Archive | March, 2013

Types of freelancer`s clients

28 Mar

“Well, I like empowering my clients. – Gloria Allred

Well, we all have clients. Some of us have customers. Still, when we talk about lawyers, doctors, translators, we speak about their clients. (This is another indication that translation cannot be commoditized. In other words, you can`t sell translation like oil, wheat or ore. Once you “sold” your translation, you can`t sell it later on to someone else.)

Absolutely all clients of absolutely all translators are of two types – direct clients and brokers. Any translator who starts his/her career, will likely work for several months or even years for the  second type of clients, i.e. brokers of different size and origin.

Translation agencies are the most widespread type of brokers on the market. Since they are brokers, their basic practice is to find the cheapest translators providing a given standard of quality. This is the way to increase their profit margin as much as possible. It is a wide-spread practice to have an automated system for registration of translators, who indicate (among other things) their best, reasonable, competitive, etc. rates. A project manager enters desirable rate for this or that project, and the system gives out emails of people who are ready to work for this rate.

This nature of the business implies that translators are treated as (partially) interchangeable, sometimes faceless employees who can be (easily) replaced. This approach is quite often employed by so-called Goliath agencies which have complex systems for selection of vendors.

As a result, rates is one of the most decisive factors when choosing a translator, which leads to another problem many contractors of TAs (translation agencies) face: delayed/partial payments and non-paying agencies. Yes, you got me right – there are numerous examples when translators are not paid accordingly/at all. (That`s why translators once decided to rate TAs on different web-sites – check this one I always use this directory to check this or that client).

Pressure on rates translators feel leads to expulsion of true professionals who refuse to work for peanuts, with simultaneous attraction of newbies who are ready and willing to drop their rates if asked. Finally, what an agency has is a list of low-cost translators. Quality? I think it is not a word to be used here.

This is a very simplistic picture of what is going on, or course. There are several agencies which employ another method of dealing with translators. They pay decent rates, they value translators, and yes, they test them, since they pay well. But these are the exception that proves the rule – agencies are created to get their profit margin while commoditizing this service.

Unlike brokers, direct clients almost always require adequate translation of their docs or papers. Their return will drop instantly in case they use poorly translated materials. Thus, the question of rate is the third one. Usually direct clients start by asking questions about your credentials, achievements or opinions of previous clients. They will ask YOU about your rates. They are flexible when it comes to payment options. In case of small or medium-sized companies you can even contact CEO to answer your questions regarding your translation work. (True validation of your abilities and professionalism!)

I would recommend to bear the info above in mind when choosing your service provider.