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Thread poster: Maya Jurt

Maya Jurt  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:34
Member (2002)
French to German
+ ...
Dec 9, 2001

I have followed this discussion about rates from far. I do not know if my contribution makes any sense, but here it is:

Claudia Iglesias wrote me recently that bids on proZ are like reverse auctions: You drive prices down instead of up. I agree.

To change that, we should all agree to charge the official rates of the clients country. In most countries, there are official rates, I believe. I could give you the Swiss rates, they hit the ceiling.

I do not see why an agency should pay a qualified translator three times less just because he/she is living in an economically feeble country. They may ask for a 10-20 % discount because the person may not be familiar with the mentality of that country, but not more.

This would mean real competition; top translators from Chile or India getting rich instead of agencies selling their work for local rates, using slaves to boost their business.

proZ could gather information on country rates and publish it.

Anyone who joins or is already a member agrees to stick to the rates of the clients country, not to bid below 10 or 20 percent.

Mentioning rates of US$ 0.02 on your profile

(a native English speaker from Chile) should be discouraged.

We won\'t be able to enforce such rules, but it might be a beginning to stop this fierce comptetition which hurts anyone: those who get the job and those who do not.

Suggestions welcome!

Best regards



Telesforo Fernandez (X)
Local time: 20:04
English to Spanish
+ ...
this is precisely being done Dec 9, 2001

The translator is beaten on all fronts. One can take shelter under globaliation , Internet, MT etc. etc.

The job posters probably cannot be antagonized and as for translators they are dime a dozen.


Charlotte Blank  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:34
Czech to German
+ ...
Agree! Dec 9, 2001

I fully agree with your letter! As a German native speaker who happens to live in the Czech Republic where rates are quite low compared with the \"western\" part of the world I often ask myself why I should work for less than if I\'d live on the German side of the border. There are quite a lot of western clients who seem to like Czech agencies just because of their low rates.

It would be a really good thing if proZ.com could do something for changing this by, as you mentioned, publishing lists about rates in different countries. But translators must also have enough courage to carry out this change, otherwise it will continue as it is!




Carole Muller
Local time: 15:34
English to French
+ ...
How to upset and control market mechanism Dec 10, 2001

Dear All,

I\'ve followed the debate on rates for a long time and I agree with many, Maya, Werner, Telesforo, I even see ways to find a solution regardless of whether the outlook is to be optimistic or pessimistic.

I even wrote a long posting with solutions (I\'m an economist by profession and my specialty is strategic advise.i.e. how to get your objectives carried out and control adversity that might counter your plans). BUT: it was sooooooooooo boring, I ended up not posting it.

I invite all of you who are concerned and want to do something to write to me directly, in a few weeks time I\'ll have the posting worked out as a suggestion paper and I promiss you won\'t fall asleep reading it. I\'ll then mail it to those who showed interest.

I\'m new to proz but \"old\" in the profession, 15 years. Here are the bright news: I can get high rates from clients and they are never discussed. Exactly how I don\'t feel like writing here, because it is in the same time throwing dirt on techniques used by others.

The \"challenge\"or less bright side: more and more I see my high rate clients (the ones you want to keep) turning to agencies, who charge no less, because agencies can finish the job faster by setting a team to do it. Honestly I\'ve seen the work done, it\'s not impressive, my suspicion is the one doing the final editing is not gifted and the teams probably don\'t know each other, surely it\'s not in the interest of the agency to have them \"meet\" and set up shop together.

But the bottom line is (why we care and how we can use this to find a solution): the client is happy, and even more important the client feels really safe. Many of my clients send documents they need for publication prior to a conference. It\'s not convincing them if I can tel them -and actually document- that all translations in 15 years were delivered before deadline. I had one client last year for a 2 month project calling me or mailing me EVERY DAY, how far have you come (but mind you, they did NOT want me to mail chapter or page after page, they insisted they don\'t want to be \"bothered\" underway and only wanted to receive the end product)etc,, even though we had agreed they would get it at date XX (their choice) and they were in due time for their conference and pubishing much later.They fear a calamity is going to happen to THEIR translation. Somehow, they feel an agency can better hold calamities away from happening. We know differently, don\'t we?

The fact is... I got inspired by all your writings and I made som business intelligence (can\'t escape my profession, it was too much of a challenge, I knew exactly what I had to check, pricing). Dare I say /write that agencies give the translator \"a cut\" and keep the most? In many countries I surveyed the \"average\" agency is charging the client X and giving the translator 50 % (the decent agencies) and in the same countries the \"aggressive, challenging agency\" is charging the client X and giving the translator down to 15 % of X, meaning the agency keeps 5 dollars each time it gives the translator 1.

Therefore one of the reasons I joined proz was to have the opportunity to have such discussions with other translators and see what others think.

In brief, I\'d say:

1. There is no way (based on economic laws and how markets, wild or regulated work) that rules may regulate the prices. Apologies to Maya, but really there isn\'t . The problem is of human nature and it\'s in the nature of a substantial portion of people to cheat fom the rules at some point. Some do it all the time and we call them free-riders (they have a free-ride on the neat situation others arrange and deviate if there\'s something to gain whenever there is)

2. But there ARE ways(other ways than rules) to impact on prices (more later)

3. There are other ways than to try and impact on prices directly. One way is to get and cultivate direct clients (eliminate the gate-keeper). Personally this is what I am doing and I must say (I haven\'t figured out why yet) the only way it works out for me. I\'ve never got a job by bidding on proz and G.. knows since I joined, I experimented with rates, going even down to 0.06 £/word on a job for which I had quite good qualifications and out of the ordinary too relevant to the domain of the translation and references that could be checked. I think either agencies get 50 people with the same profile as I, or they want somebody with another profile or these jobs are not real jobs, they are agencies filling up their database. Because whenever I call an agency with a \"job\" (in my specialty) to see if they have somebody, they say they don\'t but that \"thanks to our really good network we will find somebody before tomorrow). What\'s the network, eh? Internet?Yahoo? Proz?

4. Web site creation was subject to the same kind of price distortions, quality/price mix problems some years ago, when Internet also gave access to web designers somewhere in Farawayistan access to provide sites for 400 USD per site while Europeans who had not seen the writing on the wall were still charging 10 times the amount.

Does it mean HTML designers were out of a job? No, but some lost a goldmine while others redefined their product.

5. There\'s a lot to do with quality among us. But the problem is you can\'t convince the client when the client belongs to this type of cients (maybe 33 %, I am making a very rough estimate, maybe 66%) who end up taking the person who can write 3 lines in a convincing manner and offer to do it for 0.02 USD/word \"Because s/he LOVES working with words\". For all you know the translator maybe is not registered as a company, maybe is and somehow forgets to pay taxes, some environments are more lenient, and least but not last, having in my 15+ years of translations interpreted in courts and prisons and many exclusive state insitutions of the like I can tell you, that you have educated people sitting in \"state hotels\" where meals not always good though)and other catering are not an issue and shelter is provided and....doing translations, surfing the net, posting adds, working, because without they\'ll go NUTS, so they would even do it for free. Not everybody is qualified to glue enveloppes or assemble cloth pegs, which is also offered (some comapnies see a way to get cheap and ahmmm monitored labour)and it\'s all of it very remarkable and legal, and when they exit into the sunshine they have been able to put some funding aside.

My point being there are lots of reasons why you can\'t regulate by rules, and why some people even offer translations for free \"because they love words\".

Personally I have decided from now on to try and work in teams, that\'s why I wrote that I invite you to go and check my profile and drop me a mail if you would be interested in doing some teamwork to provide clients with the same kind of safety as agencies know to provide. Is it safety, is it an illusion? The important thing is it\'s just what the client wants to pay for.

The proof: while rates keep tumbling down there are more and more agencies setting up shop on the Internet and offline. In certain urban area and countries I have seen ocer the years the number of agencies almost grow exponetially, and they all seem to be able to provide for: expensive offices in expensice business neighbourhoods, expensive adds many palces, telephone answering services and a substantial salesteam. They also advertise with \"coaching\" etc... whatever. I once as an economist needed som hours of introduction to a language I don\'t speak and did not intend to learn, just needed for civilities to communicate a bit. The agency X, worldwide and all of you know it said of course, no problem, I came for a long salestalk and was presened al kinds of stuff about translations etcc. I did not need, in brief, because of the company sending me abroad they thought I was some kind of VIP and future translation client (they smelled the big, fat government report and all the revisions coming up).

DO I need to say they never were able to find a person \"live\" to coach, telling me all the time, ina few days, Z, or Y will be available, and I later learned they never had had anybody.

So...if all these expensive overheads are being paid and renewed and sustained, somebody is paying for it. Behind this somebody there are clients and client funding has been willingly laid out to buy services, at a rate that for sure is not the one we see on these pages.

So...there ARE clients paying high rates. There also are many, many intermediaries.

My conclusion is, it\'s not globalisation, the Internet that created the problem, although it became exacerbated. It\'s the need for agencies to keep the gap between the client pricing rates and the translator fee per word that are the problem.

How do I know? because of my own experience working for agency Z, which I\'d rather not write about but it\'s about a student happy to get some work and an agency happy to get lucrative contracts where the client paid X and the agency paid the translator one fifth of X. Agency Z is very known, now somehow not into translations anymore, I know the student quite well (talking to her right now) and this was back in...1982, before internet and even before private PC\'s, the student is now telling me that work actually was done using a pen and paper, and mainly it\'s why I can write it has NOTHIN to do with Internet (but yes, Internet reveals it more) so hopefully, Telesforo, there\'s stuff to be done, because Internet is here for long, so if it was entirely due to Internet, I\'d go look for something else to do. The problem is that it is very lucrative to be an agency but that the barrier(financially) to being an agency with impact is huge. You can be a small agency, but they don\'t thrive that well and many have to close too. I know one, (they used to find me very good jobs and they were so decent they took only 10 %)that recently closed. Maybe they closed because they were so decent.

And if THIS is the problem, rules on the proz forum will certainly not help us, something elsemy own set of remedies/recipes might maybe, maybe...(more later) and pls. follow my invitation to join if you care to.



Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 10:34
German to English
+ ...
My 2 cents Dec 10, 2001

Professional agencies do not cause any problems for us; on the contrary, they are good clients that we appreciate as much as direct clients.

The problems start when \"agencies\" are set up willy-nilly without any regulation or oversight. As a freelance, it is often impossible to know whether ABC is reliable or not. Even though we have fantastic sources (eg, TCR), the information found there is not always helpful: bad payers change their names and relocate (and given today\'s lack of regulation - fervently espoused by so many translators and ProZ members who claim to be professionals - it is really easy for these \"baddies\" to play these dirty games).

It is fair to say that most of the agencies out there today are anything but professional: they have lousy project managers, there is no proper co-ordination of teams, etc.

Clients should wake up and realize that freelancers can do a much better job than most agencies. Even an informal network of 3 to 5 translators can do a better job.

Take an example from the medical sector: many Americans have been complaining about HMOs (\"managed care\") for years. HMOs are like translation agencies: they promise higher rates of efficieny, professionalism, etc., but the bottomline is: people just hate them; they\'d rather just go and see their family doctor (= the \"freelance\").


Anila Mayhew  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:34
English to Albanian
+ ...
Response to Werner's 2 cents Dec 10, 2001


I have been enjoying your opinion on the discussions and agree with you. However, I do want to add that although it is true that there are a lot of lousy agencies out there (I have had some bad experiences with some of them) I would say that there are also some pretty good ones out there.

There are at least three agencies with which I have been working and I have been completely impressed by their professionalism and respect they show for me as a translator. Sometimes, I think that working for a good agency as a freelancer gives me the opportunity to just focus on the translation and not have to worry about the other details of negotiating with the client.

At the same time, I do enjoy my direct clients as well.

In conclusion, I would say that whether it is an agency or a direct client if they are professional it makes all the difference.

A. Mayhew


Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:34
English to German
+ ...
Spot on, Carole... Dec 10, 2001

...I fully agree with your approach - I have yet to see an attempt to \'regulate\' a free market really work.

Regarding your research, I\'d really be interested to see your results; in fact, I\'m in the process of joining forces with a German university to do a bit of work on the economics of translations in the financial services industry. Let\'s keep in touch!


Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 10:34
German to English
+ ...
Dec 10, 2001


On 2001-12-10 04:46, Mayhew wrote:


I have been enjoying your opinion on the discussions and agree with you. However, I do want to add that although it is true that there are a lot of lousy agencies out there (I have had some bad experiences with some of them) I would say that there are also some pretty good ones out there.

There are at least three agencies with which I have been working and I have been completely impressed by their professionalism and respect they show for me as a translator. Sometimes, I think that working for a good agency as a freelancer gives me the opportunity to just focus on the translation and not have to worry about the other details of negotiating with the client.

At the same time, I do enjoy my direct clients as well.

In conclusion, I would say that whether it is an agency or a direct client if they are professional it makes all the difference.

A. Mayhew

Yes, there are some fine and professional agencies with excellent project managers, but their number is steadily shrinking icon_frown.gif


Carole Muller
Local time: 15:34
English to French
+ ...
How to control the market mechanism/Part2 Dec 10, 2001

Dear All and special greetings to Ralf,

Having worked as an economist in the business of how to control the pharmaceutical markets with different types of intervention ,rule based and others (and having been responsible for designing research and carrying it out, but more interesting here: for finding some regulation THAT WORKS and as no adverse effects)I feel -as an economist- that much of the experience I gained there can be transferred to \"our\" translation market.

First here\'s why I find rules do not always serve the purpose: STEP 1: finding who is competent to define them and who is competent to apply them? With competent I mean politically and equitably competent.

In Denmark, lovely country, you have an independent body of professional translators, made up of all those who at some point exited tuition with some kind of exam from business schools. They constitute the only body competent to award accreditation and have assermented translators. Paired with \"member of the association of\" you are sure to be regarded as a reliable pro.

Only problem: with the backup of the Ministry of Industry in Denmark, no other may. Meaning you CANNOT even if you beg sit for an exam and become qualified. You must have physically been following and attending courses, never mind the final exam and how that went.

Very efficient when you want to barr somebody with another type of insight from becoming an accredited translator, and personally the reason why I am more and more leaning towards at some point taking the flight to New York to sit for the ATA exam. Never knew before joining proz this was an option, thank you proz.

Rules can be fought, right? or disputed if they are not ideal or exemptions can be sought? Always?

No, not in the Kingdom of Denmark. Here\'s how: at some point I gathered enough material to argue against the above and apply for membership of the honourable society, even offering to pay for their unemployment and pension fund, something I don\'t need to, because as an economist I\'m a member of the Association of Lawyers and Economists of Denmark. The difference is our association welcomes members of the profession that studied abroad (the Danish translators association does not) and our association is opened to all different academic degrees in economics and law and related like political sciences etc...starting from B.A., B.Sc, then masters and PhD + other doctorates. For non-Europeans, this (European style B.A, B.Sc)is the equivalent of being admitted after at least 3 years of university studies after finishing 12 years of school.

Well, no you can\'t ask for membership and you can\'t enlist for some kind of exam either, and because you can\'t, you also can\'t apply at the Ministry of Industry for accreditation.

Second rule: (just as insidious and maybe even more effective) You have to reside in Denmark. While it makes sense to some extent(but exhibits an incredible lack of creativity, I mean then does it mean all Danish to X language translators residing outside of Denmark are incompetent and should be barred from the profession?) I find it quite discriminatory and not really, really in accordance with the EU legislation, (all of it) and the last 30 years efforts to secure \"the free movement and flows of workers, goods and capital\" actually the entire essence of the EU, now further developed into a concept where you can set up a company anywhere in the EU and live in any other EU country and trade and offer services to EU and non-EU customers.

Well, no, not in Denmark (still member of the EU when it comes to cashing in, I think Germany is the only one cashing out)and not if you got the strange idea to speak Danish and work as a translator but were born somewhere else...in my case in Paris: not good for business.

Because rule nr 3:You have to be a Danish citizen.

Now, since Denmark does not accept dual citizenship, it means you must not \"acquire\" Danish citizenship, by the way a lengthy administrative process requiring to be passed as a law in Parliamenent and signed for each individual and coming to a Police interview where they ask you what\'s the name of the reigning Queeen and stuff alike, no, YOU MUST FIRST RENOUNCE YOUR CITIZENSHIP and then ASK TO HAVE DANISH CITIZENSHIP, in practice done in the same time.

Now for personal reasons I did not fancy switiching citizenship JUST to be allowed to become accredited and without my professional skills EVER being tested. One reason was I found it really strange since I am now living in France, another set of reasons are more personal but just as valid, I just don\'t feel like writing about them.

This strategic move would make: French born, lived in France and Denmark throughout childhood, came to Denmark for family reasons as a child, stayed in school and university, worked in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, opens translation business in Denmark and moves to France, and sits in France as an ex-French holding in cramps onto a Danish passport (try and explain this when you LOOK French to your family and neighbours, sorry folks, couldn\'t work otherwise) just to be allowed to do Danish>French, english and forth and back translations.

Pure and simple: if you were born the right place and if you went to the right school (universitarians with linguistics degrees are NOT allowed in or only following some very complex exemptions and universitarians with another degree, that\'e little me, forget it) you will automatically become accredited no matter how lousy you translate.

ARGHHHHHHHH, no, not me. Thought there was another way.

This is why rules may become or be from start so distorted as to serve another purpose than quality and quality assurance. Rules may be used to protect those that NEVER would make it on a free market. It\'s all a problem of mentality of those in power to MAKE the rules at the time where the rules were instituted. Then come along afterwards and try to CHANGE things.

True to my candid nature, I somehow expected-being a convinced EU citizen- and feeling right is always by your side if you ahve a point that I (little big me this time) would make a difference.

Went to the Commission, as I figured out they might even have an interest in this, after all, as an economist all I ever hear from Brussels and Strasbourg from colleagues is how lousy the interpreters were they did not even know this and this and this and....

Well the Commission awarded me an expert lawyer with by the way not a Danish citizenship and therefore quite experienced with similar problems.

After some letter writing, the sphinx answered: you may become a member any time... as citizenship is not something we cannot disregard from and is an \"old\" sentence we did not take off our material.

.....(of course there was a continuation) and in order to become a member you can EITHER present with your studies of linguistics at university and we will give credit for most courses OR language studies from the business school. OR you can enroll for courses and automatically become a member once you finish.That\'s it back to square 1: either you take an additional 5 years learning that products in English is produkter in Danish and produits in French (etc... ,my point being you have to sit there for the first 2 or 3 years with 18-year old whodo NOT speak 1 word French and French and Danish are both my mother tongues, I though I\'d diiiiiiie in high school during the French lessons when they ahd problems making a sentence kind of \"Je voudrais un kilo de pommes\" until my very undnrstanding teacher stopped recording when I wasn\'t around and told me so, still ended with over 30 % non attendance of all courses, so BORED i was in school, just writing about it makes me sweat all over the body of pure existential angst)

Back to the sphinx. The spinx had answered: courses...not exams. Big difference. It means (I checked it of course)you have to ATTEND classes, you cannot even over years come at the end exam and sit for the end exam at the end of each tuition year.

Meaning: effective barrier as hell! Do you imagine somebody who already had a postgraduate course in conference interpreting and translation (meaning was accepted at entry test as one of 15 selected among hundreds of participants including all of the dear graduate linguists and translators from the above mentioned business schools who just by the way could not really pass the test) somebody who on top of that already had 7 years of studies at university in another highly relevant subject for translations, economics, not that easy to translate of you\'re not into it(and financed the 7 years herself too, kind of relevant for how much of your life you want to polish university benches with your end)imagine....

...only because of rules.

But don\'t worry for me, I started looking at the ATA and I know at some point when I feel ready I\'ll take the flight to New York. But is it normal, you are living in Europe, you speak European languages, you reside in a euroean country of the EU, you have your own (albeit small) company in the EU, and HELL; you have to take a flight to the other side of the ATlantic and pass an exam with the AMERICAN !!!!! association of Translators, not even the British (I mean, they\'r kind of closer and my clients are not Americans anyway)...

....because of rules

and who are the rules protecting exactly, think of it?

Now, the rules of course were amde when some wise people in due time saw an enourmous problem emerging in Denmark if too many people started working as inerpreters/translators and got to the juicy clients.

NEXT STEP was: agencies were set up in Denmark and I\'m sure elsewhere offering clients \"even better\" work than free-lance accredited translators.

Since 1980 and throughout all of my studies that lasted 7 years in two rows of studies due to work in between, I financed all of my studies working...for an agency as a....an expert translator and being sent to...large account industry groups like MAERSK, etc....when the in-house staff of translators had a project they couldn\'t figure out. As for instance when I was sent to an engineering consulting company to translate call to tender material to which they would respond they would respond with a bid, for a very large water processing plant and the bid had to include detailed descritpions of the specs for how they would address the many problems mentioned in the call to tender material.

Hourly pay: legal minimum unskilled labourer

Client pricing: factor 6. Take the above and multiply with 6.

....and still not able to enter the honourable society mentioned above becayse of rules.

But now, take economic mechanisms, ehehe, and I\'ll tell exactly what can be done to address the price cutters of the kind that are NOT delivering quality.

Nota bene: as I wrote somewhere else ont his site, in the wake of the cheap translators are the cheap clients. Those who do not for instance look for a well written text. They are not few, but they are not the majority. However, know they exist, and they thrive especially in the X language to English combinations. They are those clients who like to think they speak English better than the translator and what better way to have thin confirmed than by taking a translator who is linguistically challenged.

There\'s always be a market for them (the pair, since demand=supply). Now, I beliebe what is interesting to us are all the others...(more later and I still invite who will to send me a mail and receive more later)

Kind regards


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SDL Trados Studio 2019 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2019 has evolved to bring translators a brand new experience. Designed with user experience at its core, Studio 2019 transforms how new users get up and running, helps experienced users make the most of the powerful features.

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