DISCOUNTS - José Henrique Lamensdorf - translation - tradução

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People often ask me for discounts on the first job, promising large volumes of work in the future. On top of not having seen any of these promises ever come true from people who started out asking for a discount before saying what it was all about, I think it would be dishonest to give a discount just because it was requested. This would be evidence of my initial estimate being overrated, an attempted rip-off.

Strange as it may sound, I strive to lower the cost for my clients. Though I charge for everything I do, I try to minimize what needs to be done. If you want to cut costs in translation, I have put together ten ways to do it not involving discounts, on this page.

Another way I found to cut costs involves previously laid out publications developed using a DTP application like InDesign, QuarkXpress, FrameMaker, and others. I can really do a great DTP job with PageMaker, however if all that is needed is the translated publication, it is much more economical to distill a PDF file and work directly on it; after all, creating a new layout won't be necessary.

Now and then I also run some promotional campaigns, and my constant clients are the first I try to benefit from these. Whenever I notice that one such client has a certain specific demand where it is possible to cut costs, I strive develop some solution that will fulfill their particuçar needs.

Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools

Many have heard about CAT tools, the most widely known among them being Trados, WordFast, and MemoQ. Yet there are many others, and new ones endlessly keep coming up.

Making it clear, these are computer programs. Their developers' web sites promise substantial savings in translation using these tools, which may be true... or not.

First, it's important to understand the difference between CAT (Computer Aided Translation, by a human translator) and MT (Machine Translation, done by computers). MT is done using a database of unknown origin, possibly enriched with contributions from users. CAT tools develop a user-exclusive Translation Memory (TM), that may be specific to one job, one subject, one client, or simply "general".

What a CAT tool does is to search for something that translator has already translated, and give them the option of reusing the exact same translation with just one keystroke, instead of having to type the whole phrase again. Furthermore, when one phrase is similar (i.e. 75-99% of the characters and their sequence are the same), the software offers the possibility of using the resembling phrase to edit. This is a gross oversimplification of the process, however it provides a very basic idea on how it works.

Some translation agencies demand sizeable discounts on these partial (named "fuzzy") matches, and I'm almost sure they don't share them with their end-clients, converting such discounts into sheer profit.

I like analogies, so I compare these tools to a taxicab having automatic transmission and power steering. The owner will have paid considerably more for a vehicle having these features for their driving comfort, while earning the same per mile driven. Likewise, the translator will have paid for their CAT tools, so the client shouldn't share the gains from the translator's investment.

I have been using WordFast Classic for several years already. However there is nothing to prevent me from changing in the future, depending on how technology evolves. However that was just my choice, for my use. I have worked using client-provided portable licenses of MemoQ, Passolo, and Memsource for the duration of the project.

Back to the analogy, this is like someone hiring a cab driver to take them somewhere, using that person's private car.

Considering my major specialty, corporate training programs, a CAT tool enables significant savings. One such training program usually comprises varied materials, e.g. Course Leader's Guide, Participant's Workbooks, PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and others. Obviously many phrases are repeated verbatim through all of them.

It was common for clients to ask me to translate only the Course Leader's Guide, which supposedly included 90% or more of the text in the other publications, to later painstakingly copy and paste those translated phrases in the proper places on the other materials. To spare them from this encumbrance without additional cost, on jobs involving over 5,000 words, I offer the repeated segments for free. In order not to leave it unmentioned, I give no discounts on segments partially repeated, known as fuzzy matches.

Payment terms

Most service providers are paid cash on delivery. Try making a plumber or electrician leave your home after having finished their work without taking a check or cash. Try retrieving your fixed car from the repair shop without having paid for the job. Simply, you can't.

For some reason that I haven't yet been able to discover, a culture of paying translators "eventually" developed, as if their bills didn't have due dates.

For sworn translations in Brazil, the law covers this issue:
dated Feb. 29th, 2000 (Published in the Federal Official Gazette on Feb. 29th, 2000)

Art. 15. Fees are due after the prompt fulfillment of the duties pertinent to the assignment.

This rule was copied to Section #3 in Jucesp's Resolution 05/2011.

This is exactly how it works in Brazilian notarial offices ("cartórios"). Finished jobs are paid at the teller's booth and retrieved immediately upon payment, right there.

However as non-sworn translations are not regulated, anything can happen. There are translation agencies that live on cash flow alone. They demand up-front or COD payment from their clients, and pay translators in 45, 60, or 90 days... with the money from the next job. If the economy goes into a recession, that next job won't be there, and they'll have to default.

It is normal to keep an open account with clients who send jobs all the time, to avoid counting pennies every day. In such cases, exclusively, the account may be closed every week, fortnight, or month, however not beyond that. In all other cases my rates consider payment upon delivery.

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