Make sure to read this entertaining thread on the ProZ.com forum. It is about an agency that asked its translators to reduce their rates by 15%. Threads like this appear on the Internet often, because large translation companies are always hungry for lower rates. Nonetheless, people keep taking such requests personally. In this post, I want to share a few thoughts, mainly about the translator’s reaction, but also about the agency policy.
This does hurt
I know exactly how it feels. This happened to us many times, too. For example, earlier this year, an agency that we have worked with for six years dumped us in favor of someone else with lower rates. This is frustrating, to put it mildly. You feel betrayed, because you invested a part of yourself in the relationship, and now it turns out that no one on the other side cares about you, the little guy. What I do not understand, though, is why people don’t move on as quickly as possible. Some even talking about suing the company. Suing for what? For negotiating prices? Give me a break. Taking negotiation personally is unproductive. The right approach is to make a purely business decision—whether working at these new rates still makes sense to you. It is not like you are chained and have to obey grudgingly.
Are strong emotions really necessary?
Saying that you do not like this policy is important. The agency must be made aware that the people they rely on are not happy about what is going on. Do let the company know by all means. But do this privately. A public forum is the wrong place. They treated you badly by contacting you impolitely. But you do not have to display the very impolite behavior that you are blaming them for.
Some even want to retaliate by leaving a bad testimonial on the Internet. I do not think this is right. We are in a free market. If you do not like a client you work for, that is not a reason to blame them. If everyone left a bad testimonial every time they felt disappointed about business-related matters, the Internet would be riddled with this kind of negativity.
Business owners (and translators are business owners) venting on a public forum about an offer to reduce rates sounds like a victim mentality to me. Blaming others for what happens to you is unproductive. People need to take more responsibility for their financial future.
Negotiations like this are an integral part of business. To be prepared for negotiations requires being able to walk away without regret. To achieve this, you should have other clients and other sources of income. Betting everything on one horse is simply bad risk management, especially in an industry, where quality and rates are constantly driven down.
Everyone loses in the end
Interestingly, the biggest challenge this agency is creating is not for translators, but for themselves. Reducing rates is hard enough, but this is nothing compared to the real problem: when the rates are finally reduced, how will the agency motivate the same people to produce the same quality of work for lower pay?
Still not convinced that translators should be more proactive? Then read the article about why agencies think replacing a translator is easy.