Translators : 10 effective ways to stop the flow of spams, scams and nasty offers, and start over on clean grounds

  • PLAY HARD TO GET (& disappear from Translation Directory). Personally, I was fed up with these agency emails and closed my account with TD. Since then I am receiving way less crappy offers and no more scammers. TD is feeding this by making your CV available to absolutely anyone including crooks. Translators have to be more selective with those websites and set their own limits. Trust me, putting your CV all over the web is not going to provide you with more work, but will rather cause a lot of nuisance.  
  • STOP GIVING YOUR MONEY TO PROZ : I only got one offer from Proz as a paying member, but am still working on a project I found on it when I was a non paying member. On top of lowering the rates and respect standards, this company is oblivious to the interests of its paying members, serving those of unscrupulous agencies. It refuses to listen to translators and their code of ethics is very suspicious, according to this insightful report. No need to stress that I deeply regret the 120 euros membership which ended up in Henry Dotterer's fat pocket. I guess shutting down websites like Proz and Translation Directory would be the best thing that can ever happen to the translation industry.
  • LOOK and be professional, show that you are not a "sunday translator" or looking for a new fun extra job. You have hard earned degrees and credentials, excellent language skills and are your own boss. Ideally, don't position yourself as a job seeker but as a service provider. Don't do anything for free, including tests, or only accept free tests (under 200 words to serious companies). Know the law, and have terms & conditions and a price list.
  • SECURE YOUR CV: make a PDF, with watermark and copyright. Don't put it all over the web if you don't want it to be unknowingly used or if you don't want someone else to ruin your reputation.
  • SET YOUR PRICE LIMITS ON PORTAL OFFERS : set yourself a minimum price and STICK to it. You won't receive anymore disappointing offers. 
  • START CHARGING REAL MONEY FOR YOUR SERVICES : that means always try to negociate higher rates. If you know you are valuable to a project and sense that it does not compute with what you are getting paid, RAISE your prices, with the attitude that goes with it. Instead of asking for a raise, state that your prices are increasing from next month on, and only accept compromise if it is substancial enough. This worked for me. I increased my rate by 50 percent over one year working on the same project, despite the allegedly "fixed budget" of the project. To help you negociate, make a list of arguments susceptible to make them think twice about it (they might not find someone as qualified for the same price, will have to interrupt the project for some time while looking for another translator, not providing the same quality, the client will leave and so on...) I personally could rely on the fact that another language team was fired from the project (book translated into 3 languages) by the end client, so my team was still holding it together.
  • OBEY STRICT PROFESSIONAL RULES when answering offers: before accepting anything, one must have : a PO stating deadline and total price, number of words (Do your own word count :), do not start anything without the PO. If a NDA or agreement is given to you, make sure it does not work against you.
  • CHECK the agencies (cf this blog "Looking up agencies") and look for them in Black lists, then tell them why you refuse to work for them (low rates, non payment or disgracious spelling or grammatical mistakes...).
  • COMMUNICATE, explain things to PM (that they should know, aka your performance is 2000 words a day), and ask questions so you are not held responsible for anything later on and so that your translation fits the needs of the client. If you have to go through an agency, remember that the PM does not know much because he doesn't know what questions to ask, but that you on the contrary need to know everything -or as much as possible.
  • START A COOP with trusted fellow translators : If instead of spending our time and energy slaving away for agencies, we were spending it getting rid of them and promoting ourselves via cooperatives, we could get out of this situation and enable good translators to stay in the business. I think this is possible via a lot of PR and communication about our status. Letting end clients (when you know them) know about the reality of this system is also important, but also writing blogs and informing companies and the media. We just have to think of new ways to save our profession and share our ideas through social networks. 

These are just a few basic ideas, but what would be your priorities and solutions to improve the future of translators?



Unknown said...

You make some excellent points, thank you. However, I'm not sure I agree with changing the price charged for a project halfway through and making "a list of what can scare them (not finding someone else for the same price, interrupting the project for some time". This does not sound very ethical to me at all, but maybe I haven't quite understood the situation ...

Translationethics said...

Thanks for the feedback. Translation is a business and our job is to negociate decent wages for ourselves, what is not ethical is to let agencies dictate our rates. I was talking about a specific experience, but I think I was not precise enough. When I was just at the start of my career, I was offered a certain rate for a project, then, a few months later when it started, the PM was different and the rate was suddenly lower. I took the job anyway since it was a long term, interesting project but tried continuously to rise the price back to this original rate which was initially offered to me. That took several months. My point is that I think I offered them a service worth more than what they were willing to pay, and so I tried to make the situation fairer. I never knew what margin the agency was keeping, and as you know this does not put the translator in a great position to negociate. If I had left the project (as service providers we are free to leave when we wish to) they would have had to interrupt the project for quite some time to find someone else, and would have struggled to find someone qualified enough and accepting their low budget. Of course the more you know about the inner workings of the agency you work for the better you can negociate your rate. And that is what happened. This is all about getting paid a fair retribution for your efforts. The agency in question have lovely staff and I get along well with them, but this is how they manage to keep their translators despite low rates.

marie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Great article! What's your take on personal web sites? how much info do you think we should share? From your article, I guess posting a resume is a big no-no, right?

Translationethics said...

Hi! Posting your resume is Ok I think if you make sure it is protected as I said: I will write a post soon about what a professional promotional package must include. That is mainly price list, thoroughly thought of, with a min rate and different rates (3 or 4 prices for each field of expertise) updated every year at least (not the same prices for everyone), terms and conditions, a good logo, affiliations and link to your online profiles... am I forgetting something?

Translationethics said...

And I guess the least specialties you have, the more credible you are to clients and respectable agencies...