First of all, the "minimum" rates are usually a joke - too low to pay my basic overhead for a house payment, transportation expenses and food with no frills. Maybe they work in Peru, but not in Germany. Do I care about that, or about all the silly three cent per word projects offered by agencies in China, India, the UK and other backwaters? No. Like any sensible person in business, I am aware of my costs, the value offered and the market potential, and I set my rates accordingly. Serious clients who want good service may very well be cost-conscious, but above all they are value-conscious, and they all understand that professional work by a professional who isn't living under Mommy's roof or off of hubby's income requires a reasonable rate. In my own experience this whole discussion occurs so seldom that if I didn't read the ProZ forums and various other blogs, I would probably overlook the "problem".
Every week there are silly new online rants about the bottomfeeders and their ripoff rates. I might even have a few in my own blog archive, and once in a while I get annoyed with some twit agency trying to make me part of their cattle call and comment here or elsewhere. In one such rant thread, Italian to English translator Giles Watson injected a much-needed dose of insight and sanity, which I will take the liberty of quoting here:
There is simply no point in complaining about outsourcers who offer low rates. When the client hasn't got any specific translator/translator profile in mind, the rate for the job is hardly likely to be wonderful. As Dante said, only in Italian, "Let us not speak of them but look, and pass on".That is the most clear-headed statement on the subject that I have heard in a while. If I had an important marketing brochure I wanted translated for my product, I most certainly would not make a public post stating a high rate that I would be willing to pay. I would be sorting spam mail from desperate, unqualified persons for the next hundred years if I did that. Using the search filters on ProZ or on the directories for professional translators' associations like the German BDÜ or the ITI takes little time and produces good lists of qualified candidates who might not screw up. Serious professionals who ask - and receive - serious rates. As for the rest? Let us not speak of them but look, and pass on.
Good rates are available, though, if the translator has sufficient business nous to negotiate them, when the outsourcer knows what kind of specialist translator is needed for the job in hand and wants to find out how much his/her services will cost.
These paragons often use the Proz directories to draw up short lists, and that's where you want to be (on their short list!). If the job goes well, you will probably have a long-term client who pays acceptable rates and has decent payment practices.
No one in their right minds is going to post high-paying jobs to the entire Proz membership in any of the popular language combinations. How long would it take just to read all the replies?
We all had to battle with the bottom feeders to start with. The key is to have a clear idea of where you want to get to, which will generally involve acquiring better than average language skills and sector-specific knowledge in areas of the translation market that are likely to be buoyant in the long term.