Discounts for clients when working with translation productivity tools?
Thread poster: Jeff Allen

Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:52
Member (2011)
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
Jan 29, 2005

The following two comments were considered off-topic for the discussion on a thread about using Dragon Naturally Speaking as a translation productivity tool.
I'm posting these in a new thread because I think that this is a very important topic of discussion.

http://www.proz.com/post/199784#199784
Williamson wrote:
Don't forget to offer a discount for the use of Dragon, like most of us do for the use of trados.


http://www.proz.com/post/199891#199891
Williamson wrote:
Well, according to the good old translator's tradition aren't we supposed to give discounts for tools which enhance or productivity. 99 per cent of us do give rebates for Trados. Not for Déjà Vu and other tools.


I'm not aware of any such good old translator's tradition.

The shift from telephone to fax to email to internet phone never meant discounts, but reduced costs for either or both parties.
Did transators give discounts to customers when they went from paper/pen to manual typewriter, and then to electronic typewriter and then to computers, and then computers with spellcheckers and grammar checkers, and then to faster processing computers? If so, then all translators should be offering discounts to all clients.
The contract with a client is usually based on a time deadline, a location to receive the delivery, and an expected level of translation quality for the deliverable.
How you conduct the translation is your own business. If you write everything out by hand all day and night and give it to a typist to type and format, then that is one choice. If you use a dictation machine and then hire transcriptionists to put into electronic format, that is another type of choice. If you build your own glossaries and create dynamic macros to semi-automate the search/replace tasks for you, this means you are simply improving your own business processes in order to be able to handle more incoming volume in the same amount of time, without sacrificing quality.

Translators have at their disposition a large myriad of possible translation workflow productivity tools, and I'm not referring to just the translation memory tools. There are part-of-speech taggers, terminology extraction tools, cross-information retrieval systems, macro builders, speech-enabled technologies, etc.

Let's also keep in mind why the TM-discount model even exists today. I was involved in it 10 years ago when at Caterpillar we were working with a group of internal translators and 10 external preferred vendor translation agencies. We had set up a very complex documentation workflow environment based on carefully analyzed cost-savings figures conducted several years beforehand. I arranged for special-discount priced TRADOS WB and Multiterm licenses for all the external translation vendors. Since we were migrating toward working with texts formatted in SGML and were working with rewritten text in a form of Controlled English, I held training workshops with all internal/external translators to train them on all principles. Also conducted very indepth ongoing translation vendor mentoring sessions because of technical issues that came up on a daily basis.
Discussions did take place with some translation vendors about repricing because of the heavy learning curve and more work in dealing with SGML formatted text into information objects. And the controlled English writing style took time to adapt to. But that was the opposite of discounting.
The cases of discounting came into play from the fact that we at the customer site were managing all the texts. so we only handed out the texts that needed to be translated or partially translated. Some pricing recosting took place to deal with issues of re-editing already edited work, etc.
Over the years, there has been much discussion of how to re-price the cost of texts that are "pre-processed / pre-translated" in one way or another. Yet such discounts only came from a basis on high volume and obvious repetition. If translators had good reasons to refuse, I listened.

The requirement in a job offer that it is necessary to use tool A, B, or C is also not a requirement. The requirement is for the translator to be able to take file(set) 1toX, open them up, translate them and return them in the same original format. And usually to be able to use existing files in a given TM or terminology tool format, to get the translation done, and in some cases if specified, to provide the parallel text in an updated TM. How you do that is again your own problem. If you have an expert level in database file management, you might be able to do a lot without even touching the interface of the tool it was exported by. But in the end, all the client wants to be able to do is import the file(s) into the system they exported from, and not have problems, which can be the case if you used a similar, but different tool.

There is no hard-and-fast rule that requires any translator to provide a discount because they use tool A, tool B, process C, or process D. It is always possible to refuse, and there are many ways of doing that with well-established evidence.

Offering a discount requires knowing the base value of the translation, and knowing the different types of discounts to offer, in what conditions they can apply, and in some cases special exceptions can be made. It's a pure sales thing. In my own work in developing price quotations for large telecom software enterprise systems, there can be dozens of factors that come into play to determine a final discounted price. But they are all pre-detemined and documented in spreadsheets. When a new type of discount request is considered, I just add it to the master file.

If a translation customer were to tell me that I must offer a big discount for using Trados WB, I would see that as simply a request for a lower baseline translation cost, and accept or reject it based on all other factors involved.

I only make special discounted bids when I know that my implementation using a well-planned productivity-enhanced methodology can beat all other bids based on time delivery and I can offer at a lower price because the productivity gains are very high to make it interesting.
Otherwise it moves from the position of profit-making to cost-recovery and isn't worth maintaining.

Those are my thoughts on productivity tool discounts.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/



[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-01-30 14:05]

[Edited at 2005-03-03 22:54]

[Edited at 2005-08-28 20:57]


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Deborah Shannon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:52
Member (2002)
German to English
No hard and fast rule - because most jobs are one-offs Jan 30, 2005

Hi Jeff,

If I'm not mistaken a lot of what you say comes from a project manager's point of view, whereas I'm responding from an independent freelancer's perspective. That said, I agree with your main point about discounts:

Jeff Allen:
There is no hard-and-fast rule that requires any translator to provide a discount because they use tool A, tool B, process C, or process D. It is always possible to refuse, and there are many ways of doing that with well-established evidence.


Or based on experience built up by trial and error... thanks for mentioning your database of the different special requests/arrangements/discounts you've come across - sounds like a useful idea, I might do that in future. It's never easy to cost non-standard work and, over time, I can see how that might help. I try to base my estimates on how much time a job is going to take (including recovery time after a rush job), and I get very annoyed with myself when I find I've underestimated it!

So far (in 5 years) I can't say I've ever been "required" to offer a discount. If a job is highly repetitive, I price it to include a discount on the translation element, but then charge my full proofreading rate for the repetitions so that I can guarantee the finished quality. Nothing worse than errors propagated throughout a text by working a little too fast with a CAT tool...

If I could wander briefly off the main topic, I want to pick up on this point:

Jeff Allen:
But in the end, all the client wants to be able to do is import the file(s) into the system they exported from, and not have problems, which can be the case if you used a similar, but different tool.


It can be the case, but is it realistic in today's market? Do many agencies trust the average freelancer to use a "similar but different" tool without problems? If they do now, it's not the way I see things going. I'm sure we're all aware that some agencies already insist on translators using proprietary tools, and make it a precondition for assigning jobs (presumably to streamline processes and reduce risks at their end).

As organisations start to go over to networked, centralised translation memory environments (so that they can keep total control of their terminology resources), the average freelancer's "freedom" to choose tools, set rates and refuse to give discounts is likely to diminish, wouldn't you agree?


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:52
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lists of discount types Jan 30, 2005

Deborah Shannon wrote:
Hi Jeff,
If I'm not mistaken a lot of what you say comes from a project manager's point of view, whereas I'm responding from an independent freelancer's perspective. That said, I agree with your main point about discounts:



Thanks for your comments Deborah.
I'd even say my comments above come more from a business development/product line/account manager point of view, which I've spent the past 4 years doing more or less for Business Intelligence reporting software.

Jeff Allen:
There is no hard-and-fast rule that requires any translator to provide a discount because they use tool A, tool B, process C, or process D. It is always possible to refuse, and there are many ways of doing that with well-established evidence.


Deborah Shannon wrote:
thanks for mentioning your database of the different special requests/arrangements/discounts you've come across - sounds like a useful idea, I might do that in future. It's never easy to cost non-standard work and, over time, I can see how that might help. I try to base my estimates on how much time a job is going to take (including recovery time after a rush job), and I get very annoyed with myself when I find I've underestimated it!


I deal with a lot of different types of corporate discounts, ranging from channel vendor accounts to direct customers. So I need to keep all of this easy to access and to train business development/sales people on.

For some concrete translation statistics to use as a baseline, see my article:

ALLEN, Jeffrey. March 2004. Translation speed versus content management. In special supplement of Multilingual Computing and Technology magazine, Number 62, March 2004.
available in first section at: http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/surveys.htm

Deborah Shannon wrote:
So far (in 5 years) I can't say I've ever been "required" to offer a discount.


I was simply responding to a point in a previous thread by someone else who said the job ad indicated need to know TRADOS and implied a discount because of this.


Deborah Shannon wrote:
If a job is highly repetitive, I price it to include a discount on the translation element, but then charge my full proofreading rate for the repetitions so that I can guarantee the finished quality. Nothing worse than errors propagated throughout a text by working a little too fast with a CAT tool...


This is very possible way to deal with juggling the cost and quality factors. In the language industry, there are less people than you can imagine who follow your precautions and words of advice.


Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


[Edited at 2005-01-30 22:20]


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:52
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freedom or not of using different CAT tools Jan 30, 2005

Deborah Shannon wrote:
If I could wander briefly off the main topic, I want to pick up on this point:

Jeff Allen:
But in the end, all the client wants to be able to do is import the file(s) into the system they exported from, and not have problems, which can be the case if you used a similar, but different tool.


It can be the case, but is it realistic in today's market? Do many agencies trust the average freelancer to use a "similar but different" tool without problems? If they do now, it's not the way I see things going. I'm sure we're all aware that some agencies already insist on translators using proprietary tools, and make it a precondition for assigning jobs (presumably to streamline processes and reduce risks at their end).

As organisations start to go over to networked, centralised translation memory environments (so that they can keep total control of their terminology resources), the average freelancer's "freedom" to choose tools, set rates and refuse to give discounts is likely to diminish, wouldn't you agree?


Definitely not an off-topic point, so I've renamed the title here to reflect your comment.

What I was trying to point out above is exactly what you are revealing in your statement. From a technical point of view, the need is simple.
Yet it gets complex because of several other factors:
1. TMX-interoperability between all the TM tools is not sufficient:
See following link:
TMX compliancy and certification
http://www.proz.com/post/187863#187863
and the rest of the thread.

2. movement toward client/server centralized environments
which create a lot of various constraints regarding local and remote access and workgroup functioning.

3. a tendency by many agencies to focus on a workflow process with a single proprietary tool.

This is why I prefer to work with multi-tool environments that allow to focus on the strong points of various tools. This comes from having worked on Multi-Engine systems in the past for industrial, corporate and governement funded tools.

These points and others as well can certainly affect the pricing model.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/

[Edited at 2005-01-31 21:58]


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:52
German to English
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Proprietary formats Jan 31, 2005

Deborah,

It can be the case, but is it realistic in today's market? Do many agencies trust the average freelancer to use a "similar but different" tool without problems? If they do now, it's not the way I see things going. I'm sure we're all aware that some agencies already insist on translators using proprietary tools


I would say that this observation is correct, but you have to remember that many agencies lack anything but the most rudimentary in-house IT expertise. I recently encountered an agency that had never heard of the TMX standard, for instance. Hence the confusion of software products with file types.

The broader picture is very different. The general trend in business and industry is quite clearly away from closed proprietary formats and towards open, documented and standard file formats. The current craze for XML is a manifestation of this. I am confident that it will not be long before governments, particularly in the EU, begin insisting on open file formats for public use. When that happens, the business community will follow suit, the intransigent software vendors will be forced to comply or go bust, and it will be the final nail in the coffin for proprietary standards like Microsoft's.

Marc


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Deborah Shannon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:52
Member (2002)
German to English
What about the discounts issue? Jan 31, 2005

MarcPrior wrote:

I would say that this observation is correct, but you have to remember that many agencies lack anything but the most rudimentary in-house IT expertise. I recently encountered an agency that had never heard of the TMX standard, for instance. Hence the confusion of software products with file types.


Right, and isn't that precisely what makes them a captive market for one or other of the big CAT tool suppliers?

Anyway, what do you say if clients request an OmegaT discount?


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pep
Local time: 17:52
English to Spanish
It depends Jan 31, 2005

Jeff Allen:
But in the end, all the client wants to be able to do is import the file(s) into the system they exported from, and not have problems, which can be the case if you used a similar, but different tool.


I think that this statement depends greatly on the relationship and the role.

If I am in the buying side and I don't really care about the process downstream (either because I trust it blindly or because I don't have the time to think on the details about how it should be done), I'd just define the interface but not the tools as you suggest and let the vendor do what it is more convenient to them. Pretty much a "what is good to you is good to us" proposition.

If I am in the buying side and the process downstream matters to me, either to try to enforce a certain performance/quality or to avoid time and cost risks of the interface not being observed, I think I would spend some time deciding the tool set and process and expect that the vendors follow it to the letter.

If I am on the supply side, I'd tend normally to prefer a tool-free environment to have more flexibility and opportunity.

However, also in the supply side, there is one case where I prefer to have the process and tools pre-set upstream: if there are risks that even notified, are not recognized by my client. This is a typical case when you are subcontracted by somebody who also is in the translation business, where you have to align with the cost reduction expectations with TMs or other tools, but sometimes the content or format does not allow it to be done as nicely as the word count logs report.

This latter case sort of aligns with the statement - that I subscribe - that it really is all about sales and what you can afford to offer (or not) at profit-making levels, as it is a problem created by assumptions on technology performance that you happen not to recognize, but you must think if the deal makes sense to you or not, and if not, how that may damage the relationship.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:52
English to French
+ ...
I know I am very late, but... Aug 4, 2006

...let me make a simple comment here.

I am the one who paid to acquire Trados and I spent valuable time (an hour of my time is worth $50) to learn it. I got Trados not because I wanted to please my clients - I have no intention of having my clients run MY business. I bought it and learned to use it so that I can be more efficient and so that I can monitor quality more closely. Period. The client already should be happy that I use the same software s/he uses, s/he should be happy that s/he can make the use of Trados mandatory. Then I need to give them a discount on top of this? Nooo way! It would come down to saying that the amount I discount from the regular rate for this is the price to pay for better productivity and better quality on my end. This equation adds up like this: I bought Trados - as a gift to my clients! If I start giving my hard-earned cash away to my clients as gifts, doesn't that mean I am a volunteer translator?

Just wanted to comment... Amazing how practically nobody reacted to your thread - this is a big problem and people need to do something about it!

Cheers!


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