The No Peanuts! Movement supports professional translators and interpreters in demanding and receiving a fair and honest living from their work.
No Peanuts! means refusing to believe that translators are powerless. No Peanuts! means rejecting the notion that translators must kowtow to so-called “market demand” as if we had no ability to create our own markets. No Peanuts! means insisting that we need not live in fear or accept exploitation in exchange for the right to earn a living in our chosen field.
Here’s how you can participate in the No Peanuts! Movement!
1. Resist lowering your rates. No Peanuts! starts and ends with this fundamental principle. It may seem naive to say so, but the truth is actually quite simple: If every single one of us insisted on being paid fairly and decently for our work, fair and decent pay is what we would receive. Rates are falling because translators have let them fall. We created this problem, and we can stop it.
2. Tell clients why. It’s not enough to refuse or ignore low-rate offers. No Peanuts! works only if we take specific action to educate agencies, publishers, and other clients. Tell them exactly why you refuse to work for small change. Explain the rates and conditions that would be appropriate for the job in question. Be angry, be polite, be funny: How you say it doesn’t matter, but it matters immensely that you say it!
3. Stop operating in panic mode. The translation market is in no danger of collapsing. Clients will continue to need translation services. If we continue to show them the difference between professional translation and cut-rate, chop-shop translation, they will understand that skill and experience are worth more. The fact is that clients can pay fairly and decently. They don’t because they believe the same product is available for less. It isn’t, but it’s our job to let them know why.
4. Recognize that you are in the same boat as all your colleagues in your language combination. Setting rock-bottom rates or lowering them because of “the market” or in response to pressure from clients directly injures other translation professionals. If you’re not participating in the No Peanuts! Movement, you are participating in its counterpart: Peanuts for Everyone!
5. Take back control of your role in the client/service provider relationship. For years, online clearinghouses like ProZ, TranslatorsCafé, GoTranslators, and others, along with mega-agencies like TransPerfect and Lionbridge, have helped turn the client-provider relationship inside out. Many clients have followed their lead and now assume they have the right to dictate rates to translators. They are mistaken.
6. Boycott online translation brokers & agencies that abuse and exploit translators and interpreters and demonstrate a lack of respect for the translation professional. Tell them—and your colleagues—that you’re boycotting and tell them why.
7. Make use of resources such as translators’ mailing lists in your language combination, The Checklist for Freelancers, Payment Practices, the Translator Client Review list, or Il Segno di Caino: The Translator’s Hall of Shame to network with colleagues about unacceptable practices.
8. Understand that rate deflation is not solely an economic problem; it’s an ethical problem as well. First, when a translator works for peanuts, that doesn’t mean the outsourcer is billing its end client for peanuts. Usually, it’s just the opposite: the outsourcer is reaping unfair profits by “paying low” and “charging high.” Second, dirt-cheap rates to the translator almost always mean that the final user of a text (whether it’s a book, the subtitles on a TV program, or a product catalog) is getting exactly what you’d expect: low quality. Low rates, in other words, deliver a double dose of disrespect: for the translator and for the translation consumer.
9. Refuse to accept abusive working conditions. Those conditions start with rates that don’t allow you to earn a living wage, but they include unrealistic deadlines, uncompensated overtime or weekend work, insistence upon unwarranted discounts, late payments, and other practices that reduce the translator to servitude. They aren’t part of the job.
10. Communicate with your colleagues about your commitment to earning a living wage. Urge them to join the No Peanuts! Movement. Download the No Peanuts! badge and feature it on your web page or link to the No Peanuts! blog.
Above all, continue to spread the word: Professional translators and interpreters deserve to earn a living wage for their work!