Posted by: patenttranslator | April 10, 2012

A Whole Week of Being Chased By Cheapskates from All Over The World

Some people are so cheap. And for a whole week now, cheapskates from all over the world have been trying to make me work for them for next to nothing.

The first one was a guy from a small agency in Israel. He e-mailed me a Japanese patent and wanted a price quote. So I told him that it was about nine thousand words in English and how much it would cost. He responded that he would be willing to pay me four hundred dollars for the translation, which ended our conversation right there. We did not part on good terms because I called him “dishonest”. Which I think he is.

The second one was a translation agency in Canada. They contacted me three times so far, once by e-mail and twice by phone. They don’t really remember which translators they contacted already. They said they were looking for translators who could translate for them documents relating to an antitrust case from Japanese, mostly minutes from meetings, e-mails and correspondence.

First, you get a call from a girl who just wants to know whether you can translate things like that from Japanese and whether you have some “availability”.

She has no other information for you, you only have two options, either say “yes”, or “no”. If you say yes, you will be put on hold and forced to listen to canned advertising touting the incredible achievements of this amazing translation agency. Then a guy who sounds like a used car salesman gets on the phone and asks you to sign a confidentiality agreement first. I did not sign it because I was finally able to find out from this guy that the rate that they were willing to pay was 60% less than what I charge.

The third one was a translation agency in Japan which sent me an e-mail in Japanese describing a short translation that they wanted me to do for them. The only problem was, when I calculated how much they wanted to pay me for it, which was not that easy because they wanted to pay based on Japanese characters rather than based on the English word count, it was again much less than what I charge. So I ignored them.

The fourth one was an American cheapskate who made me waste about 20 minutes of my time this morning. He e-mailed me a Japanese patent in PDF format. But I could not open it because the file was corrupted for some reason. That should have been a warning for me that there was probably something wrong with the guy right there. But instead, I tried to open the file on 4 different computers to no avail. Since I had the number of the patent, I found it on the Internet, printed it out and e-mailed the word count estimate and how much it would cost to the guy.

His response was, and I quote: “I can get a machine translation for $40.  I would pay you $200 to fix any errors in the machine translated version”.

How magnanimous of him. He would pay me all of 200 bucks to fix any errors! Wow! So I told him not to bother me again, which got him mad for some reason. I quote again from his e-mail: “I didn’t know that responding to YOUR email was a bother.” 

Well, yes, you are bothering me if you think that it is my job to “fix any errors in the machine translated version”. For the record, I estimated the word count at 8 thousand words, and he contacted me first of course, with a request for an estimate for a real translation.

Nevertheless, I derive a tiny bit of satisfaction from knowing that the last cheapskate for this week so far, the American one, will needlessly waste $40. I could have told him how to get a free machine translation of that patent. It’s really quite easy. There is no reason to pay 40 dollars for machine translations of Japanese patents anymore.

But I didn’t. I am kind of glad that he will pay 40 dollars for a machine translation that will probably give him a little bit of information, but not really the information that he is looking for.

Serves him right. And I hope that the other cheapskates, in Israel and in Canada, will run into major problems too.

I have a feeling that they probably will. As they say in English, what goes around comes around, which was translated by Google Translate first as “Was goes around comes around”, and then “Wurde umhergeht kommt herum” (I don’t quite know how to say this in English, probably “would instead come around here”), and into Japanese as “ワット·ゴーズ·アラウンド·カムズ·アラウンド” . Because this just a phonetic transliteration of “what goes around comes around” into katakana, one of the alphabets in Japanese, unless you are a Japanese person who knows English and understands what this particular saying means (which most Japanese people who think that they know English don’t), this particular machine translation is also completely useless.

Oh, I almost forgot, there was yet another cheapskate today, some guy who e-mailed me because he wanted me to give him a price quote for translating “25 patents from German to English in 5 days”, which would make this request for a price quote from a cheapskate and/or an idiot number six so far this week. This one actually wanted me to quote the price for a pig in a poke.

I ignored the guy completely, but then I got a phone call from India. An Indian man representing some translation agency in India wanted to know how much I charge for German patents, and when I told him how much I charge and that he has to multiply the German word count by at least 1.3 to arrive at the English word count due to numerous compound nouns in German, he seemed really surprised both at my price and the multiplication. He had no idea! It then turned out that he got the same e-mail about translating 25 German patents in 5 days.

He will probably get the job and 4 or 5 German to English translators, who probably know some English and maybe even a little bit of German, will be translating 25 German patents to English for next to nothing in 5 days.

Good luck to you, man!



  1. Just a week of cheapskates, Steve? You lucky b….d! They are chasing us mere mortals all day, every day of the year!


  2. Then you should write a guest post about it for my blog.


  3. It seems to be a trend… for two weeks now I’ve been getting cheapskate requests for translations at insulting rates; some are beyond insulting. So far, I manage to decline them, but it is becoming rather hopeless, mostly because other translators are willing to do the job, thereby letting agencies and clients think translators enjoy a “golden shower”. Don’t these translators understand that their “altruistic” willingness is in fact like spitting into their own well/plate?
    I am on the verge of looking for other/additional income options, just so that I won’t have to succumb to this atrocity.

    Colleagues wake up and smell the hummus – it smells sour! Respect yourselves and your/our profession – we must all let agencies understand that we are pros (those of us who are), and that they cannot act condescendingly, thinking they will get quality work for peanuts. Grow some balls even if you are a woman… mine are the size of a rhino – learn to say NO!


  4. “I am on the verge of looking for other/additional income options, just so that I won’t have to succumb to this atrocity.”

    What you can do if you have this problem is become an agency and make other translators wor for you for rock bottom prices.

    Anyway, that’s what I am doing, in addition to about cheapskates who want me to work for them for next to nothing.


  5. A friend suggested the same: “become an agency and make other translators work for you for rock bottom prices.”

    I see your point, but I would not be able to face myself in the mirror if I did that. Besides, getting other translators (deserving as they may be) to work for low rates perpetuates this problem.


  6. In my country, people translate for ARS 0.06 (those are pesos) per source word, which would be close to USD 0.0136. Sometimes there is a discount for fuzzy matches.

    I am a college student and I live with my brother and still that couldn´t even cover my monthly book-related expenses.


  7. It all depends on your language, your business plan and your perseverence.

    I really believe that people who work for next to nothing can only blame themselves.


  8. What i don’t get is how those agencies can think that something as complex as a patent can be translated with a machine; and they actually believe that it will make sense afterwards. Good luck!

    I am currently facing another cheapskate phenomenon: I keep getting e-mails from other translators offering me their services for rates that make me reach for a tissue to dry my tears for fear that they will starve to death soon. As long as this end of the foodchain does not comprehend that we are specialists and professionals and should charge accordingly, the other end (cheapskate agencies) will have no need to act differently. Why should they?


    • I too get a dozen resumes from translators who are hungry for work most days.

      They all say how professional they are, often in very strange English, and that they charge 6 cents a word or less.


  9. We, freelance translators, are expected to exhibit our professionalism or professionality by not replying with “Fuck off!” or “Don’t bother me again.”

    Once, I was visiting the Great Wall with a client of mine. Since it is a tourist spot in China, there came up a bunch of peddlers who tried to sell something to us. It bothered my client and I told them to go away. One of the peddlers chided me, “You should have said ‘No, thanks!’ politely, instead of ‘Go away!’ with a bad tone. It is your right to say no, but it is our right to offer.” You see, I was ashamed of myself.

    Cheapskates? Some one’s rubbish could be the other one’s Manna wa Salwa. There could be some translators who would gladly earn their decent money fixing any errors in a machine translated version.

    Fortunately, there are still decent people who need us and are willing to pay our rates for the services we provide. But, as I said some time ago, it is pretty often in our industry the case of “who wears the trousers” (wer die hosen anhat), kind of power plays.


  10. I know that I am acutely perceptive, but I somehow get the sense that you might be a little annoyed.


  11. If the Canadian agency you’re talking about is the one I think it is, you most certainly did the right thing. The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) recently issued a warning to its members about this agency (T… T…) and its record of non- or very late payment.


  12. Yes, the name of the agency is T …. T….

    This must be the same agency. I will not mention their name here because I don’t really know them at all, but after a few minutes on phone with them, I got the distinct impression that this is a typical predatory agency that I need to stay away from because they are nothing but trouble.

    Thanks for the tip.


  13. […] we need to add more? Lesson 32: No translator has ever been sued, so insurance is a waste of money A Whole Week of Being Chased By Cheapskates from All Over The World ALS, will you please remove me from your list of service providers!!! Going Global by Going Local: […]


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