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ProZ.com implements Turn-key Translation Service July 20, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

I can’t get upset about anything ProZ.com does. I am not a paying member, nor do I ever plan on becoming one. I steer clear of Henry D. and the ProZ.com staff and booth at the ATA conference every year (you can tell they are with ProZ.com because they all wear black bow ties and black suits). I can honestly say that I have never respected ProZ. I feel it has driven translation prices into the ground and encouraged a bottom feeder mentality among translators and clients alike. I never understood the point of bidding on jobs, because jobs almost always go to the lowest bidder and not to the most qualified. ProZ.com’s founder Henry is also known for making up lots of rules as he goes (see I’ve got a rule for that). Locking discussions on the forums is another trick the ProZ.com staff is good at.

The latest brouhaha is about its turn-key translation services, in which ProZ.com is functioning as an agency. As they claim, “[t]urn-key translation offers an easy way to get quick translations done via the world’s largest network of professional translators… The system automatically handles routing the work to the most suitable translators, delivering the completed work back to you, and paying the service providers.” The system does not calculate any taxes and many translators are questioning prices, invoicing, etc. Kevin Lossner is doing a better job following this issue than I am. You can read all about it here. ProZ.com then made it worse by locking a discussion on the service and then locking a follow-up discussion because it was “against policy” to start another discussion after the initial discussion has been locked. Sounds to me like the ProZ.com staff gathered up their toys and went home to play by themselves.

What I want to know is why do translators continue to put up with the abuse from ProZ.com? If you are unhappy with their policies, stop paying to be members. It’s as simple as that.

P.S. If you liked Rules, Rules, Rules you might also enjoy PointZ, PointZ, PointZ.



1. Industry newbie - July 21, 2009

I’m a member because I’m starting out in translation and I’m using the site to get clients easily, build a portfolio of translations and gain industry experience before branching out to more lucrative and interesting work. The site is good in a sense that it gets you a foot in the door in an over-saturated industry, but I won’t be renewing my membership once I have my business established and a solid portfolio of translations because I won’t be able to continue paying my mortgage if I work solely through this site!

2. kslossner - July 21, 2009

@Newbie: I don’t see the ProZ problem as one of paying the mortgage. While I agree with Jill that the site has probably been a significant contributor to commoditizing translation services and trashing rates, there are other actors in that play, and there are still some very good clients paying good rates to be gleaned through the site. You simply have to know how to work the system to get them. For me now, the real issue is becoming one of basic business and social ethics, not economics. I disapprove of thuggery, and the heavy hand of censorship applied at ProZ accompanied by ritualistic citing of silly “RuleZ” is the sort of thing I would expect to find in Zimbabwe, China, Iran, Burma and other places that fail to respect basic human rights in many instances. Not very long ago, ProZ staff stated that the company would never act in an agency role and look where they are headed today. Can anything said by staff be believed? I don’t know.

@Jill: I think you give me too much credit for following the issue. I was blindsided by it, because I had missed the discussion entirely in the private forum for Scarlet Ps (aka “Certified Pros”) until a few days ago. I should have noticed this bit of stupidity a month ago. And anything I have had to say on the subject is just a water-down version of the very well-expressed and legitimate concerns articulated by Ralf Lemster and others.

There are many points which could be debated here, but most do not concern me, regardless of how worked up others may get about them. I really don’t care if ProZ becomes a full-service agency pushing so-called pros to work at beggar’s rates. The company won’t put a dent in the markets that interest me these days, and I’ve got better things to do than play nanny for other adults capable of defending their own interests. The system might even put a few more dollars in Third World pockets, which I see as a good thing. If someone wants DE>EN translation done in various former British colonies, I say go for it. At your own risk. And don’t ask me to edit the result. The only thing that really concerns me at this point is that the scheme is probably illegal or at least structured in a way that might cause legalities to be overlooked, and the consequences for those without much understanding of tax law could be unpleasant.

3. sarah - July 21, 2009

I’m wary of ProZ for all of the reasons discussed here and more, but the Nation of Islam fashion sense really clinches it for me. Yeesh.

4. MT - July 21, 2009

If you’re translating in a big language pair (such as German or Spanish or French, etc.), I can see how ProZ would suck. Even if you are a paid member, a certified Pro, active in their KudoZ system, etc. there’s still no way for you to stand out in such a big pool. I have to say, though, that in a smaller language pair, ProZ makes great sense. If an agency only needs one Romanian to Icelandic translation done every 20 years, and you’re a guy who comes up within the first 5-10 results on ProZ, you stand a great chance of getting the job. And really, how else was that agency supposed to find you?

I’ve been a paying ProZ member for eons and have made enough from clients found through the site to pay for my membership (though probably not much more). For me the site is invaluable because of the ability to ask questions of other competent translators (the available dictionaries for my language pair SUCK) and to check the Blue Board for payment practices before accepting a first job from a new client.

I would also use ProZ in a heartbeat to hire a translator myself if I ever needed something translated. I know how to pick a good one from the list 😉

5. inkamaria - July 22, 2009

I think Proz.com nowadays is a long way from what it intended once to be. The question of ethics should be risen again. BTW, if I read the site correctly, it has about 367,134 members altogether. With a yearly membership fee of € 114, Henry is making quite some money here…

6. Maya - August 15, 2009

Proz is getting out of control. This Turn-Key thingie is the last straw. I think the Translators’ Associations should do something about this. At least, they should inform their members about what Proz is up to behind the scenes and despite the censorship – most users and members don’t read the fora, so they don’t know what’s going on there, really. I am in one association, so I will try to do something, but I don’t have much faith, really.



7. Andrea - September 1, 2010

Well, it’s been a year now and still no news, despite the fact that Henry locked the thread stating “you can expect to hear more back in a few weeks.”

8. Cesar Melo - May 16, 2011

I have been a member for a while and NEVER got a job. I am also a member with Verbumsoft – another money making scheme – and NEVER did I get anything from these sites.
I am very disappointed at all of these thugs. I learned four languages to be fooled by these leeches and that sucks

9. Lyn - June 13, 2011

I am starting out as a translator (been doing it as part-time work on the side for the last 5 years), I’ve used Proz in between full-time jobs to actively seach for work and got some good jobs through the site. This is the first time I’m heard bad things said about Proz and I’d like to know what sites people recommend which they believe to be better???

Jill (@bonnjill) - June 13, 2011

Lyn, I don’t recommend any translation portals. I recommend joining a local translation chapter and the American Translators Association. I find/found most of my clients through a good old-fashioned marketing campaign. I sent my resume to agencies that are ATA members and that specialize in my languages and/or fields. They also pay better than most of the bottom feeders that advertise low-paying jobs on Proz. I also recommend buying the ATA’s compensation survey to make sure your rates are in line with what other translators are earning.

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