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Ethics and the translation sector - no more budget demands + a new forum category please!
Thread poster: Bernhard Sulzer

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
So... post two separate threads Oct 1, 2017

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
I'd like to see a new forum category - ethics...


I agree that there should be a subforum for discussing translator ethics. You should post a thread in the suggestions forum.

...and I would like to see the price demands by prospective clients gone completely from this platform.


And the rest of your post is about an aspect of money matters that has nothing to do with translator ethics.


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:13
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You are quoting the wrong person ... and some thoughts Oct 1, 2017

Dan Lucas wrote:

Thomas Pfann wrote:
Fact is that all service providers on this planet (mechanics, doctors, supermarkets & co) provide their rates/prices, and it's up to the customer to accept or decline.

Thank you Thomas for this sensible contribution. I agree. Translators have a tendency to believe that they inhabit a sui generis economic space in which they are uniquely disadvantaged relative to other industries or professions. I do not think that is necessarily the case. ...


These were Thayenga's words, not Thomases'.

And I do disagree with you. I do think professional translators are disadvantaged more and more each year as they face more and more unscrupulous players in our sector. Getting rid of allowing them to state their budgets or budget ranges would be a first and easily implemented step for job portals such as this. Why not request it? Do you really think what's going on is ethical? Do you at all care enough to speak out?

Dan Lucas wrote:
In the UK, for example, doctors doubtless have higher median incomes than translators. The quid pro quo is that general practitioners have to undergo a decade of training before they are allowed to work without hindrance, and even then they are very closely regulated. Would translators be prepared to accept 10 years of mandatory training before they were permitted to work freely?


I am talking about general fair behavior in our industry. Just as it exists in other professions. Anything is better than what we find on many portals. Many who work for 9 or 10 Cents in my language combination think it's alright or that they have no choice. Not so. And not right.

Dan Lucas wrote:

I think this assumption on the part of many translators that the conditions of our profession are particularly onerous represents a failure to comprehend or accept that markets are heterogenous and that different parts of the market have different requirements regarding quality and cost. If you sell your product in unregulated markets that are sensitive to price, you will only be able to charge low prices. If you want to charge higher rates, then you need to aim your product/service at higher value-added markets.


Why would you think that these higher-value markets will remain higher-value markets when it will be increasingly possible to get what you provide for much cheaper? And what about the defeatist attitude regarding what you call unregulated markets. Which translation markets are regulated? None. You might work in a subject or language niche that hasn't been hit by the low-rate storm yet. But it's brewing. Or so you should fear. Why not act while there is time. If it hits you, do you have another skill you can fall back on for a job?

And no, I don't believe you can only charge low prices in certain markets as you said above. No matter what subject or language niche you are in, you must charge adequate prices for the work you do. Anything else is simply feeding the greedy and let yourself be exploited. I can't believe what I am reading.

Dan Lucas wrote:
Unfortunately, the high value-added markets make up a small part of the whole, therefore they are difficult to find. Probably only one translator out of 10 will end up working in these relatively lucrative areas, just as only a small percentage of lawyers will end up working at the apex of the legal industry. It's not rocket science.


I am sorry but it's not rocket science to realize that no lawyer will work for sweatshop rates. We're not talking about the apex of some small special niche. I am talking about scraping the bottom of the barrel. That's not acceptable. Many people need to wake up and stand up for our profession. You might still make a living off your translation services today. But you will need to do the same in years to come. Are you just going to sit there and defend the status quo? Wouldn't you want to at least speak out for fair rates for all translators, for a job portal without ridiculous publicly visible demands? Against translators who undercut us at every opportunity? Against those agencies that really only go on because they find willing pawns?

Dan Lucas wrote:
Ultimately, the only way to raise the rate floor is to regulate the industry and the market, and create barriers to entry into the profession. That carries its own risks, even if it could be achieved, which is debatable.

Having said all that, because the flow of information in this market is so poor (by which I mean that there is little transparency in pricing) I believe there is a place for people like Bernhard who are trying to educate newcomers about what constitutes an acceptable rate.


Thanks for those last thoughts. Since regulation of the industry is very difficult to achieve, the next best thing we can/should do is submitting constructive requests to one of the major players in this industry - job portals like this one. And keeping the conversation going.



[Edited at 2017-10-01 10:58 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:13
Member (2006)
English to German
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TOPIC STARTER
Ethics Oct 1, 2017

EvaVer wrote:

Under "ethics" in translation, I imagine different things, such as questions about translating pornography or racist political views, what to do when you discover a crime in the course of your work... What you describe is just PRICING. And it HAS been discussed many times before.
Everybody is free to accept or reject jobs. I would also like to remind you that a price ridiculously low for you or even for me (Eastern Europe) may be OK for a colleague in India or in some African countries. Publishing budget demands saves time - I won't answer if the outsourcer offers USD 0.03 per word. If the budget weren't published, I might find the job interesting.


No wonder you don't understand what I am talking about. Please google business ethics or ethical business practice or code of ethics etc. And again I must assume you are a person defending the status quo with regard to ridiculous demands. I guess you rather look away and ignore what's going on in the industry. The spiral to rock bottom rates is certainly not stopped by letting outsourcers dictate the prices, payment methods, payment terms, and by letting them pull other tricks out of their shabby hats when it comes to paying up or rejecting perfectly good translations. The lower the price demand, the more difficulties you can run into and expect from a client. It doesn't matter where you live. What matters is what is done with your translation, who uses it, who makes money off it. There are many factors, north, east, west or south. And those area designations are getting more irrelevant every day.The low rate kings sit everywhere on this planet. It's like a growing cancer spreading everywhere. And don't defend low rates because someone lives in a poorer country. You do them a bad service.


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:13
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Low rates are the symptom, but lack of ethics is the problem Oct 1, 2017

Samuel Murray wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
I'd like to see a new forum category - ethics...


I agree that there should be a subforum for discussing translator ethics. You should post a thread in the suggestions forum.


Maybe I will. But I think it's also fitting here. It's about being independent, meaning how you should act when you are an independent business person, and not about being dependent on rock bottom rates.

Samuel Murray wrote:
...and I would like to see the price demands by prospective clients gone completely from this platform.


And the rest of your post is about an aspect of money matters that has nothing to do with translator ethics.


I must disagree. I see demands with low budget ranges every day and I see them being accepted. That's not a sign of ethical business behavior. Why should Proz.com support it, even just indirectly? Let's have translators be in control of price quotes, not prospective clients. We're not in the "whatever an agency wants goes" business. I see that as unethical.

And it's not just about money, although it plays an important role. It's about respect for translators and much more. It's about the decline of the industry and the role of job portals etc.

[Edited at 2017-10-01 10:56 GMT]


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:13
Member
English to Italian
Providers (as in single freelancers?) colluding to force rates? Oct 1, 2017

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

... we are the providers and we decide what the service should cost, not the client ...



Providers colluding to force whatever rates they deem appropriate? Now THAT sounds rather unethical. And yes, I am almost exclusively a provider, and yes again, my usual rates are above average.


Clearly, that's not what Bernhard wrote (in the passage you quoted or anywhere else). Simply, each individual translator should set their rates instead of letting clients state the price they're willing to pay. Service providers offer a quote to their prospective clients, not the other way around, as it happens here.

Although each translator is still free to accept or refuse that, or to propose an "out-of-budget" rate, the whole system is inherently wrong. Additionally, if I were to use your same train of thought, I'd say that would make it much easier to fix prices on the buyers' part (so yes, 'providers' as in 'agencies'...), in addition to giving the impression that such rates may be "the norm" in the industry...

Frankly I am not sure how or why any translator would advocate that...

[Edited at 2017-10-01 11:50 GMT]


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:13
Member
English to Italian
Code of ethics Oct 1, 2017

EvaVer wrote:

Under "ethics" in translation, I imagine different things, such as questions about translating pornography or racist political views, what to do when you discover a crime in the course of your work... What you describe is just PRICING. And it HAS been discussed many times before.
Everybody is free to accept or reject jobs. I would also like to remind you that a price ridiculously low for you or even for me (Eastern Europe) may be OK for a colleague in India or in some African countries. Publishing budget demands saves time - I won't answer if the outsourcer offers USD 0.03 per word. If the budget weren't published, I might find the job interesting.


Actually, basically every professional translators' association code of ethics I've seen has a section about compensation...

E.g. "Translators and interpreters shall refrain from unfair competition (e.g. predatory pricing) and from public attacks on the reputation and competence of other translators and interpreters. Any criticism of another translator's or interpreter's work must first be expressed directly to the person concerned as objectively as possible." - http://www.fit-europe.org/vault/deont/European_Code_%20Professional_Practice.pdf

And that's from the FIT code of ethics, and most national associations are members of FIT, so...

My national association goes even further:

"Article 19. Fair Remuneration

I. Translators and interpreters shall refrain from providing their services in exchange for remuneration that is not commensurate with the quality of their work.
II. Remuneration for services rendered must be calculated on the basis of the translator’s or interpreter’s specific skills, his/her training and experience, the technical difficulty of the assignment, the research required, the deadlines agreed, any expenses incurred, investments made or any additional outlay.
III. Translators and interpreters shall avoid proposing or accepting remuneration subject to discounts or reductions that may constitute a form of unfair competition with their colleagues."
- http://www.aiti.org/english/code-of-professional-ethics-and-conduct

Maybe, as you say, "Publishing budget demands saves time", but it also subverts what should be the natural service provider-client relationship, and sets a precedent that does more harm than good in the long run, both for us as individual translators and the industry as a whole. So we're basically accepting that harm in exchange for a little convenience for us.


 

Maija Cirule  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 03:13
German to English
+ ...
Yes, Dan Oct 1, 2017

Dan Lucas wrote:

Thomas Pfann wrote:
Fact is that all service providers on this planet (mechanics, doctors, supermarkets & co) provide their rates/prices, and it's up to the customer to accept or decline.

Thank you Thomas for this sensible contribution. I agree. Translators have a tendency to believe that they inhabit a sui generis economic space in which they are uniquely disadvantaged relative to other industries or professions. I do not think that is necessarily the case.

In the UK, for example, doctors doubtless have higher median incomes than translators. The quid pro quo is that general practitioners have to undergo a decade of training before they are allowed to work without hindrance, and even then they are very closely regulated. Would translators be prepared to accept 10 years of mandatory training before they were permitted to work freely?

I think this assumption on the part of many translators that the conditions of our profession are particularly onerous represents a failure to comprehend or accept that markets are heterogenous and that different parts of the market have different requirements regarding quality and cost. If you sell your product in unregulated markets that are sensitive to price, you will only be able to charge low prices. If you want to charge higher rates, then you need to aim your product/service at higher value-added markets.

Unfortunately, the high value-added markets make up a small part of the whole, therefore they are difficult to find. Probably only one translator out of 10 will end up working in these relatively lucrative areas, just as only a small percentage of lawyers will end up working at the apex of the legal industry. It's not rocket science.

Ultimately, the only way to raise the rate floor is to regulate the industry and the market, and create barriers to entry into the profession. That carries its own risks, even if it could be achieved, which is debatable.

Having said all that, because the flow of information in this market is so poor (by which I mean that there is little transparency in pricing) I believe there is a place for people like Bernhard who are trying to educate newcomers about what constitutes an acceptable rate.

Regards,
Dan


My thoughts exactly. In addition, if one has no proper and verifiable education and practice, his/her demand for high rates most probably will be unsuccessful


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Intermediaries make the difference - and not just in translation Oct 1, 2017

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
I never went to a mechanic or doctor and demanded a lower rate than what I was supposed to pay. That would be ridiculous. Main difference is that no mechanic will fix your car for $25 just because you demand or expect it.

No, but then you're the client buying the service, and you're talking directly to the supplier.

What about all the other professions who work through intermediaries? Don't we hear people even paying to be listed by performing arts and modelling agencies? I'm sure they don't get to demand what they think is a fair rate of pay; the agencies set the terms. Only those near the top of the ladder get to name their price. The same is true of all the graphic artists/designers, copywriters, editors, computer analysts/programmers, etc., etc. who work through agencies.

I've never had a direct client try to demand anything in terms of price. They do sometimes put a budget on jobs posted here on ProZ.com, but you can often change that idea by educating them. And the moment they see that the real cost is too high for them, they go away for a rethink - they don't try to bully us. But every transaction where there are agencies involved is subject to different practices. It's the agency that speaks to the end client; who gives that client a price. If the client accepts, then the agency comes to us. Agencies aren't real clients; they're intermediaries; part of our world rather than the client's world. They've already given the end client a fixed price, and now they must do whatever they can to make a profit on the deal. It's perfectly normal for them to have little or no manoeuvrability on rates. If they quote ridiculously low prices to their clients then they're going to have to find translators willing to do the work for peanuts. In an ideal world, we'd all refuse and they'd go out of business. That would be great and many of us - you and I included, Bernhard - are trying to educate vulnerable translators and encouraging them to set limits. But the simple fact of denying agencies the ability to post a budget is not going to change anything. I do agree that there should be heavy restrictions on how they can display it, and who can see it, but I believe ProZ.com have already put those restrictions in place.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:13
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Equal rights for equal qualifications? Oct 1, 2017

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
I am sorry but it's not rocket science to realize that no lawyer will work for sweatshop rates.

Well, this is the key issue. Lawyers will not work for sweatshop rates because regulation of the industry puts a floor under fee levels, but in return only licensed lawyers can work in the profession. Buyers of legal services know that a lawyer in a developed country will have met certain minimum requirements for knowledge and competency - a significant investment in time and money.

That is not the case in translation. Literally anybody can claim to be a translator (in most countries), so abilities range from truly incompetent to very skilled. Rates vary accordingly. Ethically speaking, how can we insist on equally favourable treatment if our profession is not subject to equally stringent standards?

Dan


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:13
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Asking price Oct 1, 2017

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

I never went to a mechanic or doctor and demanded a lower rate than what I was supposed to pay.


But did you ever buy a car? Or a house? Did you simply pay the asking price? If you did, you overpaid.

And if you pay out of pocket, you can even negotiate the price of healthcare.



[Edited at 2017-10-01 17:20 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:13
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Topsy turvy Oct 1, 2017

Michele Fauble wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

I never went to a mechanic or doctor and demanded a lower rate than what I was supposed to pay.


But did you ever buy a car? Or a house? Did you simply pay the asking price? If you did, you overpaid.

And if you pay out of pocket, you can even negotiate the price of healthcare.



[Edited at 2017-10-01 17:20 GMT]


Is that how you buy your translations? I thought you were the translator?!
Same goes for buying a car. In your example, you'd be the seller. But believe me I am not saying that we should compare ourselves to car salesmen.

If there's room for negotiation in our business, it's the translator who should start that cycle and also know what constitutes an adequate price.


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:13
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's about getting rid of the bad apples, not covering them up Oct 1, 2017

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
I never went to a mechanic or doctor and demanded a lower rate than what I was supposed to pay. That would be ridiculous. Main difference is that no mechanic will fix your car for $25 just because you demand or expect it.

No, but then you're the client buying the service, and you're talking directly to the supplier.

What about all the other professions who work through intermediaries? Don't we hear people even paying to be listed by performing arts and modelling agencies? I'm sure they don't get to demand what they think is a fair rate of pay; the agencies set the terms. Only those near the top of the ladder get to name their price. The same is true of all the graphic artists/designers, copywriters, editors, computer analysts/programmers, etc., etc. who work through agencies.


I am sorry but what are you talking about?

I am my own boss; I am the one who runs my business and I determine the price, be it agencies or direct clients. Can't you see what happens when unscrupulous agencies determine what they should pay?
I don't pay for agencies to represent me and get me a good deal. I might pay for some membership in an association or have some other marketing expenses. But when it comes to quotes, I am the one quoting.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
I've never had a direct client try to demand anything in terms of price. They do sometimes put a budget on jobs posted here on ProZ.com, but you can often change that idea by educating them. And the moment they see that the real cost is too high for them, they go away for a rethink - they don't try to bully us. But every transaction where there are agencies involved is subject to different practices. It's the agency that speaks to the end client; who gives that client a price. If the client accepts, then the agency comes to us. ....


Again, no offense, but you're trying to tell me something that's completely opposite of what I believe it should be.
It doesn't matter who the client is, the fees and quotes should be set by the translator, not the client. That's why we have all these problems in the first place.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Agencies aren't real clients; they're intermediaries; part of our world rather than the client's world. ...


They are clients. Full stop. They don't get to decide what I charge for my services. No matter what they have negotiated with the end client.

Sheila Wilson wrote:
They've already given the end client a fixed price, and now they must do whatever they can to make a profit on the deal. It's perfectly normal for them to have little or no manoeuvrability on rates. If they quote ridiculously low prices to their clients then they're going to have to find translators willing to do the work for peanuts.


Why are you defending such practices by agencies? You are defending them by explaining away their actions. It really makes it seem like it's the most natural thing. But it isn't.

Sheila Wilson wrote:

In an ideal world, we'd all refuse and they'd go out of business. That would be great and many of us - you and I included, Bernhard - are trying to educate vulnerable translators and encouraging them to set limits. But the simple fact of denying agencies the ability to post a budget is not going to change anything. I do agree that there should be heavy restrictions on how they can display it, and who can see it, but I believe ProZ.com have already put those restrictions in place.


And there it is again. You are defending the status quo after all. By that you are giving carte blanche to the bad players in the business. And why do you say that denying agencies the ability to post a budget is not going to change anything? That would be a major change. Translators are then asked to think twice about what they should ask for. And it'll be them that ask. Also, it would be a great signal to everyone that Proz.com wants to stand behind the translators. Add some information about what it means to be a translator. I would never just accept the current situation, or worse, defend the current system. And hiding budget rates from certain view is like encouraging translators to stick their head in the sand. Out of sight, out of mind. Really?!


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:13
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Common sense Oct 1, 2017

Dan Lucas wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:
I am sorry but it's not rocket science to realize that no lawyer will work for sweatshop rates.

Well, this is the key issue. Lawyers will not work for sweatshop rates because regulation of the industry puts a floor under fee levels, but in return only licensed lawyers can work in the profession. Buyers of legal services know that a lawyer in a developed country will have met certain minimum requirements for knowledge and competency - a significant investment in time and money.

That is not the case in translation. Literally anybody can claim to be a translator (in most countries), so abilities range from truly incompetent to very skilled. Rates vary accordingly. Ethically speaking, how can we insist on equally favourable treatment if our profession is not subject to equally stringent standards?

Dan


We need to bring common sense to the people who don't seem to have any. People with translation skills need to know how to run a business. What they don't need is job platforms on which agencies dictate the terms.


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:13
Member
English to Italian
On education, 'budgets', etc. Oct 1, 2017

Sheila Wilson wrote:

No, but then you're the client buying the service, and you're talking directly to the supplier.

What about all the other professions who work through intermediaries? Don't we hear people even paying to be listed by performing arts and modelling agencies? I'm sure they don't get to demand what they think is a fair rate of pay; the agencies set the terms. Only those near the top of the ladder get to name their price. The same is true of all the graphic artists/designers, copywriters, editors, computer analysts/programmers, etc., etc. who work through agencies.


Even if that were the case (is it really?), do two wrongs make a right? Some of these people are simply looking for a cheap one-off service, others are actually looking for "disposable employees" who cost way less than a "real" employee (which is totally absurd and yes, unethical IMO). Should we really be making it easier for them?

But that aside, do you really want this to be (and to be in) a place where people come looking for someone to translate their 300 page novel, manual, or whatever, for $100? There already are lots of similar websites out there, is that really a good reason for this to be like them? A few weeks ago, when 'pools' where being discussed, Henry wrote they'd be implementing something like LWA (positive/negative) for ('pools') translators as well, because the sites I mentioned before already did that, so clients expected it... and I found that reference and that explanation ominous and extremely worrisome.

I've never had a direct client try to demand anything in terms of price.


Well, I did, several times. Incidentally, last time just a few days ago. An extremely well known app developer with offices all around the world (and several in the US) contacted me, asking me to work with them on a long term basis, adding I should've worked on their online platform, with tight deadlines, at 7 cents per word. So there's that...

They do sometimes put a budget on jobs posted here on ProZ.com, but you can often change that idea by educating them.


But how many people do that? And how many do meekly accept those (more often than not ludicrous) "budgets"? And, since you are very present and active on the fora, how often do you read posts by users (both paying and not paying) asking how much they should be asking for this or that project? Now imagine how many more have those very same doubts but don't even think about asking, and are therefore ultimately "educated" by the rates they see published on those "jobs"...
Remove budgets and (some) clients will actually have to read quotes, instead of just rolling the dice and choose one of those that conform to their demands. That will help "educate" them, and maybe even more importantly, (some) bidders too. And yes, you might lose a few minutes more (if you do bid on posted "jobs"), but IMO, that would be worth the effort, in the long run.

It's the agency that speaks to the end client; who gives that client a price. If the client accepts, then the agency comes to us. Agencies aren't real clients; they're intermediaries; part of our world rather than the client's world. They've already given the end client a fixed price, and now they must do whatever they can to make a profit on the deal. It's perfectly normal for them to have little or no manoeuvrability on rates.


I beg to differ. Agencies are our clients. They aren't just "facilitators" that help you find a client (like, say, recruitment agencies), so much so that your PM within the agency is very often your only point of contact, while you're generally forbidden from contacting the end-client directly (sometimes even for years after having worked for them).

Also, in my experience not many agencies have fixed "retail" rates. They usually quote a client based on a specific project, and sometimes they previously ask some translators if they'd be interested in such a project and what their rate would be, precisely in order to present a quote to that client.

But all of this is quite beside the point, IMHO, as that's not finding an explanation (or justification) to why some clients behave the way they do, but rather trying to improve the overall situation.


 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 02:13
English to Italian
+ ...
Help please! Oct 1, 2017

Can anyone explain how wanting more money is related to ethics? I still can't find the connection.

 
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