I love to read translation oriented blogs, articles on the translation business, and opinions from translators. Translators are very vocal about what they like and do not like about this industry, and there is a wealth of information out there for anyone that wants to learn about this business.
I read a lot of articles regarding translation prices, and a lot of opinions regarding how one, as a translator, should price their services. This blog is meant to be cautionary because I feel that some translators are overpricing themselves above and beyond the market.
The popular opinion is that people pay for quality. If you want quality in anything, you must pay for it. However, translators, you must be sure that you can live up to the quality of the price you are asking for. Charging a higher price may make me, as a translation buyer, perceive that you are a wonderful translator but it will only take one negative review for me to NEVER use you again.
When times are tough, and they are, it is the Wal-Marts of the world who prosper, not the Tiffany’s. Higher end-lower end service providers exist in many other service areas, it is no different with translations. Yes, everyone wants to BE the higher end, the highest quality, but very few actually ARE and even fewer that are quality actually make money. When the going gets tough, the high end stores go out of business.
The Issue of Verifying Quality & Experience
I know a lot of translators personally and not all but some will tell you about the muck they made of their first few projects. Some count years in college as “years of experience”, so a 34 year old linguist with “15 years of experience” is accurate? Probably not. It is difficult for agencies, who field a lot of resumes, to judge whether or not you are being truthful on your resume.
Case in point: Global2Local works out of an office building that houses 70+ other businesses in the heart of Cincinnati. A startup company down the hall from us is a company that advises companies on risk, meaning they will evaluate resumes for companies looking to hire executives. They will find out who may be lying about their background or who didn’t really attend the university they claim to have attended. This company was testing a new software and, over lunch, we jokingly suggested they should take a look at some of the resumes we get from all over the world, claiming degrees from “University of Africa……” places and names we cannot verify without considerable time and effort. The company spent a week on the 50 names we sent them and told us that all but 5 had information they were unable to verify, placing them as “high risk.”
Are they really high risk? Who knows. It just shows what agencies are up against.
I firmly believe that all agencies have tiers of translators depending on the client and the difficulty of the job. We use a different linguist for some of the simple documents we get and another for a technical manual. We charge differently and expect different quality.
How did we end up with our go-to linguists? Well, most of them were middle of the road in price, picked at random and tested. After monitoring their work for a time, they became more and more trusted. Once we knew their abilities, we expanded our relationship with them and negotiated each document. We tell our translators who the customer is and what we will charge. We are fair. Everyone’s work gets a second look from another set of eyes, it is always proofed.
Which leads me to another thought: if I am still going to pay someone to proofread your work, as we do on each document, why should I pay so much? I even tell clients that deal with translators directly, “Send it to us and we will proofread it for free.” I have NEVER had a document that didn’t have at least one error. Human nature, which is prone to error, necessitates the need for another set of eyes. No one is that good.
My main job is to encourage translators and help them find work, of which there is plenty. However, you can “perceive” your own value very high but you are not likely to get clients if you price yourself out of the market. Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to negotiate. Like everything else, build a relationship with an agency first before you expect the higher end of the pay scale.
Remember that agencies are run by human beings, who think like normal human beings, and most agencies are fairly small, we work in offices of less than 10 people. We aren’t more likely to choose you because your rates are high.
If you want to work directly with companies, good luck with that, I wish you the best. We are ALL trying to get into companies and that is a challenge. You are much more likely to get work from an agency although I personally would try every angle.
Comments? I feel as if older more established translators might be giving newbies some bad advice. Thoughts on that?