I often get e-mails in my inbox inviting me to name my “best price” for a possible assignment; with “best price” they mean a rate so low that I cannot pay the rent! I also have to compete with twenty others, who have also been asked to name their “best price”, and if I end up getting the job, it often has to be done within an hour… It’s extortion, that’s what it is.”
Alicia, Interlex translator for Portuguese since 2008
You might be used to seeing “fair trade” on your coffee or chocolate, but not on your translation company! Nonetheless, we do not think it is strange to use this term in the translation business. Translators are often treated unfairly. They are not paid much, are often treated with little respect, and are let go at the drop of a hat when a new translator is found who will do the job for even less money.
Interlex is fair for its clients: we are not too expensive, we do not have any hidden extra costs. We understand that customers sometimes forget to have a sentence translated or that they are running behind schedule, that’s why we don’t charge extra for urgent translations and we charge a very low price for short translations. If there are problems, we solve them together.
We also adopt that philosophy when it comes to how we work with our translators. A fair, human way of dealing with each other. We find that important.
If you are curious to know what we do for our translators that makes us “fair trade”, read on.
- We pay a fair price. But we are still not too expensive for our customers. We manage to do this by keeping our overhead low: our team of project managers is small and we have a workflow system that takes away a lot of the “extra work”, which means we save money that we can use to pay our translators.
- We pay for test translations. When a translation company adds a new translator to the team, of course it needs to check that that translator’s work is up to standard. That is done with a test translation, which gives an idea of the style and accuracy of the translator. Most translation agencies do not pay for this. There are even agencies, we have heard, that use this “loophole” to get free translations for their clients. So they do not pay for the work, but the client does, and the agency gets to keep all the profit!
- We attempt to send every translator a few jobs a month, so that we are a kind of secure income. This isn’t always easy, and we don’t always manage it, but we do our best!
- We stay loyal to our translators. When a translator is not able to work a while due to personal circumstances, a traditional translation agency will usually move on to a new translator, after all, the work needs to get done. They will then forget that the first translator ever existed. We don’t do that. Of course the work does need to be done and we will find a solution for our customer if their regular translation is unavailable, but when the translator is better again we will make sure to send them regular jobs again. Translators that have shown us that they do good work and are reliable can always count on a place in our team!
- In the same vein: when a translator is ill and can no longer do their work, they can ask us to take over their work for other clients at cost price. That way, they will not lose these clients.
- Our translators get to see a text before deciding to do it or not. When a translator rejects a translation we will never hold that against them – in fact, we prefer it if a translator tells us honestly that a certain subject is not right for them. (Obviously we will handle this differently in the case of a confidential translation.)
- All our translators earn the same rate. We never ask them to compete with each other or ask them for a “best price”.
- We pay our translators per hour rather than per word. We feel that is more fair, because some texts are easily translated and will be finished quickly, but other texts are more difficult and could take twice as long to translate. Plus, when being paid per word a translator might be inclined to give a difficult text less attention than it deserves.
- We always use our own translators. We never send a job to a translation agency that then sends the job to one of their translators; that would mean the translator working for that agency would earn very little, because the agency would take a cut, too.