We recently learned about the launch of a new website. Its business model made us wonder if the industry has hit a new low. Meet London-based www.sostranslatorchat.com (we are purposely not providing a link to this site, and you will see why).
They seem to find it appalling that translators, just like any other professional service providers, traditionally charge minimum fees. So they set out to change that, offering clients chat-style “translations” at no minimum charge, live and online, whether they need a few words or merely a few sentences (don’t even get us started on the context issue). Info from their website: “Welcome to the first worldwide live system with translators at your fingertips with one click of a button!”
The website in question, sostranslatorchat.com seems to view translators as highly exchangeable commodities whose output is measured and billed by the minute, as if they were phone calls to say, a customer service line. We know that the per-minute billing system is popular in the over-the-phone interpreting world, but we hear that the rates are usually quite fair and professional. However, we are not experts in phone interpreting, so we won't delve into that issue. Back to the website in question. Not surprisingly, there is no information about who is behind this company.
As they are quick to point out, you, as a freelancer, are absolutely free to set your own per-minute rates. At the same time, you are encouraged to stay competitive. Sostranslatorschat claims to have “1500 translators available in all language combinations.” We seriously doubt that, since they’re sending out e-mails recruiting translators left and right.
Thinking about signing up? Think again. It’s translators who are willing to exploit themselves who end up complaining about their dire financial situation, blaming the system they help fuel in the first place. By accepting these terms, you devalue translation services to the detriment of all of us. Know your worth and charge accordingly.
Here’s a thought experiment: imagine that there is a new platform for self-exploitation, but nobody shows up for work. Websites like these will exist as long as there are translators out there willing to work for them. It’s up to all of us to change that. Will you join us?