[Note to self: plan for the unforseen, just in case it happens.]
It’s been an embarrassing absence, I know. Anyway, I assume everyone could still fall asleep at night, so it’s all good, I hope.
So, without further ado, let’s resume talking about translation. Let’s talk about peanuts. Today I would like to briefly examine one of the many “job offers” that I find in my inbox as often as those messages urging me to buy Canadian Viagra.
I received it a while ago, to be fair, but I have been meaning to talk about it for a long time.
I’m looking for a professional English to Italian translator to provide translations/localizations for several projects we have coming up.
Fantastic! I am so the man they describe, and they have several projects, coming up. Maybe it’s my chance to get a lucrative client.
We are an old business, but more recently our clients have started to request translation projects. These projects are quite large for us and are seeking the services of a translator that can help us with these and future projects.
Hmm, wait. So, basically, the guy does NOT run a translation business (it’s a copywriting service, I would go on to find out with a Google search), but instead of referring his clients to experienced translators, he thought he could act as a middle-man and get a slice of the pie in a transaction where he is actually completely useless.
These websites are tourist and hospitality websites (currently) and marketing documents. It’s important that translations are 100% culturally accurate and read in perfect Italian.
No shit! Let me write that down, I think he might be onto something here! All sarcasm aside, this couple of lines show that the guy either has only a very superficial understanding of what translation is, or he’s used to working with very unskilled translators for whom those criteria are not a given. Possibly both, i.e. the guy doesn’t understand the process behind a translation, and as a result of his incompetence he’s failed to get good translators on board, and he’s used to working with unskilled translators.
Please let me know if you are interested in this first project for approximately US$0.015 per source word of approximately 127,250 words.
Wait. That’s a lot of words. Roughly, I’d say that might take 200 hours for the average translator. Except that the rate is one tenth of what I usually charge. The total would be US$1908 (about € 1500), for a rough estimate of US$ 9.50 (or € 7.50) an hour, gross, of course. That’s just about what a friend of mine gets, working in a small-town Blockbuster in Italy. That’s about what my mother earns as un underpaid nanny. That’s half of what a cleaning lady would accept where I live, in Australia. Why the hell – one might be pushed to wonder – did I even bother studying to try and master four languages and the process of translation?
It’s also worth seeing the link between this paragraph and the previous one. If an agency offers such ridiculous rates, it’s not surprising that only bad, inexperienced or desperate translators accept the job. And all three categories are unlikely to produce a quality translation. The inexperienced one might get there, one day, but prostitution is no shortcut, for sure.
The budget is limited on this first project but we are happy to put it in writing that future projects will be paid at a higher agreed rate. The second project is approximately 110,000 words and the price per word will be higher for this. Other range projects from 10,000 – 150,000 words and will be higher price per word.
Oh! Future projects will be paid at a higher agreed rate, he says. He does not suggest one, though, and while he’s happy to put that in writing. I might by terminally suspicious, here, but I wonder if he’d be happy to put in writing that there will be other projects.
But that is not even the main point here. Once again, we have to stress this pretty unique situation where the client demands the right to dictate the rate to the translator. Think about, there are not many cases where the client purchasing a service dictates its price to the service provider. Try and jump on a train offering to pay for a tenth of the ticket, not a penny more. See if you get far. Or try to have your house painted by the guy asking a fifth of what all the other painters are asking. I bet it’s not going to look pretty.
I do hope we can forge a relationship together. I look forward to hearing from you and answering all of your questions.
I bet he does! Who wouldn’t want to forge a relationship with someone accepting a fifth or a tenth of what they should be earning for their work?
Finally, even though I admit that I replied to this e-mail with a rare cocktail of smugness and sourness, I did take the guy up on his looking forward to answer all my questions. I asked him a few. Needless to say, he never did reply.
PHOTO: Peanut Depot – Morris Avenue, by Alby Headrick