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luce-neidert
Member

What does translator mean on Upwork?

I'm in a bad mood, here's why:

 

Recently, I "came across" a client who wanted marketing and medical English to French translation.  I made an offer. He sent me a message saying my rate was too high, that he had found an agency willing to offer that type of translation for $ 0,04 a word (!!!!).

 

We bargained a little, and he generously proposed $ 0,05 a word, which is a rate I proposed 3 years ago to a repeat customer I like working with very much. Obviously, other customers have to pay a higher rate.

 

Why? 

 

Because learning English takes time and dedication. And then, learning to translate from English to French takes an enormous amount of time and energy too. After years of hard work, I earned a Master's degree from my university, which I'm rather proud of.

 

Then, there is the time factor. It takes time to translate, time to research, time to proofread... And time should be money.

 

I just had to make an experiment: I offered a translation job (which I have cancelled since) to see what would happen if I asked for translation at $ 0,01 a word. I did get offers, and only 1/5 of the freelancers bid a higher rate. Some even lowered the rate. Of course, not many of these freelancers had any real training in translation.

 

So here we are: clients don't seem to value translation because they don't know what translation is. They are offered translation by freelancers that haven't much more knowledge than them about what translation is.

 

This must be why we can now see so many job offers where a client is naive enough to require someone to review a Google translation - which I hope no real translator will ever accept to do...

 

I'm still in a very bad mood...

50 REPLIES 50
petra_r
Member


Luce N wrote:

I'm in a bad mood, here's why:

 

Recently, I "came across" a client who wanted marketing and medical English to French translation.  I made an offer. He sent me a message saying my rate was too high, that he had found an agency willing to offer that type of translation for $ 0,04 a word (!!!!).

 

We bargained a little, and he generously proposed $ 0,05 a word, which is a rate I proposed 3 years ago to a repeat customer I like working with very much. Obviously, other customers have to pay a higher rate.

 

Why? 

 

Because learning English takes time and dedication. And then, learning to translate from English to French takes an enormous amount of time and energy too. After years of hard work, I earned a Master's degree from my university, which I'm rather proud of.

 

Then, there is the time factor. It takes time to translate, time to research, time to proofread... And time should be money.

 

I just had to make an experiment: I offered a translation job (which I have cancelled since) to see what would happen if I asked for translation at $ 0,01 a word. I did get offers, and only 1/5 of the freelancers bid a higher rate. Some even lowered the rate. Of course, not many of these freelancers had any real training in translation.

 

I'm still in a very bad mood...


Don't be in a bad mood. Those clients are not for you, leave them to the "others" (let's leave it at that, shall we?) and just concentrate on the ones who know that they get what they pay for.

 

I do think it is unfair to post a fake job. Even if you cancelled it, you did steal the time of the people who took the time to apply, and cheated them. That is unacceptable behaviour on a platform like this.

 

If you want to test the waters in that way, have the basic decency to then hire and pay someone.

 

This exercise of stealing peoples' time on a Sunday morning doesn't even tell you anything meaningful, because due to you stating such a low budget, you only attracted a certain sub-sector of the freelancer pool, the ones who are desperate enough to even consider this kind of pay. Preying on those unfortunate people just because you are "in a bad mood" makes this stunt even more disingenuous.

Next time you are in a bad mood, go for a walk. Don't cheat unfortunate people.

 

Petra, I agree: it's unfair to post a fake job, that's why I hesitated for a long time before trying this experiment. And that's why I cancelled the job. 

 

But it does teach you a lot about how Upwork works from the clients' point of view. Also, I do have some projects for which I will need to offer real jobs, and I needed to see how a client profile works.

 

 


Luce N wrote:

Petra, I agree: it's unfair to post a fake job, that's why I hesitated for a long time before trying this experiment. And that's why I cancelled the job. 


You cancelled the job, so those unfortunate people will at least get their connects back. It does not give them back their time or their hope for a job. Posting fake jobs is also a violation of the terms of service, as well as a truly low thing to do.

Enough said.

Ever since I started working on Upwork, I've been wanting to post a job in order to better understand the client's experience, and to see for myself the kind of proposals that are submitted. But I decided to wait until I thought of a small job that I was willing to pay a decent price for. I haven't done that yet.

 

I agree that it's unfair to post fake jobs. I believe it's also a violation of TOS.

P.S. There's nothing wrong with creating a client profile and going through the process of creating a job, stopping just before you press the final "Post job" button (or whatever it's called). I've done that.


Richard W wrote:

Ever since I started working on Upwork, I've been wanting to post a job in order to better understand the client's experience, and to see for myself the kind of proposals that are submitted. But I decided to wait until I thought of a small job that I was willing to pay a decent price for. I haven't done that yet.

 

I agree that it's unfair to post fake jobs. I believe it's also a violation of TOS.


Yes, I have sinned. It's terrible. I should have waited to have a real job to offer. On the other hand, I can now confirm that it's a real interesting experience that allows you to learn a lot. 

 

Ever since I've been on this forum, I've read about freelancers posting a job to see how Upwork worked for clients, and have always thought it was unfair to do so. But after so many years, the temptation was too great. Particularly after being told once more that my rates, which I consider very reasonable, were too high. 

 

It taught me who my "competitors" were, and believe me, the majority of them can only be called competitors because most clients don't know what translation is.


Luce N wrote:

It taught me who my "competitors" were,


No.

Those people are not your competitors. If you wanted to know who your competitors are, you'd have posted a job that attracted people at your level, (and then hired and paid them) not the desperados at the bottom end. They are not your competitors at all.

 

I know, Petra, but many clients don't know any better. 

 

I can understand the frustration when it comes to dealing with such clients. Just please don't take it personally. If someone doesn't value your service, don't waste time to convince them about your rates. I believe that if a potential client argues a lot about the rates it is usually a reasonable sign not to work with them since any misunderstanding afterwards will probably lead to refund requests/disputes and eventually hurting your profile.

 

Be very picky when you choose your clients. See their last projects/feedbacks and their average hourly rates they paid for. It can give you an idea if the client is seeking cheap work. Doing work that you are not happy with isn't what freelancing is supposed to be. Simply, apologize to them politely and move on.

As for evaluating other rates/competition use the upwork directory for freelancers, play with the search tool / filters, try different scenarios and see where you are positioned. It can give you some good insights.

 

Best of luck in finding the right clients.

Well, Moujahed, that's what I usually do, as I've been on Upwork for a few years. However, what really got me furious about the client I was referring to is that he is from a wealthy country and his offer seemed to be done by an "educated" person, working for a decent type of company. 

 

And he's not the first to tell me that he'd love to work with me but he's found some bimbo that charges 4 times less than me or something like that. Now, after my experiment, I know what type of "translator" he's referring too.

 

Please note that I'm not the one that tried to convince him about my rates, he's the one that took the time to contact me again to try to bargain.

As I said, Luce, don't take it personally. Everyone can have their own reasons. Choosing to pay for cheaper work has its own risks and plenty of frustration in the process. I can understand that losing a client might be difficult. Think of it from a business perspective. You should not lower your rates to please your clients. If they get the impression that you are ready to do that, they can use it against you. There are very demanding clients that won't be happy no matter what you do. Stay away from them.

 

I remembered a similar situation with a client who had chosen to hire someone else then eventually come back to work with me because he’d had a terrible experience paying for crappy work with lack of support. It might not always happen, but there is nothing that should stop you from moving on. No hard feelings. There are plenty of good clients that you can reach here. Give it some time, Good luck!

Well, if I'm still using Upwork, it means that I've found decent clients. But I wish there were some way to stop people who have no idea what translation means to offer their services as translators. I know this won't happen, but who knows, someone might get a hint about what translation is by reading this post...


Luce N wrote:

Well, if I'm still using Upwork, it means that I've found decent clients. But I wish there were some way to stop people who have no idea what translation means to offer their services as translators. I know this won't happen, but who knows, someone might get a hint about what translation is by reading this post...


I only joined Upwork sometime in 2017 after I decided that I studied translation to be a translator not a technical writer. One of the first lecture at university was that everybody can call themself a translator so you have to stand out in some way. Back then I am lucky that I could study engineering as well. Since then I was luckely also able to learn some less common languages allowing me to bid in a less competative market.

 

With all these specialized profiles it would be great if Upwork would allow to differenciate between professional translators and google users.

Last week a client invited me to an interview for a very urgend translation Swedish to German. I was on the bus and send a quick reply with a relatively low rate (2ct less then outside Upwork) and she wrote "Missy, you have to reconsider your rates. You are too expensive." My reply: "This Missy is one of the few translators on Upwork with a university degree in translation."

Jennifer, and you can consider yourself lucky because you are one of the lucky ones that translates into a language where there is not that much competition. I wish I had been able to master the "der/die/das" and all the rest, but it was a bit too much for me.


Luce N wrote:

Jennifer, and you can consider yourself lucky because you are one of the lucky ones that translates into a language where there is not that much competition. I wish I had been able to master the "der/die/das" and all the rest, but it was a bit too much for me.


No, German sucks because there are millions of wannabe translators that had English at school and believe that they are good enough to translate. Then there are all the non-native speaker that cannot get one sentence straight and claim there German is fluent.
I had 6 years of Latin at school and still am only average on this stupid UW German grammar test. Next time I only choose my replies randomly instead of pointing out all the mistakes.

I am lucky because I decided to move to Norway some 6 years ago. It it one of the worst places to live if you are selfemployed and compete with the rest of the world instead of only local companies, but there are not too many Germans that know Norwegian, Swedish, or Danish.

English, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and German. Not bad.

 

 


Luce N wrote:

English, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and German. Not bad.


I also have a degreen in translating Spanish with focus on engineering. 

Luckely, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish are very alike. When I first arrived I said Norwegans write Danish and speak Swedish. This article discribes the situation quite well. It is a bit like thowing Spanish and Italians in one room. Make sure you know the typical differences (otto=ocho, latte=leche, notte=noche), profile words (nonna=abuela), and false friends (barato =cheated vs cheap). You can also try to get French into the mix now.

My specialty: Latin languages. French, Brazilian Portuguese (I spent my childhood in Brazil and also took Portuguese at University). Obviously I understand Spanish, which I also studied in highschool and I can usually guess Italian. Just like you, I had to study Latin for many years...

 

I tried to study German, and I understand basic German, but again, the "der/die/das" is above me! 

 

At one point, I also studied Hebrew, because it's completely different from all the languages I'm familiar with. Writing Hebrew was rather hard to learn, but I had fun. Now, I look at the notes I wrote on the two books I used to study the language, but can't remember anything. All that good work gone to the dogs.

 

I just go this reply from a client outside UW that offers €0.02/word (less for repetitions):

 

...we specialized in translation company for more than 15 years... this order at least 10,000 words.

 

Please keep in mind that most of our projects / orders are ONLY involved user manuals of electric/electronic devices (that’s to say, though the rate that we offer seems “low”, you can certainly get rewarded “decently” because our documentations / orders often contain lots of similar terms / expressions and syntax, that’s to say, focus on a limited area and are coming only from the same several clients, which are much easier than legal or literary documents. Thus, you can translate faster and faster with a better and better working efficiency, that’s to say, the time and effort spent on a 3,000-word translation job from us will be ALMOST the same as that spent on a 1,000-word job from your current clients.

 

In addition, if your translation is of high quality and cost effective, we shall treat you as our core translator/partner and place with you many orders (i.e. we can build a long-term and stable working relation in the future). I hope that the terms and conditions offered by us will interest and attract you.

 

Any consideratin from you will be highly appreciated.

 

 


Jennifer R wrote:

I just go this reply from a client outside UW that offers €0.02/word (less for repetitions):

 

...we specialized in translation company for more than 15 years... this order at least 10,000 words.

 

Please keep in mind that most of our projects / orders are ONLY involved user manuals of electric/electronic devices (that’s to say, though the rate that we offer seems “low”, you can certainly get rewarded “decently” because our documentations / orders often contain lots of similar terms / expressions and syntax, that’s to say, focus on a limited area and are coming only from the same several clients, which are much easier than legal or literary documents. Thus, you can translate faster and faster with a better and better working efficiency, that’s to say, the time and effort spent on a 3,000-word translation job from us will be ALMOST the same as that spent on a 1,000-word job from your current clients.

 

In addition, if your translation is of high quality and cost effective, we shall treat you as our core translator/partner and place with you many orders (i.e. we can build a long-term and stable working relation in the future). I hope that the terms and conditions offered by us will interest and attract you.

 

Any consideratin from you will be highly appreciated.

 

 


These people seem to think translating 10.000 words for a pittance is much better than translating 1000 words for a pittance. The problem is that it takes 10 times more time to handle the 10.000 words, and meanwhile you are not available for better jobs.

 

Besides, if it roughly takes 5 days to translate the 10.000 words, and should you accept a job were you make $200 for 5 days of work, you are a fool. OK, there are repetitions, but you still have to check the quality of the work - unless you really think that user manuals of electric/electronic devices are not worth a good translation.

 

"...we specialized in translation company for more than 15 years...", "this order at least 10,000 words", " Any consideratin from...". Their specialty doesn't seem to involve the use of correct English, which is very odd for a translation company! Good luck to them (and to the fools who use them).

 

versailles
Member


Luce N wrote:

He sent me a message saying my rate was too high, that he had found an agency willing to offer that type of translation for $ 0,04 a word (!!!!).


True story: clients buying $0.04 per word translations receive just that. $0.04 per word translations. I'm seeing these every now and then and I have yet to see one that's good. Not saying there are no professional translators delivering professional grade results at this rate, but they are rare. And stupid.

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"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless


Rene K wrote:

Luce N wrote:

He sent me a message saying my rate was too high, that he had found an agency willing to offer that type of translation for $ 0,04 a word (!!!!).


True story: clients buying $0.04 per word translations receive just that. $0.04 per word translations. I'm seeing these every now and then and I have yet to see one that's good. Not saying there are no professional translators delivering professional grade results at this rate, but they are rare. And stupid.


I find it very sad that most people don't even seem to know the difference. Besides, if a "translation agency" sells $0.04 per word translations, who does the translation? Google? If not, the person doing the translation must be getting paid even less.

I don't use machine translation but for $0.04-.05 a word I do Spanish to English translations and don't mind, because based on my own facility with the work that ends up adding up to an hourly rate I'm comfortable with, higher than my profile rate, and because it's a competitive language, many people with the same skills live in countries with cheaper standards of living. It is totally believable to me that clients could find competent freelancers at lower rates. I believe French is a bit more in demand but I could be mistaken. Anyway, I believe machine translation is improving in quality over time so translators should prepare for rates to fall in years to come. Many industries are experiencing such structural change, including journalists who are being replaced by bots for simple articles 😬.


Chloe F wrote:
I don't use machine translation but for $0.04-.05 a word I do Spanish to English translations and don't mind, because based on my own facility with the work that ends up adding up to an hourly rate I'm comfortable with, higher than my profile rate, and because it's a competitive language, many people with the same skills live in countries with cheaper standards of living. It is totally believable to me that clients could find competent freelancers at lower rates. I believe French is a bit more in demand but I could be mistaken. Anyway, I believe machine translation is improving in quality over time so translators should prepare for rates to fall in years to come. Many industries are experiencing such structural change, including journalists who are being replaced by bots for simple articles 😬.

That brings us back to the initial question: What does translator mean on Upwork?

A: Someone who uses google translate ot other machine translation?

B: Someone believes some years at school and a dictionary are enough?

C: Someone who is bilingual due to his/her upbringing?

😧 Someone who offers translation into several languages?

E: Someone doing it parttime as a hobby and to earn some extra money?

F: Someone offering a low rate just to get any job not carring if more that language knowledge is needed?

G: Someone who was stupid enough to study translation for several years, because no qualification is needed to call yourself a translator?

 

Jennifer, not many years ago, being a translator also meant that you had a bunch of dictionaries at home and knew how to use them (I'm not sure many younger people know how to use dictionaries nowadays). 

That made it harder for people to declare themselves translators. Now that you have access to online dictionaries, it simplifies the "becoming a translator process". I must admit it's so much easier, and I'm enjoying it very much.

 

Pretty soon, I'll be able to offer my old, beloved, dictionaries to a museum. I had never expected to witness such a change... But I don't know if I'll be able to part from them, though, they are part of my life, bought as treasures - particularly my first English English dictionary bought in England after working for a whole month during my holidays when I was 16. That old dictionary is like a part of me, it reminds me of my love and devotion to the English language!!!


Luce N wrote:

Jennifer, not many years ago, being a translator also meant that you had a bunch of dictionaries at home and knew how to use them (I'm not sure many younger people know how to use dictionaries nowadays). 

That made it harder for people to declare themselves translators. Now that you have access to online dictionaries, it simplifies the "becoming a translator process". I must admit it's so much easier, and I'm enjoying it very much.

 

Pretty soon, I'll be able to offer my old, beloved, dictionaries to a museum. I had never expected to witness such a change... But I don't know if I'll be able to part from them, though, they are part of my life, bought as treasures - particularly my first English English dictionary bought in England after working for a whole month during my holidays when I was 16. That old dictionary is like a part of me, it reminds me of my love and devotion to the English language!!!


Same here, I spend several months with my aunt, went to school, took my driving test...

 

I remember having saved money every month just to be able to afford first Slaby-Grossmann.


Jennifer R wrote:

Same here, I spend several months with my aunt, went to school, took my driving test...

 

I remember having saved money every month just to be able to afford first Slaby-Grossmann.


We sound like dinosaurs remembering our extinct civilisation.


Chloe F wrote:
I don't use machine translation but for $0.04-.05 a word I do Spanish to English translations and don't mind, because based on my own facility with the work that ends up adding up to an hourly rate I'm comfortable with, higher than my profile rate, and because it's a competitive language, many people with the same skills live in countries with cheaper standards of living. It is totally believable to me that clients could find competent freelancers at lower rates. I believe French is a bit more in demand but I could be mistaken. Anyway, I believe machine translation is improving in quality over time so translators should prepare for rates to fall in years to come. Many industries are experiencing such structural change, including journalists who are being replaced by bots for simple articles 😬.


Well Chloe, I've found English to Spanish translators that charge more than you do, and I've looked at their job which I thought was pretty good (I speak Portuguese and understand Spanish).

 

Now that you've been on Upwork long enough, you should think of asking for more for your services. 

In reality, I make the bulk of my income doing proofreading/especially quality control of Mandarin translations, and copywriting because most Spanish translation jobs reach 50 applicants in a couple of hours so it's inefficient to spend connects. If I began a relationship with a new client I would likely raise rates but for me translation is the work I truly enjoy and find stimulating so I don't mind. To refer higher in the thread I took a couple translation courses in Spain as part of a "Spanish studies" major but I'm not certified or anything and I do use online resources so my up front investment was low, I've spoken Spanish since childhood. I do prefer to translate into my native language however so I can be sure my final product is relatively perfect.

I also only made top rated status last month which changes my calculus somewhat.

I quite understand that you are so happy to do the jobs you enjoy that you are willing to do them for a lower price, but try not to go too low, it's not going to help you, now that you've done your beginings on the platform.

 

I have the same with transcription, I enjoy it so much that I accept jobs I shouldn't, because they are not well paid, but they are a nice break from translation.

 

Besides you should be getting invitations, which will help you not spend as many connects. Many of my best clients sent me an invitation to begin with.

That's so funny, transcription actually is my least favorite 😂 as soon as I had enough clients for other work I stopped applying for transcription jobs. So far I do not receive many invitations which are applicable to my skill set. Often I get the same offer three times and it's something like "We need native Spanish speakers to do voiceover", and I am not native Spanish so I simply turn it down. So far I do save connects by working with long-term clients but I don't know if there is a way to make invitations more accurate?

Well, what I really hate is proofreading. 

 

The only bad part about transcription is that most clients pretend to believe that it's done miraculously by wonderful dwarfs working day and night in a magic country where you don't have any bills to pay. Other than that, it's like listening to the radio or to a podcast. I've learnt very interesting stuff while transcribing, and if I could get 5/10 minutes a day of transcription, I would forever be in a fantastic mood.

 

I think the invitations get more to the point once you have done the same type of job a few times. When you search freelancers, for example, with the keywords "English French translator" you are told how many times such and such a freelancer has done that type of job. It's probably linked to some sort of deep learning (I've done a transcription/translation on deep learning Smiley Very Happy).

That makes sense so hopefully my invitations will approve with time. Proofreading isn't very challenging but I don't mind doing it and I'm good at it and quick, so it's my best niche so far on Upwork, especially since I can read Chinese. Thanks for sharing your experience! How long have you used the platform?

I've been using Upwork for 3 years, and I must admit that I rather enjoy doing so. The forum makes it a specialy pleasant place to relax and get to know other users.

 

Now, I have a question for you: how come you can read Chinese?

I like languages, I studied abroad in China as well as Spain during undergrad. I speak a little French too 😂. But my Chinese level is nowhere near perfect enough to make translation feasible, but it's enough to help me work with a lot of Chinese clients, I'm able to consult the source text to identify mistakes their translators made - usually it's native Chinese speakers translating Mandarin--> English so a lot of errors with verb use, articles, etc.

By the way I thought of something else as far as my rates, I'm less than five years out of undergrad, and hourly I make much more, almost double freelancing as I could at my last office job where I live. So I think that plays into it, if I had ten or twenty years of experience I would have different needs and expectations.

That's probably true. 

iacob_irina
Member

This type of behaviour (in which a person doesn't understand the efforts someone else puts into completing a task) is seen in every industry. Nothing shocking there. 😕 

 

@Petra: I'm also not surprised by the fact that original poster wanted to "test the market" by creating a fake job ad: I've seen it done in the offline world as well. I guess, this is a warning for other freelancers to peel their eyes open as not to get cheated out of their time. Though, I assume that no skilled translator applied for that lowed paid job, and only folks from countries where $1 might actually feed them during 1 day. 😕