A new trend on the market?

First, I’d like to comment on a new “trend”, if this is the name in the translation sphere. A couple of months ago, I got a phone call from of the “vendors managers” or whatever fancy title they have from one of the big players for which I have been working on and off since 2000. Large jobs, small jobs, weird topics, a total mishmash. We always had a friendly relationship and I considered them a good and reliable client.

So, said lady wanted to discuss new rates “so that they could send me more work, as I hadn’t worked for them for some time because my rates were too high”. She sent me a lengthy email, praising their good work and stable of Fortune 500 clients, yada yada yada. The rate they were willing to pay “to swamp me with work” was 60% of I had been charging them for the last 11 years!!! I politely said No, I am not interested.  I hinted that I had lots of work at my regular rate and that I wanted to work less and earn more.

To make a long story short, since January they keep sending me work at the “new rate” and I decline them all. Now they resorted to phone calls. Again, the same answer.

To be honest, I don’t know if the PMs were informed that I don’t want to work for the new rate or if they are trying to win me over. I am standing my ground and saying NO, thanks.

If their business model is that of acquiescing to every whim of Fortune 500 companies, my business model to is charge more. The funny thing is that the other clients I work for are not Fortune 500 companies or big agencies and they are happy with my rates…

Makes you wonder…

Anyway, only this week I got an email from another large LSP asking me to reduce my price about 30% so that they could send me more work as they had detected an increase in translations into Brazilian Portuguese…. Really?

I know that the market forces and laws apply to the translation market. And I also like (and want) to pay less. But I do wonder what’s going to happen on the market – and myself, for that matter – if this trend catches on.

Better brush up other skills?

6 Comments

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6 Responses to A new trend on the market?

  1. Victoria

    Same story – I accepted their reduced rate after I got a phone call assuring me I would be included in the agency’s “top ten” list and I would have priority over other translators. Well, now they are on my “bottom ten” list and I politely decline every offer.

  2. A 60% cut in pay? Give them 60% less quality and wait for what they have to say about it. In some cases, they may not even notice the difference.
    They’re basically trying to see whether they still can squeeze some work out of the old hands for less before they resort to the bottomfeeders, who will work for anything. Don’t fall for it.

  3. I was asked to swallow similar horse manure about “declining rates” by a friend who owns a local agency, who declared that clients paying my rates are simply clueless and will eventually wise up and abandon my services for those of better German/English specialists in Nepal or some other charming backwater. To his credit at least, he wasn’t asking me to do any work at those rates, so I guess he must be among the clueless.

    If these agencies are experiencing an increase in demand for your language pair, then basic economics would lead one to suspect that the price trend would be upward. Of course, unscrupulous intermediaries count on the lack of business skills and self-esteem so common among translators and pull out the price thumbscrews instead. Or, as I have observed often enough, there are simply too many agencies out there bidding against each other, hoping that the limited pool of usable translators will help keep them afloat. As anyone who bothers to look at the financials for those losers at Lionbridge will quickly note, the big players in the translation world are not necessarily profitable. They deliver shit at shit prices and will, most likely, eventually eat shit and die. So encourage them to do so sooner and just say a resounding “NO”!

    If one buys the line from the MT gurus that we must continue to pursue the Philospher’s Stone of machine translation because the volume of information to translate far exceeds the supply of available translators (willing to work at dark, Satanic keyboards for starvation rates), well… draw your own conclusions.

    Yes, the world of translation has changed, and we can no longer peck around on our manual Underwood typewriters translating general business correspondence, drop the work in the mail, and then take the fat check that arrives by return mail and run out to by a turbocharged Porsche. But those who aspire to be more than multilingual secretaries working as de facto employees without benefits can still follow the validated path of specialization and learning basic business marketing and process skills, and doing so hold the line and advance.

    • Ned Humphrey

      Good points, well pointed. And as long as people can maintain their rates and the amount of work they need to earn their particular idea of a living, all will be well, and the cream will rise to the top. Yet the trending downward pressure is there, and more and more one gets offers of work with a fixed amount the employer or middleman is authorized to pay; take it or leave it. Your per-line or per word rate is of no interest to them.

      Customers who know the difference between localization and mere translation are more likely to appreciate and pay for quality work, but then the manual for some new piece-of-crap electronic gizmo from China does not really have to stand the test, does it?

      Interesting discussion, though.

  4. Ned Humphrey

    I am positive that the rates you currently get will soon be a thing of the past. What started with HuffPo and other sites that attract lots of good, free content in exchange for “name recognition” is now going global in almost every field. People are doing professional work for five bucks a pop on various sites, either for the “recognition” or because they don’t need the money (hobby translators and housewives) or because they live in places where five bucks actually buys something. Those clients you have who recognize good quality and the difference between a literate translation and “well, you can tell what it’s supposed to mean” will stick with you for now, but good luck getting new ones. And as rates already haven’t really changed much for twenty years (have yours?), the increasing globalization of the internet means that even those customers will eventually hear the news about cheap intellectual labor on all fronts and start to put pressure on all their suppliers. You may be good enough to withstand it for a time, but eventually someone just as good as you will need the work even at 60% of the pay. Star translators of star authors aside, one can only expect more of this.

    So, yes: new skills.

  5. “LSP asking me to reduce my price about 30% so that they could send me more work as they had detected an increase in translations into Brazilian Portuguese”

    Very interesting. Increase in translation volume should not exert downward pressure on prices, at least if market is working as it’s expected.

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