An email sent by a Russian & French>English translator (known to Didier Hélin as “autofill”) in response to the Lionbridge “request.”
Hello dear friends and colleagues,
The title of the message I am forwarding, included below, is fitting for this
message as well. It came to me via another colleague and I feel that all
translators in the commercial market need to be made aware of it. Please feel
free to share this with your own colleagues if you find a reflection of your
position in my letter below.
I have been observing the wholesale assault on freelance translators since the
beginning of this recession and I strongly feel translators in the commercial
market are not taking the necessary action to stand up for themselves.
The large translation services agencies are now in possession of large lists of
freelance translators, most of whom do little or no work for them, despite
having filled out endless paperwork and submitted to various amounts of testing.
Of those that are sent work, as most freelancers can attest, agencies make a
habit of ignoring the specifics of the information they provided, such as the
translator’s field of expertise, rates or working hours. They routinely ask
translators to work on texts that are outside of their field of expertise, for
rates that are lower than those specified, within time frames that presume the
readiness of the freelancer to work during hours outside of their normal working
hours at no additional charge.
Based on my own experience, in nearly every case where the translator accepts to be
paid less to work more, and is often expected (not even asked) to perform
peripheral tasks such as formatting and DTP, at no extra charge, the end client
is charged a premium. Even when the end client had successfully negotiated with
the agency for a lower rate, the agency ensures that its own “take” does not
change. How? By unilaterally forcing their contractors’ rates down.
What shocks me most, however, is the method used. It is not longer worth their time
to approach translators on an individual basis and negotiate with them for
better rates on the basis of past, present and guaranteed future work volume and
established business relationships. Even translators who never work for these
agencies, and simply happen to be in their database, have received these kinds
of demands. In the case of this particular agency, it has also recently
instituted a program where translators are charged to gain access to its jobs.
Now, it would like to keep another 5% of their earnings.
Is this as a reasonable way to do business? Should translators that come from
different backgrounds, live in different countries, work with different
languages and subject matter at different levels of expertise be treated
uniformly? Perhaps. Our industry is characterized by a naturally fractured labor
market. The agencies didn’t need to divide and conquer. It is the nature of the
translation labor market that we are already divided. However, I believe that
professional translators deserve better and can effect change without
sacrificing their independence. Of course, to do this, they will need to speak
The message below was sent out in the middle of the ATA conference in Denver, which
is by far the biggest annual gathering of freelance translators. This is the
perfect opportunity for the translator community to send the Association and the
large agencies a strong message about the importance of good business practice
and respect to the future of the industry. If you are in Denver, take the time
to stop by the booths of agencies that have chosen to go the route of bargain
translation and tell them you refuse to play by their new rules and that you
reserve the right to set your own rates and give your own discounts. Bring these
strategies up at your division’s meeting and discuss your position with your
colleagues. For those of us who are not present at this event, I urge you to
send formal letters of protest to division administrators, the Association and
Most importantly, make sure your fellow translators know they have your support in
standing by their rates and protecting their right to determine their own
working conditions. Help them stay out of the race to the bottom and remember:
working more and charging less doesn’t pay!
Date: Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 11:26 AM
Subject: Urgent and Important — Your Immediate Support Required
The global economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 affected all of us. Together, as translation partners, we weathered this challenging and uncertain economic environment and demonstrated our value to clients worldwide. Today, while some economies are showing some signs of improvement, the overall demand environment remains fragile and volatile:
- This week, The Economist commented that “industrial production in the USA fell by 0.2% in September, the first decline in more than a year”;
- In October alone, the US Dollar lost 6% of its value against the Euro. Year-to-date the US Dollar also lost 6% of its value against the Japanese Yen;
- Most economists predict little or no growth in Europe and Japan for 2011.
In today’s uncertain economic environment customers expect all of us to deliver “more for less”. To remain competitive, we are all demanding more from ourselves to meet these challenges.
Against the backdrop of this negative economic context, effective November 1, 2010 through January 1, 2011 we require all our partners to provide a 5% discount on all Lionbridge projects. This discount is independent of any other agreements we may have in place with you.
Lionbridge is not taking this step lightly and understands the effort it represents. Please keep in mind the following points:
- In most markets, Lionbridge bears the full burden and risk associated with exchange-rate fluctuations; as a USD denominated company this means we have effectively seen our outsourcing costs rise by approximately 6% in the last month alone;
- Lionbridge continues to put tremendous effort into securing new and existing customers and markets, effectively providing for our and YOUR future revenue streams;
- To meet customer demands, Lionbridge has taken extraordinary steps to reduce its fixed costs and we will continue to do so. We ask our partners to do the same.
In closing, I want to reiterate Lionbridge’s commitment to increasing market demand for translation services by providing the industry’s most innovative, efficient and high-quality services that enable clients to extend their global reach. As our translation partner, your success is tightly aligned with our success. I want to personally thank you for the services you are providing to Lionbridge during these challenging times and I look forward to extending our partnership in 2011 and beyond.
World Wide Vendor & Supply Chain Management
1050 Winter Street
Waltham, MA 02451