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Is subcontracting comparable to "bottom-feeding"?
Thread poster: Mirko Mainardi

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Illegal? Jun 13, 2017

Tom in London wrote:

Subcontracting is illegal unless it is specifically agreed in advance.



Source?

I would agree it's wrong to subcontract if you've led the customer to believe that you'll do the work yourself, but I don't think it's in any way illegal.

Unless you specifically agree otherwise, how you perform a contract is your affair.


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:28
Member
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
Different situation Jun 13, 2017

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:

For me as a freelancer, the fact that someone sells my services to an end client is a value in itself. Without that, I could not do this job. I'm a lousy salesman myself. I am happy to spend my hours doing the actual translation work and never touching a phone, networking or the like.

Therefore, my strategy is simple. I stick to my word rate no matter what. But if the agency manages to sell my work for 50% more - good for them. I don't care if they make a ton of money of my work as long as I'm happy with my rates and workload as well. I deliver quality work and receive quality rates, and the rest is up to the agency. I have the greatest respect for good salespeople and don't begrudge them one bit if they manage to become rich in the process.


I see what you mean, and I can relate to an extent, but what you describe is actually different from what I was referring to, mainly because in the scenario I was discussing, "someone" sells your services to another someone who then resells them to an end client.

More in general, sure, we could all just say "I am totally fine with anything as long as I have work and get what I am asking", which is a bit like the NIMBY stance. However, I believe that thinking that whatever happens outside our backyards doesn't concern nor affect us is somewhat short-sighted and missing the bigger picture.


 

Maija Cirule  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 08:28
German to English
+ ...
No, it is NOT your affair, Jun 13, 2017

Chris S wrote:

Tom in London wrote:

Subcontracting is illegal unless it is specifically agreed in advance.



Source?

I would agree it's wrong to subcontract if you've led the customer to believe that you'll do the work yourself, but I don't think it's in any way illegal.

Unless you specifically agree otherwise, how you perform a contract is your affair.


especially if you have signed a NDA. It is a breach of contract, i.e., failing to perform any term of a contract, written or oral, without a legitimate legal excuse. I believed that this is common knowledge but if you need a source: http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=93


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Sucking eggs Jun 13, 2017

Maija Cirule wrote:

especially if you have signed a NDA. It is a breach of contract, i.e., failing to perform any term of a contract, written or oral, without a legitimate legal excuse. I believed that this is common knowledge but if you need a source: http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=93


I think maybe the Latvian censors have cut the first half of my sentence?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
One set of circumstances where it's illegal: Jun 13, 2017

Maija Cirule wrote:
especially if you have signed a NDA. It is a breach of contract, i.e., failing to perform any term of a contract, written or oral, without a legitimate legal excuse.

But only if that NDA specifies you cannot subcontract, or that none of their data can be shared even with a contracted individual. In the absence of an NDA or any oth
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Maija Cirule wrote:
especially if you have signed a NDA. It is a breach of contract, i.e., failing to perform any term of a contract, written or oral, without a legitimate legal excuse.

But only if that NDA specifies you cannot subcontract, or that none of their data can be shared even with a contracted individual. In the absence of an NDA or any other agreement, you're entitled to make use of whatever means you like to carry out your side of the deal. At least in the European countries I know.

Of course, it isn't regarded as good practice to subcontract without consulting your client and asking for their agreement. But IMO, there are far worse effects than the possibility of being sued. I can imagine that the job becomes more and more an administrative one, and therefore less and less rewarding in anything other than financial terms.
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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:28
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
About the legality of outsourcing without notice Jun 13, 2017

Maija Cirule wrote:
Chris S wrote:
Tom in London wrote:
Subcontracting is illegal unless it is specifically agreed in advance.

Unless you specifically agree otherwise, how you perform a contract is your affair.

No, it is NOT your affair ... It is a breach of contract, i.e. failing to perform any term of a contract, written or oral, without a legitimate legal excuse. I believed that this is common knowledge but if you need a source: http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=93


The source you reference simply defines "breach of contract". Your source does not say anything about the legality of subcontracting.

One odd thing I've recently noticed with small, intermezzo agencies is that even though they communicate with me as if I'm a person, they actually assume that I subcontract and that I have contacts to whom I can subcontract. When for example they ask me to perform TEP, or when they ask me to "inform my resources" or make sure that my "resources" are aware of something, they are surprised when I tell them that I'm just one person, doing the work myself.

As to whether it is legal or illegal to outsource translation work without notice to the client (or without his agreement), I think it depends on the country you're in.

In my current country of residence, all full-time freelance translators are legally required to register as "companies", and they are all independent contractors, which means that they have the freedom to hire an extra person to do some or all of the work, if the client did not specifically request that the work be done by a specifically named person. So, where I live, unless the client specifically requests that I do not outsource, it is perfectly legal for me to outsource. In some cases, it may even be legal for translators to "pass on the work to someone else" even if the client requested otherwise, if e.g. their business has a co-owner who is also a translator, or if they have a bona fide employee who is a translator.

After all, even though I may have been personally communicating with a project manager and the project manager may have been personally communicating with me, the agreement is not between me and the project manager, but between my company and the company that the project manager works for. An agreement is between the agency and "{Your Name}" (the company) and not between the agency and "{Your Name}" (the person who does the translation).



[Edited at 2017-06-13 14:21 GMT]


 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 07:28
Member (2016)
English to German
Back yards and big pictures Jun 13, 2017

Mirko Mainardi wrote:

I see what you mean, and I can relate to an extent, but what you describe is actually different from what I was referring to, mainly because in the scenario I was discussing, "someone" sells your services to another someone who then resells them to an end client.

More in general, sure, we could all just say "I am totally fine with anything as long as I have work and get what I am asking", which is a bit like the NIMBY stance. However, I believe that thinking that whatever happens outside our backyards doesn't concern nor affect us is somewhat short-sighted and missing the bigger picture.


My remark aimed at the "added value" argument and at the problem some people seem to have with the fact that others make money with their work. Of course there are a lot of valid arguments, named in this thread, against re-reselling, but this problem does not really occur when the translator who does the actual work sticks to a certain rate. If the translator gets paid a reasonable word price, re-reselling will normally not work because the end price will then not be accepted by the end customer.

If you see a NIMBY stance in my posting, I might have expressed myself wrongly. Of course there is much more to a cooperation between translator, agency and client than just buying and selling translated words. Such a relation improves over time and relies on lasting trust between the parties involved, and a long-standing relation between a client and a translator, with an agency as go-between or not, makes life for the translator easier and improves the quality of the results. All that will never be achieved when jobs are traded at random over several layers of resellers.

I just wanted to express that I actually appreciate the work of an agency, even if this agency does not "add value" to the translation itself. The agency handles the client relation, it sells my work and if it's a good agency, it streamlines the processes so that the translator can concentrate on translating and can forget about red tape. And in that sense, I can concentrate on my own back yard and let others concentrate on the big picture, right.


 

Maija Cirule  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 08:28
German to English
+ ...
Maybe your assumption Jun 13, 2017

Chris S wrote:

Maija Cirule wrote:

especially if you have signed a NDA. It is a breach of contract, i.e., failing to perform any term of a contract, written or oral, without a legitimate legal excuse. I believed that this is common knowledge but if you need a source: http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=93


I think maybe the Latvian censors have cut the first half of my sentence?


that the brightest minds of Albion reside in the city of Worcester is not quite correct?


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
??? Jun 13, 2017

Maija Cirule wrote:

that the brightest minds of Albion reside in the city of Worcester is not quite correct?


Sorry, you've lost me there...


 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:28
French to German
+ ...
It's your choice Jun 13, 2017

Is it ethical? I don't know, but it's your choice to accept such offers or not.

I do have 95 % of direct customers. So it's not my choice.


 

DZiW (X)
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
The Worth: Work Down vs Cash Up Jun 13, 2017

FIRST, local and international subcontractors/outsourcers may be in ALL levels and parties–clients, agencies, and executives (translators), not to mention collaterals, who also may act jointly or individually on behalf of both real and virtual intermediaries.

SECOND, they may not only deduct their share, but also charge extra–often with different or auxiliary terms.

THIRD, the lack of transparency and law enforcement comes into play.


Ideally, the
... See more
FIRST, local and international subcontractors/outsourcers may be in ALL levels and parties–clients, agencies, and executives (translators), not to mention collaterals, who also may act jointly or individually on behalf of both real and virtual intermediaries.

SECOND, they may not only deduct their share, but also charge extra–often with different or auxiliary terms.

THIRD, the lack of transparency and law enforcement comes into play.


Ideally, there’re real clients, [supportive agencies, if required] and decent translators engaged in fair business relations and practices.

In one of worst case scenarios it makes but a useless bloating “endless” chain of links and fragments, who (think they) know one entity up and down, puffing their cheeks and swelling with importance in search of someone in need or silly enough to accept a substandard contract with additional subcontract liabilities–or pass it on too.
What’s wrong with earning a little, right? Just mind the real cashflow and its impact.

They may think to be the first and the only; however, the problem is most of middlemen are neither needed, nor COMPETENT (a-la drop-shippers). Furthermore, instead of setting some positive trends and competitive prices they just make big rosy loud bubbles to add to dumping and inflation.

Nowadays it’s possible to find something out via searching, just knowing where to look, but in the real biz they rarely pay for mere knowing something, rather for applying the knowledge–doing something useful [properly].

IMO from the added-value perspective.
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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:28
Member
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
Uhm... Jun 13, 2017

Andrea Halbritter wrote:

Is it ethical? I don't know, but it's your choice to accept such offers or not.

I do have 95 % of direct customers. So it's not my choice.


OK... but it's a bit like replying you don't know and you don't care, since you don't smoke, if someone asks you what you think about passive smoking...


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:28
Member
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
Subcontracting Jun 13, 2017

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:

My remark aimed at the "added value" argument and at the problem some people seem to have with the fact that others make money with their work. Of course there are a lot of valid arguments, named in this thread, against re-reselling, but this problem does not really occur when the translator who does the actual work sticks to a certain rate. If the translator gets paid a reasonable word price, re-reselling will normally not work because the end price will then not be accepted by the end customer.

...

I just wanted to express that I actually appreciate the work of an agency, even if this agency does not "add value" to the translation itself. The agency handles the client relation, it sells my work and if it's a good agency, it streamlines the processes so that the translator can concentrate on translating and can forget about red tape. And in that sense, I can concentrate on my own back yard and let others concentrate on the big picture, right.


Yeah, I get it, and, as I said, I agree with you on some points. For instance, if a client needs X translators and Y reviewers for a big project, but they don't have the internal resources to handle it (and/or have no idea how to go about it), then of course, an agency that offers expertise and handles selection, splitting, files preparation, queries, HO/HB, etc. etc. does add value for both client and translators, but that's not what this thread is about.

Now imagine that, in the above example, that agency hires 6 translators, but one of them actually subcontracts that work to 5 other translators, offering them half the rate she's being paid by the agency. Now there's what this thread is about. It doesn't matter if we stick to our rates, as you wrote (and I agree), only work for direct clients or whatever, because that guy is always going to find someone willing to work at lower rates, and in so doing she's creating an additional downward pressure on rates (as if agencies alone weren't enough), which might affect us all in the long run (the "bigger picture"). That is why I mentioned a NIMBY-like stance. No offense meant, of course.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:28
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Post reply Jun 14, 2017

Chris S wrote:
Maija Cirule wrote:
that the brightest minds of Albion reside in the city of Worcester is not quite correct?

Sorry, you've lost me there...


Maija is one of those people who write the first part of her first sentence in the "title" field, and then the rest of the first sentence in the body of the post. Hence the posts that look like they've had something chopped off at the start. You have to look at the bigger picture, Chris. Widen your horizons. Look outside the box.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:28
German to English
Idiocy contributes to "bottom-feeding" Jun 14, 2017

Mirko Mainardi wrote:

Now imagine that, in the above example, that agency hires 6 translators, but one of them actually subcontracts that work to 5 other translators, offering them half the rate she's being paid by the agency. Now there's what this thread is about. It doesn't matter if we stick to our rates, as you wrote (and I agree), only work for direct clients or whatever, because that guy is always going to find someone willing to work at lower rates, and in so doing she's creating an additional downward pressure on rates (as if agencies alone weren't enough), which might affect us all in the long run (the "bigger picture"). That is why I mentioned a NIMBY-like stance. No offense meant, of course.


I don't think subcontracting in general is comparable to "bottom-feeding". What you are talking about is not just subcontracting, it is subcontracting plus stupidity. Freelancers assuming that they are going to be able to consistently find comparably reliable and skilled translators working at the same level in the translation food chain for half or two thirds of their rates are morons. If they want to move up the food chain, they have to find a way to be paid rates that would allow them to profitably hire their former selves.

So, I agree with you regarding the case you've described and I even agree that things probably really do often work like that. However, you are not complaining about outsourcing as such, you are complaining about deceptive business practices and entrepreneurial incompetence.


 
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