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1,930 views Mar 06, 2010
Beyond ProZ

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The recent petition against's job policies stirred me into thinking how we translators can extricate ourselves from the pickle we're in. Translation has become just another commodity on the Internet, with projects being auctioned off to the lowest bidder. A frightening percentage of potential clients believe that there is little difference between one translator's work and another; for them translation is simply typing in another language. And the numerous sites that have sprung up on the fertile ground of the Internet to bring translators and clients together have no interest in disabusing them. They take $100.00 or more every year from translators for the privilege of slashing each other's prices and encourage mediocrity. One site I was a member of for a short time even went so far as to give potential clients the option of disabling the "hide my quote" option so that each translator's bid was visible to every other translator bidding for the same project.

This situation is not going to improve, because the translation industry is overwhelmingly one of work-at-home freelancers who are being bludgeoned into believing that only by cutting prices lower and lower will they be able to earn their daily crust. The market is firmly in control of those who exploit the disunity and weakness of translators to register impressive profits. But make no mistakethis is not only their right but also their duty. Any business must pursue policies that maximize its profits and serve its best interests. Many freelance translators have narrowed their horizons down to doing only what they perceive to be good for themselves, in other words, they cut their price until they have an income, however minimal. They have forever abandoned the idea of maximizing income and are content with the few scraps that some agencies and most Internet translator sites provide them.

What, if anything, can be done to rectify the situation? First, sites like this are essential to instill a sense of community, free of competition, where translators can let off steam and perhaps even come up with a solution to what ails us. Secondly, having given the matter considerable thought over the last year or so, here is my suggestion for a "Beyond ProZ" site that might ease this crippling pressure on prices and put the focus more firmly on the quality/price equation.

1. Free membership for translators with a purely voluntary option to contribute to the site from the proceeds of any work obtained through it

2. A sophisticated rating system that takes into account, inter alia, number of years in the profession, educational and professional qualifications and certifications, references from existing clients, and ratings by clients obtained through the site. The rating would also be weighted according to specific fields of expertise.

3. A verification process for all claims made so that the full rating is only given once claims have been verified

4. An option for members to compare their ratings and prices (anonymously) with other translators with the same language pair, specialty, etc.

5. When a client provides the details of a project, an anonymous list of translators will be generated, ordered according to rating and with pertinent information about each translator, along with the price they charge.

6. Depending on the size of the project, the client will have the option of asking a limited number of translators for a sample of 100 words (perhaps more on an extremely large project).

7. Translators receiving a request for a sample translation now know that they are on a short list and can choose to supply the sample or decline. At this point, their identity will be disclosed to the client and they may choose to add further information (C.V. etc.) to their sample.

8. Final negotiations about delivery and payment are between the client and the translator(s).

9. When the project has been completed, the client will be asked to provide a rating based on a number of factors (punctuality, accuracy, style, knowledge of the subject, etc.) which will be used to update the translator's rating.

There is much more fine tuning that can be made, for instance to allow members to collaborate on a large project, to share translation memory, to enjoy special prices on software and books, etc. I should also make it clear that I am willing to establish the site and finance it during the early stages. I hope that this will suffice to allow members to share their views on this proposal and answer the following questions:

Would you join such a group and be an active member?

Would you be willing to make a contribution to the running of the site from the proceeds of work you obtained through it?

Would you be willing to help with the site (promote it to colleagues, check credentials and claims, translate emails, questionnaires, rating forms, and parts of the site into your own language)?

I will be happy to receive all and any feedback.

Arthur Livingstone

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  • Monica Paolillo
    Monica Paolillo Arthur I agree with you and would definitely support your idea. In the last few months though I have come to realize that in many cases it is the "pseudo-translators" themselves that contribute to the decline in our professional recognition.

    In my caree...  more

    March 10, 2010
  • Constance Dashorst
    Constance Dashorst I agree Arthur and might support the idea. I am interested to see how this develops, it could prove to be a good and worthwhile idea. Keep it coming!
    March 10, 2010
  • Nahit Karatasli
    Nahit Karatasli God!!! The problem is global. If I could, I would say "let's call a general strike!"

    A translator works for years as a translator for a definite fee, and then he/she becomes the owner of a translation company, and then hires translators for a dime...  more

    March 10, 2010
  • Constance Dashorst
    Constance Dashorst Well Arthur, are you working on Beyond Proz at this time?
    March 26, 2010

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