Help me politely decline taking low-paying jobs from a regular agency
Thread poster: Matthew Olson

Matthew Olson
Japan
Local time: 20:17
Japanese to English
Dec 27, 2011

Hey all. I'm still a fairly new translator, so this is the first time this kind of issue has come up.

I've been translating activity reports for an NPO through an agency for the past few months for a very low rate. Other jobs from this agency are paid at a rate similar to other agencies I work for. At first, I didn't mind these jobs, both because they are for an NPO and because I didn't have much other work coming in at the time. However, I seem to have become "the guy" for these NP
... See more
Hey all. I'm still a fairly new translator, so this is the first time this kind of issue has come up.

I've been translating activity reports for an NPO through an agency for the past few months for a very low rate. Other jobs from this agency are paid at a rate similar to other agencies I work for. At first, I didn't mind these jobs, both because they are for an NPO and because I didn't have much other work coming in at the time. However, I seem to have become "the guy" for these NPO translations - this agency tends to email me two or three times a week with more of these low-paying jobs (in addition to more lucrative work). I've been getting more regular-paying work lately and these NPO jobs, filling up my schedule as they do, are starting to cut into my finances. The jobs may be for a charity, but I can't put myself in the poor house for them. They're also very unfullfilling, stylistically boring, unimportant PR fluff pieces full of long, long compound nouns that take forever to untangle.

So my question is, how can I politely and tactfully decline taking on any more of them? Of course, I could give a flat-out "no" next time or say I'm busy, but I thought I'd ask everyone's advice before jumping the gun. Suggestions from those currently working in J > E would be particularly helpful, but any and all advice is welcome.

Thanks in advance!
Collapse


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:17
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Be straight with them Dec 27, 2011

Simply tell them, very politely, that you would be happy to provide translations for them at the higher rate, but that you cannot accept the lower-paid work in preference to higher-paid work from other sources that you are regularly being offered.

I can't see how this kind of honesty would hurt your relationship with the NPO, and it might even result in them offering you only higher-paid work in the future.

Good luck.


 

Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:17
Greek to English
+ ...
Remind them you are a human being Dec 27, 2011

This business is conducted via e-mail.

Therefore, the very young project managers and agency owners on the other side, frequently forget that you are a human being.

Remind them that you are a human being.

Then say it to yourself as well, just in case you forgot it.

Then say also "hey wait! - I'm also a highly educated human being". Start acting like one.
If we all do this, the combined income in the translation industry will raise by 10
... See more
This business is conducted via e-mail.

Therefore, the very young project managers and agency owners on the other side, frequently forget that you are a human being.

Remind them that you are a human being.

Then say it to yourself as well, just in case you forgot it.

Then say also "hey wait! - I'm also a highly educated human being". Start acting like one.
If we all do this, the combined income in the translation industry will raise by 10% within a year. Currently it keeps falling because outsources have no shame when they send things over email (not a direct face to face contact). So they take the money from the little guy (the translator) and give it to the big guys (the corporations). Then they say that they support the "occupy something" movement.

They' re liars - sometimes they don't even know it. You understand that these are translations for a NPO, that's not an excuse. Separate your job from your charitable activities please.
Collapse


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:17
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
well... It's probably different in Japan... Dec 27, 2011

...but since you are a foreigner, you are probably forgiven for being rude..

So, I don't see why you should not just say:" please give me more of the high-paid jobs, instead of the low-paid ones..." (just as long as there is not somekind of link between those low-paid and the high-paid ones, i.e. the TM does not feel oblidged to offer you the high-paid BECAUSE you also do the low-paid...).

If you have become the go-to-guy simply because you don't say "no", you can just
... See more
...but since you are a foreigner, you are probably forgiven for being rude..

So, I don't see why you should not just say:" please give me more of the high-paid jobs, instead of the low-paid ones..." (just as long as there is not somekind of link between those low-paid and the high-paid ones, i.e. the TM does not feel oblidged to offer you the high-paid BECAUSE you also do the low-paid...).

If you have become the go-to-guy simply because you don't say "no", you can just ask them about it... Maybe admitting that you need the money from the higher-paid jobs is a sign of weakness, or the lower paid jobs are considered a great honour..

But you are not Japanese, so the person might have expected such a question from you...

If it would be Chinese you could probably get away with claiming you need more of the Yang than Ying to better balance your life...

: )

Ed
Collapse


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:17
English to Portuguese
+ ...
In memoriam
A matter of prioritizing Dec 27, 2011

You may take low-paying jobs as long as they give way to higher-paying jobs on priority. In other words, you'll rank the jobs on your to-do list in descending order of rates. First do the highest-paying ones, then the next, and so on, until you have nothing left to do. Getting low pay - to a certain limit, of course - is better than doing nothing, so doing lower-paying jobs as "fillers" for otherwise idle time makes sense.

Evidence of that is the existence of urgency surcharges, cli
... See more
You may take low-paying jobs as long as they give way to higher-paying jobs on priority. In other words, you'll rank the jobs on your to-do list in descending order of rates. First do the highest-paying ones, then the next, and so on, until you have nothing left to do. Getting low pay - to a certain limit, of course - is better than doing nothing, so doing lower-paying jobs as "fillers" for otherwise idle time makes sense.

Evidence of that is the existence of urgency surcharges, clients who will pay you more than your desired rates, so you'll work longer hours per day, and even on weekends to meet their deadlines.

My lower rates usually apply to books. The publisher already has to invest so much in acquiring rights, typesetting, paper, finishing, sales, logistics... before the first reader buys a copy from a store, that they must squeeze costs as much as they can. In translation, this is done by giving me months to translate somethng that I could do in a week or two at most, if I did nothing else. So the book translation becomes a filler in between all my other better paying projects.

However I took this system one step further... to payment terms. My standard payment term is within two weeks after delivery. First I got rid of all clients paying beyond 30 days, realizing that I am not a money lending institution. Yet I have some very good clients that cannot pay me earlier than a month after delivery. I have made these aware - and they agreed - that they will lose their priority to any earlier-paying client. On the other hand, some clients need ultimate rush. When they ask for it, and I am already loaded with work, I tell them I can only take it for COD or 2-day payment max. Surprisingly, all these have accepted so far, and were quite happy with the speedy service.
Collapse


 

Denise Phelps  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Polite "no" Dec 27, 2011

I like Rupert Forstag's suggestion, but I think that while that might work well in the US, in other cultures it might cause offence. I have the same problem with the first agency I started working for. I feel some loyalty towards them because the work they sent me helped me while I was getting established, but this work is the lowest paid and generally the worst written. I've taken to giving them delivery dates that often exceed their deadline. This seems to work because it isn't a straight ... See more
I like Rupert Forstag's suggestion, but I think that while that might work well in the US, in other cultures it might cause offence. I have the same problem with the first agency I started working for. I feel some loyalty towards them because the work they sent me helped me while I was getting established, but this work is the lowest paid and generally the worst written. I've taken to giving them delivery dates that often exceed their deadline. This seems to work because it isn't a straight no, gives the impression that I'm highly in demand (which is true), and would do it for them if only I could. You could also add that you'd try to do it sooner for them if they could give you higher rates, but my experience of these kinds of agencies is that they can't, and will send endless projects to the gem they have found who is willing to work for unsustainable rates.

Whatever, if you've managed to build a better client base, it's time to leave these behind politely (for the next batch of new translators to pick up).
Collapse


 

Fabiana Zardo  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:17
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Just say no Dec 27, 2011

Politeness, as I see it, is a professional obligation. So, you just have to say: It's been a pleasure working for you, but the rates you are offering are too low according to my standards. And you don't have to justify yourself. If you need to pay bills, buy candy or give this money away to strangers on the street, all that is not the agency’s business.

You need to define what your minimum rate is and find clients according to it. Apparently, you've already done that. It's normal
... See more
Politeness, as I see it, is a professional obligation. So, you just have to say: It's been a pleasure working for you, but the rates you are offering are too low according to my standards. And you don't have to justify yourself. If you need to pay bills, buy candy or give this money away to strangers on the street, all that is not the agency’s business.

You need to define what your minimum rate is and find clients according to it. Apparently, you've already done that. It's normal to get rid of the low payers as better ones come around.

Good luck!
Collapse


 

Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:17
Member
Dutch to English
+ ...
Tell them that you cannot 'afford' to do this much work Dec 28, 2011

at such a low rate but that you are willing to do 500 words (or whatever you feel comfortable doing) a week. Then, if they ask, you can say that your capacity is full.

In the UK, many charities have started phoing people to get monthly contributions. At first I listened to the whole thing out of politeness. Then, I told them that I was dead (did not work) and then I told them that I had money problems: this worked as a charm and after 10 seconds they hung up.

Good luck,
... See more
at such a low rate but that you are willing to do 500 words (or whatever you feel comfortable doing) a week. Then, if they ask, you can say that your capacity is full.

In the UK, many charities have started phoing people to get monthly contributions. At first I listened to the whole thing out of politeness. Then, I told them that I was dead (did not work) and then I told them that I had money problems: this worked as a charm and after 10 seconds they hung up.

Good luck,
Marijke

[Edited at 2011-12-28 10:14 GMT]
Collapse


 

Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Cannot afford to work at that rate Dec 28, 2011

I always reply to them more or less the same:

Thank you very much for you interest. However, I work for a living and I cannot afford to work at such a low rate. Good luck with your projects!*

*(and I would add... good luck with your projects, you'll need it if you keep on paying low rates to your translators)


 

Izabela Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:17
English to Polish
+ ...
Setting an acceptable percentage? Dec 28, 2011

I think that defining an acceptable proportion of the NPO work in the total volume of jobs ordered from you by that particular agency could be a good idea. In this way you wouldn't refuse the work altogether but encourage the agency to remember to give you well-paid jobs first so that the required balance is maintained. Setting the proportion is up to you - 20/25/30 per cent, depending on how you feel about it.
And stick to your guns! Whenever a new NPO job pops up untimely, you should inf
... See more
I think that defining an acceptable proportion of the NPO work in the total volume of jobs ordered from you by that particular agency could be a good idea. In this way you wouldn't refuse the work altogether but encourage the agency to remember to give you well-paid jobs first so that the required balance is maintained. Setting the proportion is up to you - 20/25/30 per cent, depending on how you feel about it.
And stick to your guns! Whenever a new NPO job pops up untimely, you should inform the agency that this week/month they haven't given you enough well-paid work to be able to ask another low-paid job from you. This should make them stop and think for a while... and potentially even increase the total volume of jobs from them, which is not a bad idea, I suppose?
Of course, you'd need to word the core idea nicely and politely, but don't forget it's you who sets your own terms of business and not your customer.
Collapse


 
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member because it was not in line with site rule

Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:17
French to German
+ ...
Rather a good suggestion :) Dec 29, 2011

Iza Szczypka wrote:

I think that defining an acceptable proportion of the NPO work in the total volume of jobs ordered from you by that particular agency could be a good idea. In this way you wouldn't refuse the work altogether but encourage the agency to remember to give you well-paid jobs first so that the required balance is maintained. Setting the proportion is up to you - 20/25/30 per cent, depending on how you feel about it.
And stick to your guns! Whenever a new NPO job pops up untimely, you should inform the agency that this week/month they haven't given you enough well-paid work to be able to ask another low-paid job from you. This should make them stop and think for a while... and potentially even increase the total volume of jobs from them, which is not a bad idea, I suppose?
Of course, you'd need to word the core idea nicely and politely, but don't forget it's you who sets your own terms of business and not your customer.


Rather a good suggestion and probably a polite way to remind them how things should be.

Obviously a NPO job can pop up from time to time. But when it becomes the rule rather than an exception, it means that the agency was unable to come to terms with the NPO in a professional way and now wants you to take all the heat.

Not very respectful, if I am allowed to say.


 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Help me politely decline taking low-paying jobs from a regular agency

Advanced search







Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »
Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for ProZ.com users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through ProZ.com. Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search