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

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:29
Member (2018)
French to English
yes but... Apr 24

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]


That is what I usually did already! Some clients don't bother to read...


 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:29
Dutch to English
+ ...
? Apr 24

Kay Denney wrote:

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.


If you use a CAT, you can see what percentage you've completed. You don't need to be an engineer.

If you get 'miffed' with such a simple request, which is only the agency making sure everything's OK, no wonder they don't bother answering your e-mails.


 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 19:29
Member (2016)
English to German
And vice versa Apr 24

Back to the original topic: While we are making up a list what freelancers want from translation companies, I would indeed also be interested to hear what translation companies (and their PMs) want from freelance translators. It occurs to me that Proz should also be a place where agencies and PMs can speak out what they think, but it seems you don't meet many of them here in the forums. Do they have their own forum somewhere?

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Andrew Morris
Mike Donlin
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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
I beg to differ Apr 24

Andrew Morris wrote:
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.

I am, and they are.

I have to learn the ways of the market. Flexibility, going the extra mile, finding ways to help.

But all they want is a good translation on time.

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

It is. All they want is a good translation on time.

I know you're trying to forge a sideline as a soft skills guru for translators, Andrew, but at the end of the day those skills are only really needed by translators who can't give customers what they want. Which is a good translation. The rest of us are too busy with repeat work to worry about all that fluff.


IrinaN
The Misha
Jean Dimitriadis
Jennifer White
Robert Forstag
IT>EN Legal
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:29
Member (2018)
French to English
percentages Apr 24

Richard Purdom wrote:

Kay Denney wrote:

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.


If you use a CAT, you can see what percentage you've completed. You don't need to be an engineer.

If you get 'miffed' with such a simple request, which is only the agency making sure everything's OK, no wonder they don't bother answering your e-mails.


Obviously, I was not using a CAT. For most of what I do CATs are pretty useless. And even when I do use one, the percentage it deems complete is very far below the actual figure, since I usually only validate segments at the last minute during my final checking stage, so that wouldn't reassure the client in the slightest.
I was miffed because, as I mentioned briefly, this comes after weeks of messing me around, telling me its arrival is imminent on several occasions, expecting me to translate 2,000 words in under an hour just before the Easter break, then extending the deadline so very generously to 11.00 pm Easter Monday, oh except no, the boss hasn't signed off on it yet, then telling me I have till Friday so I can do it comfortably, then actually no Thursday would be better, then no actually we need it on Wednesday. So I'm doing it in a day rather than in a week, I've had to reshuffle my entire schedule for today and get up earlier than usual, so no I don't have time to work out a percentage, I don't have the room in my brain to try to imagine a plausible, reassuring percentage. Despite being miffed, I simply sent a very polite message to say that I was working hard on it and it would be delivered before 5pm. And since I've made good headway now that she's left me alone, I'll probably have finished it by 3 and then I'm off to the pool.

Oh, and these are not the clients that don't answer my emails with questions, I do have more than one.

[Edited at 2019-04-24 12:37 GMT]


 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:29
Dutch to English
+ ...
Okay Kay Apr 24

Kay Denney wrote:

I was miffed because, as I mentioned briefly, this comes after weeks of messing me around, telling me its arrival is imminent on several occasions, expecting me to translate 2,000 words in under an hour just before the Easter break, then extending the deadline so very generously to 11.00 pm Easter Monday, oh except no, the boss hasn't signed off on it yet, then telling me I have till Friday so I can do it comfortably, then actually no Thursday would be better, then no actually we need it on Wednesday. So I'm doing it in a day rather than in a week, I've had to reshuffle my entire schedule for today and get up earlier than usual, so no I don't have time to work out a percentage, I don't have the room in my brain to try to imagine a plausible, reassuring percentage. Despite being miffed, I simply sent a very polite message to say that I was working hard on it and it would be delivered before 5pm. And since I've made good headway now that she's left me alone, I'll probably have finished it by 3 and then I'm off to the pool.

Oh, and these are not the clients that don't answer my emails with questions, I do have more than one.

[Edited at 2019-04-24 12:37 GMT]


OK fair enough.

But there still seems to be very much an us vs. them attitude running through this entire thread, along with an unhealthy dose of arrogance from some quarters, when basically we should be working together with agencies; obviously there are failures on both sides, where a bit of mutual respect would be useful.


Andrew Morris
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
Plus ça change... Apr 24

@Chris, have you seen my work? My client portfolio? Have you talked to my clients and my accountant? Or that of the other translators you presume to judge? Until you have, how can you possibly have an opinion on them?

I have said enough times now that I'm happy to debate ideas, but your ad hominem approach is getting a little tedious. Can we please, I repeat, grow up?

If you listen to someone like Chris
... See more
@Chris, have you seen my work? My client portfolio? Have you talked to my clients and my accountant? Or that of the other translators you presume to judge? Until you have, how can you possibly have an opinion on them?

I have said enough times now that I'm happy to debate ideas, but your ad hominem approach is getting a little tedious. Can we please, I repeat, grow up?

If you listen to someone like Chris Durban (guru???) on translation, she often talks about service, getting out and meeting direct clients, working in collaboration, adopting a mature set of "business skills" in ADDITION to the actual quality of the text. Which is partly why she is where she is...
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Mike Donlin
Local time: 13:29
SITE STAFF
TOPIC STARTER
What is best term for "freelance translator" Apr 24

Matthias Brombach wrote:

"resource", i.e.:

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


Hi Matthias,

I would agree that resource sounds impersonal. What would you want them to say? Would "freelancer", "professional", "service provider", or "linguist" sound better? Or should it just be another "person".

Might be a topic for another post, but I find these choices interesting.


Mike


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
@Andrew Apr 24

Andrew Morris wrote:
I have said enough times now that I'm happy to debate ideas

I'm not seeing much evidence of that. You seem to take any opinion that differs from your own as a personal attack - and respond with a personal attack.

I merely offered my opinion. That did not warrant a personal attack. Once again, an apology would be in order.


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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:29
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Colleague Apr 24

Mike Donlin wrote:
Hi Matthias,

I would agree that resource sounds impersonal. What would you want them to say? Would "freelancer", "professional", "service provider", or "linguist" sound better? Or should it just be another "person".

Might be a topic for another post, but I find these choices interesting.


Mike


Although a bit euphemistic, but I would prefer being adressed as "colleague" (some PMs do so and I´m fine with it).


Andrew Morris
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
Dialogue Apr 24

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:

Back to the original topic: While we are making up a list what freelancers want from translation companies, I would indeed also be interested to hear what translation companies (and their PMs) want from freelance translators. It occurs to me that Proz should also be a place where agencies and PMs can speak out what they think, but it seems you don't meet many of them here in the forums. Do they have their own forum somewhere?


@Kay-Viktor

I think it's certainly a question worth asking. ProZ.com has a wide range of business clients, and there are many agencies on the various social media pages, so maybe we could put together a similar list in the opposite direction.

I can predict the reactions to it already, but it's worth having a go.


 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 19:29
Member (2016)
English to German
Communication is an art in itself Apr 24

Mike Donlin wrote:

I would agree that resource sounds impersonal. What would you want them to say? Would "freelancer", "professional", "service provider", or "linguist" sound better? Or should it just be another "person".


I think we should not be oversensitive in this regard. Communication with PMs is an art in itself, for them as well as for us. Keep in mind that PMs as well as translators come from all corners from the world and for most of them, English is not the first language. Therefore, the first priority in communication should be clarity. The form of address is secondary, therefore I would vote this rather far at the end of the list of what freelancers want from translation companies.


Andrew Morris
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:29
Member (2018)
French to English
The question Apr 24

Richard Purdom wrote:

there still seems to be very much an us vs. them attitude running through this entire thread, along with an unhealthy dose of arrogance from some quarters, when basically we should be working together with agencies; obviously there are failures on both sides, where a bit of mutual respect would be useful.


The queston asked is what we want from translation companies. It follows quite logically that we'll be recounting bad experiences in order to illustrate what we would prefer.


 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
Logic... Apr 24

Kay Denney wrote:

The queston asked is what we want from translation companies. It follows quite logically that we'll be recounting bad experiences in order to illustrate what we would prefer.


In addition to good experiences, perhaps?


Kay Denney
 

Jocelin Meunier  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:29
English to French
Yes, phrasing was hard... Apr 24

Richard Purdom wrote:
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.


... but justified. Criminal here reads as in "a rate at which even minimum wage isn't possible". Again, I know this isn't that simple for agencies as well, they have to compete with each other and big clients put a lot of pressure on them to decrease prices. But as far as I can see, agencies manage to make a living while translators, who do the actual work of translating, are paid so little that in many cases they can't live off of it. I don't call that balance. And in reality, clients won't pay you "what you're worth". I can't count the number of agencies and direct clients who refused to take me just because I wouldn't accept their extremely low rates. For example, a subtitling agency recently refused my application at the last step because I wouldn't accept a rate of 2$/minute of video.

Let's make some math. I can translate 20 minutes of video per day (even though, in really ideal conditions, I'd prefer 10 minutes per day. Quality takes time, but that's another matter entirely).
This makes 2X20 = 40, so 40$ per day. Now, let's say I work 28 days a month (because Sundays), now it's 28X40 = 1120, so 1120$ per month.
I live in France, so let's turn those dollars into euros, now it's 1000€. After that comes taxes, 25% of my gain, so I'm left with 750€. Minimum wage in France, net, is 1100-1200€.
Even if you double that rate (which is "standard"), it's still too little, because translation isn't a line of work where you should make just the minimum wage. Not to mention that we don't have any certainty that we will work each day of every month, on the contrary.

Now, I'm not saying that agencies should have absolutely no say in what a fair rate is; of course we have to prevent excess on both sides. But as of now, from what I saw and still see after more than 5 years in translation, there is no balance. Sure, there are good clients out there, I have one or two myself, but they are not the majority. Freelancers could use some protection against abusive "standards", or some protection in general.


DZiW
 
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