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What stops translators from thriving?
Thread poster: Andrew Morris

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
"Look! I'm the best on this site! Ready to work for peanuts! Please!" ideology Jun 3

Even worse, those dumping (and silly) one-man band bottom-feeders/newbies--especially from developing countries--make a horrific disservice to all translators worldwide, digging a black hole:
  No plan, no niche (narrow specialization), no personal brand, no portfolio/references (anti-NDA), no diversification, no presentation, no development, no communication/negotiation, no value, no responsibility, no individuality, no respect, no future, and so on.

Little wonder ev
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Even worse, those dumping (and silly) one-man band bottom-feeders/newbies--especially from developing countries--make a horrific disservice to all translators worldwide, digging a black hole:
  No plan, no niche (narrow specialization), no personal brand, no portfolio/references (anti-NDA), no diversification, no presentation, no development, no communication/negotiation, no value, no responsibility, no individuality, no respect, no future, and so on.

Little wonder even middlemen consider many translators as an easy-to-replace dispensable "invisible" mob.
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Julie Barber
Umberto Steindler
 

Julie Barber  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:30
Member (2006)
French to English
Agencies / rates Jun 3

I find rates to be the most problematic area. Of course juggling childcare can be tricky but has to be done in any field of work. You can't translate with a baby sat behind you, even though I've tried. You wouldn't take one to the office, so it doesn't really work at home either)

I find the approach of agencies and their rates very unhelpful at times - offering low rates, treating translators as dispensable, not bothe
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I find rates to be the most problematic area. Of course juggling childcare can be tricky but has to be done in any field of work. You can't translate with a baby sat behind you, even though I've tried. You wouldn't take one to the office, so it doesn't really work at home either)

I find the approach of agencies and their rates very unhelpful at times - offering low rates, treating translators as dispensable, not bothering to reply except when it suits them - a true lack of people skills and manners in their approach, none of it helps. This aspect can be very disheartening and off putting, which doesn't motivate over the long term. Remaining motivated is key.

I also begrudge filling in agency forms for them, when they have my CV so doing hours of unpaid admin. We aren't simple job applicants as such, as we are essential to them too.

[Edited at 2019-06-03 11:07 GMT]
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Tommaso Martelli
Elizabeth Tamblin
Jocelin Meunier
Andrew Morris
Dylan Jan Hartmann
Daniel Žídek
Jessie Linardi
 

Baran Keki  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 12:30
Member
English to Turkish
+ ...
A very true statement Jun 3

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

It actually hasn't occurred to some people that translation even exists as a profession.


The large majority of those 'some people' actually live in Turkey. Maybe it's me, but I never felt that I was being taken seriously whenever I was asked what I was doing for a living. It used to bother me a lot, but I don't care about it anymore.


Andrew Morris
 

Umberto Steindler  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:30
Member (2005)
German to Italian
+ ...
Thriving, for what? Jun 3

It is surprising that nobody mentions taxes and charges.
In most European countries one pays approximately 50% (In Germany 46%, in France 56%) of his income for taxes and charges, and the average VAT is about 20%. What remains is 25% to 30% of what he earned.
It is also well known that it is possible to earn more money with allowances. I met a French guy (a programmer) who proudly told me that he has been able to legally live one year without working but with the same income of his
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It is surprising that nobody mentions taxes and charges.
In most European countries one pays approximately 50% (In Germany 46%, in France 56%) of his income for taxes and charges, and the average VAT is about 20%. What remains is 25% to 30% of what he earned.
It is also well known that it is possible to earn more money with allowances. I met a French guy (a programmer) who proudly told me that he has been able to legally live one year without working but with the same income of his last job! Is it necessary to add that he considered me a perfect idiot?
And in this situation, we are talking about "thriving".
Let us open our eyes and look at what is happening around us in the real world, instead of focusing on our profession and Proz.com membership, like Benedictine monks in a monastery. "Ora et labora".
By the way, Proz.com has powerful and genial tools to improve the condition and the income of translators, but it seems that they are not aware of it.
This could be an interesting subject for a forum.
I am aware that my comment is neither politically correct nor idealistic enough, so I don't mind if it will be deleted.
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Oleksandr Ivanov
 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:30
Dutch to English
+ ...
the voices of the disgruntled Jun 3

Andrew Morris wrote:

Oh I certainly didn’t mean to imply all translators.

Although in my experience of watching how translators write about their lives, there are many many people who seem to be unhappy with their lot. That may of course be because the happier ones are simply getting in with life...

Otherwise I pretty much agree with all your analysis Fiona. Especially the bit about low self-esteem, although one prominent translator told me they thought that we think rather too highly of ourselves at times because we speak languages. Interesting angle. 😆


It's just like you suggest, the ones with no work have lots of time to post massive essays on forums about the death of their industry, bottom feeders, dumping, abusive agencies, my pristine work's cheap at 0.25 per word, etc. etc., while the successful just get on with their work. That's it.


Jorge Payan
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Haha not so fast Jun 3

Richard Purdom wrote:

It's just like you suggest, the ones with no work have lots of time to post massive essays on forums about the death of their industry, bottom feeders, dumping, abusive agencies, my pristine work's cheap at 0.25 per word, etc. etc., while the successful just get on with their work. That's it.


But I do know of many translators who are doing well, who reach out on social media for occasional support, and to support others. It's a lonely profession for many. So while it's a valid point, I don''t think there is such a strict correlation...


 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 10:30
Member (2016)
English to German
You are exaggerating Jun 3

Umberto Steindler wrote:

It is surprising that nobody mentions taxes and charges.
In most European countries one pays approximately 50% (In Germany 46%, in France 56%) of his income for taxes and charges, and the average VAT is about 20%.


I'm not sure what exactly you mean with "charges", but I believe you are exaggerating. The top income tax rate in Germany is 42%, and this applies only to really high incomes, due to the progressive tax system. Even with an annual income of 100,000 € your income tax rate will be only 35%, not counting tax exemptions for families and such. With an annual income of 50.000 €, the income tax is just 24% at most.

You are probably including social security contributions in your calculation. These do indeed eat another big chunk of your income, but it's not like you're not getting anything for it (yes, social security  ). Most people are quite happy with the social security system in Germany, and if it did not exist, you would have to spend a lot of money for an equivalent degree of retirement funds and medical bills coverage.

And these taxes and contributions apply to freelancers and employees alike. (In fact, as a freelancer you can opt out of most social security, but this is not advisable. When I switched from employee to freelancer, I continued my social security contributions voluntarily, because they make a lot of sense.)


Andrew Morris
Michael Wetzel
missdutch
Sheila Wilson
Matthias Brombach
Barbara Sickor
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Direct relationship Jun 3

Richard, you seem so flexible* and intelligent* that I do fail to grasp the points you might refute completely*. That's ok.

Perhaps, as an ex-engineer qualified* as TEFL teacher totally* fluent in both Dutch and Portuguese, interested in linguistics and the rest, one day you could find a couple of minutes to go that extra mile telling me
how working harder (having less time) correlates with earning more?
As an old-fashioned person, I see quite the opposite. That's why I still prefer to work less for higher rates enjoying spare time to... Nevermind)



As a side note: there're agencies charging their clients top dollar--over $.20/w--why don't you?


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:30
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Bottom feeder model Jun 4

Andrew Morris wrote:

We’re surrounded by tips, courses and blogs on how to succeed as a translator. The information is out there in a million forms.

The clients are also out there, as we know from our own experience and that of others. There are, it seems, still plenty to go round.

So what are the issues that are holding so many translators back from thriving?

Simple lack of quality? Is it that easy? Do the best translators always end up with the most clients, the most work, the highest levels of professional and personal satisfaction?

Anecdotal evidence would suggest not, but I'd be interested to hear your take on this...


Some (especially newbie translators) probably think they have to work for bottom feeder prices because that's what they might take away from seeing suggested prices/rates and price/rate ranges on job boards here and elsewhere, especially those posted by agencies who are "certified" in some way. This might create the impression that that's just how things are done in the translation world.
I suggest to abandon the bidding system and make clear that the site is not a cheap translation bargaining site. That might help people understand that there is indeed a community of professional translators working for decent rates and that they should try to thrive and become successful in that community.
Otherwise they will be easily replaced by the next bottom feeder when their money runs out. They won't be able to thrive.
So what say you, Andy? Let go of bidding here?


DZiW
Elizabeth Tamblin
missdutch
Marat Zhumagul
Florian Stauber
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
On the same page Jun 4

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:


Some (especially newbie translators) probably think they have to work for bottom feeder prices because that's what they might take away from seeing suggested prices/rates and price/rate ranges on job boards here and elsewhere, especially those posted by agencies who are "certified" in some way. This might create the impression that that's just how things are done in the translation world.
I suggest to abandon the bidding system and make clear that the site is not a cheap translation bargaining site. That might help people understand that there is indeed a community of professional translators working for decent rates and that they should try to thrive and become successful in that community.
Otherwise they will be easily replaced by the next bottom feeder when their money runs out. They won't be able to thrive.
So what say you, Andy? Let go of bidding here?


Well in fact the ProZ Find system is a step very much in that direction, with clients seeking out the translator they want rather than tossing a job out to be fought over by a large group... And it's becoming more popular than the more competitive approach.

So in essence I agree.

PS It's Andrew. I don't think I've ever been called Andy


Jorge Payan
 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:30
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Not sure we're on the same page Jun 4

Andrew Morris wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:


Some (especially newbie translators) probably think they have to work for bottom feeder prices because that's what they might take away from seeing suggested prices/rates and price/rate ranges on job boards here and elsewhere, especially those posted by agencies who are "certified" in some way. This might create the impression that that's just how things are done in the translation world.
I suggest to abandon the bidding system and make clear that the site is not a cheap translation bargaining site. That might help people understand that there is indeed a community of professional translators working for decent rates and that they should try to thrive and become successful in that community.
Otherwise they will be easily replaced by the next bottom feeder when their money runs out. They won't be able to thrive.
So what say you, Andy? Let go of bidding here?


Well in fact the ProZ Find system is a step very much in that direction, with clients seeking out the translator they want rather than tossing a job out to be fought over by a large group... And it's becoming more popular than the more competitive approach.

So in essence I agree.

PS It's Andrew. I don't think I've ever been called Andy


Thanks for your quick reply Andrew.
I appreciate any change in the direction I suggested. But I don't see any changes with regard to the bidding system. It's a very big part of your enterprise and somewhat like a shop window which shows what people are doing.

The question is why are some translators not thriving?
Any translator who has to forego a job because a bottom feeder has successfully bid for it is somewhat hindered in their business as well. I mean it's basically lost for the professional translator community. And the people who keep taking these jobs are certainly not doing themselves any favor let alone thrive - thinks me.

Can you tell us if Proz.com is seriously contemplating getting rid of the current bidding system and replacing it with at least a job posting system where the translators reply to it and quote their prices? Meaning the translator is the first suggesting a price and not the agency already determining at least the range?
And can this be combined with some form of principled approach to make the posters understand that it's the serious translators who will reply to serious posts with serious quotes? Or which changes are you planning? I don't get the feeling that we will see a change in the near future with regards to the bidding system. If that's so, I am afraid we're not on the same page. The ProZ Find system isn't a new way for posting jobs - it's people/agencies looking for translators - which is great - but there could be a much more sophisticated and fair job posting system. Any plans for that then?

Currently, I can't even look at the job board because I know it's a waste of time for me.
Also, the "certification" process for posters and the fact that most of these posters from my experience still expect cheap work from cheap translators doesn't sit well with me. If you are certified poster, a translator should be able to count on the professionalism of the agency. But that cannot be expected currently. Same goes for certified translators.

Bernhard


Andrew Morris
Elizabeth Tamblin
H-traduction
Robert Rietvelt
missdutch
Barbara Sickor
Robert Forstag
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
All good food for thought Jun 4

Put it this way: I've been in role two months now. Not a long time. But part of that role does indeed looking at a very macro level at what ProZ.com is doing, partly because of my own background as a translator and a user of ProZ.com's services.

So your points are well made and are certainly feeding into my thinking. These things don't get changed overnight, but I can assure you your views won't be disregarded...

We may not be on the same page yet, but maybe we're in th
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Put it this way: I've been in role two months now. Not a long time. But part of that role does indeed looking at a very macro level at what ProZ.com is doing, partly because of my own background as a translator and a user of ProZ.com's services.

So your points are well made and are certainly feeding into my thinking. These things don't get changed overnight, but I can assure you your views won't be disregarded...

We may not be on the same page yet, but maybe we're in the same chapter.
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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:30
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
@Bernhard - "bidding system"? Jun 5

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Can you tell us if Proz.com is seriously contemplating getting rid of the current bidding system and replacing it with at least a job posting system where the translators reply to it and quote their prices?


Bernard, but this is what we have. An outsourcer posts a job and translators reply to it and quote their prices. All in private messages, so it is not an open bidding war (as on some other platforms).

Meaning the translator is the first suggesting a price and not the agency already determining at least the range?

Bernhard, providing a budget is only an option for a job poster, not a requirement. Some use it, some don't. I just checked, out of curiosity, the most recent 20 jobs in my language pairs on the job board. To my surprise, NONE of them had budget information included in any form, and only ONE had the clickable text to request budget information. This may be a unique situation, but I think there are more jobs posted these days without budget info than with. No budget info means that translators are not influenced in any way to quote lower than their usual rates. So the usual effects of "reverse auction" open bidding does not apply here.

On the other hand, if the outsourcers indeed have a budget, many translators (including myself) prefer to know it up front, so we could avoid wasting time. I don't want to spend time writing up a quote with rate X, just to be told, sorry, we can only pay X/2 or X/3 or not receive an answer at all. It was discussed in the past several times, by the way.


Jan Truper
Andrew Morris
Thomas Pfann
Jorge Payan
Sheila Wilson
 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:30
German to English
The Job Board Jun 5

It seems to me that the "job board" is designed to produce something like a perfect market from the perspective of the buyer. The funny thing about perfect markets is that the term is nonsense unless you add the caveat: a perfect market is always a perfect market for some group of participants. They are generally (but not always) a pile of crap for everyone else.

The ProZ job board is the exact opposite of what any reasonable translator should be looking for. With the investment of
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It seems to me that the "job board" is designed to produce something like a perfect market from the perspective of the buyer. The funny thing about perfect markets is that the term is nonsense unless you add the caveat: a perfect market is always a perfect market for some group of participants. They are generally (but not always) a pile of crap for everyone else.

The ProZ job board is the exact opposite of what any reasonable translator should be looking for. With the investment of zero money and very little time, the potential client gets abundant offers from the cheapest and, theoretically, best available translators. So it's great for the buyers who get in at the beginning, but it's terrible for the translators, who have to match their skills and prices against a huge pool of very cheap or very good or very cheap and very good competitors. Even for the buyers who come in later, it's not much good, because the system chases off any translators who are able to find work in any other way (negative selection) and it encourages the use of irresponsible practices to stand out (after all, the hopeful translator has to be the very best among dozens or hundreds of offers).

Now, that is certainly not always how the job board gets used and its dynamic does not always function in this way, but I think it generally does.

A job board in the interest of translators would work exactly the other way around: It would consist of a list of translators (instead of projects), and potential clients would bid on their available time.

Now, I mean that as a thought experiment and not as a practical suggestion, because ProZ has decided it is there to satisfy everyone's translation needs and that means it is fundamentally committed to serving what are mostly buyers' markets. However, while that be true of the big translation market in general, it nonetheless contains a lot of niches that are relatively balanced or are sellers' markets.

I think most translators who fail to thrive fail because they are not good translators. However, I think that most good translators who fail to thrive fail because they can't wrap their heads around this basic principle of market economies: You have to provide something that people really, really want and you have to consistently find those people who really, really want it and are having trouble finding it - otherwise you are (to a greater or lesser degree) f***ed. I even think a fair number of what some of us might call bad to mediocre translators thrive solely by firmly grasping this principle.
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DZiW
mughwI
Robert Forstag
Michele Fauble
Olavo Nogueira
 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:30
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
All is well!? Jun 5

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Can you tell us if Proz.com is seriously contemplating getting rid of the current bidding system and replacing it with at least a job posting system where the translators reply to it and quote their prices?


Bernard, but this is what we have. An outsourcer posts a job and translators reply to it and quote their prices. All in private messages, so it is not an open bidding war (as on some other platforms).


I admit I haven't looked at the job board lately - so the first English German job I checked a few minutes ago asks for the "best rate" and their BB rating is 4.7. Checking the most recent ratings for the outsourcer on BB shows how happy the translators are. I think they all are used to a certain way here and know what to expect and how to bid. Not for me, sorry. And I didn't say it was an open or public bidding system although everyone knows what is important in order to win the bid. It's bidding on price and you do understand that, right? Doesn't matter if you see your competitors or not. My criticism goes against the rates with which people bid.
I can see a job board - and I wouldn't call it job board - where interested clients tell us what they need and we translators then provide a quote. I mean to not even give an option to the poster on how much he/she wants to "suggest" to pay, let alone to tell us "give us the best rate" - would you even reply to that?
I see a completely different way to go about this, much more professionally. But be it as it may. As long as everybody is happy or not enough people care, I won't waste my time talking about it. Don't know why I did. Oh, probably to point out there is a better way to actually thrive. Maybe it's help a few people.

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:
Meaning the translator is the first suggesting a price and not the agency already determining at least the range?

Bernhard, providing a budget is only an option for a job poster, not a requirement. Some use it, some don't. I just checked, out of curiosity, the most recent 20 jobs in my language pairs on the job board. To my surprise, NONE of them had budget information included in any form, and only ONE had the clickable text to request budget information. This may be a unique situation, but I think there are more jobs posted these days without budget info than with. No budget info means that translators are not influenced in any way to quote lower than their usual rates. So the usual effects of "reverse auction" open bidding does not apply here.


Why defend a system that needs some major improvement - even staff agrees. The fact remains that we all know what is expected as far as the bidding goes.

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:
On the other hand, if the outsourcers indeed have a budget, many translators (including myself) prefer to know it up front, so we could avoid wasting time. I don't want to spend time writing up a quote with rate X, just to be told, sorry, we can only pay X/2 or X/3 or not receive an answer at all. It was discussed in the past several times, by the way.


Yes, it has been discussed and many people obviously want to keep the system the way it is for that convenience.
I really don't need that convenience as long as the overall system is what it is (best rate wins). Thus I don't bid on any jobs posted on job boards anywhere. But hey, it seems enough people are thriving and seeing the big picture isn't a big concern, even if they are working for the best rate you can possibly offer.

Bernhard


Elizabeth Tamblin
 
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