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

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:44
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Oct 1, 2017

I'd like to see a new forum category - ethics
and I would like to see the price demands by prospective clients gone completely from this platform

In any case, everybody should be concerned about just looking on or thinking it won't impact them while this sector is going down the drain.
It starts with those who offer translation services (us) - especially those who decide to accept incredibly cheap rates demanded by their clients -, continues with those who post cheap de
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I'd like to see a new forum category - ethics
and I would like to see the price demands by prospective clients gone completely from this platform

In any case, everybody should be concerned about just looking on or thinking it won't impact them while this sector is going down the drain.
It starts with those who offer translation services (us) - especially those who decide to accept incredibly cheap rates demanded by their clients -, continues with those who post cheap demands of what they want to pay us on this and similar sites or contacting us with said demands - remember we are the providers and we decide what the service should cost, not the client, and, last but not least, I especially call out those who help facilitate translation business in general but also bad business in particular - many translation platforms such as this one.

I challenge this platform - the largest one - to do away once and for all with "job" posters being able to demand and thus state their budget or rate on the job board. I know this has been requested many times before. I don't see how the status quo is helping to maintain or sustain an ethical environment and healthy financial state for us. I know many share my concerns and I know many think I am just ranting and this is all overblown hogwash. So please, I invite constructive thoughts by concerned colleagues who can support my suggestion to Proz.com and the request for a new forum category.
If you want to speak out on free enterprise and let things just run their natural market course, please forgive me when I say that - you just don't get the picture IMO. But go ahead. Let's see what others have to say.

PS: With no more budgets or budget ranges stated on this platform, I say Proz.com would send a strong signal, very much in ethical terms. It might see some people come back as full members who have decided to cancel their subscription. But I am not very hopeful.

PS 2: "Being independent" to me also means to be responsible in your business and follow a code of ethics. So I posted this thread under that category.

[Edited at 2017-10-01 01:25 GMT]
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Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 12:44
English to Italian
+ ...
Ethics, you say? Oct 1, 2017

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.



[Edited at 2017-10-01 03:13 GMT]


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 19:44
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Being independent Oct 1, 2017

Therefore everybody needs to do things my way.

 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:44
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Clarification 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.



[Edited at 2017-10-01 03:13 GMT]


Providers of translations - I mean the actual translators, not those people who just sell or shuffle files around. And yes, the translators should determine what they charge. Every professional business does that. Not the client.

My point though is many translators don't do that. As you can see, cheap "offers" continue on job boards everywhere.

[Edited at 2017-10-01 04:46 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:44
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not just my way Oct 1, 2017

Lincoln Hui wrote:

Therefore everybody needs to do things my way.


... the ethical way - that's (hopefully) not just my way; so yes, it be great if everyone would do that.

[Edited at 2017-10-01 04:37 GMT]


 

Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:44
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Ethics Oct 1, 2017

Along with the country of origin of the agency, showing budget demands is a convenient way of doing my due diligence for me. Also, just because an agency is headquartered in, say, London doesn't mean they will accept professional rates.

 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:44
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The big picture Oct 1, 2017

Michael Newton wrote:

Along with the country of origin of the agency, showing budget demands is a convenient way of doing my due diligence for me. Also, just because an agency is headquartered in, say, London doesn't mean they will accept professional rates.


You're confusing doing your due diligence with ignoring the problem - that is you don't accept that kind of job - okay -, but there's lots of people to take your place. And so it happens every day and again and again. So don't tell me it's something we can conveniently ignore.

And increasingly, we see agencies around the globe take advantage of people who have nothing better to do than accept whatever offer they can get their hands on - which means all these jobs are lost to the people who conduct their business in a professional way and .. and these agencies are encouraged to continue. It's an easy game .. just post your cheap demands and you will get what you want. That's how it works. Are you getting the big picture?


 

Gitte Hoveds (X)
Denmark
Local time: 12:44
Danish to English
+ ...
Two separate issues? Oct 1, 2017

Maybe it would be helpful if you posted this as two separate issues?

If I remember correctly, there is somewhere on Proz where you can make suggestions about added features, new categories etc.

As for the issue of job postings including budgets or requests for 'best rates' etc., I find those helpful, and would find it a disservice to us as professional translators if such postings were prohibited. They make it so much easier to decide which postings to respond to and w
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Maybe it would be helpful if you posted this as two separate issues?

If I remember correctly, there is somewhere on Proz where you can make suggestions about added features, new categories etc.

As for the issue of job postings including budgets or requests for 'best rates' etc., I find those helpful, and would find it a disservice to us as professional translators if such postings were prohibited. They make it so much easier to decide which postings to respond to and which to ignore. What a waste of time it would be if you didn't know in advance that a particular client was only prepared to pay peanuts for your work.
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Maija Cirule  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 13:44
German to English
+ ...
Dear Bernhard, Oct 1, 2017

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Michael Newton wrote:

Along with the country of origin of the agency, showing budget demands is a convenient way of doing my due diligence for me. Also, just because an agency is headquartered in, say, London doesn't mean they will accept professional rates.


You're confusing doing your due diligence with ignoring the problem - that is you don't accept that kind of job - okay -, but there's lots of people to take your place. And so it happens every day and again and again. So don't tell me it's something we can conveniently ignore.

And increasingly, we see agencies around the globe take advantage of people who have nothing better to do than accept whatever offer they can get their hands on - which means all these jobs are lost to the people who conduct their business in a professional way and .. and these agencies are encouraged to continue. It's an easy game .. just post your cheap demands and you will get what you want. That's how it works. Are you getting the big picture?


you are absolutely right but nowadays in the translation world no ethics is present. Nonethical behaviour includes not only predatory pricing but also outrageous practices of "proofreading" with only goal to tarnish other translators reputation (very popular in ENG>LATVIAN pair), false declarations regarding education (mainly at Oxford or Cambridge), membership in prestigious translators associations (e.g. ATA), etc. so your endeavors remind of Don Quixote, tilting at windmills. No offence intended but in my book you are simply wasting your precious time.
I wish you all the best of luck.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:44
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
The unreachable dream Oct 1, 2017

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.

The only profession I've ever come across where the customer states/demands the price/rate and expects the service provider to simply accept it without as much as a sigh, is the translation industry. Frankly, I never understood why this is so, let alone, why we play along....
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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.

The only profession I've ever come across where the customer states/demands the price/rate and expects the service provider to simply accept it without as much as a sigh, is the translation industry. Frankly, I never understood why this is so, let alone, why we play along.

[Edited at 2017-10-01 08:42 GMT]
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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:44
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
More than tilting at windmills Oct 1, 2017

Maija Cirule wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Michael Newton wrote:

Along with the country of origin of the agency, showing budget demands is a convenient way of doing my due diligence for me. Also, just because an agency is headquartered in, say, London doesn't mean they will accept professional rates.


You're confusing doing your due diligence with ignoring the problem - that is you don't accept that kind of job - okay -, but there's lots of people to take your place. And so it happens every day and again and again. So don't tell me it's something we can conveniently ignore.

And increasingly, we see agencies around the globe take advantage of people who have nothing better to do than accept whatever offer they can get their hands on - which means all these jobs are lost to the people who conduct their business in a professional way and .. and these agencies are encouraged to continue. It's an easy game .. just post your cheap demands and you will get what you want. That's how it works. Are you getting the big picture?


you are absolutely right but nowadays in the translation world no ethics is present. Nonethical behaviour includes not only predatory pricing but also outrageous practices of "proofreading" with only goal to tarnish other translators reputation (very popular in ENG>LATVIAN pair), false declarations regarding education (mainly at Oxford or Cambridge), membership in prestigious translators associations (e.g. ATA), etc. so your endeavors remind of Don Quixote, tilting at windmills. No offence intended but in my book you are simply wasting your precious time.
I wish you all the best of luck.


Thank you for supporting my sentiments. But I am convinced that there are plenty more people out there that share these opinions and would voice their opposition to all the bad in our industry and who at the same time never compromise their ethical principles. But I am also appealing to people who might not even know better when they start in this business and see a job posted somewhere as an opportunity no matter what. They don't think twice about what their work is really worth. That thinking might kick in when they are confronted with projects where they are asked to quote a price instead of blindly accepting a budget or rate or, worse, expected to bid with even lower counter offers simply to win the job. Even if an effort such as mine reminds some people of Don Quixote, I myself feel that one should never give up on something that seems right. As long as there are supporters and people who read this, my effort and those of others are much more than tilting at windmills. No offense taken.


 

Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:44
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Not specific to translators Oct 1, 2017

Thayenga 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.

The only profession I've ever come across where the customer states/demands the price/rate and expects the service provider to simply accept it without as much as a sigh, is the translation industry. Frankly, I never understood why this is so, let alone, why we play along.


No, that is simply not true. Every profession on this planet faces exactly the same problem as us translators. Low rates is not a problem because of who we are or what we do, but because of who we deal with. It is always the stronger party who dictates prices and the weaker party who has to decide whether to take it or leave it.

If you sell your product or service to individual consumers you generally state your price and the customer pays that price or goes elsewhere. If you sell your product or service to someone who is more or less your equal you might have to negotiate a bit until you reach a price both parties are happy with. And if you sell your product or service to a large corporation they will be able to dictate the price. That's a problem we as translators face just as much as mechanics, doctors, producers, farmers, project managers, software developers and so on.

If we want to fix this, we will need to fix the world first. In the meantime, it is up to each of us to find those markets and those clients which work best for us.


Gareth Callagy
 

EvaVer (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:44
Czech to French
+ ...
Ethics? Oct 1, 2017

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. P
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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.
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:44
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
A sane perspective Oct 1, 2017

Thomas Pfann wrote:
No, that is simply not true. Every profession on this planet faces exactly the same problem as us translators.

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

[Edited at 2017-10-01 12:55 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:44
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Quite specific to translators Oct 1, 2017

Thomas Pfann wrote:

Thayenga 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.

The only profession I've ever come across where the customer states/demands the price/rate and expects the service provider to simply accept it without as much as a sigh, is the translation industry. Frankly, I never understood why this is so, let alone, why we play along.


No, that is simply not true. Every profession on this planet faces exactly the same problem as us translators. Low rates is not a problem because of who we are or what we do, but because of who we deal with. It is always the stronger party who dictates prices and the weaker party who has to decide whether to take it or leave it.


I am sorry Thomas but I have to disagree completely. First of all, I am talking about ridiculous practices that are more than obvious. Ridiculous ones. Every market has certain rules for fair business and if those rules are violated, there is a price to pay. We are paying the price because those with the power that they don't even know they have - so it seems - decide to give in and simply act like desperate children. As a professional, you stick to professional rates - never mind that they are not easily raised - but we don't fall into the basement and crawl around on the floor there. It's better to leave the industry than to do that - a note to people who do that for a living - it won't be your path to a happy life.
Go do something else. Seriously.

Low rates are the problem exactly because there are portals that allow or help facilitate them around the globe, agencies who demand them, and translators who accept them. The way it should go is that agencies or clients should approach us with their project and we will be the ones suggesting a price. It's about who starts that cycle of negotiation if you feel there is room for negotiation. But because so many people play the low price bidding game, we are all affected. We don't even get to negotiate. Take away the posting of budgets by agencies on job portals, and that cycle starts correctly. Yes, it's still take it or leave it, but for the client. And yes, we need to think about what we charge and no, we don't just demand the impossible. We ask for compensation that is adequate for the work we provide.

Thomas Pfann wrote:

If you sell your product or service to individual consumers you generally state your price and the customer pays that price or goes elsewhere. If you sell your product or service to someone who is more or less your equal you might have to negotiate a bit until you reach a price both parties are happy with. And if you sell your product or service to a large corporation they will be able to dictate the price. That's a problem we as translators face just as much as mechanics, doctors, producers, farmers, project managers, software developers and so on.


With regard to the large corporations: why would you consider working for them and get paid let's say 5 Cents a word? Why in the world would you do that? How is that ethical? They don't dictate your life or your rates. You do. If you work for such corporations (big or small), you are being exploited and you allow jobs to be taken away from people who act ethically. But look, you yourself state "if you sell your product" - it's you that sells it, not the client, it's you who suggests and decides on the price and not the client (don't accept him) and that price must be fair. If the majority of translators let themselves be exploited and if you just sit there and look on, you don't don't do yourself any favors at all. You are a willing pawn in the whole game and help ruin the industry IMO.

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. There are rules for fair business in every sector - and there are limits to what you can do before you become a sweat shop. It's about business ethics. They are no longer intact in our sector - it's time to take them back. Or at least demand them - something we should demand. Thus my suggestions as outlined at the beginning of this thread

Thomas Pfann wrote:

If we want to fix this, we will need to fix the world first. In the meantime, it is up to each of us to find those markets and those clients which work best for us.


We don't need to fix the world, just the translation sector. But fixing it needs and people will want to fix it. I am not willing to just look on as all these jobs continue to be handled between greedy agencies and willing and naive or ignorant "translators." But people need to speak out and quit defending the status quo as if it's the most normal thing or no big deal at all while they don't even realize that their heads are stuck in the sand.

[Edited at 2017-10-01 10:38 GMT]


 
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