Who sets the rates?
Thread poster: Dr Howard Ca (X)

Dr Howard Ca (X)  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:30
Italian to English
+ ...
May 23, 2016

I recently posted comments regarding Translation Agencies and their conduct. Today's quick poll on the Proz website illustrates the problem well, asking about the attributes most valued by the translator or interpreter when working for a Translation Agency and 'offering good payment rates' features prominently. It is the translator or interpreter who sets the rates, NOT the Translation Agency and until this particular nettle is grasped, translators and interpreters will continue to hand control ... See more
I recently posted comments regarding Translation Agencies and their conduct. Today's quick poll on the Proz website illustrates the problem well, asking about the attributes most valued by the translator or interpreter when working for a Translation Agency and 'offering good payment rates' features prominently. It is the translator or interpreter who sets the rates, NOT the Translation Agency and until this particular nettle is grasped, translators and interpreters will continue to hand control to Translation Agencies, which will continue to exploit their perceived, but non-existent, authority.

[Bijgewerkt op 2016-05-23 08:49 GMT]
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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:30
Dutch to English
+ ...
Nobody sets any rates, afaic May 23, 2016

Strictly speaking, no-one really 'sets' rates. IMO it's silly to think a company hasn't got a budget (a translation agency is a company). They need to cover more costs than the translator they hire and they have clients who are obsessed with cost efficiency (like themselves) and accordingly want the lowest possible price. Then if they get bitten in the bum by a bad, extremely cheap translation, they (hopefully) learn. It's like shoes: you can get cheap and nasty, you can get cheap and reasonable... See more
Strictly speaking, no-one really 'sets' rates. IMO it's silly to think a company hasn't got a budget (a translation agency is a company). They need to cover more costs than the translator they hire and they have clients who are obsessed with cost efficiency (like themselves) and accordingly want the lowest possible price. Then if they get bitten in the bum by a bad, extremely cheap translation, they (hopefully) learn. It's like shoes: you can get cheap and nasty, you can get cheap and reasonable quality (yes, you can), you can get expensive and crappy (increasingly these days) and you can get expensive and good. You only need to go and find what's right for you. Which is exactly what translators and interpreters need to do.

I think an amalgamation of all the criteria listed is important: if in theory they pay good rates, but they always stall payment, then that's nothing. An unprofessional agency with good rates is nasty too, and so is one that offers mind-numbingly boring projects only. Why would you want to spend your life slogging through things that don't interest you one whit, at an only reasonable rate (I grant you if you're paid 10x the normal rate, then you could think about it).

There are always bigger and better fish in the sea than those that pay $0.05 or less., you only need to find them.
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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:30
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
You set your rates, I set my rates May 23, 2016

the agency promises the client half my rate, and deducts their own margin from what is left.... so they cpme to me with 0,08 or less... ...which means I take the day off and look for better clients....

I strongly believe an agency cannot sell something to a client without asking me first what I charge.... an opinion that is not shared by most of the agencies asking me to ""please help them out "... ( and are subsequently ignored)


Ed


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:30
English to German
Budgets May 23, 2016

Agencies should know what they can get for a certain budget, if the client's budget is too low for what they are trying to achieve then shouldn't it be the agency's job to explain that to the client?

Most low budget jobs or what appear to be low budget jobs or agencies I ignore or politely decline as there is usually no point in trying to get them to pay me double and they will probably find someone else, although it would be nice if they couldn't so easily.

[Edited at 2016-0
... See more
Agencies should know what they can get for a certain budget, if the client's budget is too low for what they are trying to achieve then shouldn't it be the agency's job to explain that to the client?

Most low budget jobs or what appear to be low budget jobs or agencies I ignore or politely decline as there is usually no point in trying to get them to pay me double and they will probably find someone else, although it would be nice if they couldn't so easily.

[Edited at 2016-05-23 10:29 GMT]
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Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:30
English to French
+ ...
Law of supply and demand May 23, 2016

The market sets the rate, according to the law of supply and demand.

It is as simple as that.


 

Dr Howard Ca (X)  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:30
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Market farces! May 26, 2016

JL01 wrote:

The market sets the rate, according to the law of supply and demand.

It is as simple as that.


I could not agree more. I long to purchase a new BMW motorcycle for 2000 Eur, but try as I might, I simply cannot find a dealer who is prepared to sell me one at that ludicrous price, because the list price is (just a little) higher. If interpreters and translators refused to work for low rates, the realization may dawn upon translation agencies that the 'list price' for their services is (just a little) higher. I know - I'll just buy the BMW badge and stick it on any old motorcycle! I mean, who would know the difference? Don't you just love economic theory?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porter's_five_forces_analysis

[Bijgewerkt op 2016-05-26 06:19 GMT]


 

Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:30
German to English
+ ...
yes indeed - and then budget May 26, 2016

Dr Howard Camm wrote:

I recently posted comments regarding Translation Agencies and their conduct. Today's quick poll on the Proz website illustrates the problem well, asking about the attributes most valued by the translator or interpreter when working for a Translation Agency and 'offering good payment rates' features prominently. It is the translator or interpreter who sets the rates, NOT the Translation Agency and until this particular nettle is grasped, translators and interpreters will continue to hand control to Translation Agencies, which will continue to exploit their perceived, but non-existent, authority.

[Bijgewerkt op 2016-05-23 08:49 GMT]

It is that simple. The person who provides a service or sells a product is the person who derives the price of that product. How can it be otherwise? You do not come into a shop and decide that you will pay $1.00 for that pair of jeans: you look at the price tag. You don't phone up a doctor's office and tell them what you have decided to pay for those services. The idea that a customer "has" good or bad rates for the services he wants to purchase is a bizarre idea which stands things on their head.

In regards to "budget"
The only person who has any kind of budget is the end client; that's the person spending his or her own money. The agency's supposed "budget" comes from having prequoted a fee before consulting the person it wishes to hire. So they quoted the wrong fee. Any agency I work for first asks me my fee and turnaround time, and THEN quotes the client. I am always astounded when someone contacts me citing how much they plan to pay me based on what they have quoted the client before having asked my fee.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 04:30
English to Polish
+ ...
Supply & demand, information asymmetry May 28, 2016

Dr Howard Camm wrote:

I recently posted comments regarding Translation Agencies and their conduct. Today's quick poll on the Proz website illustrates the problem well, asking about the attributes most valued by the translator or interpreter when working for a Translation Agency and 'offering good payment rates' features prominently. It is the translator or interpreter who sets the rates, NOT the Translation Agency and until this particular nettle is grasped, translators and interpreters will continue to hand control to Translation Agencies, which will continue to exploit their perceived, but non-existent, authority.

[Bijgewerkt op 2016-05-23 08:49 GMT]


The key thing to understanding this is that the rates and other conditions are the resultant of two forces: supply and demand.

The strength of each of the two forces, among other things, depends on access to information and the ability otu se that information. Information asymmetry plays a huge role in this, where in this case, i.e. translators vs agencies, usually agencies benefit more from it than translators, at least in business terms. (The moral hazard of bumping into a lousy translator is probably a higher risk than the moral hazard of non-payment by the agency, which is faced by translators.)

Translators can't leverage supply if they don't have much knowledge about the current state of supply and demand and aren't prepared to use it. And they usually aren't. This is what needs to change.

On to the actual content of your comment, though: either side can propose a rate, but the transaction will only follow through if both sides can agree on the same rate. This does not have to be the agency's first proposal. On the other hand, if you overquote, they can simply move on, and you will starve on those large rates nobody actually pays. There always has to be a meeting point somewhere.

However, yes, agencies can't just tell you what your rate is. This means they can't tell you what you're charging, though they can tell you what they're paying. Translators need to be more assertive and shake off that kind of ignorant, lethargic apathy which makes them accept the agency's first proposal and feel unentitled to argue with it.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 04:30
Member (2009)
German to Serbian
+ ...
Some addition to this. May 28, 2016

Kirsten Bodart wrote:
I think an amalgamation of all the criteria listed is important: if in theory they pay good rates, but they always stall payment, then that's nothing. An unprofessional agency with good rates is nasty too, and so is one that offers mind-numbingly boring projects only. Why would you want to spend your life slogging through things that don't interest you one whit, at an only reasonable rate (I grant you if you're paid 10x the normal rate, then you could think about it).


In my experience, good rates were always coupled with timely payment, decent behavior and good organization. And low rates were coupled with late payments, test translations, rude attitude and poor organization.

I can't remember ever seeing different set of attributes, ie. never have I encountered the combination you describe.

[Edited at 2016-05-28 21:14 GMT]


 

Daryo
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:30
Serbian to English
+ ...
you mean it's May 29, 2016

as simplistic as that:

JL01 wrote:

The market sets the rate, according to the law of supply and demand.

It is as simple as that.


Nice theory based on Cloud Cuckoo Land assumptions.

The best joke is the assumption of "perfect availability of information", the other almost equally good one is the assumption that all actors have the same liberty/power of decision. (yeah sure, like a free fox in a free hen-house)

Add to that the additional twist that in the language business the client has often little means of checking the quality of the delivered services, and yes "it's the market that sets the rate" especially if your mantra is more important that such secondary details as the total imbalance of negotiating power in a huge part of the "language services market", or what happened in UK where some bright spark in the Government has given to ONE agency the monopoly on all interpreting in all UK courts. When ONE agency is the whole market, it's no longer a market ...


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:30
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
You set your rates, and the potential clients set theirs May 29, 2016

And if your rates happen to be the same as the potential clients', you can start your cooperation. If not, both you and the potential clients need to set your/their eyes elsewhere.

 

Catherine Howard
United States
Local time: 22:30
Portuguese to English
+ ...
the myth of "laws of supply and demand" Jun 18, 2016

Daryo said: "you mean it's as simplistic as that:

JL01 wrote:

The market sets the rate, according to the law of supply and demand.
It is as simple as that.


"Nice theory based on Cloud Cuckoo Land assumptions."


Thank you, Daryo, for the refreshing bit of honesty in your entire post.

The idea that economics can be boiled down to the forces of supply and demand is a popular myth, based on a found
... See more
Daryo said: "you mean it's as simplistic as that:

JL01 wrote:

The market sets the rate, according to the law of supply and demand.
It is as simple as that.


"Nice theory based on Cloud Cuckoo Land assumptions."


Thank you, Daryo, for the refreshing bit of honesty in your entire post.

The idea that economics can be boiled down to the forces of supply and demand is a popular myth, based on a foundation as solid as that behind UFOs.

The entire field of Economics over the past century has been precisely about why the fabled law of supply and demand do NOT function in real life like the original theory postulated. In fact, economists have even abandoned the notion that it's useful to start from an assumption of supply and demand to build models that explain why they don't work. Successive economic crises brought that approach to an end, and economists now start from a completely different set of assumptions. Factors of supply and demand are one among a huge number of elements at play, certainly not the foundation.

Why the public continues to imagine that "laws" of supply and demand explain economic trends is actually a political and cultural issue, not economic.
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