Censorship of job platforms: comparing Proz and Translator's Café

It's been a while since the last post, so I'll try to make up for it by being quite informative on both these somehow highly popular platforms.  This is a critique of both in light of the recent complaints and desire for change within the profession. I'm not gonna lie, I had hopes for both platforms. High hopes. I even joined Proz for a year and paid a membership. In retrospect, I have only found one job on Proz in my whole career, quite ironically before I started being a paying member. Zero via TC. Sometimes I wish I had a nice normal platform to find real jobs through. It would definitely make my life easier. But I don't. BTW if someone knows one, I'd be very grateful if they would let me know about it...

Translator's Café

Since I heard TC was a bit more ethical than ProZ, I decided to give them a shot, hoping that who knows, someday, a professional like me with degrees in the field would find one tiny decently paid project. I have to say first of all that the fact it's free is a big plus. Since you know there's a pretty good chance it's a waste of time to browse through it, it's comforting to know that you are not wasting your money too. But pretty soon you realise that there is a reason behind this apparent bargain. I learned recently that TC had listened to the complaints and applied a new policy consisting of filtering out job offers lower than 5 Eur cents; and that sounds like a big step towards change. So I went on their forum and found a few jobs in my language pair. 

Today, it felt very third-worldy on TC. Out of five jobs, one was from Morocco (no mention of the rate), one from India (huge project apparently, no mention of the rate), one was from Lebanon and sounded like a big mistake, but with a smiley at the end :)

" This is not a translation job. I need someone to download a large video file - 4 GB. Then I’’ll just need to ask you a quick question about it. You need to have a superfast connection.
If you’’re interested, please let me know 1) what kind of connection you have, 2) how long it would take you to download the file, 3) how much you would charge.
Thank you! ======
Correction: 4 GB, not 4 MB :)"  

Hem. WTF?

The last offer of the day, from France, sounded challenging (6000 w to split for tomorrow morning, but payment after 60 days, despite the European directive 2011/7/EU, according to which  payments should be made within 30 days from the contract signing. No info on the rates, and that's ok, cause we know it's higher that 5 cents right ;)

Then comes offer number five, a gem : 11000 Words in 3 days, and 3 euro cents per word. I therefore report this ad, and it turns out someone else has already done so 4 hours earlier. Now it's been there for 5 hours already and 18 "monkeys" have applied. No need to stress that this Indian agency got what they wanted and got away with more. 

I send a message to the moderator to ask if anyone’s home and is going to do something about it. Ten minutes later the ad is removed... and my message too!

This filthy message was very short and basically asked why they did not filter out those ads before publication rather than afterwards, 4 hours later, when it's too late.

If you too are curious about this, contact Nikita Kobrin, TC Master, who  seems like a nice bloke though too busy censoring stuff and chasing outlaws to reply to questions.

I looked then at yesterday's offers, though it's a tad too late to apply for any of them. One came from India (Scope EKnowledge Center), paid 5USD cent a word. Which is in fact 3 EUR cents. Which is very low too, basically, but I guess it looks almost like 5 EUR so nobody complained. It goes on for the whole page. Best offer found over 3 days is 7 Euro cents and comes from Turkey. That is still very low, too low for most qualified professionals.

So thank you TC, but once again, I will pass on the opportunities.

Let's have a look at their Hall of fame and Shame, which I'd personally rename Shameful hall of Fame. Yes, N°1 is STILL Christian Arno, with his company Lingo24, based in Romania, employing young romanian project managers with sufficient English skills, and refusing to pay his "linguists" over 6 cents per word.  Number 4 is STILL Somya translations, who gets great ratings although the company pays 2 cents a word (read their entry in the Blacklist). And that sums it up I guess. I don't know much about the other ones listed there but feel free to comment in the section below.
Peanut flavoured translator's café


ProZ has completely ditched any sort of transparency. If you don't pay their 120 EUR yearly fee, you don't know who you are wasting your time with. Let's just say that the constant request of advertisers for "Best rates" is a good indication of the kind of attitude one can expect from them. On ProZ, more than ever, anyone can post anything for any price, as long as they are careful and keep their intentions private, so that people don't complain on forums and embarrass them for being greedy bottom feeders. Translators are not allowed to comment on offers, in order to warn others about low prices, poor practices history. You'll just have to find out the hard way.

Blue Board: there is no way for a non-payer to read the comments, but from what I hear from others it is not POSSIBLE to give a ZERO to an agency. You have to try, try and give up, give a 1, maybe a 2. Hence the not-suspicious-at-all lack of Bad eggZ. Even the worst companies, such as Transperfect or the BigTurd have 3 or 4, which doesn't look too bad. Therefore, when venturing in this directory to find potential clients (if you're unlucky enough to have to) the common recommendation now in this business is to ONLY contact the ones with 5/5 stars.

Ex: Transperfect has a record of 4.1 out of 5. It makes them look almost respectable. The latest ratings it got were: 1, 2, 3, 5, 1, 5... No zero. Some brave souls out there giving a 1 or a 2... fair play to you. However, if you look up their name on the Internet, or on Glassdoor, you'll soon find reviews such as "Worst company ever".

Report on Glassdoor: "The WORST company in the world" 

So much for the accuracy, ProZ. 

Discretion of Proz: they don't have much notion of it, since they sell (or stupidly offer?) their repertoire of Certified ProZ Members to brokers such as Dixit (France) who then claim loudly on their website that their network of translators is from this qualified and experienced crowd, implying that these professional don't mind their crappy 5 cents a word. 

(Let's add that since this was discovered, they have taken off the CPN logo, just advertising their bought affiliation to the ProZ network, read this previous article).


Between TC and ProZ the choice is clear. I'd go for neither of them.

Let us say that both Platforms are useless to real professionals, degrading, fishy with unclear policies that do not really take into account the suggestions of their users and censor them. Let’s also mention that bidders are somehow (will we one day know why?) able to publish their so-called "ridiculous" (more like insulting) offers and are moderated hours later after a few complaints from users, when it's too late. Then, they just do the same thing the next day (TC masters don't take this literally, it's a metaphor). As for decent, normal offers, they are the object of massive flows of applications as a direct consequence of this job drought.

As for their rating systems I would not say they are flawed:  corrupt is more appropriate. They reflect a mix of censorship on the moderators part, of self-censure, conflicts of interest, or compromise on the translators' part (when they find themselves forced to give 1 stars instead of zero as they intended to), of a blatant lack of ethics from some companies who quite shamelessly ask for feedback from their CURRENT employees freelancers (i.e. Lingo 24 and Somya).

Communication-wise, TC performs much better than the other one. At least they make an effort. Here is the reply from TC. It is still a tad evasive, and did not allow me to reply, but it is a nice attempt to clarify things. Thank you:
"Dear ...
Thank you. It was night in Canada.
The outsourcer did not use the Rate box to enter the rate. Therefore the system could not filter this job and sent notification to you. Sorry about that.
If the outsourcer fills out the Rate box on the job posting form during posting a job, it is possible to filter jobs by their rates. However, sometimes outsourcers do not show rates or just mention them in the job description. In this case filtering is impossible. We tried to make the Rate field mandatory. It did not work. Outsources simply selected 0.05 there and explained in the job description that their rate is lower.
Best regards, X
TranslatorsCafe.com Support Team"
Unfortunately our communication was interrupted there since I used up my quota of 3 questions, but if one of you TC insiders is reading these words, could you tell please me: why do you not simply ban outsourcers who break the rules, instead of allowing them to pull the same trick soon after. Wouldn't it teach them good manners? After all does this world not need better manners? And while you're here, could you also let us know why Somya Translators is still in your opinion the fourth best translation agency in the world although it's an Indian sweatshop paying its linguists 2 cents a word? 

Many thanks,
Translation ethics


AnSo said...

I was a paying member in ProZ in my first year as a freelancer. After a huge issue with a client who just vanished into thin air once he received the translation, I left a 1 on the Blueboard, explaining the problem. I was then contacted by other translators who had the same problem. Together, we managed to recover our money. I was then contacted by Proz, asking me to remove my 1 and comment, as the problem had been solved. So much for Blue Board accuracy...

Translationethics said...

That's very dishonest. Did they end up removing the negative comments? Is this company still going?

Michael Beijer said...

Interesting article, a lot of which is true.

However, I actually do find a lot of decent paying clients via Proz.com (€0.10/word for Dutch-English translation; not amazing, but pretty OK). Not necessarily by bidding on jobs (although that sometimes also leads to good jobs), but by potential clients contacting me directly, saying, ‘we found you on Proz’. My annual Proz subscription definitely pays off, usually within the first week.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that the site also has some serious problems (censorship, late and low payers, impostors, etc.), but don’t all sites of that size?

The fact remains though that it is the biggest virtual place in the world for translators/interpretors and clients to meet, and so deciding not to join in will limit definitely your contact with a large portion of our industry.


Translationethics said...

Hi Michael, the problem for me is that if everyone pays them a subscription, things aren't going to change, in fact they'll probably get worse. Proz is THE biggest platform because people can't get rid of it; if they obeyed the demands of their clients (all freelancers) I would have no problem paying them a fee. I just don't want to pay them if they don't serve my interests.
I do believe it works for you though, but another thing we should really mention is the language pair: yours might not be as common as mine. There are so many translators competing against each other in some languages (french, italian, spanish...) It makes it harder to get noticed I guess.
Don't you think you can make a reputation without being on Proz?

Unknown said...

I've had the same experience as Michael (my language pair is Russian>English). I agree that ProZ and TC are abused by the industry bottom-feeders, but they will always exist, and there will always be translators willing to work with them at very low rates. ProZ and TC make it easier for those bottom-feeders to find translators, but they also help good agencies find good translators. I like that clients searching the ProZ directory for my language pair and specializations will find me in the top 5 or 10 results, and I've gained a few well-paying agencies (and even direct clients) that way. In order to be in the top search results you have to be a paying member and have a lot of "Kudoz" points. You gain Kudoz points by answering other translators' terminology questions--so by helping each other, we gain higher ranking in the directory. So, you have to invest a little time and effort to make the ProZ membership pay off. Also, the yearly membership includes website hosting, so I don't have to have that expense through another web hosting provider.

Czech translator said...

Check www.jobsfortranslators.com
It is hosted on yahoo groups, it is free and always will be free. Only jobs for translators and itnerpreters posted, no discussions and other nonsence.

Unknown said...

I have the same experience as Michael and Amy - most of my good clients that agree to decent rates come from Proz (€0.09-0.12). However, I find it a bit strange that a client gives a rate. I normally quote MY rate, often as a flat fee, and we negotiate.

One bad experience with Proz was when I gave the lowest rating to an agency based in Moldova but pretending to be a US and UK agency - Travod. I got tired of them sending jobs at $0.04, even though I had been asking them to delete me from their database. First, the rate is insulting, and also it's not 100% honest to use the contact data of virtual offices in other countries.
Result? Heated correspondence with Travod and the Proz contact person (from the Ukraine), and when I refused to remove my comment, Proz removed it. On the same day, 2 more negative comments on Travod were removed.
Therefore, I do not trust Blue Board 100%.

Translationethics said...

Thanks Kersti, that is why I myself don't trust them AT ALL. Blatant censorship of members who pay them 120 Eur per year...
That is so corrupt!

Unknown said...

I don't agree with a lot of things you wrote. After I "discovered" ProZ I create a profile there and one year later, with 3 good clients I decided to pay the membership. The good jobs are not those posted in the site. You have good jobs when you have a good profile that attract clients who contact you directly. I'm working as translator for more than 10 years now and 98% of my clients found me at ProZ. Isabel Vidigal

Anonymous said...

True, Proz blueboard is not reliable at all. I have experienced it first-hand. Here is my experience with Proz : https://translatorants.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/proz-blueboard-is-not-credible/