform for the contact between client and translator, not a regulator between the interactions of the two. My question is only philosophical, so I can pick the stances of other translators on the matter


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Mair A-W (PhD)
Germany
Local time: 23:29
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
(OT: search) Sep 5

[quote]BNN Medical Tr. wrote:

Thank you for your great answers so far, ladies!

I can't search by topic name only (if there is such an option, it's not obvious), so I keep getting multiple result hits for the same topic, which is too inefficient.



But there is a box to show the results as topics, and not individual posts, which helps a bit


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 23:29
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
It's supposed to be a free market Sep 5

It makes no sense to force a buyer to spend a certain minimum amount for the services they are seeking. They are entitled to propose whatever rate they feel adequate for their needs and expectations, and accordingly attract a certain segment of providers. It's up to us to provide a "luxury" service that deserves whatever rate WE feel adequate. And nobody is putting a gun to your head to accept X cents per words.

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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:29
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Price fixing? Sep 5

BNN Medical Tr. wrote:

CAN ProZ enforce a bare minimum rate for translations?


No, they can't in practice, only in principle.


Even in principle, not so sure. Laws against price fixing and all that.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:29
English to German
+ ...
Proz and cons Sep 6

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I've heard of rates being doubled several times, and indeed it's happened to me once. Remember that these offers are often from agencies who may already have committed to delivering the work. We're in a very strong position at that point.


Certainly not the norm Sheila. I've been here for more than 10 years and low is the way to go here. This is a bidding site ... on price before anything else ... and so it's quite natural. I just find that a different name for this site would be called for.
I once suggested to do away with the bidding system and the posting of jobs altogether, and just work with a directory of translators. But that would be less lucrative for the site owners I suppose and they can run it the way they want. No one is forced to stay here either.
To the poster I would say don't try to have a career depending on jobs that are posted here.
Since I have tried the system and know all about it and don't use it anymore, I would expect I could continue as a partial member who pays for other services provided for translators here (blueboard, access to forums, red P, fair directory listing) but I would expect a much lower price for that and not to have to buy the full membership.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
- On the subject of minimum rates, it would be lovely if ProZ.com were able to figure out a way to do it fairly. But is it really fair to impose exactly the same minimum rate on an English to French translator living in Switzerland who has a PhD and 25 years' experience, and someone with the same pair who lives in a French-speaking country of Africa and has little education or experience? Clearly the latter will be very happy with a far, far lower rate. And because we're all mobile and connected, you can't tie it down to nationality, residence, client's residence, or anything else.


We are all competing on the international market. We are also living in certain economies that dictate our living expenses. But in any case, what professionals do (no matter how they became professionals and where they live ... they are on the Internet, don't forget) needs to be paid at a professional rate. The bidding system (bidding on price) certainly works against that. Just my thoughts.

[Edited at 2017-09-06 06:38 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:29
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some (possibly repeating) comments Sep 6

BNN Medical Tr. wrote:
The quoting page even warned it was below what 80% of proZ members charge as their minimum. I clicked the "report job to site staff" button in hopes of finding a "degrading job conditions" or similar option.


1. The "80%" warning is in lieu of the "degrading job conditions" option.

2. Any "bare minimum rate" would be relative to the field, the locality, etc.

This means that deciding whether or not an offered rate exceeds the minimum would have to be calculated on a per-language, per-country or per-field basis. However, such a calculation can only be done if there is a benchmark (i.e. an "average" rate). Also, the calculation would require that ProZ.com make an assumption about which percentage of that average rate is the "bare minimum rate" threshold.

The benchmark (i.e. "average rate") can be calculated by ProZ.com from all rates posted by translators, but it's not 100% reliable, because translators often do not report their real rates. Also, who decides where the threshold is? It could be 80%, 90%, 50%, etc... and even if ProZ.com were to hire the best statisticians to help calculate an "ideal" threshold, it would remain a matter of opinion.

Given such a system, I think it is fairer to translators that they are simply told that the rate offered by the client is below a certain threshold. Translators may then decide for themselves if they agree with the arbitrarily chosen threshold, and may apply a correction themselves based on how reliable they personally think ProZ.com's average rates information is.

I thought that surely no one would bring themselves to accept so many words in such an urgent time frame for so low ... Sadly, at the time I saw it, 3 quotes had been submitted.


No translator bidding on a project is required to quote a rate that is close the rate proposed by the client. All that is required (in terms of ProZ.com site rules) is that translators bid in good faith (i.e. they're not simply quoting a high rate to teach the client a lesson).

Clients also don't always accept the lowest rate (the impression that a translator makes is a very important decider as well). You don't know what these 3 quotes were -- for all you know, they may all be much higher than you think.

It stands to reason that this type of thing becomes frequent, it will have a negative effect for all other translators, bringing prices down over time and devaluing the profession.


This is a sentiment often expressed, but since you state that it "stands to reason", please go ahead: reason.

It could be interesting if ProZ.com and other similar sites enforced a minimum rate, so as to try to maintain the profession's dignity.


Dignity - the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect.

Dignity is not measured in cents. You can offer your services for free and still maintain dignity.

You've mentioned "the profession" twice in your post. Not all translators have such collectivist ideas about their job. Individualism is on the rise among translators (and have been for some time). Not all translators adhere to the old idea that some professions are more dignified than others, and that "translation" is somewhere near the top of list of professions rated by dignity... and that, consequently, if this dignity is threatened, the profession (and its practitioners) would suffer.


[Edited at 2017-09-06 07:34 GMT]


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 05:29
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
To the gazillionth thread on this topic Sep 6

1. Sweep your own walkway and let other people worry about their own
2. I would rather be able to see which jobs are not worth applying to, rather than waste my time on them.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:29
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The problem is that low rates are visible, but normal to high rates are not Sep 6

If an outsourcer wants to state a rate to start the bidding, many will start low. They will see what they can get away with, and reckon that if translators want to bid higher, they must work for it.

Many of us on this site have opted out of that game years ago, or never opted in. The best paid jobs are invisible to everyone except the outsourcer and the translator, because outsourcers find translators in the directories and contact them individually or in small groups. Once an outsourcer and translator have found each other, they may work together happily for months or years afterwards. I always have enough work in hand, mostly from clients who have found me on this site, so I simply never bid for jobs posted on the open job boards. In my early years as a freelancer I bid for about five, and was offered one. The client paid, but never came back.

I have in fact seen jobs posted for bidding after I have turned them down for lack of time, and I can assure you from personal experience that at least one of the outsourcers pays well and on time. He never mentions a rate, however, when he posts, because he negotiates, depending on the kind of job he is offering.

There is really no easy way of making the better paid jobs visible, so the low offers distort the picture.

Maybe we should be less secretive about our rates.
Recently I insisted on a rate of about EURO 0.12 per word - the client tried to reduce it by 10%. I checked, and I had calculated it in pounds. The exchange rate for GBP is low at the moment - I should have checked and asked for 0.13, so my client was lucky! There was no time to look for another translator who could cope with that amount of Danish law within the deadline.

As I say, I have enough to do, I am trying to retire... and I simply do not take on work for less than that kind of rate.

I am not saying low rates are not a problem. Translators need to stand very firm about rates. Anyone can say 'I'm cheap', but we have to use all the other arguments in marketing, about quality and value for money...

Just ignore the really cheapskate clients or refer them to Google Translate. But we need to work hard and keep on working to educate the group in the middle, who do not really know what translation involves, but will generally pay for a good service.


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
NO Sep 6

First, people are the only animals making bargains; second, all the terms are but relative and subjective, let alone the ProZ is a platform, not Enforcer or Leveler.

I also find somewhat abusive peanutsy and initially unreachable conditions, yet there're those who are eager to try or play--in all, every party gets what it really deserves.

For instance, why beating little children for not being able or capable instantly to walk, read, speak, count, solve equations, drive and so on? Let'em learn first, taking the time.

That's why I don't see how and why Proz should involve into the natural selection mess.
However, clever people still make smart choices and decisions.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:29
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I've never understood why people say that Sep 6

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
This is a bidding site

I keep hearing that said, but I really don't understand why it's said in such a negative way. I once used a general freelancing site that showed the client's budget and every quote made. Of course if there's 20 crazily low bids you tend not to bother, so it seems that 'everyone' is prepared to work for peanuts. If you're desperate maybe you'll join the downward spiral. That's the negative side of bidding, but it doesn't work that way on ProZ.com!

Only a few outsourcers here actually state their 'budget', and we're told it doesn't prevent us from quoting whatever we think the job is worth. And if I'm not wrong, paying members have to opt in to see that budget, and non-paying ones can't see it (anyone sure?). If so, beginner and non-career translators will probably never see the ludicrously low budgets of some agencies here, nor will most posters. I honestly don't see the difference between the job posting system here on ProZ.com and that employed for major projects in the engineering, space exploration, etc. sectors - the sealed bids of the tendering process. You (I'm speaking generally here, Bernhard) may well have an issue with this whole capitalist way of life, but ProZ.com surely can't be held responsible for that. We've had a lot of outsources comment in these threads, ridiculing the lowest quotes they get, completely discounting them along with the few that are way over their budget, settling for those in the middle ground who also write well, have a great background of qualifications and/or experience, and generally create a good impression.

I once suggested to do away with the bidding system and the posting of jobs altogether, and just work with a directory of translators.

Certainly that's the route used very frequently by a lot of the better agencies, and some direct clients use it too, to good effect. But sometimes it's simply too slow or too much effort, and it gives too little idea to first-time direct clients about what is 'normal' from a translator: not only 'normal' rates, but what to expect in terms of other T&C, background, output, etc. - the whole package of a professional translator. They learn an awful lot very fast from the large number of quotes they receive, all from people claiming to be ideally suited to their needs! There was one a while back who quoted a very low budget but I submitted a (much higher) quote anyway as it sounded so interesting. They sent me an immediate rejection, then reposted some while later without a budget. Although I didn't respond to that, they emailed me a couple of weeks later to accept my initial quote. They'd learnt the hard way that the lowest rates are too good to be true.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:29
English to Croatian
+ ...
@Sheila Sep 6

Are ProZ membership fee and Trados license cheaper in the French part of Africa?

There are certain costs and investments in this business that prevent anyone from quoting under a certain rate, regardless of their location.

And yes, that's the whole point of the bidding system - to go lower and lower with rates, not to stop lowering the rates.

[Edited at 2017-09-06 11:00 GMT]


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