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Blog post: What freelance translators want from translation companies
Thread poster: Mike Donlin

DZiW (X)
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Narrow margin Apr 23, 2019

While I still cannot get why so many clever and decent specialists don't know how to run their own business do accept strangely low rates, kinky "discounts" and other weird terms, I'm pretty sure it would be a good start to set a reasonable--more narrow--margin.

It can't last for long, when end clients are to pay middlemen some $.50/word, which ... See more
While I still cannot get why so many clever and decent specialists don't know how to run their own business do accept strangely low rates, kinky "discounts" and other weird terms, I'm pretty sure it would be a good start to set a reasonable--more narrow--margin.

It can't last for long, when end clients are to pay middlemen some $.50/word, which outsource delegate tasks, duties and responsibility to translators and have the job of the same quality done for mere $.07-/word, deducting "discounts" and thus taking some 86%--$0.43+/word for what?...

I work with my direct clients and their referrals only--on my terms--for I know my value, minding the biz)
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Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
herds of albino unicorns Apr 23, 2019

DZiW wrote:

While I still cannot get why so many clever and decent specialists don't know how to run their own business do accept strangely low rates, kinky "discounts" and other weird terms, I'm pretty sure it would be a good start to set a reasonable--more narrow--margin.

It can't last for long, when end clients are to pay middlemen some $.50/word, which outsource delegate tasks, duties and responsibility to translators and have the job of the same quality done for mere $.07-/word, deducting "discounts" and thus taking some 86%--$0.43+/word for what?...

I work with my direct clients and their referrals only--on my terms--for I know my value, minding the biz)


and you've claimed in here on the past you get 0.35 per word, so if you're minimally competent that would be 3,000 words a day (on your own terms of course), so 1000 EUR/day, working 5 days a week with 4 weeks annual holiday, = 48 x 5 x 100 = 240,000 EUR a year, so even taking off the time you spend posting on these forums about how much others should charge you must still be raking in 200,000 a year; hats off to you Sir.

[Edited at 2019-04-23 22:57 GMT]


Tom in London
Teresa Borges
 

IrinaN
United States
Local time: 23:21
English to Russian
+ ...
Crown off! Apr 23, 2019

Richard Purdom wrote:


and you've claimed in here on the past you get 0.35 per word, so if you're minimally competent that would be 3,000 words a day (on your own terms of course), so 100 EUR/day, working 5 days a week with 4 weeks annual holiday, = 48 x 5 x 100 = 240,000 EUR a year, so even taking off the time you spend posting on these forums about how much others should charge you must still be raking in 200,000 a year; hats off to you Sir.


Richard, you are way off:-) 0.35 times 3000 will amount to 1050 euros/day. It would take only 190 days to come up with lousy 200K; plenty of time for forum posts.

For economically illiterate and 86% -

https://smallbusiness.chron.com/net-profit-percentage-goals-business-23447.html

Gross Profit Margins and Net Profit Margins
Software companies had a 90 percent gross profit margin, as of 2011, according to FinanceScholar. However, the net profit margin of software companies was 27 percent in the same period. The difference between the gross profit margin of software companies and the net profit margin is attributed to the high cost of marketing and administration. This equation reveals that the operating costs and costs of goods sold in the software industry is relatively low while the cost of management is high. As of 2011, the net profit margin of Microsoft was 27.7 percent; the net profit margin of the software industry was 21.7 percent and the net profit margin of the S&P 500 was 10.6 percent, according to Business Accounting Guides.

Net Profit Percentage Goals
Your net profit percentage is the amount of money you have left after you've paid the operating expenses, materials, labor, taxes and associated fees relative to your business. Your profit margin is what feeds the growth of your business. The bigger the net profit percentage, the more stable and prosperous your business will be. Grocery stores typically have low profit margins because their cost of doing business is so high. They must compensate with increased sales to increase their net profits. Jewelry and high-end clothing, on the other hand, cost little to produce and have a high price tag, and therefore a higher profit margin, which necessitates fewer sales by comparison. Your net profit percentage goals should be a minimum of 15 to 20 percent according Hedley. Hedley suggests that your net profit percentage goal actually be well above the minimum, closer to 40 to 50 percent, to really be enduring.


DZiW (X)
 

DZiW (X)
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Catching a leprechaun out Apr 23, 2019

Hello Richard, I appreciate your concern and understand your cracking sarcasm, yet if you were a little more attentive, you could have noticed that (A) I mostly work as a freelance interpreter (B) with several direct clients only, (C) whereas my drafts/ contract/ grants/ claims/ documentation translation rate comes with that little plus near the number:
$0.25+/word
, meaning "from $0.25/word and more", which makes about $75k±20k a year GROSS.

Mostly it's about rewriting/copywriting and translation in rather specific areas, but it's still quite easy, interesting, and pretty enough for me.

Unlike numerous agencies, I met translators even at the ProZ, who--at least by their words--broke the psychological barrier of 150k+ a year NET (after taxes and costs), why?)

[Edited at 2019-04-23 20:14 GMT]


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
May I also suggest Apr 23, 2019

Mike Donlin wrote:

Recently in the Translators and Interpreters (ProZ.com) facebook group feedback was given for what criteria should entitle an agency to a ribbon.

A list was started from the discussion.

A good agency...
Pays on time, pays decent rates, makes freelancers feel part of the team, commits to revising work before sending on to clients, accepts responsibility for quality, maintains an excellent communication system with freelancers, has reasonable expectations of freelancers, issues clear and precise briefs with every job, sets realistic delivery times, sets appropriate non-compete terms, makes fair requests, makes any in-house software easy to use, never sets unpaid tests, avoids group mails to multiple translators wherever possible, distinguishes between variants, and applies human touch in its dealing with freelancers and issues clear POs for every task.

What would you add to this list?

This list is also available in the blog post here: https://go.proz.com/blog/what-freelance-translators-want-from-agency

Mike

====

Additions from forum replies

Pays within 7 days
Gives thoughtful feedback
Addresses freelancer by name
Does not send mass emails

Another point I would like to add is that agencies make it clear that client might be asked to clarify some points-handwritten or even typed abbreviations/shortened words and that we, as translators, do expect answer. Sometimes a client just does not reply even well beyond the deadline, so I think clients also have to be educated, not just agencies. I had a job today where there were two words written with just the letter in the beginning but the client never answered so the PM cannot give me a reply and it really is frustrating besides the fact that being ignored is rude. Clients have to be educated too and agencies reminded that they have to bring this to the attention of clients.


Tina Vonhof
Vera Schoen
Kay Denney
Sabrina Bruna
sam@fr-uk
 

Jocelin Meunier  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:21
English to French
Agencies shouldn't be able to do much Apr 23, 2019

Richard Purdom wrote:

I think demanding 'decent rates' a completely subjective, unworkable and even undesirable rule.
Agencies should be able to adjust rates as they see fit, and so should translators for that matter, and how exactly would who decide what are fair rates? The average rates according to the stats on this site are way out, there's no way I can get 11 cents a word for Dutch/English, and even so I earned a considerable K euros last year working 40 hours a week getting much less per word.

The main issue is companies sticking to their word. That means paying whatever they agree within the time agreed, and being fair in the event of any disputes. All the Dutch and Belgian agencies I work for are great in any case.

[Edited at 2019-04-23 14:09 GMT]


It's agencies that keep making rates decrease again and again for decades now. Be it in translation or subtitling translation, the "standard" rates proposed ("forced" would be a better phrasing) by agencies is nothing but criminal. I know it's not that simple for agencies either, but they still make far more than the translators they use. What a fair rate would be is up to debate, it can vary according to the language pair or country of residence, but fair is not something we're close to achieve for now. When every translation offer ends with "bid your best rates", you see who has leverage and don't hesitate to use it.


 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
criminal behaviour Apr 23, 2019

Jocelin M wrote:

Richard Purdom wrote:

I think demanding 'decent rates' a completely subjective, unworkable and even undesirable rule.
Agencies should be able to adjust rates as they see fit, and so should translators for that matter, and how exactly would who decide what are fair rates? The average rates according to the stats on this site are way out, there's no way I can get 11 cents a word for Dutch/English, and even so I earned a considerable K euros last year working 40 hours a week getting much less per word.

The main issue is companies sticking to their word. That means paying whatever they agree within the time agreed, and being fair in the event of any disputes. All the Dutch and Belgian agencies I work for are great in any case.

[Edited at 2019-04-23 14:09 GMT]


It's agencies that keep making rates decrease again and again for decades now. Be it in translation or subtitling translation, the "standard" rates proposed ("forced" would be a better phrasing) by agencies is nothing but criminal. I know it's not that simple for agencies either, but they still make far more than the translators they use. What a fair rate would be is up to debate, it can vary according to the language pair or country of residence, but fair is not something we're close to achieve for now. When every translation offer ends with "bid your best rates", you see who has leverage and don't hesitate to use it.


Seriously, do you know what the word criminal means? What are you basing this on? How much are agencies making? If you really think they're making so much, why don't you set one up and exploit the free market? You could undercut them and make a fortune.

In reality, you won't make a fortune, as agencies have to compete with each other, and everything balances out.

Bid you best rates: if what you do is worth anything, someone will pay for it. If it's not, get a different job.


IrinaN
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:21
Member (2018)
French to English
Tip for unanswered questions Apr 24, 2019

Josephine Cassar wrote:

Another point I would like to add is that agencies make it clear that client might be asked to clarify some points-handwritten or even typed abbreviations/shortened words and that we, as translators, do expect answer. Sometimes a client just does not reply even well beyond the deadline, so I think clients also have to be educated, not just agencies. I had a job today where there were two words written with just the letter in the beginning but the client never answered so the PM cannot give me a reply and it really is frustrating besides the fact that being ignored is rude. Clients have to be educated too and agencies reminded that they have to bring this to the attention of clients.


I quite agree Josephine, this is very frustrating. I once got a notification that a client had opened my mail containing my questions but then got no reply. OK it was Friday evening. But still no news on Monday either. She had literally seen my email, looked to see if I had delivered early (having originally asked for same week delivery and being told it was impossible) and just closed the email without even bothering to read it once she realised there was no attachment. As a result, we didn't hear back with an answer to my question until the Tuesday. It was her time she wasted, still I believe she stopped working with us after that.

However I read about a tip to get round this here a while back (I wish I could remember who said it so I could thank them and give them their due!).
It's quite simple: when asking your questions, specify what you will do if you don't hear back before the translations is due.

So for example "bâtonnets de pomme": would that be apple or potato sticks? If I don't hear back before it's time to deliver, I shall assume it's potato.
Sometimes, to make things more straightforward for the client, I'll say that if I don't hear back by delivery time I shall assume that the answer to each question is "yes". I do have to make sure to frame the questions so that the most likely answer would indeed be yes! Even easier, if I'm majorly miffed: I warn them that I'll apply the maxim "if in doubt leave it out". That usually gets them springing into action!


Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Rachel Waddington
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:21
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Subject line Apr 24, 2019

Kay Denney wrote:

...I once got a notification that a client had opened my mail containing my questions but then got no reply. OK it was Friday evening. But still no news on Monday either. She had literally seen my email, looked to see if I had delivered early (having originally asked for same week delivery and being told it was impossible) and just closed the email without even bothering to read it once she realised there was no attachment


The subject line is very important. When I have a query I always enter (in Italian)

Job Number XXXX- CLARIFICATION REQUEST

That gets their attention!

[Edited at 2019-04-24 08:10 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Jennifer Forbes
Andrew Morris
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:21
Member (2018)
French to English
My rant for this morning :-) Apr 24, 2019

OK this morning it's a direct client rather than an agency but it has happened with both.

Having messed me around since mid-March, the client gets in touch this morning to find out how I'm doing. They want to know what percentage I have managed to complete. I replied that I wouldn't be able to work that out, the time it would take would compromise my ability to make the deadline.

In plain English, that meant, get off my back, I'm a translator not an engineer. The more
... See more
OK this morning it's a direct client rather than an agency but it has happened with both.

Having messed me around since mid-March, the client gets in touch this morning to find out how I'm doing. They want to know what percentage I have managed to complete. I replied that I wouldn't be able to work that out, the time it would take would compromise my ability to make the deadline.

In plain English, that meant, get off my back, I'm a translator not an engineer. The more you get me miffed the more time it'll take.
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Robert Forstag
 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:21
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Not being called a ... Apr 24, 2019

"resource", i.e.:

"Thank you for letting me know you are unavailable, I´ll look for another resource then..."


Arabic & More
Kay Denney
Mike Donlin
 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:21
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Not being disclosed ... Apr 24, 2019

... towards the reviewer / proofreader (my name in fully or partially). There are too many (German) "resources" out there who would like to see you fail:

https://www.proz.com/forum/proofreading_editing_reviewing/331310-translator_proofreader_relationship_is_anonymity_the_indu
... See more
... towards the reviewer / proofreader (my name in fully or partially). There are too many (German) "resources" out there who would like to see you fail:

https://www.proz.com/forum/proofreading_editing_reviewing/331310-translator_proofreader_relationship_is_anonymity_the_industry_standard-page2.html#2769136
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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:21
Member
English to French
Chocolates at Christmas Apr 24, 2019

Agencies sending fine chocolates to their preferred translators usually meet criteria above and more.
Even merchandise items from brands you're "assigned" to are a delicate attention.

The cake, together with the icing.

Philippe


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
In my case Apr 24, 2019

Tom in London wrote:

Kay Denney wrote:

...I once got a notification that a client had opened my mail containing my questions but then got no reply. OK it was Friday evening. But still no news on Monday either. She had literally seen my email, looked to see if I had delivered early (having originally asked for same week delivery and being told it was impossible) and just closed the email without even bothering to read it once she realised there was no attachment


The subject line is very important. When I have a query I always enter (in Italian)

Job Number XXXX- CLARIFICATION REQUEST

That gets their attention!

[Edited at 2019-04-24 08:10 GMT]

In my case, the PM had not only collaborated but had even made some suggestions, pointing out these were her suggestions, not the client's but how could I choose between 2/3 viable ones? So we agreed to wait (patiently) till the next day when we would not wait any longer. In this case, as in many other cases, the client never answered! I think PMs have to point out that problems to which they/we need do answers-clarifications about meaning, words that might have been abbreviated and only they know what they are, etc. might arise and that we do expect some sort of answer to do a good job or to conclude the job. I assume this is not a question about payment terms, deadlines, rate, source format, etc. only here.
Another thing I do not like is that agencies sometimes translate the source text themselves using some google translate etc and then offer the same text for Editing/proofreading and what do we find? That they have translated it word for word, each single word on its own so source text ends up with something that becomes totally un-editable and we have to start all over. And to think agencies imagine they are saving like that, of course, not all agencies though, may I clarify!

[Edited at 2019-04-24 12:14 GMT]


 

Andrew Morris
Local time: 06:21
ProZ.com team
Adversaries or colleagues Apr 24, 2019

Freelance hat on, the wearing of which entitles, nay obliges, me to challenge preconceived notions.

****

I do not doubt that we can get into some fine old twists with clients at times. And of course, some clients are inflexible, inefficient, or downright obstreperous.

But I do wonder sometimes whether it all starts with our approach. Not referring to anyone in particular here (covering my back rapidly), but to an attitude that seems to me to prevail within
... See more
Freelance hat on, the wearing of which entitles, nay obliges, me to challenge preconceived notions.

****

I do not doubt that we can get into some fine old twists with clients at times. And of course, some clients are inflexible, inefficient, or downright obstreperous.

But I do wonder sometimes whether it all starts with our approach. Not referring to anyone in particular here (covering my back rapidly), but to an attitude that seems to me to prevail within our industry, which says that we are wordsmiths and artists, and our clients should consider themselves damn lucky to have us.

That gives rise to an adversarial stance from the outset.

I see myself as a service provider. If I want more clients (and I do), then I have to learn the ways of the market. Flexibility, going the extra mile, finding ways to help.

We think this job is about words, but our clients are more often concerned with outcomes, with value added, and with interpersonal skills...

And it applies almost as much to agencies as to direct clients, in my experience.
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