Agency check: "the Big Word"

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Agency check: "the Big Word" Andy Lausberg 1/7/10 5:02 AM
Hi.

http://en.thebigword.com/index.html

I've just been in communication with this company / agency about doing potential Korean to English work, and was gobsmacked to find that they are offering, as a standard, USD 100 for 1000 words Korean. As Korean normally translates to English at a ration of around 1 word K to 2 and a bit words E, this equates to a massive 5 something cents a word!!! Yes, I know. I was excited too!

Actually, I had hesitations when the contacts would not give a clear indication of their rates standards before I filled in their own extensive application data sheet and signed provider agreements, but I took a look at the website and it seemed reputable enough.

I'm very curious if anyone else has had dealing with this company / group, and if so, is this the kind of standard rate you have been approached with?

kind regards

Andrew Lausberg, B.A., Grad. Dip.
Korean, Japanese and English Translation
laus...@oceanreach.org
61-4-6656-9621 (Australia)

Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Akebono Translation Service 1/7/10 5:08 AM
Dear Andy,


I'm very curious if anyone else has had dealing with this company / group, and if so, is this the kind of standard rate you have been approached with?


I did fill in a few forms for them. *AFTER* that, they suddenly came up with the mother of all contracts which, amongst other things, stipulated that I may not work for any of their clients until one year after our relation is terminated.

I.e., if they ever give you a translation from Microsoft (which outsources their translations to dozens of different agencies), you may not work for Microsoft anymore.

As Microsoft is a *direct* client of mine, I could not sign said contract, and The Big Word refused to amend it.

I would certainly have appreciated them telling this before letting me go through all the hassle of filling in forms and everything. 

Best regards,

Loek van Kooten

-- 
Akebono Translation Service
Rijnstraat 32
2311 NK Leiden
The Netherlands
Tel: +31-87-8763636
Fax: +31-84-7390618
www.akebono.nl
 
Terms and conditions: www.akebono.nl/terms.doc
Chamber of Commerce reg. no.: 28066372
Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Matthew Schlecht 1/7/10 6:02 AM
On Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 8:02 AM, Andy Lausberg <laus...@oceanreach.org> wrote:
>
> Hi.
>
> http://en.thebigword.com/index.html
>
> I've just been in communication with this company / agency about doing potential Korean to English work, and was gobsmacked to find that they are offering, as a standard, USD 100 for 1000 words Korean. As Korean normally translates to English at a ration of around 1 word K to 2 and a bit words E, this equates to a massive 5 something cents a word!!! Yes, I know. I was excited too!
>
> I'm very curious if anyone else has had dealing with this company / group, and if so, is this the kind of standard rate you have been approached with?

     I have worked for them on and off for about 5 years.
     At the beginning of 2008, thebigword sent out a "Dear Translator" bulk message to the effect that they are feeling the pinch of competition, and to respond they had gone into their translator database and unilaterally reduced everyone's rate by 15%.  Along with some additional doggerel about how they hoped we would all understand.
     Since then, I get offers of projects with a low-ball rate, often with a short deadline to boot.  We then go through a dance about my rate and the best possible deadline I can offer them.  If they can't find anyone else reliable and really want you, they will often compromise on the rate and deadline.  So, I end up accepting only about 1 offer in 10.  My understanding is that they have been burned by using pedestrian translators for highly technical texts (medical, pharmaceutical, patent-related) and so have some flexibility regarding the acceptable range of conditions in some cases in order to maintain quality.

Matthew Schlecht
Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Matthew Schlecht 1/7/10 6:05 AM
On Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 8:08 AM, Akebono Translation Service <in...@akebono.nl> wrote:
>
> I did fill in a few forms for them. *AFTER* that, they suddenly came up with the mother of all contracts which, amongst other things, stipulated that I may not work for any of their clients until one year after our relation is terminated.
>
> I.e., if they ever give you a translation from Microsoft (which outsources their translations to dozens of different agencies), you may not work for Microsoft anymore.
>
> As Microsoft is a *direct* client of mine, I could not sign said contract, and The Big Word refused to amend it.

     I would be very surprised if there isn't some language in the contract that exempts your existing other clients from the restrictions of the non-compete clause.

Matthew Schlecht
Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Patrick Donelan 1/7/10 6:28 AM
Hi Andrew,
 
Many years ago I did a test for them and passed.  They then sent me conditions of contract.  After seeing the conditions of contract I decided I did not want to work for them.  It never went further than this.  The contract required the translator to use reasonable skill and care (okay, that is normal), to provide translations that are "fit for purpose" (very unusual legally for work like a translator), and to be liable for consequential damages (this is where I tore up the contract).  In other words, if my translation was the cause of some major damage, I would be liable for that damage!  No thank you.
 
Regards
 
Patrick Donelan
Japanese to English Technical Translations
Quezon City, Philippines
 


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Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Friedemann Horn 1/7/10 9:10 AM
On Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 3:28 PM, Patrick Donelan <pdon...@gol.com> wrote:
> The
> contract required the translator ... to be liable for

> consequential damages (this is where I tore up the contract).  In other
> words, if my translation was the cause of some major damage, I would be
> liable for that damage!  No thank you.


1. It is quite common for professionals to take responsibility for their
work. This goes without saying for doctors, lawyers, nurses,
car mechanics, etc. Not taking responsibility for your work will put
you on the same level as a secretary who is just typing in another
language.

2. If there is no (written) contract exempting you from liability, you
*are* liable for damages caused by your work product, like it or not.


Friedemann Horn
www.horn-uchida.jp

Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Akebono Translation Service 1/7/10 10:17 AM
Dear Matthew,


I would be very surprised if there isn't some language in the contract that exempts your existing other clients from the restrictions of the non-compete clause.


There is no such clause. I just double-checked, as I have archived the contract. 

I told them the contract in its current state was unacceptable. They said that in reality, it would never get that far because they were very easygoing. I then replied that if they were so easygoing, they should change the contract. They said that was impossible.

Which showed how easygoing they really were, I guess. 

It sounded like the typical behemoth agency with a legal department gone mayhem and PM's that can't do anything about it. 


Best regards,

Loek van Kooten

-- 
Akebono Translation Service
Rijnstraat 32
2311 NK Leiden
The Netherlands
Tel: +31-87-8763636
Fax: +31-84-7390618
www.akebono.nl
 
Terms and conditions: www.akebono.nl/terms.doc
Chamber of Commerce reg. no.: 28066372
Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Patrick Donelan 1/8/10 12:23 AM
Friedmann,

This contract was from their UK office.  The legal significance of the terms
in the British legal system (and all countries whose legal system is based
on the British system) is as follows.

1) The normal standard for professionals is "reasonable skill and care".
Insurance for professionals is called "professional indemnity insurance",
and only covers the responsibility to use reasonable skill and care.  A
professional must be proven to be negligent in their work in order to be
liable for damages caused by their work.  If a contract requires "fitness of
purpose" then it is outside the scope of professional indemnity insurance,
so no professional would undertake such work.

2) The normal standard for manufacturers, etc., is "fitness for purpose",
for which they require "product liability insurance".  It is very rare and
difficult for professionals to get product liability insurance.  Conversely,
it is very difficult for manufacturers to get professional indemnity
insurance.

However, if you wanted to be covered for the risks that the Big Word
contract was placing on you, you would need to have both professional
indemnity insurance and product liability insurance.  I have never heard of
a professional company with such insurance.

But because of the consequential damages clause, I would certainly want to
be covered by insurance with such a customer.

3) Consequential damages are particularly frightening.  They are the damages
al the way down the chain of cause and effect.  Here is an extreme example.
I recall that an airliner crash a few decades ago (JAL?) was caused by a
translation error in the maintenance manual.  The consequential damages for
that event would include damages for the crashed airliner, the deaths and
injuries of the victims, etc., in other words, several $100 millions.   Even
examples that are not extreme as this could easily exceed the total assets
of your average or above average freelance translator.  Sometimes I do
translations about environmental pollution.  Supposing a specification I
translated had an error, that resulted in millions of dollars of
environmental pollution clean up damage, do I want to be liable for that?

In other words, the contract went way beyond anything that a professional
could accept.  Reading the contract I took the view that Big Word were
placing a sword of Damocles over the head of all their freelance
translators.  I took the view that I can pick and choose my customers, so I
chose to not work for them.

Regards

Patrick Donelan
Japanese to English Technical Translations,
Quezon City, Philippines


Friedemann Horn
www.horn-uchida.jp

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Andy Lausberg 1/8/10 6:10 PM
Thanks very much to everyone who offered something on this company. I found the discussion quite useful.

Continuing on the communication with the recruiter for this company, I expressed my concerns and thoughts about their process and the rates they were offering.

(For example, when I responded to the company's recruiting notices, I had at first instance asked some indication of the rates they pay for KE work. I was rebuffed, and requested to fill in the forms and then negotiations could begin from there. Recently, then, I expressed to the recruiter that this prevents any potential applicants from making any assessment whether or not it is worthwhile making the application, together with forms, signings, etc.)

The response was that they have a very strict recruiting process, but "I'm sure you will understand that our highest priority is getting quality translators", clients, financial climate, etc, etc.

In the end, I concluded that the ridiculous rates are a reflection of the little value they place on supporting the mutual benefit of any translators working for them, and declined to take the application any further.  

The feedback others have offered in this thread confirmed my sense of the attitude and approach of this company has with regards the freelancers it engages.

*
On the side, this matter gives me yet another opportunity to reflect on the impact of the globalization of the industry in combination with the so-called financial crisis.

The reason the recruiter gave with regards to their rates was that their clients have been requesting a 15 - 18% reduction in costs, with the comment that because "we’ve been flexible and adaptive in working with our clients by actively reducing costs, we’ve been able to secure additional business which in turn, we’ve been able to pass on to our community of linguists".

In other words, by reducing the rates, they are getting orders. It seems that, like a lot of companies in this field, this group is oblivious to the fact you can only squeeze productivity so much at lower and lower costs; I don't see this company as an isolated case.

With the expansion of the pool of translators (more and more individuals are becoming multi-lingual, creating a larger pool of potential translators) and the expansion of the target market for freelancers (translators in almost any part of the world can work for companies almost anywhere in the world), I'm wondering if our industry isn't doomed to a continuous dilution through the introduction of more and more less-capable people willing to do work for less money.

It seems the only answers are to focus on developing a niche where quality is recognized, or jump in and do a lessor quality of work, winning income by volume, or look for another job.

Andy Lausberg
Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Karen 1/8/10 8:19 PM
Just the other day, an agency asked me to do a technical translation that was out of my area of expertise for less than my usual rate. I looked at it and asked if it was a quick and dirty translation for pre-trial discovery or if it actually had to read like something written by an expert.

The coordinator replied that this translation had to be of the highest quality.

I turned it down, explaining that I didn't know enough about the field to do a professionally acceptable translation, and furthermore, that anyone who DID know enough would not want to work for the rates they were offering.

The coordinator just said she understood my reservations and would ask someone else. 

It is disturbing that they would even ask a non-expert to produce a technical translation "of the highest quality" for a ridiculously low rate, and yet,  this is one of the largest translation agencies in the business.

Not all clients are looking for the cheapest rates. A friend of mine works for a small company that  has its online catalogue translated into several languages, including Japanese. They used to outsource the translations to a small agency, but after that agency was bought up by one of the mega-agencies, the one Japanese person who works with my friend noticed a sharp drop in the quality of the E>J translation. 

That's why I posted a request on Honyaku a month or so ago, asking if anyone had any experience with some of the other agencies this company was considering. 

On the whole, it seems that there is downward pressure on rates, and the challenge is going to be to find the clients who do care about quality.

Business strategically yours,
Karen Sandness
Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Akebono Translation Service 1/9/10 12:31 AM
Dear Karen,


On the whole, it seems that there is downward pressure on rates, and the challenge is going to be to find the clients who do care about quality.


They do exist, and they're called direct clients. I'm a fan of their products, and they're a fan of my translations. It's a fantastic relationship. 


Best regards,

Loek van Kooten

-- 
Akebono Translation Service
Rijnstraat 32
2311 NK Leiden
The Netherlands
Tel: +31-87-8763636
Fax: +31-84-7390618
www.akebono.nl
 
Terms and conditions: www.akebono.nl/terms.doc
Chamber of Commerce reg. no.: 28066372
Re: Agency check: "the Big Word" Matthew Schlecht 1/9/10 6:35 AM
On Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 11:19 PM, Karen Sandness <ksan...@comcast.net> wrote:
>
> It is disturbing that they would even ask a non-expert to produce a technical translation "of the highest quality" for a ridiculously low rate, and yet,  this is one of the largest translation agencies in the business.

     They seem willfully to disregard the old saw about, "faster, better, cheaper - pick two"
     They pick all three, and never seem to wonder "why not?".

Matthew Schlecht