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Should I join an online translation platform?
Autor de la hebra: Joanne Maddocks

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
Reino Unido
Local time: 01:50
Miembro 2014
japonés al inglés
You can do better Apr 17

Robert Edison wrote:
I think it is pretty close-minded of you all to call people who work on sites like that bottom feeders.

And your use of descriptors such as "fancy" and "big shot" for people making more money than you is not close-minded? It certainly doesn't give an image of professionalism.

It's simple: as far as I can see from their home page, Gengo pays roughly ¥2 per character standard and ¥5 per character for "pro". If you're a decent translator you should be able to make twice the latter amount for the same work, more in some specialist areas.

So, if you could make more money, why would you not do so? 1000 characters is 1000 characters, whoever commissions the job. If a good agency assigns you a job, it is not magically more difficult just because they're paying you more money. You said you made $3000 for a recent job, but for the same amount of work you could have made $6000 with a decent agency. Your point about part-time versus full-time is irrelevant because at Gengo rates that is a very large project yet somehow you found the time to do it.

I think most people, not unfairly, assume that those who are prepared to accept these low rates from online platforms do so because they have no other choice. And that in turn suggests a lack of competence on the part of the translator, either in translation itself or in marketing and business planning. Or maybe the translators simply lack confidence.

This forum is here in part to inform other translators about the market.


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Tom in London
Reino Unido
Local time: 01:50
Miembro 2008
italiano al inglés
paid for? Apr 17

Robert Edison wrote:

....I made 15,000 working part-time at Gengo last year, and I could probably make 30,000 or more if I went full-time....


That sounds suspiciously like those junk emails I get. I'm just wondering if this thread is viral marketing.

And by the way, it's against the rules to mention particular named products. I assume the moderators will pick this up soon.

[Edited at 2017-04-17 08:08 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
España
Local time: 01:50
Miembro 2007
inglés
+ ...
Are these jobs done by professionals? Apr 17

I'm not directing this at you, Robert, as I have no idea of your situation, but very many of the people who 'work' on those sites pay no taxes and no social security contribtions. Under those circumstances, the rates might be more attractive than when you're sharing the money with the government.

Robert Edison wrote:
Welcome to 2017

Welcome to low rates? Why? Believe me, many professional translators are very clued up to the way things work in 2017.


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Robert Edison  Identity Verified
Estados Unidos
Miembro Apr 2017
japonés al inglés
. Apr 18

I found the information being posted to be very inconsistent with my experience, and wanted to introduce the original poster to some opportunities she may have not considered. My first post was a bit short because I was pressed for time. Your replies have been both amusing and informative.

I pay taxes, and do just fine. I work full-time in addition to translating at the moment. I really enjoy the work, so I do it instead of other things like watching TV. My "Welcome to 2017" reply title was more referring to the posters who called me a bottom feeder having a somewhat outdated image of the types of websites in question.

I didn't know it was against the rules to mention specific products, but I don't see why telling other translators about a way to find work on a site that was created specifically for that purpose would be against the rules. By the way, both of the sites I mentioned are listed on the blue board and have received mostly positive reviews from Proz users. But who knows? Maybe you’re right, Tom. This totally could be a viral marketing campaign for two different websites that are in competition with each other. Joking aside, I was just trying to tell the original poster that there are some easily accessible ways to gain experience and make some money on the side while doing it.

Dan, I wasn't trying to insult people by using those words. I would love to be a fancy big shot freelancer raking it in on my own schedule. Who wouldn't? The other site does pay 10 yen per character for "Pro" level jobs. I will agree that the rates are not worth it for the time that I would have to put in for some of the jobs that come up, but I am totally free to ignore those jobs. My main strategy is to only take the jobs that I can do at a rate of 25+ dollars per hour, and I sometimes earn at a much faster rate. Of course, the work comes and goes, so relying on the sites as one’s main source of income would be pushing it, but I think it is possible for someone who doesn’t have major financial obligations. You said that I could have made 6000 dollars doing that same job for an agency, but I don’t think that is the case. The agencies didn’t get the contract. The customer did not want to pay that much, and who could blame them? I estimate that I made about 40 dollars per hour on that job. Is that a low rate? What should I have made? 60? 80? Nobody in their right mind would pay that much for that kind of work. It wasn't specialist enough to warrant such a high rate.

The sites have e-mail notifications so I don't have to sit at my computer staring at the dashboard waiting for work either like someone else mentioned. But when I am really serious about getting the best jobs during peak times, I put the page on auto-refresh with an audio trigger to let me know when there are more jobs. I can read a book or clean my apartment without having to worry about missing an opportunity. Just last night when I was out for a walk, a notification for a little e-mail translation came into my inbox. I just stopped, took out my phone, and made 5 dollars. It only took a couple of minutes. I never intended to say that these sites should replace working for agencies or marketing yourself through Proz, but you have to admit that effortlessly making five bucks while out for a stroll is pretty cool.

The jobs are first come first serve unless a customer makes you a preferred translator. If they make you a preferred translator, you get priority access to jobs that they post. I am currently one of the preferred translators for the online edition of a major Japanese newspaper as well as many other clients. Another thing to note is that the posters of the jobs and translators are all anonymous. The only way I could find out I was translating for that newspaper was by entering strings of my translation into Google a few days after I got paid for it. The final articles posted on their site have minor stylistic changes to my translation done by their editors. This experience alone has been well worth the effort. I learn so much by examining the little changes they make, and have come to appreciate the work that editors do. It is almost like a little paid internship.

I don’t remember who said it, but someone mentioned that it takes months to get your money out and that there are high fees. At both of the sites I do work for, there is a flat rate of $1.50 to have your cash transferred to Paypal. One of the sites does payouts once a month, and the other does payouts twice a month. I don’t doubt that there are sites that charge higher fees and take forever to pay out though.

Someone else said that you have to pay to take the tests. That is not the case at either of the sites I have done work for. I found the tests to be both fair and fun. One site even gives you unlimited time to complete the test, so you don’t have to worry about something coming up in the middle of it causing you to run out of time and fail.

I understand that you can make more by specializing and working for the agencies, but like I said, for people starting from zero, the translation platform sites can provide both income and experience. I am confident in my abilities, so I am sure that as soon as I get more established I'll find plenty of work at higher rates. Many of you might disagree with me, but I think sites like these can be a great part of a translator’s income strategy.

So that is my little field report. I normally don’t get involved with forums, but some of the posts in this thread were just so negative and misleading that I had to chime in.


[Edited at 2017-04-18 11:34 GMT]


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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Alemania
Local time: 02:50
Miembro 2016
inglés al alemán
Interesting Apr 18

I found your report interesting, Robert, and I see no reason not to discuss online translation platforms. They are part of the market, the same way as for example machine translation is part of the market and has a certain influence. In fact, while some online translation platforms seem to address the low-cost or amateur market, the same can be said about other agencies as well.

I also think that it should be okay to name names here, but the forum rules do not allow it. Of course, discussing specific agencies/outsourcers by name can easily lead to bashing or advertising which should be avoided. But on the other hand, there are other threads right now where Netflix is discussed at large, and no one seems to be offended by that.

Personally I think that the translation market is growing and will continue to grow, simply because content grows all the time. That means that new competitors will continue to enter this market with new concepts. Online translation platforms are one segment of this development. They try to streamline the whole process. That is not necessarily a bad thing.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
España
Local time: 01:50
Miembro 2007
inglés
+ ...
One major problem Apr 18

Robert Edison wrote:
The agencies didn’t get the contract. The customer did not want to pay that much, and who could blame them?

The agencies will be charging the market rate. Where else do you know where a customer can pay less for exactly the same product/service? Pay less, get the same - how come? Who is benefiting, apart from the customer?

It may seem fine to you, with plenty of money in the bank at the end of the month, but you're undermining every freelance translator by accepting to do translations for less than the market rate. And this is what is so unhealthy about the "industry" today. You're clearly churning out vast volumes, presumably with very little time spent on proofreading, and almost certainly not with the services of a second proofreader who is also a native speaker of the target language (the "second pair of eyes"). To me, that isn't a professional translation, but then many of our clients are totally incapable of gauging the quality of our work, so some don't demand the best translation possible, just the cheapest. The translation "profession", meanwhile, calls for all the above checking and more, and that's why professional translators can't possibly match those rates.


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The Misha
Local time: 20:50
ruso al inglés
+ ...
QED Apr 18

Robert Edison wrote:

and I could probably make 30,000 or more if I went full-time.


In the US, you could make that working at a McDonald's. You could make more as a day laborer and way more driving a cab or waiting tables. You really don't need to go into the trouble of learning Japanese to be able to make that kind of poverty line income in an expensive first-world country.

Sadly, this only illustrates the point others have made: stay away from those wretched online sweatshops.


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MK2010  Identity Verified
Estados Unidos
Local time: 18:50
francés al inglés
+ ...
Really? This again? Apr 19

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Robert Edison wrote:
The agencies didn’t get the contract. The customer did not want to pay that much, and who could blame them?

The agencies will be charging the market rate. Where else do you know where a customer can pay less for exactly the same product/service? Pay less, get the same - how come? Who is benefiting, apart from the customer?

It may seem fine to you, with plenty of money in the bank at the end of the month, but you're undermining every freelance translator by accepting to do translations for less than the market rate. And this is what is so unhealthy about the "industry" today. You're clearly churning out vast volumes, presumably with very little time spent on proofreading, and almost certainly not with the services of a second proofreader who is also a native speaker of the target language (the "second pair of eyes"). To me, that isn't a professional translation, but then many of our clients are totally incapable of gauging the quality of our work, so some don't demand the best translation possible, just the cheapest. The translation "profession", meanwhile, calls for all the above checking and more, and that's why professional translators can't possibly match those rates.


You're going to tell another translator what he or she should charge or not? That he's responsible for undermining the hard work of colleagues all over the world and contributing to the downfall of this industry? Things change, get used to it. Do you think taxi drivers are thrilled about Uber? Does the average American who buys something at Walmart think about what they are doing to U.S. manufacturers? Um, no. Do people who go to some dream place and buy up property because they have more money than the people who actually live there give a sh!t? No. I live in such a place, I know what I'm talking about. Does every time a vegan hipster stocking up on asparagus or quinoa think about what effect her food choices have on some faraway mountain village in some faraway country somewhere? We live in a global economy. This is the new world order. Most of us here are probably not actually threatened by someone making 5 dollars while he walks his dog. Good for him, I say.

As for same product / service, well let's say I'm in the mood for some chicken. There are lots of options at my local supermarket: basic, free range, organic, etc. What can I afford? What are my standards? And why shouldn't there be options? Different consumers, different markets. It's what makes the world go round. Americans travel to foreign countries for healthcare because it's to expensive here, we all scour the internet for the cheapest fares when we go on vacation, we buy a membership to Netflix because, well, hell, all that content for 10 freaking dollars a month? We all look for the best value for our dollar /euro. For the life of me, I can't understand why translators think we are the one industry that should be exempt. There will always be people willing to pay more for a product and people looking to pay less.

[Edited at 2017-04-19 05:53 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-04-19 05:55 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-04-19 05:57 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-04-19 06:06 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 02:50
francés al inglés
explaining patiently and politely Apr 19

MK2010 wrote:

There will always be people willing to pay more for a product and people looking to pay less.


Sure. Which doesn't mean you have to just take it lying down. You can also decide to patiently and politely explain why paying less leads to bad quality. Clients always want the "best price", but then when they discover that their translation is rubbish they realise that quality is important too. We educate our clients, and we also educate our peers. Thing is, with your free-range chickens, the farmer can slap a label on to explain how the chicken has been raised and what it was fed on, and with translations, it's rather more difficult. If you know of a better way to educate peers than by explaining patiently and politely, please let us know. In the meantime, I appreciate Sheila's posts and wish there were a like button to show it.


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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
Francia
Local time: 02:50
Miembro 2014
francés al alemán
+ ...
No Apr 19

I would not.

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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
España
Local time: 02:50
Miembro
español al inglés
+ ...
MK2010 ... Apr 19

... is right about one thing. There are loads of threads on this forum and doubtless others too, with people looking for free software, free membership, free access, free downloads, free anything, because everyone loves to get stuff for free, yet we whine about how people want us to work for free, or practically for free (the ultra-discussed test translations, for example).

Thing is, free or almost free usually has a catch to it. The free software is likely to be crap. Free membership, yes, but only until we get you hooked online (no pun intended originally, but I'll let it stay). Those free downloads can lead to a whole load of sites, picking up God knows what along the way. I reckon you pay for everything in the end somehow or other, so you might as well pay a higher price for a good product in the first place. People who go for cheap shouldn't be surprised if cheap doesn't live up to their expectations of the "same" product, only cheaper.


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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Alemania
Local time: 02:50
Miembro 2016
inglés al alemán
What about one step translation? Is that unprofessional? Apr 19

Sheila Wilson wrote:

It may seem fine to you, with plenty of money in the bank at the end of the month, but you're undermining every freelance translator by accepting to do translations for less than the market rate. And this is what is so unhealthy about the "industry" today. You're clearly churning out vast volumes, presumably with very little time spent on proofreading, and almost certainly not with the services of a second proofreader who is also a native speaker of the target language (the "second pair of eyes"). To me, that isn't a professional translation, but then many of our clients are totally incapable of gauging the quality of our work, so some don't demand the best translation possible, just the cheapest. The translation "profession", meanwhile, calls for all the above checking and more, and that's why professional translators can't possibly match those rates.


Sheila, I think your concept of professional translation is too narrow. I am working with several agencies who offer "full" translation (this would be what you describe, a translation process with a second pair of eyes for proofreading and editing) and at the same time they offer "OST", one step translation, where the client directly receives the translator's output without the second step of proofreading/editing. Do you consider this unprofessional? The clients know what they are getting, and usually the same client orders projects at "full" level and other projects at "OST" level depending on the importance of the content. For example, a big client in tourism orders "full" translation for price lists and conditions but only "OST" for descriptions of bus tours with sightseeing and descriptions of the beauty of the landscape. I think this is exactly the professional thing to do: decide on the importance of the content and accordingly on the effort that should be put into the translations. Quality is only one factor in the equation, even if it is hard to accept. As long as everyone involved is aware of the differences, there is nothing wrong with that. And the internet means more and more competition for everyone, translators will not be able to evade this. On the upside, the internet also means crazy amounts of content and market growth, as I said before.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
España
Local time: 01:50
Miembro 2007
inglés
+ ...
Like sheep to the slaughter? Apr 19

MK2010 wrote:
You're going to tell another translator what he or she should charge or not? That he's responsible for undermining the hard work of colleagues all over the world and contributing to the downfall of this industry?

I don't believe I made any attempt to tell him what he should charge. He's free to do business as he sees fit. But I do think his way of working is is a poor way for both him and the profession and, as this thread's objective is to give advice to the OP, I said as much.

What message is it that you're seeking to give with the quote below and the examples you gave?

There will always be people willing to pay more for a product and people looking to pay less.

Of course there will. And if those willing to pay less were told they were getting less then I'd have no real objections. I've dashed off a less-than-eloquent translation for neighbours and friends from time to time, just so they can understand a text. I may be prepared to do the same thing professionally - although I'd have to give it careful thought first. What I hate is:
- (a) agencies and intermediaries (such as online translation platforms) promising end clients that they can get a quality translation for a ridiculously small amount of money, and then expecting freelancers to do the work for even less, and often (in the case of agencies) in a ridiculously short time, and
- (b) freelance translators allowing themselves to be treated unfairly due to a lack of self-respect or naivety (desperation is another matter but quite rare for a freelancer, who will likely be better off looking for a job with a wage).
And that's exactly why I try to give advice. Hopefully I can help prevent some freelancers being taken advantage of by unscrupulous elements. We won't rid the world of bottom-feeders, sharks, scammers etc, but surely we should try to reduce their prey; not lead our peers right to their doors.

Things change, get used to it.

I think it's best I ignore that. I really don't take kindly to being told what to do in such a blunt manner.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
España
Local time: 01:50
Miembro 2007
inglés
+ ...
TEP is TEP, and one-step is one-step Apr 19

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote:
Sheila, I think your concept of professional translation is too narrow. I am working with several agencies who offer "full" translation (this would be what you describe, a translation process with a second pair of eyes for proofreading and editing) and at the same time they offer "OST", one step translation, where the client directly receives the translator's output without the second step of proofreading/editing. Do you consider this unprofessional? The clients know what they are getting

No, I don't think that's unprofessional at all. In fact, I offer the two services myself to my direct clients. Many of them prefer to find other sources of proofreading rather than pay for me to have the text proofread by a second native speaker. Of course, I can't guarantee the quality of the final text.

But you're talking about the client getting less for less. What I don't like is agencies and platforms who promise end clients more for less, at the expense of the translator. At the same time as earning less for their work, translators often bear the full brunt of the errors inherent in rushed work with rudimentary, if any, proofreading - even by themselves.


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Robert Edison  Identity Verified
Estados Unidos
Miembro Apr 2017
japonés al inglés
Apples and Oranges Apr 20

Not all translations warrant that level of checking. You are overestimating the difficulty of the content. We aren't translating patents, contracts, and medical journals on these sites. Those types of specialist texts aren't even accepted into the system. Also, the customers know exactly what they are getting. They know that the translation goes directly from the translator to them without a second pair of eyes to proofread.

I've looked at people's profiles on this site, and I am making about as much as many of them hour for hour most of the time. The only limiting factor is there not being enough work. I should have added a caveat with my 30,000+ figure. That was based on the amount of work available. I only do jobs that I am 100% sure that I can finish quickly and accurately with time to proofread. If there was enough work like that for me to put in a full day, I could earn much more. I shouldn't have said full-time, because I wouldn't be working 40 hours a week if I quit my job and only worked on the sites. You say it is a sweat shop, but it isn't stressful at all. I enjoy it.

You think that just because I am a fast worker who can perform in that type of environment that my translations are of poor quality. You assume this based on what? I can read and understand the source language, and I am a native speaker of the target language. That and a bit of practice are enough to translate these simple non-specialist texts. Translating a basic restaurant menu is not rocket science.

You have to remember that I haven't been doing this for as long as most of you, so I am still trying to break into the industry. These sites have been great for that. I hadn't really considered doing translation full-time until a few months ago when I really hit my stride. My plan is to start building up my translation CV, get certified, and work my way up to higher rates. But I still can't see myself abandoning those sites entirely. Like Mr. Stegemann said, they are very streamlined. I've found trying to get clients through Proz comparably much more difficult. For one thing, there are no questions for me to answer for KudoZ points in my language pair to improve my directory ranking. The KudoZ system seems to heavily favor people who were here when it first started.

I actually just got my first reply last night from a client after about a week of trying in earnest to find work here, and they were offering to pay even less than the platform sites. Needless to say, I probably won't be taking the work. So at Proz, I am $180 and quite a few hours in the hole at this point, but I hope that I just need to give it more time. I've also been making a big spreadsheet of agencies that hire freelance translators with direct links to the online applications. I am debating whether or not I should get certified through ATA or another organization before sending my CV though. If anyone getting started is interested in my spreadsheet, send me a message, and we can start exchanging leads.

Thanks again for all of the replies. Great discussion so far.


[Edited at 2017-04-20 05:44 GMT]


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