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Client continues to change rules/prices
Thread poster: Logan Morales

Logan Morales  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 26, 2020

Hello!

I'm a new translator with no experience in freelancing, and I managed to get my first job. Through a series of emails from my client, the job has become less than ideal after I accepted. Essentially, it's been this:

I am to proofread English translations of Spanish transcripts, which were translated by a Spanish speaking agency. I was hired to make sure it sounded like natural English, and that there were no errors. At first, I was told that I would get $600 a mo
... See more
Hello!

I'm a new translator with no experience in freelancing, and I managed to get my first job. Through a series of emails from my client, the job has become less than ideal after I accepted. Essentially, it's been this:

I am to proofread English translations of Spanish transcripts, which were translated by a Spanish speaking agency. I was hired to make sure it sounded like natural English, and that there were no errors. At first, I was told that I would get $600 a month (USD) for part-time hours. The tasks were dribbling in for the first week, enough that I only had to work max 2 hours a day. At this point, I'm thinking "It's fine, they're still translating the bulk of it. It'll get to me." A temporary time sheet shows that I would get 10 bucks an hour instead. Fine. This was experience too, and I was thrilled to have a job, and the work is fun.

Then, I receive another email saying that we (It's me and about 15 others on the English proofreader team) will be penalized for errors that their clients finds (the ones that sent the transcripts). And another later saying that we were confused about payments, and that it's by audio hour of the transcript's file instead of by hour. Furthermore, they're expecting us to proofread much faster than I was, lowering the rate even further. That last part might be my fault; as I know myself as a pretty slow, but hopefully thorough, person. However, I do listen to the original audio to check for context of errors, and have corrected mistakes made by their translators that otherwise I wouldn't have noticed. I find that it delivers a much cleaner product to do so.

Regardless, my payment is looking like it's about to go from $600 a month to $2-3 a day. And possibly less if they find errors according to their rules. I do think I should leave this job.

So that's the situation. Here's the advice I would love. Have any of you experienced anything like this? Do I bring this up to the client? I'm worried about getting an unfair negative review for my first review on here, whether I speak up first or just quit without giving much reason. Do I stick it out longer? I haven't been able to get any other jobs (been here for two months or so), and it could look nice to bulk up my spindly resume. Am I expecting too much at all?

Let me know what you think, or if I was unclear about something.
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Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Keep Finding More Work Aug 26, 2020

One of the many perks to being a successful freelancer is to wake up in the morning with an inbox full of work requests that you can either accept or decline, based on your availability and eagerness to earn $$.

It seems like you may be a bit too concerned about this one project. Rather, keep on looking for more work that'll help get you by while plugging away at this job (1-2 hrs/day isn't much work). If at one stage you no longer have time for this job because you have many other
... See more
One of the many perks to being a successful freelancer is to wake up in the morning with an inbox full of work requests that you can either accept or decline, based on your availability and eagerness to earn $$.

It seems like you may be a bit too concerned about this one project. Rather, keep on looking for more work that'll help get you by while plugging away at this job (1-2 hrs/day isn't much work). If at one stage you no longer have time for this job because you have many other more pressing, better paying jobs, then it might be a good idea to leave the team. Until then, build up your experience, get quicker and find more work!

In essence, we're all paid by 'hour'. Those who quote by word earn more, or less depending on their speed. The key is to deliver top quality at speed, while continuing to market yourself until you reach the golden stage in your career when top quality clients come looking for you.

Best of luck and keep at it!

DJH
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Dan Lucas
Michele Fauble
Yolanda Broad
Tina Vonhof
Philip Lees
Gerard de Noord
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:46
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Get paid before you leave, if possible Aug 26, 2020

I would advise you to carry on to the end of the first invoicing period - would that be month end? If so, it's soon. Then stop and tell them you need to be sure the payment side of things works before you do any more work. That's a perfectly normal practice. You shouldn't give an untested client endless amounts of credit. If they pay, you can then decide whether to continue. OTOH, if you stop when you've only earned a few euros you may find they aren't interested in paying, or it costs you to re... See more
I would advise you to carry on to the end of the first invoicing period - would that be month end? If so, it's soon. Then stop and tell them you need to be sure the payment side of things works before you do any more work. That's a perfectly normal practice. You shouldn't give an untested client endless amounts of credit. If they pay, you can then decide whether to continue. OTOH, if you stop when you've only earned a few euros you may find they aren't interested in paying, or it costs you to receive it.

At the same time as doing a bit of work for them, keep trying all the avenues to get more and better clients. But get some paid work from them under your belt if you can. It's great news for the CV and good experience.
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Kevin Fulton
Yolanda Broad
Nadia Silva Castro
Tina Vonhof
Cristina Heraud-van Tol
Philip Lees
Josephine Cassar
 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:46
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Don't do this Aug 27, 2020

$10 per hour is already below minimum wage. $10 per audio hour, or $2-$3 a day is a joke. You would be better off doing Instacart, GrubHub, Doordash or a bunch of other gigs than this.

BTW, this sentence doesn't make much sense: "Furthermore, they're expecting us to proofread much faster than I was, lowering the rate even further. " You said they are paying per audio hour - the number of audio hours does not change, no matter how slow or fast you proofread the transcript. If they ar
... See more
$10 per hour is already below minimum wage. $10 per audio hour, or $2-$3 a day is a joke. You would be better off doing Instacart, GrubHub, Doordash or a bunch of other gigs than this.

BTW, this sentence doesn't make much sense: "Furthermore, they're expecting us to proofread much faster than I was, lowering the rate even further. " You said they are paying per audio hour - the number of audio hours does not change, no matter how slow or fast you proofread the transcript. If they are paying you $10 for an audio hour, whether it takes you 4 hours to proofread that content or 8 hours, or 12, you still only get $10. - Anyway, it is abysmal, see above.

[Edited at 2020-08-27 07:07 GMT]
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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Logan Aug 27, 2020

Logan Morales wrote:
At first, I was told that I would get $600 a month (USD) for part-time hours.


Was this an actual offer (and if so, did they say "600") or was this a statement in an advertisement (i.e. earn [up to] X per month by working part-time)?

A temporary time sheet shows that I would get [a certain amount] an hour instead.


What do you mean by "temporary time sheet"?

I received another email saying that we will be penalized for errors that their clients finds (the ones that sent the transcripts).


Unfortunately there is no standard way of dealing with translator/proofreader errors in our industry w.r.t. financial penalties. Some agencies specify exactly by how much they will penalize the translator, whereas others leave it vague or announce penalties afterwards, and then it's up to the client and translator to negotiate about what would be a fair penalty for the number or type of errors. Still others believe that it is a translator's right to be given the opportunity to fix errors that have been pointed out to them. There is no standard way of dealing with this, so I can't tell you if what your client is doing is acceptable or unacceptable.

Another later saying that we were confused about payments, and that it's by audio hour of the transcript's file instead of by hour.


It is common for some transcription clients to pay per audio hour instead of actually worked hour, and this is something that you must query at the very beginning of your conversation with a transcription (or related) client: is the rate per audio hour or is the rate per actual hour worked? In my opinion, there is nothing unethical about paying per audio hour, although it does catch beginners because they see an amount "per hour" and don't realise that they should perform additional calculations to get the actual amount earned per hour worked.

I'm worried about getting an unfair negative review for my first review on here...


As far as I know, clients are not allowed to give negative reviews for translators on ProZ.com.

I haven't been able to get any other jobs (been here for two months or so).


By "here" I assume you mean ProZ.com. ProZ.com should not be your main or only source of clients.

Logan, this particular client seems to be dishonest. They claim [up to] $600 per month working part-time, at $10 per audio hour. That is not possible.

Remember these rules of thumb:
1. For transcription, it can take 6-10 hours to transcribe 1 hour of audio.
2. Normal speaking speed is 100-150 words per minute, so 1 hour of audio can contain 6000-9000 words.
(Of course, this depends entirely on the type and quality of speech.)

This client is paying $10 to proofread 6000-9000 words.

I suggest you stop working right now. It is normal for proofreaders to be paid per actual hour worked, and the fact that they changed the way they intend to pay you is a good enough excuse to stop working immediately without even finishing the job you're currently working on. Remember to tell them that you're stopping, and explain the reasons: the offer that you had accepted was for $10 per hour, and now they're changing it to $10 per audio hour, which should have been specified beforehand because it changes the amount earned by a large margin. Send an invoice for the work you've delivered so far. Optionally deliver the work that you've done for the current job, and send a separate invoice for it (at the rate agreed to at the start, i.e. $10 per actual hour). They will probably refuse to pay, and when they do, write a Blue Board entry with a "1" rating. I'm not sure how long the review will survive, though.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
I would advise you to carry on to the end of the first invoicing period.


I must disagree with Sheila here. It is not unusual for agencies to pay per audio hour, and if they've indicated that they're going to pay you per audio hour, then they're unlikely to pay you anything else, regardless of whether you work until the end of the payment period. You are currently earning less than $1 per hour, and it makes no sense to continue working for that amount on the off-chance that the client might admit that the rate confusion was their mistake and pay you $10 or even $5 per hour as a consolation.

[Edited at 2020-08-27 08:02 GMT]


Björn Vrooman
Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
Miranda Drew
 

Logan Morales  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Clarification and details Aug 27, 2020

First of all, thank you all so much for the answers and perspectives. Samuel, especially, I truly appreciate the thoroughness.

For further clarification, I wasn't the one transcribing. The files were sent to the company, transcribed and translated by them, and the written dialogue was sent to the native English speakers. Katalin, I mean that I was taking about 30 minutes (45 at first) to proofread per 15 minutes worth of dialogue. This included me running through the audio file onc
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First of all, thank you all so much for the answers and perspectives. Samuel, especially, I truly appreciate the thoroughness.

For further clarification, I wasn't the one transcribing. The files were sent to the company, transcribed and translated by them, and the written dialogue was sent to the native English speakers. Katalin, I mean that I was taking about 30 minutes (45 at first) to proofread per 15 minutes worth of dialogue. This included me running through the audio file once to check for context/translation errors, which I did find, so I didn't want to stop that practice. They wrote that they wanted us to be proofreading at speeds of 90 minutes of written dialogue per hour. Honestly, I don't even think that's possible for me to do and not miss something, which would result in some sort of penalty inevitably. Is that a normal speed that I should be able to achieve? I'm still fuzzy on my exact speeds. Also I should mention that my team and I all set up hours where we were free, and I would be present at the computer "working" during my block. Most of that time did end up as job searching.

Samuel, yes, that number was actually mentioned. They had a set rate for full-time, part-time, and by hour for freelancers that wanted a few files here and there. I have the email from when I started, and nowhere do they say "audio hour". Just "per hour". I will remember to ask that next time, thank you. The temporary time sheet was because the files were trickling in at the start, so it wasn't possible to fill up the part-time hours. I had assumed that once it was in full swing, we would go back to the original rates. But it's been three weeks of very little work from them. Perhaps they overhired? Who knows.

Well, that is comforting about the negative reviews. However, do I have to be a member in order to leave one? I'm currently not paying because I wanted to try the site out first. Also, what do you mean by my review not surviving?

Goodness, those numbers hurt even more broken down like that. Katalin, I do agree with it being a joke. Especially when I was perfectly happy with less than minimum wage when I thought it was 10 per hour, since the job itself is so interesting to me and would be good experience. And now it's even lower than I thought. I absolutely get Sheila and Dylan's points, but I read a lot about it being a problem that there's always someone willing to "work for peanuts", and I don't want to give any company the feeling that it's acceptable to pay this little for important work. I'll likely be quitting in the next few days, and sending the invoice as suggested. However, it's been mysteriously quiet since that final email about the rates, so perhaps everyone else has already jumped ship...

Again, thank you all so much. I'm very glad this resource exists.
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Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 21:46
Japanese to English
Clarify now rather than later Aug 27, 2020

Logan Morales wrote:
I'll likely be quitting in the next few days, and sending the invoice as suggested. However, it's been mysteriously quiet since that final email about the rates, so perhaps everyone else has already jumped ship...

Again, thank you all so much. I'm very glad this resource exists.

Please don't wait for "the next few days." Write to them now and clarify how much you are getting or not getting and whether they misled you in their initial messages or not. If they are, invoice them for work done so far and move on, leaving a warning on the Blue Board if they refuse to pay.


Dylan Jan Hartmann
Yolanda Broad
Sheila Wilson
Alison Jenner
MollyRose
 

Logan Morales  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You're right Aug 27, 2020

Now would be better. There probably isn't a reason to give even more chances at this point. Thank you for that.

Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
MollyRose
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:46
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You can't invoice if you don't know what the rate is Aug 28, 2020

Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei wrote:

Logan Morales wrote:
I'll likely be quitting in the next few days, and sending the invoice as suggested.

Please don't wait for "the next few days." Write to them now and clarify how much you are getting or not getting and whether they misled you in their initial messages or not. If they are, invoice them for work done so far and move on, leaving a warning on the Blue Board if they refuse to pay.

That rate definitely needs to be sorted soonest, before you make out the invoice.

By the way, anyone can leave a BB entry if they really have done paid work for a client. If they don't already have a BB record you can first ask for one to be set up and then leave an entry.


Yara Alaa Eldin
 

Miranda Drew  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:46
Member (2009)
Italian to English
I would also be wary of anyone trying to dictate my working hours Aug 28, 2020

Any time a client mentions "full-time/part-time" in relation to freelance work, alarm bells go off for me. You are a freelancer and that means you decide when you work. If the client wants to block you for specific hours where you're supposed to be "on-call", they should be paying extra for that, even if they send no work during those hours.

Sheila Wilson
Chris S
Christine Andersen
Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
Alison Jenner
 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 05:46
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Freelancer Aug 28, 2020

You are a freelancer and that means you decide when you work.

No it does not. While this is usually the case for a freelance translator, there is nothing about being a freelancer that inherently determines whether you get to choose when you work, though you can most certainly choose if you work. A freelance violinist doesn't get to decide when the concert happens, only whether to play in the orchestra or not.

That said, any on-call hours are effectively work hours. The freelance violinist's hours would be determined by the number of hours that they are expected to be present at the rehearsal and concert - not the number of notes they play.


Sheila Wilson
Christine Andersen
Alison Jenner
 

Logan Morales  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Communication Aug 28, 2020

My final note about this situation is that I contacted the client to discuss the changing pay, and they seem to have been open to my negotiation. These perspectives and information were invaluable to me. Thank you all so much! Life seems to be full of little reminders of the importance of communication, and while things seem settled now, I'll have more tools and understanding if things go awry later.

 

Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
If all else fails, give them a call. Aug 29, 2020

When almost all communication in our industry is via email, we often dread having to make a phone call! But to help clarify points, or even chase non-payment, the phone call can be our best weapon as a freelance translator.

If all else fails, give them a call.


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:46
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Numbers and money issues Aug 29, 2020

Logan, you wrote:
They wrote that they wanted us to be proofreading at speeds of 90 minutes of written dialogue per hour.

Things getting even more confusing.
(1) You said, first, they told you they would pay you $10 per hour. That means you are getting $10 per working hour.
(2) Then, as you said, they told you they meant the $10 per audio hour. If they were expecting you to proofread 90 minutes of audio per hour, that means you are getting $15 pe
... See more
Logan, you wrote:
They wrote that they wanted us to be proofreading at speeds of 90 minutes of written dialogue per hour.

Things getting even more confusing.
(1) You said, first, they told you they would pay you $10 per hour. That means you are getting $10 per working hour.
(2) Then, as you said, they told you they meant the $10 per audio hour. If they were expecting you to proofread 90 minutes of audio per hour, that means you are getting $15 per working hour, correct? So, (2) seems to be a better deal than (1), but only if you can actually perform that speed, which is - quite frankly - seems impossible to me.
Unless the audio contains very little actual dialogue (shoot-them up movies come to mind), it does not seem feasible to me that if something takes 90 minutes to listen to, it would only take 60 minutes to read the same text in two languages and compare them for correctness, and also make the corrections in the typed text. I don't think it is possible in 90 minutes either.

Samuel gave some figures for wordcount for speech, and you also have some idea now, as you have worked on some of the actual files from the client, as to how many words of written text is in an hour of the audio files they have. Based on that, you could calculate how many hours it would actually take you to proofread what is an hour of audio, multiply that with your desired hourly rate, and tell them that, as your "per audio hour" rate.

(As a side note: regarding minimum wage and such, if you are just starting out as a freelancer in the US, make sure you are aware of the tax implications, as you will have to pay self-employment tax, not only income tax on your income. Those who are employed, don't pay that, so if your freelancer rates are minimum wage, you will be taking home less than the employed person, getting the same minimum wage rate. Your health insurance is likely to cost more, too, unless you have a family insurance paid by a family member's employer.)


[Edited at 2020-08-29 06:37 GMT]
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Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:46
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Or Aug 29, 2020

Sheila Wilson wrote:

By the way, anyone can leave a BB entry if they really have done paid work for a client. If they don't already have a BB record you can first ask for one to be set up and then leave an entry.

Or you can create one yourself for them. I did and there were no problems.

[Edited at 2020-08-29 09:35 GMT]


 
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