Jul 17, 2009

ProZ turns online agency

After a statement from ProZ management last year that the platform would never act in an agency role, the "Turnkey Translation" program has been launched, doing just that. Somehow I managed to miss the information before. It seems that the new venture has been discussed and beta tested for about a month now.

The idea is to "simplify" the placement of small jobs by using ProZ and the pool of "certified pros" (those are the translators branded with a scarlet "P"). I think the initiative could be a bit of a quality minefield, and there were some ethical concerns expressed about commoditizing translations on a platform significantly financed by freelancer subscriptions. I don't have a position on the matter at this point. I was rather surprised to read about it, and I'll monitor the progress of things before I make up my mind about it. In any case, it's doubtful I'll ever have time to play that game given the capacity bottlenecks I usually live with.


  1. @Alejandro: sounds like cartoon fodder to me :-)

  2. Kevin, I get nothing when I click on the link in your post -- just a blank page with standard ProZ menus at top, bottom and left. Is the forum discussion you linked to only for paying ProZ members (which I'm not), or has it been removed?

  3. I just checked; it's there. However, I had not noticed that the path is: ProZ.com Certified PRO Network » Collaboration tools and features, which means that it's in the private forum for those bearing the dreaded Scarlet "P". I'll have to check and see which path offers the information publicly- probably somewhere in the sections for placing jobs.

    It's not much of a loss to miss out on the discussion thread. Most of it is various people writing "count me in!" and just a few considering the possible slippery slopes involved. I'm sure this topic will be revisited. It looks like current plans by ProZ are to take about a 33% cut of the customer's payment.

  4. Hello Kevin,

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    Actually, somebody should come up with the stats for the above sentence. The numbers must be overwhelming.

    Sorry about the off-topic, there's a FAQ page in proz with some info:

  5. Thanks for the FAQ link Pedro! That sounds consistent with the explanation in the discussion I cited. What I find interesting, however, is that ProZ set up this to handle "urgent" jobs more efficiently, but the pricing models I saw mentioned were not appropriate for rush jobs and were rather toward the low end of normal ones.

  6. Hi Pedro:

    "Long time reader, first time poster" has 2,160,000 hits on Google, but only 144,000 on Yahoo.

  7. There is now a public thread on ProZ discussing the Turnkey Translation scheme. The comments regarding withdrawal of funds from the "ProZ wallet" are interesting. The startup phase of this feature is not impressive.

  8. You know, I'm cynical, but I honestly didn't see this coming. Should have I suppose. The PRO program was billed as serving professionals, but it looks more like a cash cow for proz. I've been asking for more financial transparency from the company for years now - perhaps they'll be forced to comply at some point in time.

    I initially had a few second thoughts after reverting to non-paying membership out of protest and thereby resigning my P status, but this and the most recent data "theft" incident really put the nail in the coffin. Makes the Google Analytics fiasco look like child's play.

    Thanks for providing the forum Kevin.

  9. @Riccardo, thanks for the numbers :)

    @Kevin, you're welcome.

    Things do seem to be spiraling out of control over at Proz. I really don't understand why things aren't much more transparent there. People invest in Proz as a community, they answer questions, put up articles and there isn't much consideration for that.

    How hard can it be to do things in a more transparent, honest way?

  10. Proz management's current approach to implementing innovation borders on what the Germans call "öffentliche Selbstdemontage". I fail to see the sense in what they are doing this year - you can't trade forever on past successes.

  11. Well, Henry has now closed the thread to prevent any further criticism of ProZ's totally risible attempt to set up an agency model. The explanations now provided by "Jason" make it even clearer than before that the system will encourage tax evasion:

    "At this time, the system does not collect or issue invoices from translator to client. If your tax authority has specific invoicing requirements, you may not be able to use the turn-key translation service in its current state. If you need an invoice for accounting purposes, you might consider creating an invoice in your system as a placeholder for the transaction. If there proves to be a demand for this service, invoicing capabilities will be added to the system."

    I can't imagine that this is legal in the United States (where ProZ is supposedly resident), and of course it's just as illegal in Germany as paying cash on the nail, no questions asked, to a plumber. In fact, are there any OECD countries where somebody can legally provide translation services without issuing an invoice?

    I'm not bothered in the slightest about ProZ's efforts to muscle in on the translation agency market, because the translation mass market lives in a different world as far as I'm concerned. But I *am* bothered about the potential for unlawful competition through tax evasion. And I can't imagine that ProZ's advertisers will wish to be associated with this, either.

  12. I was following the discussion on ProZ with interest before it was censored. Some of our colleagues, I think, were missing the point, seemingly inferring that under the turnkey arrangement, they would not be able to issue invoices. As I see it, that's a non-issue (sorry...). The translator invoices ProZ as she or he would invoice any customer (as Kevin and Robin have said), and that's the end of it. No customer has the right to declare that the translator won't raise an invoice (and I don't think that ProZ was claiming such a right).

    The problem lies elsewhere. Firstly, if I understand it correctly, it's the end customer who won't be invoiced by ProZ, which I presume is illegal. Secondly, this "no invoicing" business encourages the idea that the translation industry is part of the informal economy.

    Marc P


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