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Does anyone know about this new translation platform?
Thread poster: Robert Forstag

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:28
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agencies vs. Brokers Jul 25, 2017

Other than securing end clients, agencies sometimes do not provide added value. When they do, it is a proofing job (that often is done by someone who does not know the source language, and that is designed to mainly detect missing text and obvious mistakes in the target language - it is not typically a thorough check against source). Again, sometimes even this basic proofing is not done.

The other thing that agencies do is format the document so that it looks nice, sometimes even ta
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Other than securing end clients, agencies sometimes do not provide added value. When they do, it is a proofing job (that often is done by someone who does not know the source language, and that is designed to mainly detect missing text and obvious mistakes in the target language - it is not typically a thorough check against source). Again, sometimes even this basic proofing is not done.

The other thing that agencies do is format the document so that it looks nice, sometimes even taking pains to closely replicate the appearance of the original (something that I myself don't do, and that I don't think is typically necessary).

The function of project managers is to assign projects within certain agreed budget parameters. They typically offer no assistance beyond that basic function.

In short, the "added value" that an agency offers an experienced translator is fairly limited. And in the main language pairs, the increasing tendency is to squeeze more and more work from the translator for less and less money.

Agencies would be the places to go to turnaround huge projects within a very short time (and for projects involving translation to multiple languages). But most translation projects fall outside these parameters.

Given this state of affairs, I think the "broker" approach of iLing.pro holds some promise. Maybe it will work for translators, and maybe not. It does put added pressure on translators to deliver "client-ready" files, but this should be possible for a translator who is proficient in the subject matter working with a reasonable deadline. It might also be possible to build in proofreading for an extra fee.

I still think the 25% markup is too high, but I think that the approach holds some promise.
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I see a world of difference Jul 25, 2017

Robert Forstag wrote:
I see two main differences between hiring a translator through iLing.pro and proz.com:
1.
iLing.pro only accepts translators in its database who have at least one verified credential of some kind (while anyone can set up a profile at proz.com). Yes there is the red "P" and "verified credentials," but these require extra searching.
2.
The ratings system on iLing.pro seems designed to help translation buyers make their decision (and, in contrast to the WWA system but like its Blue Board, seems to allow the possibility of negative ratings).

Are you sure that iLing.pro actually verifies those credentials? Or could anyone do a half-competent cut-and-paste job to create a totally false "credential"? But even aside from that, we all know that it isn't just what you've been taught that counts as a translator - it's far more important to be able to apply all the knowledge you've acquired, through whatever means, and produce a good translation. When potential clients come to ProZ.com they're faced with the biggest choice in the world, so they can be really specific in their requirements and still be able to choose from those who stand out best. And they can make their choice based on an awful lot of factors apart from those few you list, and apart from those used in directory filters, including (in no particular order):
- KudoZ activity
- translation samples
- CV (if displayed)
- forum postings
- WWA (although I agree that unbiased feedback should be allowed)
- "About me" text
- past projects
- years of activity on the site
- on-line and in-person training history
- WIWO history
...

I suspect that iLing.pro won't even want the end client to know their translator's full name. Providing too much information on an individual would make it far too easy for translators to be found elsewhere - like here, for instance - which would lose the site their 25%. So in the end all the end client will know about is those supposedly verified credentials.


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:28
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Sheila Jul 25, 2017

You make some good points. The main problem is that, in those few instances where end clients (rather than agencies) have found me on proz.com, it has usually been for small one-off jobs (e.g., birth certificates, academic transcripts). This site is not set up to attract end clients, but agencies.

And under prevailing conditions in the main language pairs, agencies are paying low rates and assessing high markups in exchange for limited added value.

The attractiveness of
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You make some good points. The main problem is that, in those few instances where end clients (rather than agencies) have found me on proz.com, it has usually been for small one-off jobs (e.g., birth certificates, academic transcripts). This site is not set up to attract end clients, but agencies.

And under prevailing conditions in the main language pairs, agencies are paying low rates and assessing high markups in exchange for limited added value.

The attractiveness of iLing.Pro is that it is geared to end clients. This doesn't mean that it will work in practice. I don't even know if the outfit is legitimate at this point. I myself highlighted some of its weaknesses in my last post.

But it does seem to offer a promising approach to accessing end clients while offering qualified freelancers rates that don't reduce them to sweatshop drudges.
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My experience here is far better Jul 25, 2017

Robert Forstag wrote:
The main problem is that, in those few instances where end clients (rather than agencies) have found me on proz.com, it has usually been for small one-off jobs (e.g., birth certificates, academic transcripts). This site is not set up to attract end clients, but agencies.

It's true that the majority of clients from outside the industry that have come to me via ProZ.com in the last five years (the period I can quickly and easily search) have wanted small jobs. However, the exceptions are truly notable as they include two really good but apparently past clients, one of my best regular current ones, and two book authors. I also get a lot of work through other site members who are outsourcing but don't act anything like the big bad agencies. It has also provided me with some really good agency clients - not at all the bottom-feeding ones. Of course, I get a lot of enquiries from those as well - I'm sure we all do - but they don't take up much time or effort. If they don't take "You must be joking!" as a definite no, and instead start spamming me, I threaten them with prosecution and they go away. I never compromise on rates - at least, not on my hourly rate.


 

Natasha Ziada  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 07:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
From a client's perspective Jul 26, 2017

From a translator's POV, there could be many reasons for choosing not to work through agencies, the main one being higher rates. I was talking specifically about the service clients expect from agencies.

Mirko Mainardi wrote:

the proofreading (IF asked by the client) is physically done by another translator, not by "the agency", with yet another markup;


This is simply not true. The better agencies standard provide proofread texts and the price for proofreading is included in their quote.

Robert Forstag wrote:

Other than securing end clients, agencies sometimes do not provide added value. When they do, it is a proofing job (that often is done by someone who does not know the source language, and that is designed to mainly detect missing text and obvious mistakes in the target language - it is not typically a thorough check against source).


Again, the better agencies take proofing seriously. In my experience, translator and proofreader work together to deliver the best possible outcome, which absolutely includes a thorough check against the source.

It is not my intention to wax lyrical about working with agencies in general, just to point out the difference between paying a marked-up price for an agency as opposed to for a broker.

I actually went ahead and signed up with iLing as a customer, and there is really nothing to go by when looking for a reputable translator: all you can select are country and languages. The only things that are displayed on a translator's profile are their username, country of residence, 1-5 star rating (no comments), and a little symbol depicting the language combination(s) they hold credentials in. No introduction, no specialisations, no CV, no experience, no software used, no services provided, no actual proof of their credentials.

Who on earth would pay a 25% fee for something as basic as that?


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:28
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Methinks I hear a death knell sounding... Jul 26, 2017

Natasha Ziada wrote:

It is not my intention to wax lyrical about working with agencies in general, just to point out the difference between paying a marked-up price for an agency as opposed to for a broker.


How disappointing! I was hoping for an ode or sonnet, or at the very least a pithy haiku or two.

But seriously, on to the substance of your post:

Natasha Ziada wrote:

I actually went ahead and signed up with iLing as a customer, and there is really nothing to go by when looking for a reputable translator: all you can select are country and languages. The only things that are displayed on a translator's profile are their username, country of residence, 1-5 star rating (no comments), and a little symbol depicting the language combination(s) they hold credentials in. No introduction, no specialisations, no CV, no experience, no software used, no services provided, no actual proof of their credentials.

Who on earth would pay a 25% fee for something as basic as that?


I guess the answer would have to be "bloody no one."

Maybe the site is in its embryonic stages and the plan is to flesh out this information. In any case, you (and others in this discussion also) point to another major problem with such brokers (and one they share with agencies): their mortal fear that the two principals will simply bypass their intermediation and deal directly with one another.

So maybe such an approach is simply doomed to failure.

My original post here reflects my general dissatisfaction with agencies, which in the typical scenario feature the following characteristics and requirements:

1. Low rates.
2. Haggling over rates for each and every job.
3. Taking time to complete a form to "register in their database."
4. After which you may or may not receive actual work.
5. Insistence on submitting an unpaid test (for which you may or may not receive feedback, and which may or may not be assessed by a competent grader).
6. Preference (or exclusive consideration for) freelancers using particular CAT tools (or, increasingly, requiring use of an "in-house" CAT tool which takes time to learn).
7. Receiving offers in the form of group e-mails that may have been sent to dozens (if not hundreds) of other recipients, and
8. Meaning in practical terms that you cannot take too much time to review the proposed work, since someone else will surely be quicker on the draw and snag the job, and also
9. Meaning that, if you happen to be away from your computer/smartphone/tablet for a couple of minutes, you may lose the opportunity to be assigned the job in question.
10. Payment terms that may result in having to wait 45 days after completion of work (and in some cases much longer) for payment.
11. No real professional relationship with the person at the agency you deal with (typically a young PM not qualified to assess your work) and no real appreciation of the work that you do.
12. Dubious added value on the agency end. (Yes, sometimes there is the kind of careful and competent checking that you mention. Other times there is nothing. Sometimes the proofing is done by someone without knowledge of the source language. Sometimes, when real checking is done, the person doing it is not especially competent, and issues are flagged as "errors" that really represent nothing more than the proofer's own preferences.)

The real answer for translators is to secure direct clients and eliminate middlemen of any sort. The next best solution is the forming of some kind of consortium of qualified translators (grouped by language combination and/or field of expertise) with its own website to attract clients (and to which participating translators would pay dues). Then maybe a a third option would be the kind of brokerage represented by iLing.pro, if it can iron out the problems that have been identified.

In any event, I see reliance exclusively on agency assignments as increasingly unviable for many freelancers hoping to function as professionals.

[Edited at 2017-07-26 14:30 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:28
Member (2018)
French to English
letterbox Jul 26, 2017

Robert Forstag wrote:

Other than securing end clients, agencies sometimes do not provide added value. When they do, it is a proofing job (that often is done by someone who does not know the source language, and that is designed to mainly detect missing text and obvious mistakes in the target language - it is not typically a thorough check against source). Again, sometimes even this basic proofing is not done.

The other thing that agencies do is format the document so that it looks nice, sometimes even taking pains to closely replicate the appearance of the original (something that I myself don't do, and that I don't think is typically necessary).

The function of project managers is to assign projects within certain agreed budget parameters. They typically offer no assistance beyond that basic function.

In short, the "added value" that an agency offers an experienced translator is fairly limited. And in the main language pairs, the increasing tendency is to squeeze more and more work from the translator for less and less money.

Agencies would be the places to go to turnaround huge projects within a very short time (and for projects involving translation to multiple languages). But most translation projects fall outside these parameters.



When I worked as a PM in a top-notch agency, we provided much more than that. If the Italian translator asked a question, we made sure that all the other translators were given both question and answer. When giving work to a different translator because the usual one was on holiday, we made sure they were given some previous translations so they could keep to the same terminology and if possible, the same style. We made sure that everyone wrote things like the date and time the same way. We checked that glossaries had been complied with. This was the PM's job, on top of the proofreading.
This platform sounds like it's a letterbox only.


 

David GAY  Identity Verified
Dutch to French
+ ...
focus on the best agencies... Jul 26, 2017

Robert Forstag wrote:



1. Low rates.
2. Haggling over rates for each and every job.
3. Taking time to complete a form to "register in their database."
4. After which you may or may not receive actual work.
5. Insistence on submitting an unpaid test (for which you may or may not receive feedback, and which may or may not be assessed by a competent grader).
6. Preference (or exclusive consideration for) freelancers using particular CAT tools (or, increasingly, requiring use of an "in-house" CAT tool which takes time to learn).
7. Receiving offers in the form of group e-mails that may have been sent to dozens (if not hundreds) of other recipients, and
8. Meaning in practical terms that you cannot take too much time to review the proposed work, since someone else will surely be quicker on the draw and snag the job, and also
9. Meaning that, if you happen to be away from your computer/smartphone/tablet for a couple of minutes, you may lose the opportunity to be assigned the job in question.
10. Payment terms that may result in having to wait 45 days after completion of work (and in some cases much longer) for payment.
11. No real professional relationship with the person at the agency you deal with (typically a young PM not qualified to assess your work) and no real appreciation of the work that you do.
12. Dubious added value on the agency end. (Yes, sometimes there is the kind of careful and competent checking that you mention. Other times there is nothing. Sometimes the proofing is done by someone without knowledge of the source language. Sometimes, when real checking is done, the person doing it is not especially competent, and issues are flagged as "errors" that really represent nothing more than the proofer's own preferences.)



[Edited at 2017-07-26 14:30 GMT]


...you'll avoid all these headaches.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:28
English to Portuguese
+ ...
In memoriam
Easier said than done Jul 26, 2017

David GAY wrote:

focus on the best agencies...

Robert Forstag wrote:
1. Low rates.
2. Haggling over rates for each and every job.
3. Taking time to complete a form to "register in their database."
4. After which you may or may not receive actual work.
5. Insistence on submitting an unpaid test (for which you may or may not receive feedback, and which may or may not be assessed by a competent grader).
6. Preference (or exclusive consideration for) freelancers using particular CAT tools (or, increasingly, requiring use of an "in-house" CAT tool which takes time to learn).
7. Receiving offers in the form of group e-mails that may have been sent to dozens (if not hundreds) of other recipients, and
8. Meaning in practical terms that you cannot take too much time to review the proposed work, since someone else will surely be quicker on the draw and snag the job, and also
9. Meaning that, if you happen to be away from your computer/smartphone/tablet for a couple of minutes, you may lose the opportunity to be assigned the job in question.
10. Payment terms that may result in having to wait 45 days after completion of work (and in some cases much longer) for payment.
11. No real professional relationship with the person at the agency you deal with (typically a young PM not qualified to assess your work) and no real appreciation of the work that you do.
12. Dubious added value on the agency end. (Yes, sometimes there is the kind of careful and competent checking that you mention. Other times there is nothing. Sometimes the proofing is done by someone without knowledge of the source language. Sometimes, when real checking is done, the person doing it is not especially competent, and issues are flagged as "errors" that really represent nothing more than the proofer's own preferences.)



[Edited at 2017-07-26 14:30 GMT]


...you'll avoid all these headaches.


Until not so many years ago, about one out of every ten translation agencies refrained from adopting most - when not all - the practices above. Nowadays, I think it's one out of twenty...


 

Natasha Ziada  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 07:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
Needles / haystack Jul 27, 2017

Robert Forstag wrote:


My original post here reflects my general dissatisfaction with agencies, which in the typical scenario feature the following characteristics and requirements:

[list]

The real answer for translators is to secure direct clients and eliminate middlemen of any sort. The next best solution is the forming of some kind of consortium of qualified translators (grouped by language combination and/or field of expertise) with its own website to attract clients (and to which participating translators would pay dues). Then maybe a a third option would be the kind of brokerage represented by iLing.pro, if it can iron out the problems that have been identified.

In any event, I see reliance exclusively on agency assignments as increasingly unviable for many freelancers hoping to function as professionals.


I absolutely agree that to every good agency, there are heaps more falling in the category summarised in your list, and I get the need to look for other options where translators are held in higher regard. Collaboration between translators might be the best way forward - I fear that all other options will simply attract the entrepreneurially inclined, looking for easy profits.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Aren't we - freelancers - all entrepreneurs? Jul 27, 2017

Natasha Ziada wrote:
Collaboration between translators might be the best way forward - I fear that all other options will simply attract the entrepreneurially inclined, looking for easy profits.

I'd say that a team of translators doesn't necessarily have to make for a better client. Who's going to be the "team leader"? Who's going to do the project management? Are they going to be paid for that work they do on behalf of the others? Don't they become rather like a one-person agency? And if they're anything like successful at running a freelance business then they must have entrepreneurial skills. It then boils down to whether, once they get used to "being the boss", they're (1) just looking for easy profits or (2) have a rather different view of society and their profession. I'm sure there would be a few in the first category, even if they were still active translators. In fact, I've had brief dealings with a couple of outsourcing translators who weren't very fair-minded at all (although most are: don't get upset, anyone I've worked with ). On the other hand, I regularly work with some highly ethical boutique agencies, who of course want and need to make a profit, but not at the expense of their suppliers or their clients.

It's odd (to me, at any rate), that the word "entrepreneur" sometimes seems to have negative connotations. I particularly found that to be the case in France, where it was very often said with a hint of a spit, despite (or because of?) its French-language origin. Coming from a "nation of shopkeepers" has something to do with my positive image of the average entrepreneur, I suppose. Even though I don't think anyone in my family ever ran a shop, we've almost all run businesses at some time.


 

Natasha Ziada  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 07:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
@ Sheila Jul 28, 2017

Sorry if I didn't make myself clear

I personally am certainly not against working with carefully selected agencies, and as a freelance translator aka business owner I am by definition an entrepreneur. What I meant by my euphemistic 'entrepreneurially inclined' are those broker-type outfits, where someone sees a way to make an easy buck at the expense of quality, clients and suppliers (which seems to me is the case wit
... See more
Sorry if I didn't make myself clear

I personally am certainly not against working with carefully selected agencies, and as a freelance translator aka business owner I am by definition an entrepreneur. What I meant by my euphemistic 'entrepreneurially inclined' are those broker-type outfits, where someone sees a way to make an easy buck at the expense of quality, clients and suppliers (which seems to me is the case with iLing). Perhaps naively, I figured this could be avoided when translators work together rather than joining a business run by outsiders who purely think of profits. In my experience, the best agencies are the smaller, boutique ones run by a former/current translator(s). You seem to have had some different experiences though, so it might not always hold true.
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
We think the same way, then Jul 28, 2017

Natasha Ziada wrote:
What I meant by my euphemistic 'entrepreneurially inclined' are those broker-type outfits, where someone sees a way to make an easy buck at the expense of quality, clients and suppliers (which seems to me is the case with iLing).

I totally agree that they're the pits. Quality won't be a problem in every case with iLing, though I'm sure it will be in many. It will certainly a be totally impersonal, disjointed sort of experience, one which would make me personally increasingly bitter about that wasted 25%, even if I was earning well. I would worry more than anything about how to get my invoice paid if a client complained about quality simply because my non-literal marketing translations didn't come out the same as their GT output!

Perhaps naively, I figured this could be avoided when translators work together rather than joining a business run by outsiders who purely think of profits. In my experience, the best agencies are the smaller, boutique ones run by a former/current translator(s). You seem to have had some different experiences though, so it might not always hold true.

I can only think of one team I've worked with (on sex toys, of all things!), and that was great fun and went very well, as do almost all my relationships with boutique agencies. Most of my dealings with individual translators have been happy too, although some accept ridiculously low rates themselves and hope I'll do the same. But some freelancers see broker agencies taking work from bigger agencies and passing it down to them, and they want a piece of that action. They feel they're going up a level in the chain, but really they're just lengthening it, getting mega-stressed, and risking financial and personal breakdown.

I suppose the perfect set-up is a team of (maybe ex-) translators, who are able to check the quality of their suppliers and who all have at least one other ace up their sleeve: managing, customer relations, IT, accounting ... But for the sake of accountability, particularly for international business, it absolutely has to have just one boss. That sounds rather like a boutique agency.


 
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