Let's keep our fingers crossed for some real change at ProZ!
to: Henry Dotterer, Proz.Com
from: The 51 Proposal Cosponsors and the PropoZals Working Group
date: 19 March 2010
Our overriding desire in drafting these proposals was to encourage ProZ.com to continue to act in ways that serve translation professionals and provide “comprehensive ... services, resources, and experiences that enhance the lives of members.” Given that a significant number of translators and interpreters in many different language combinations confirm that ProZ.com’s job postings contain detrimental working conditions or fail to offer them a living wage, such goals are not being met.
ProZ.com is considered influential in the translation industry. Because of that influence, ProZ.com is in a unique position to establish ethical standards for the translation community and to create trends that will become established throughout the industry. With that in mind, and pursuant to the “Translators’ Petition Concerning ProZ.com’s Job Policies” signed by 844 translators and interpreters in February 2010, the following proposals are intended to respond to the adverse conditions identified in the petition.
1. Job-Posting Form
a) Outsourcers should no longer be permitted to indicate the price they are offering or intend to pay for a given translation or interpreting project, and that portion of the job-posting form should be eliminated.
b) Outsourcers should not include pricing or rate information anywhere else in the body of their job posting. To that end, job postings should be monitored and removed, if necessary.
c) Outsourcers should be advised clearly of the reason for such changes on the form they use to post a job.
d) Pursuant to c), above, we propose that ProZ.com feature the following statement prominently on its job-posting form: “ProZ.com has removed pricing information from the job-posting form because we believe that translators, as professional service providers, are in the best position to determine their own rates, which vary according to type and format of the text involved, the subject matter, the level of urgency, and the technical expertise required, among other factors. ProZ.com is convinced that quality in translation is ensured not by seeking the lowest rate available but by choosing skilled, competent translators. In keeping with the years of commitment and training required to become qualified professionals, translators and interpreters deserve adequate compensation for their work.”
2. Emailing of job offers to individual translators/interpreters using ProZ mail
a) Because of the above policy—that outsourcers may not indicate pricing information or maximums in their offers to translators and interpreters—we propose that the same vigilance be extended to first-contact email messages initiated by outsourcers using the ProZ.com messaging systems. In initiating first contact with a translation professional via such messages for the sole purpose of soliciting candidates for a project, outsourcers may not indicate specific price ranges, limits, or maximums. ProZ.com already possesses the ability to monitor system messages for violations of ProZ.com policies (the profile message form itself states: “Messages may be subject to review or vetting by site staff”); thus, we propose that ProZ.com extend such monitoring to messages initiated by outsourcers for the sole purpose of soliciting services from one or more translation professionals.
b) In addition (or, if the above proposal is not accepted, in the alternative), we propose that ProZ modify the warning language (“Rules for sending profile messages”) that accompanies the email form to include: “Outsourcers initiating first contact with a translation professional for the purpose of soliciting services may not indicate specific pricing, price ranges, limits, or maximums in their messages.”
3. Translator Education/Continuing Education
a) In keeping with its commitment to enhance the lives of translators and interpreters and contribute to their professional preparation, ProZ.com should immediately undertake the following efforts/programs:
i. Create an information sheet for translators/interpreters that clearly explains the importance of establishing and maintaining a living wage and of resisting low-rate offers/downward rate pressure. This information should be sent to every existing member, whether paying or not, and should be sent in future to each new member immediately upon signing up. Thereafter it should continue to be prominently visible—perhaps on the member’s profile page, for example.
The information sheet should include a consideration of the damage done to colleagues and to the profession by consistently accepting low-rate offers or setting below-market rates for a given language combination; further, it should emphasize, in a profession made up of independent freelancers, that the individual translator/interpreter bears a fundamental responsibility for ensuring that living wages continue to exist for her/himself and for other translators and interpreters.
(We propose this because: we are aware of numerous translators who found ProZ at the beginning of their careers and assumed that the low-rate offers on the jobs board were normal for their language combination. Not knowing any better, and trusting in ProZ.com’s authority, they set or lowered their rates accordingly.)
ii. Initiate and continue a public-education program, potentially including periodic online seminars and conferences, whose purpose is to inform translators and interpreters of the importance of setting their own rates and working conditions and offering strategies for managing and resisting downward trends, low offers, and pressure to accept rates that do not afford a living wage, including a consideration of the damage done to colleagues and to the profession by consistently accepting low-rate offers or setting below-market rates and of the fundamental responsibility that the individual translator/interpreter bears in ensuring that living wages continue to exist for him/herself and for his/her colleagues.
iii. Initiate and continue a public-education program aimed at outsourcers, potentially including periodic online seminars and conferences, whose purpose is: 1) to educate agencies and translation/interpreting clients of the importance of respecting the right of translators and interpreters to set their own rates and working conditions; 2) to offer strategies for managing and resisting downward trends on the part of their end clients; 3) to inform outsourcers about how to recognize and choose professional translation-service providers; and 4) to provide practical information regarding how to identify and communicate the level of quality that is appropriate for any given project.
iv. Provide, free to paying members and at low-cost to non-paying members, ongoing online seminars and conferences in the marketing of translation and interpreting services, preferably adapted for local conditions.
v. Pursuant to ii, iii, and iv above, establish a “Continuing Education” program on ProZ, offering credits to translators/outsourcers who attend/complete such training, fungible in the form of KudoZ points, discounts for future purchases or conferences, or in some other way.
vi. Modify the ProZ.com “Professional Practices for Language Service Providers” pledge with language that reflects the signer’s: (1) commitment to establishing his or her own rates and working conditions and (2) recognition of the fundamental responsibility borne by the individual translator/interpreter in ensuring that living wages continue to exist for her/himself and for other members of the profession.
4. Corporate Image/Interaction with the Translation Community
a) Establish a ProZ.com translator’s blog, hosted on ProZ but moderated and written independently, that offers up-to-date information from working translators and interpreters regarding the translation industry and provides education regarding pricing, rates, and managing and conducting business as a freelancer.
b) In order to counter the negative impression that ProZ.com condones low rates and encourages agencies to take a use-and-discard approach to translation professionals, begin to work regularly and interactively with existing translation bloggers, online translation journals, Facebook groups, translators lists, etc. to upgrade ProZ.com’s corporate image. We specifically propose that ProZ.com take measures to respond to concerns that “ProZ doesn’t care,” that “ProZ is only in it for the money,” etc., specifically in the area of protecting the livelihoods of individual translators and interpreters. (NB: We do not argue that any of these impressions is necessarily true, but we do argue that they exist and that ProZ.com should address them.)
c) Reduce the ability of ProZ.com monitors to stifle criticism and dissent among ProZ.com members, creating a clear, accessible channel by which legitimate complaints and useful suggestions regarding ProZ.com’s services can easily “rise to the top” and be considered appropriately.