Don’t be a Shark

On a translators’ forum, a colleague recently expressed some doubt about his own rates and the respect we as translators get from clients, after an agency told him that his rates were too high. The response from the group was unanimous: stick to your guns. His rates were fine, if a little low in fact.

In translation as in life, there are bullies and pushovers, and then there are those who Continue reading

Promises Don’t Pay the Bills

Occasionally, translators are contacted by new clients who, after getting a quote, ask for a discount simply on the basis that they are a new client and that, so they claim, there will be more work to come. Nice try.

There is no incentive there for a sole trader for the obvious reasons that 1) a discount effectively means a direct reduction of our personal income; and 2) the promise of future work may never materialise – whether it is a genuine promise in the first place or not. Besides, Continue reading

How Much is Your Work Worth?

A small art publisher recently asked for my rate while warning me that they didn’t have the budget of a large company. Such a query can be translated as: “we’d love to have our books translated but can’t afford it”.

While translators may show some flexibility with regards to rates or other terms, it goes without saying that we can Continue reading

Give us a Break

A client recently asked for a job to be done urgently. Since ‘urgent’ means little without a specific date, I asked what the deadline was. There was no deadline. There is a different between need and want. By saying it’s urgent, you are putting the translator under time pressure, and as with any kind of work, any unpleasant condition must Continue reading

Translators can Count too

While most clients simply ask service providers for a quotation, the occasional client approaches translators with their own rates and terms and expect nothing more than a yes or no reply – not unlike an employment offer but without the interview or a chance for the translator to Continue reading

No Blind Quotes, No Surprises

Translation being a customised service by nature, a translator cannot give an estimation – let alone a quotation – before seeing the document. They may give their hourly rate, but how many hours will be necessary still depends on the document.

Clients sometimes assume that the number of pages is enough for a translator to Continue reading

Discounts for Large Volumes? Not Necessarily.

From the client’s point of view, asking for a reduced rate on the basis of a large volume of work (several weeks’ worth) may seem like a fair request. But for the translator, quantity is not everything.

An agency once contacted me for a three-week project with a small budget. My answer could be summed up in two letters. The project manager insisted: “But it’s quantity! Three weeks is a lot of work!”. Again, my reply was simple: Continue reading

Commodity Translators vs Service Translators

The translation agencies’ race to the bottom – endlessly undercutting each other’s rates and claiming to provide the best for less – has led many new starters and less confident translators to accept unsustainable rates, creating two increasingly apparent categories: the “commodity translators” (slaves who translate for agencies or clients unwilling to pay decent rates) and the “service translators” (business-aware linguists who work primarily with direct clients for reasonable rates and who do more than just Continue reading

How Much?!

On a translators’ community website, someone has left a poor review on another translator’s page for non-payment of a €3 invoice for subcontracted work, despite much chasing. What is ridiculous isn’t so much the chasing of such a tiny amount; it is the amount itself. It is a sure sign that someone somewhere doesn’t know what they’re doing. Continue reading

ProZ and Cons

Clients who are unsure what a reasonable fee for translation is will likely look online and find average rates on translators’ platforms such as ProZ.com or Translators’ Café. Unfortunately, these websites have their limitations despite their best efforts and should be taken with a (generous) pinch of salt.

First, these platforms are open to Continue reading

Words for Sale?

When providing a quote, a translator often gives a per-1,000-words rate, a rate that confuses clients more that it enlightens them. This has been the norm for decades and, sadly, few individuals question whether this works for them and/or their clients and fewer still dare to challenge the system. But before becoming a translator, who understood what a thousand words was? I certainly didn’t. So how can we expect clients to understand? Charging an hourly rate is clearer and fairer for the client and the translator alike.

Translators, like editors, proofreaders, etc. like to know the word count of the text so as to Continue reading

Where Do You Shop?

There will always be those who prioritise price and those who prioritise quality, recession or not, and whatever the industry. To accommodate all shoppers, the full range of providers is available: from Lidl to Waitrose, from Fiat to Porsche and from George at ASDA to Dior. Translation is no exception: you get what you pay for.

When I used to work in sales (selling web hosting solutions), the sales manager would always tell us, with a defiant tone of voice and a stern look on his face, “We do not sell on price, here! We pay some muppets to Continue reading