Step by step method to stop low rates and end the agency epidemy

The solution is quite simple. The problem is that it's long term. And long term thinking is not so hot right now. Hence the mess we are in. But here is the solution anyway. It consists mainly of being an actor for change, by:

- Refusing the offer in a logorrhea of insults.
- Patiently reminding people that the appropriate rate is 3 times that.
- Ratting on your incompetent 'monkey colleagues' who are stealing your jobs by accepting peanuts and who should have chosen another career path, and thereby getting them off the pro market where they obviously don't belong.
- Speaking up about agencies who are parasiting the sector and making skilled and talented peeps an endangered species almost as cute as the panda;
- Talking directly to the often stingy but always 'innocent' end client to let him know where his money goes. Not in the right pocket that is.
- Group suing non paying agencies+blacklisting and trashing them. Go for it, don't be shy. They do really really deserve it after all.
- Stop being selfish, individualistic and greedy if you can.
- Stop using Proz and Tc. Don't give them your money, don't participate in demeaning downwards auctions. Don't use their crappy Blue board to find agencies.
- Meet you local fellow translators in person, create regional local coops of freelancers where everyone's identity, diplomas and tax are verified and where local promotion is done collectively.
- Ask your representing professional organization for stronger international legal regulations to finally protect this profession.

If everyone sets out to respect most of the above (number one mainly) translation as a skilled profession will survive and we'll all double our incomes within a couple of years. We will then be able to live half the year in Bora Bora, drink daiquiris under coconut trees while raising families of ten. It does not seem that impossible after all. See you there in 2 years.


Dangerously embarrassing liaisons

Despite all the negative publicity, some of the worst companies featured on my Blacklist are still going. Why oh why??  
Because there are always big translation companies looking for subcontracting. When they are overwhelmed by projects, who are they gonna call? No not you, freelancer. Let me give you a few hints:

It's a moldovan company, which has inspired a few of my posts.
It is known for being an unprofessional and unscrupulous agency pretending to have offices all over the world.
It pays 2 cents a word, provides low quality translations and paying peanuts (more details in my previous article). 
Its managers and staff barely express themselves in the tongue of Shakespeare which makes it hard to believe they call themselves languages professionals.
To remedy to the negative buzz it brought upon itself, this agency choses the cheapest option: threatening translators and bloggers who talk about their dodgy ways (but for some reason, these threats are not exactly taken seriously)...
They don't have the excuse to be located in Chindia but would rather die than admit they are based in Moldova either.

In short, they could well be the worst translation agency ever. 
Haven't guessed yet? Ok I'll tell you then. It's Travod.

Travod has some friends in the business, whom they can lean on : 

These friends are the same bunch of TRANSLATION SWEATSHOPS everyone is complaining about that is:

The Big Word, Transperfect, Translate Plus
Along with some agencies I've never heard about (maybe you have?): RWS, MCIS, Fox Service Czech,  Bio Doc, Alpha Translations, CCJK, PTSGI...

So if you are a translation buyer paying let's say 15 cents to transperfect for what you expect to be a 'perfect' translation (15 cents a word is not enough for a 'perfect' translation, it's not bad but not great either). Well there is a pretty good chance the 'translator' they hire is in fact someone paid 2 cents a word, 4 to 10 times less than a pro. God knows who does the job, but expect it to be worst than what google translate gives you.

Here is how Travod approaches its clients, promising no more than bottom feeder quality and prices, and 40 percent discount for big projects. I let you do the maths.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Rita Gould <rita.g@travod.com>
Date: 16 July 2014 22:49
Subject: Translation rates and discounts - TRAVOD Int. UK

Dear Sir/Madame,

I am sending you an email with the details of our company to see if there is any way we can become a strategic partner in translations. 

We specialize in language translations for agencies, with experts for all the industries and languages on the market. With 3 offices opened in the US, Hong Kong and the UK we work for more than 400 agencies all over the world - translating in all languages mostly. So, whenever you get big and urgent projects hard to complete or you don't have a specialist to translate for a specific industry or language, you could assign the whole translation project to us (translation+editing+proofreading + DTP if needed). 

I can send you few names of some of our biggest customers that outsource with us - The Big Word, Transperfect, Translate Plus, RWS, MCIS, Fox Service Czech,  Bio Doc, Alpha Translations, CCJK, PTSGI etc etc

Attached you can see our regular rates, for your consideration, but of course I am opened to give you discounts up to 40% for larger projects and long-term partnerships that definitely should make you happy working with us :)

Looking forward to hearing back from you!

Rita GouldSales Manager
T: +13473541821
E: rita.g@travod.com
W: www.travod.com

Note: Certificates and reference letters proving the experience available upon request. Translators ready to start immediately if necessary, TRADOS or other related software available.

And talking about maths if you wonder how much they charge to their client, here it is (way too low and that's suppose to feed everyone):

Top pay: French, Icelandic, Swedish, Irish, English, Japanese, Dutch, German: 0.10 USD (basic) 0.11 (medium), 0.12 (Hard). 
The proofreading is extra : 0.05, 0.055, 0.06
Small tasks : 7 USD (0-50 words), 14 USD (50 to 100 words)

All other languages: take off one cent

Basically, when they pay you 0.02 USD, they keep 0,08 for themselves. Nice margin for doing nothing isn't it? Then Transperfect resells your translation and makes another 0.05 or more. That's quite probably what happens.

To view the price list contact Translation Ethics at translationethics@gmail.com

Guest post : Low Paying Agencies by S. Caller

Guest post, July 22d, 2014

Low Paying Agencies – bad for translators, even worse for their clients

by Steven Caller

The website you are currently browsing, aptly named Translation Ethics, promotes the fair pay of translators and other ethical considerations in the translation industry. As an owner of a translation company myself, I am only too aware of the stiff competition we face on a daily basis from translation firms claiming to offer a similar service to ours for a fraction of the price. If you thought this practice was bad for low-paid translators then you'd be right; and it's no better for their clients either.

When I refer to low-paid translators, I am of course talking about those that have the necessary qualifications but still find themselves over-exploited by greedy firms seeking to push down prices. I am fully aware that many firms, even ones you may have considered respectable, like to select under-qualified translators and pay them low rates. A translator must have a language degree as a minimum and be a proficient user of their native language; a professional translator should only ever translate into their native tongue. You should also have been asked to show a scan of your degree certificate or had your qualifications verified by your awarding institution.

Low pay, high output
So how can one firm undercut another by so much and why should clients care about how much an agency pays its translators when they're getting such a “good” deal? The truth of the matter is that even a professional translator can be pushed into rushing or performing at less than their best when asked to work for a low rate per word. The equation is incredibly simple: lower price per word equals more words per hour in order to maintain an acceptable hourly wage. This in turn equates to lower diligence and poorer quality work. When working for various agencies, I have seen evidence of machine translations being passed off as the work of a human, possibly by translators that have been pushed into translating too many words for too low a price. That brings me on to the second part of this equation: the words translated per hour. In many instances, an agency sets a target or expectation that they wish their translators to achieve on a daily basis which is, of course, entirely unreasonable.

I can imagine many translators reading this post and nodding their head in agreement or shared experience, however I would also like to leave an impression on those clients that pay for budget translations. The quality produced under such circumstances is simply unacceptable. The majority of professional translators will tell you that they have been asked to perform a translation for a client who has already had the same document translated, only to a very low standard. In essence, if you opt for a budget translation, you are not only financing the poor treatment and low payment of translators, but also wasting your money. I hasten to add that many translation clients only realise that they have been separated from their money in exchange for a poor service once they receive complaints from their own clients struggling to understand the translation produced.

What strikes me as simply absurd, is the fact that many large firms happily spend many thousands of pounds on product development and marketing materials yet seem to tighten the purse strings when looking for translation services. The translation community can sincerely hope that the new EU legislation on product documentation will sting a few of these firms.

How translation should be done
So what should you expect from a translation agency in order to perform an acceptable translation and how much should you expect to pay? Firstly, they will assign a project manager to each client personally who is qualified in the languages involved and capable of performing quality control. You should expect to pay at least £0.10 per source word for translation and this price should include monolingual proofreading and quality control. You should also expect to pay an additional 50% of this price if you require the translation to be reviewed by a second qualified translator. This price accurately represents all of the work an agency must carry out in order to provide a professional translation and pay their translators accordingly. If you are paying less than £0.08 per source word, the agency will be working at a tight squeeze and may be skipping important tasks. Anything less than this is likely to involve underpayment, or worse, non-payment.

Low prices, even lower quality
So there you have it. If you opt for a budget translation option, you may be funding the underpayment of highly-qualified professionals as well as sabotaging your public image. Either way, low-cost translation simply isn't worth the pennies you pay for it.

Moreover, the thought that large and seemingly reputable companies are contributing to the unfair treatment and low payment of highly-qualified professionals should be of deep concern to us all. In this light, I commend the efforts made by the Translation Ethics website and all those that have contributed to its blacklist. By bringing the issues represented by this website to the attention of those large firms seeking to cut costs regardless of the consequences, we can collectively ensure that their reputation will be damaged by their involvement in such practices, and rightfully so!

This post has been contributed by Steven Caller who is Managing Director at Verto Languages. Our policy of treating our translators with respect and paying them a reasonable rate is part of our promise to clients and is a contributing factor in the quality of our work.