What to do with Translation Test Requests

I think it’s okay that some agencies want some kind of assurance that you can do what you say you can do, and they send you a translation test for you to complete. On the other hand there surely must be limits to how much energy you’ll have to put into this.

For most of the agencies who have sent me a translation test, it has led to jobs at some point later on. Sometimes it has only been days before an agency has come back and offered me a job, after I had completed a test.

In other cases it has taken them weeks, months or even years to come back with a job offer. It’s okay because it’s not like I’m sitting on my hands, waiting for them to reply, as I work on a first come, first served basis.

It doesn’t really matter that much how long it takes before they return, because I always have something in the pipeline, and the flow of incoming jobs will be an average of your marketing efforts. The one thing you don’t want to do, is sit and wait for the results of a test translation – send, send, send.

There seems to be a common limit on the size of a translation test, which is around 250 words. Frankly, it’s a bit hard for me to see, how this will reveal much about your professional capabilities, when the tires meet the road on a large project, but anything that can help a potential client trust you a little bit more is a good thing.

I mean, it’s not like you can’t get someone else to do the test if you outsource it, and since there’s usually no strict deadline on the delivery, you can get all the help you want.

I suspect it’s some check box that agencies need to check in their system in order to source a freelance translator, perhaps related to an ISO certification. If it makes them happy, and I get closer to a confirmed job, I’ll gladly spend an hour on their short text.

What I normally do though, is refer potential clients to my own samples on ProZ.com. In your profile you can build a portfolio of your own translation samples from your source languages to your target language.

I don’t think there’s any limit on the number of samples you can post, and I have just limited the sample size to around 250 words here too. According to the ProZ staff it’s important to have samples available in your top specialization fields, which makes a lot of sense.

It’s actually also a great exercise because it forces you to really think about what it is that you really want to translate and what your strengths are. You can translate whatever you want, but where is the overlap between your strengths and your preferred types of texts?

I’m not sure how many potential clients have actually used my samples on my profile in their evaluation of me as a potential supplier, but at least they have the option to do so. It would surely save me a lot of time if they could just look at my own samples and say, okay we don’t need another sample from this translator.

It shouldn’t be necessary for them to ask for 500, 1,000 or even more words in order to play this game. Well, of course, if they’re willing to pay you for a 1,000 word test, there’s no problem in that.

You might even get a loose deadline for this so it would be a great way to build trust. On the other hand, there are many clients out there who just want you to do the job, preferably yesterday, and are just glad that they have found you, with or without a translation sample in their hands.

Do you provide translation samples to potential clients? Or do you have better ways of building trust?

How to Tell if You Have Found a Good Agency

As a freelance translator you are a business owner, but at the same time, you’re working on completing certain jobs. It’s your responsibility to continuously improve your business so that it’s efficient and competitive.

At the same time, when the tires meet the road, and you’re in what I call production mode, you have an upper limit on how many words you can translate per hour. When you’re running near your upper limit of words per hour, your income becomes tied to the number of hours you work, just like if you were an employee.

If you have enough work, then you can predict how much you’ll earn based on the amount of hours you put into it. This is great, because it gives you freedom to scale your working life up and down, depending on your current situation.

It’s bad because you’re not that motivated to come up with creative solutions, because the clients basically just want you to complete the job already, preferably yesterday 😉

So what this leaves you with is that you really have to value your time, and really be careful about what you are spending your hours on. No hours spent on translation means no income.

This is different from what a translation agency does, but they also have to be careful about what they spend their hours on. They don’t translate themselves, but they outsource translation work to freelance translators.

They can’t do the work that you do, but here’s the difference: What some of them have realized is, that you as a freelance translator have the skills to do some of the same work they do.

The more hours of your workday that you can do actual translation work in, the more money you earn. The more source words that you can process into target words, the more money you earn.

It’s a good day when clients find you automatically through your online profiles or word of mouth. Well, it’s not entirely automatic because you made a small investment of time setting up your profiles, but you don’t have to spend time on it today, and you can translate instead.

Some agencies have realized that hey, why don’t we let the freelance translators manage as much as they can of our system, while we work on growing our system? I don’t blame them, as we all do whatever we can to survive and grow.

By managing their system, I mean handling

  • passwords
  • database information
  • contracts and agreements
  • availability registration
  • invoicing
  • very small translation jobs

You can spend a lot of time on these tasks, and while you’re doing that you’re not getting paid because you’re not translating anything, which is what you love to do, should be doing and should be getting paid for! This relationship with an agency might be okay, if you only have one agency that you work with.

Multiply by 10, and you’ll not be doing anything but the above tasks. What happened to transferring meaning from one language to another?

Passwords: If there was no system, there would be no handling of passwords.

Database information: An agency can find almost anything they need to know about my business on my online profiles. If I have to input my data into their system, I’m doing their job, without getting paid.

Contracts and agreements: It’s good to have a written agreement about the working relationship, but if it’s only about covering their back in every possible way, 20+ pages and continuous revisions becomes a big burden. I guess this is a result of not having anyone at the other end who is able to trust a human translator, and they have to protect themselves from every imaginable problem.

Availability registration: This could also be done by a project manager, in case of an actual job. It’s not relevant if there are no jobs, only time consuming.

Invoicing: I have my own system for invoicing, so this is just a disturbance of my system, if I would have to go into another system to create an invoice. I have to keep track of what I’ve translated and I prefer to have an efficient system for that

Handling 11 systems for this, when I’m working with 10 agencies, is just really inefficient.

Very small translation jobs: Usually these types of agencies allow their clients to start jobs of a few words, and apparently they allow it, since all the work around these few words is done by the freelance translator (communication, passwords, availability registration, invoicing etc.)

There is nothing wrong with doing business this way, but you have to watch your hours and be aware, that there are other agencies who do not expect you to do all this unpaid work in order to run a system that makes them money – the funny thing is, that those agencies, who run their own business, usually pay you more per word you translate!

5 No-Nonsense Quotes


Excellence might be a great selling proposition – why not try it for a while?

~ Sheila Wilson


There are actually potential clients out there, who are looking for quality translations, and who are not only looking at the price. There’s a market for quality and a market for speed, and something in between, but I prefer producing excellent quality – and the payment that goes along with it.


When you are own boss, you don’t have a (real) weekend.
At least that is my experience. I do have weekends, but they can fall on any days of the week.

~ Robert Rietvelt


When you are your own boss you’re free to choose work that you actually want to do. Why would you choose something that you could only stand doing Monday to Friday?

Being a freelance translator requires you to have a million hats to wear for each role you fulfill in your business. There’s an incredible variety of tasks that have to be done, and I really can’t see what that has to do with the name of the day.

If you by coincidence find yourself talking to a potential client during the weekend, isn’t that also work? You can’t dictate how the Universe lines up the opportunities for you and at what time it all clicks.

Besides, you can’t dictate either, when it’s the best time to help somebody you care about with something that’s not work related. There are an unlimited amount of pieces that can be moved around here to form the best service you can provide.


I prefer the medium to small agencies. They do the leg work and find clients, they support me when I need help, and they pay well. They keep me too busy to worry about big names too!

~ Christine Andersen


The big names might have a bigger budget for vendor management / recruiting freelancers, so as a freelancer it might be easier to get involved in a 20+ page Working Agreement and hours spent on vendor database registration, without any particular job in the end. On top of that the big agency might also be really optimized for growth or profit, leading to low rates for translators when the agency has to be extremely competitive.

It’s actually a bit curious – streamlining on a large scale should lead to high margins, but I haven’t seen that when it comes to big agencies. In fact, it seems to be the opposite when it comes to the budget available for the freelancer in the end.


When an agency resorts to reducing their rate, they are unfortunately already going down the slope, either financially or mentally. Unless they change their mind and resume the fight for quality and high rates with their customers, they will grab you by the ankle and drag you into the mud.

~ Tomás Cano Binder


It should be very simple: ask the translator what it will cost to make the translation, add the agency fee, and send the quote to the end customer. But then again, I’m no agency.

Not the other way around, letting the customer tell you what your cost of running your business is. It doesn’t make sense.

We should all resort to better marketing and sales, in order to find the customers who have an actual budget. Win-win, or no deal.


Yesterday a new prospect sent me some material, asking for a cost estimate, which I provided. Today she wrote me, asking for a discount. I told her that if I could give a discount merely because she asked for it, my first estimate would have been a most dishonest attempt to rip her off, possibly quite successful with less assertive clients.

~ José Henrique Lamensdorf


Are you kidding me? Perhaps try with a little negotiation.

If you don’t need that extra round of review from me, then I won’t have to spend time on it, and I can lower my rate. You give me something, I give you something.

How to Completely Change the Rate per Word

Although the rates on most of the jobs posted on the freelance translation job boards are completely unrealistic in my world, I still think that an outsourcer / job poster should be allowed to suggest whatever rate they want. It just gets particularly important that you as a freelance translator are aware that it’s a suggestion, and nothing more.

Do you decide, or even suggest, exactly what the fee of your carpenter, plumber, hairdresser, mechanic or whatever should be? No, of course not.

If money really is that big an issue, you shop around until you find something that matches your budget. Or you don’t buy anything, until you have a budget.

I don’t start harassing a supplier and try to get him or her to lower the fee down to 80% off or some crazy number. I just don’t buy if I don’t have the budget.

As a freelance translator you have to get your expenses covered, and how in the world should a potential buyer on some job board know, what your expenses are? You have to figure that out and base your rate on that, not on the numbers from some pushy job poster from another world.

Negotiation, on the other hand, is something else. Offering a free test of 250 words or something and in return getting your foot in the door, is a good investment.

Working day in and day out at 80% or 50% off is not a good investment. It’s suicide for your business.

Business is actually an important word in this matter, because you’re running a business here. If you were working as an employee and you lost your job – would you just take the next job at a 50% lower pay?

No thanks, I’ll keep looking. In your business, keep looking is called Marketing.

Did you ever work in a job in a private company? Did this company have a marketing department, or did at least a few people work on spreading the word about your company and the products or services you provided?

Of course there was a marketing department of some kind. So if all you see is 80% off, you need to put on your marketing hat and find someone with an actual budget. You know, real money?

Although the endless line of completely unrealistic job posters is annoying, I wouldn’t bother them. After all, they probably get what they pay for.

I don’t think the unrealistic job posters are mean or greedy, I just don’t think they know much about translation work. I believe most of these jobs actually gets done, but the question is by who and in what quality?

It’s hard to reach an agreement through negotiation, when they’re starting 50-80% below your sustainable rate, but there’s probably someone out there who would like a little extra cash for the weekend. And that’s where the quality suffers if they haven’t translated before or don’t plan on doing it again.

An amateur might do this once, and then realize how much work there actually is involved in doing a proper job. I don’t think a low paying outsourcer would expect a crap quality, just because the price is low.

I believe this results in a constant inflow of outsourcers, who don’t know what quality actually costs, and a constant inflow of translators, who don’t know what it takes to produce proper quality. But in the end, what does this have to do with your business?

It requires energy on your behalf to find realistic outsourcers with a budget, i.e. do marketing, and it’s easier to just look at what is right in front of you. The problem is that you also get what you pay for, so there’s this endless line of completely unrealistic low rate outsourcers, in your face.

Instead, here are a few places where you can put in a marketing effort and put yourself in front of potential clients with more than peanuts and beer money in their budget:

  • ProZ profile
  • LinkedIn
  • Translators Café
  • Twitter

Where do you put yourself in front of people that you can help with translations?

Getting Closer to that Order

ProZ.com has been good to me. I get a lot of work through this channel, and I think the options you have for making a quality profile are quite good.

They often host webinars for translators, where they explain the best ways to get the most from your ProZ profile in terms of attracting clients to you. Compared to a traditional offline business, your profile is your shop window, where people walk by and get a sense of what you provide.

When people visit your profile, you’ll have a chance of letting them know a little bit more about who you are. You can fill out the description of your business, so they can read about your background.

There’s also an option, where you can provide a link to LinkedIn. This is also a great site to have a profile on, and this profile can be seen as a live CV, which will let the potential client find out even more about you.

You can be contacted via your ProZ profile and start a discussion with a potential client this way. This is where the selling starts, now that they have found you through your profile.

But how do they know if you can actually provide them with the translations they want? Well, they can’t, but the ProZ profile has another feature which can help them – the portfolio.

The free in freelance translation should not be underestimated. Yes, you have the freedom to decide, when you want to work and in what fields you want to work.

But on the other hand, there’s a crazy free world out there, with all kinds of expectations when it comes to price per word and quality. If you ever see someone expecting, or claiming to deliver, the highest quality at the lowest rates and in no time – you should start running.

At least if you want to succeed as a professional. You will of course gain some translation experience although you won’t get paid much at the lowest rate, but if you put yourself in the shoes of a potential client, it may be difficult for this person to trust you, when you say you know what you’re talking about, now that you have translated so much (for what might just as well have been charity).

I agree with with ProZ.com that it’s better to show it. And this is what the Portfolio feature is about.
Here, you can choose a source text, translate it, and publish this sample translation next to the source. It’s a way of showing what you can do instead of only talking about it, so that a potential client may find it easier to trust you, and actually order a professional translation from you.

I know it’s not perfect in the sense that people will always be able to copy and paste a source and translation that they didn’t do themselves, but it’s the same problem a potential client would face with their own translation sample – people could just hire someone to do the test, and not do it themselves anyway.

The portfolio option allows you to put your name on niche translations that you actually did. If you translate for next to nothing in the name of gaining experience, why not publish a portfolio instead?

You’ll still gain translation experience, and you’ll get your name on published samples, making it a little easier for a potential client to trust you and send over that juicy order.

6 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Hitting Reply

Apparently it is not uncommon for new freelance translators to be surprised by the amount of marketing that goes into freelance translation. As a freelance translator it’s called marketing, and as an employee it’s called job search.

When you work as a freelance translator you’re somewhere in between normal job search to become an employee and normal marketing done by a company that wants to sell a product or a service. Translation work is normally referred to as jobs, but on the other hand you might as well say that you’re providing a service.

There’s a wonderful mix of everything in the marketplace for translations, which is why I love being a freelance translator. It gives you the freedom to choose how you want to work, but at the same time you have to look out for yourself, because there’s a risk of running into a bad mix that works against you.

I like to compare freelance translation work to the work done by self-employed carpenters. You know, the guy who everyone knows, who has a van full of tools and a shop.

When you run into what I would call a bad mix as a freelance translator, here’s what would happen from the “customers” point of view:

  • You know that within this decade you will have to get some work done on your house, so you start compiling a list of carpenters.
  • Then you start mass emailing them, of course referring to them as Carpenter, instead of using their name or their company name.
  • You tell them to fill out a comprehensive questionnaire so that everything that you have already heard about them or all the information that is already available on their website is transferred to your records.
  • Then you tell them that this week they will have to come by and install a new window for you, or else you simply don’t have any idea if they have any skills as a carpenter or not.
  • You send them a document with 15+ pages to sign, in order to put them in their right place, i.e. no place – they’ll have to run.
  • Then you tell them what they’re worth, which is basically nothing, so they will have to work for next to nothing – and like it too.
  • After 500 aspiring carpenters have worked on your house, and for some reason have done quite satisfying work, you sell the house.

As freelance translators I think we need to remind ourselves that this is a really bad mix. I don’t know a single carpenter who would put up with this crap for one second, so why should you, when there are so many similarities?

  • When a “client” doesn’t know when or if they’ll need your services or not – why not go look for someone who actually does?
  • You have an online profile, or perhaps even a website – wouldn’t a potential client seeking you out know your freaking name or company name?
  • If someone won’t even look at your shop window = your profile / website – do you really think they’re going to buy anything?
  • If someone won’t even recognize the things you have on display in your shop window = samples / portfolio, why do you think they would respect your work anyway?
  • Do you walk into your hairdressers saloon and start telling her how to run her business? Quite impressive, I must say then. No. You know how to run your business.
  • Do you start any relationship with anybody by telling them that they’re basically worth nothing? I think that’s another forum 😉
    Only you know what it takes to run your business, and this cost is going to be covered by your price, so set a reasonable price.

It seems like there’s an endless line of disrespectful people with no money, who will harass you with irrelevant paperwork. I’m not entirely sure what’s in it for them, besides extremely short term gain, but I believe that you would be much better off if you invested your energy in good old marketing.

Do you let random so called recruiters throw random irrelevant paperwork at you, or do you actively seek out people with whom you could have a win-win relationship? Where do you look for those people?

There is Money in Freelance Translation

I want to help freelance translators succeed in doing what they love while they make money in the process, but I often wonder if I’m pushing people away, because I have the word ‘money’ in my domain name. But what is there to be ashamed of?

After all, we’re running a business here, right? I know I am.

I’m not focusing on what you need to do to stay healthy and how to do it, or how to find the love of your life. I want to help you make money doing what you love, which is connecting people by getting their message across a barrier they can’t cross themselves.

Win-win

Why on earth should that not be compensated? I think it’s a very noble thing that you’re doing, so I’m 100% behind you if you want to prosper doing it.

It’s all about creating win-win situations. You help people by providing them with a translation to get their message and meaning across, and you get compensated with money.

There, I said it again – money. How long do you think you’ll be able to keep translating if you’re not compensated for it?

How many more words do you think you’ll be able to translate if you get paid enough to actually buy all the tools you need for professional translation? I would insist on the win-win deal anytime.

Marketing

Giving away translations for free does have some benefits, but I think it’s a complete misunderstanding when the receiving part is offering you a ridiculously, completely unsustainable and unprofessional price. Instead of working for next to nothing, I suggest you actually work for nothing – but get your name on the translation.

By making this small change you turn the situation into a win-win deal. You won’t sell anything if people don’t know you, and when you put your name out there people will be able to find you and see what you’re about.

You can’t afford to underestimate the marketing part of your business. Remember, this is a business, right?

Do you know any successful businesses that don’t have a marketing department? When you put a translation out there with your name on it, it works for you as marketing.

ProZ.com has provided an easy way of doing this by giving you an option where you can add samples to your profile. Potential clients can then stop by your profile and take a look at what you have for sale.

The key is to provide free sample translations within the fields that you work in, and not only say that you’re capable, but also show it to them. This is a way to build trust, because no client is going to buy from you if they don’t trust that you’re capable of delivering what you say you will deliver.

Responsibility

When people, or businesses, want to take your translation and strip your name off it, pay you next to nothing and sell it to their clients, I choose to believe, that they don’t actually know what goes into making a great translation, and that it’s not because they’re evil or something. That is why it is wrong to let your clients dictate what the price of your translation is.

On your way to becoming a professional freelance translator you have to become more and more aware of how much it will cost you to make a particular translation, in terms of time. How much time will you have to put in, in order to make this particular translation for this particular client?

Your client has no chance of knowing this accurately, so you have to take responsibility for this. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of potential clients who have been very bad at estimating the cost for me, which is why I estimate it for myself.

I’m not blaming anyone for trying to run their business, but you’re also in this freelance translation business to make money. There you go: I said it again – money.

memoQ on Windows 10 – After the Dust has Settled

It has been a while since Microsoft stopped providing a free upgrade to Windows 10. I did manage to get my system upgraded back then, although it was a bumpy ride towards a usable CAT system with memoQ on Windows 10.

I think I managed to disable the peer to peer torrent style download of updates, which completely blocked my network. After that, it’s still pretty hard on the bandwidth, but it’s acceptable, since I do want to get all the updates as fast as possible, especially the security updates.

One thing that hasn’t changed though, is the out of control restarting. When Windows restarted at the same time as I had the memoQ Web search window opened, it broke the Web search function beyond repair.
At least I couldn’t repair it, so I ended up removing all of memoQ from the PC and reinstalling it. Perhaps I should have asked memoQ support about it, but then again, it was a quick fix, that worked.

I still don’t know what went wrong with Web search, so now when I leave my PC, in the middle of a translation, I make sure that the Web search window is closed should Windows decide to restart due to some OS update. And from what I’ve read, I’m not the only one who thinks this is completely ridiculous, that you don’t have 100% control over the restart of the OS.

This is where it would have been great to have a memoQ Linux version, but until then I’m satisfied with using remote desktop from my Linux desktop into my Windows “CAT box”. Windows 10 is actually a pretty decent OS, except for the restarts.

I have never seen it crash with some error or throw the blue screen of death at me, so perhaps it’s because I’m using remote desktop, that I’m asking for trouble. Maybe there’s some kind of pop up warning that I don’t see through the remote desktop – which I hope there is 😉

All in all a tolerable setup, now that there’s no native Linux version of memoQ.

memoQ on Linux via Windows 10

There’s still no version of memoQ that will run directly on Linux, so I’m still stuck with Windows. Now that Microsoft decided to switch completely to Windows 10, I was forced to do something.

I don’t like to be forced to do something, especially when it comes to software. You’re the one who’s supposed to have control over your software, not the other way around.

Remote Desktop

Well, apparently nothing is new when it comes to Windows, which is also why I’m perfectly fine with running the two operating systems side by side. I have been running Linux on my main desktop as the only OS for 18 years now, and now that I have seen the new Windows 10, nothing is going to change for now.

I have tested memoQ on the new Windows 10, and so far it runs perfectly well. It’s the usual inherited Windows BS that will still make me appreciate that I can just connect to Windows via remote desktop, and leave it at that.

When I’m on my Linux Mint desktop and using memoQ via remote desktop, I won’t notice that I’m not on a monitor connected directly to the Windows PC. It’s not like I’m running 3D games this way, which would definitely be a disaster.

It’s very limited how much data throughput you need when translating in memoQ, and this works well through remote desktop, so that I can isolate Windows on its own machine, and run Linux peacefully on my main desktop. It would be nice to have every imaginable function in the open-source CAT tool OmegaT on Linux, but memoQ is just so far ahead, that I don’t think I’ll ever switch back to using it professionally.

Of course it depends on how much you translate or what you use it for, but for me memoQ is just much more efficient because it has all the bells and whistles I can imagine, and even more. I really like working with a tool, where you can feel that you’re constantly growing because there’s so much to learn in terms of functionality.

Installing Windows 10

If you want to “run” memoQ on Linux you still have to throw the Windows ingredient into the mix, and the disturbance this time was, that there was a fixed deadline for upgrading to Windows 10. I was running Windows 7, but the automatic upgrade from within Windows 7 didn’t work.

I downloaded the Windows 10 .iso directly from Microsoft, so that I could do a clean install instead. And that actually worked great.

Network settings

Then Windows 10 proceeded to take over my local network completely. It even blocked my girlfriends iPhone from reaching the Internet. WTF?

Okay, maybe I could be better at setting up my local network infrastructure, but this is just something you notice because it happens because of a Windows upgrade. “Sorry, honey – I just upgraded my Windows PC…” WTFx2? It turns out that Microsoft decided to download upgrades Torrent style, connecting to every Windows PC in the neighbourhood, which is something my network apparently can’t handle.

Finally I found out how to disable it, which is a bit hard to find out, when you can’t access the Internet to do research. I even applied a fix to tell Windows to treat the Ethernet connection as a metered WiFi connection, just to make it chill and let other operating systems use the line already. What is this, Kindergarten?

Random Reboots

I did that just in time to be ready for the next challenge – random, out of control reboots. Which is a really bad thing when you’re on a remote desktop.

Windows decided to restart at a time when I had the memoQ Web Search window open, and it actually broke this memoQ function beyond repair. After an hour of searching for a solution I just decided to completely remove memoQ and all its folder and reinstall it, and that solved the problem.

But before reinstalling I had to take back the control of the restarts, a tricky but doable fix. I’m watching closely what Windows does now, because random restarts are just not acceptable, period.

I know that a lot of people agree with me on this, so it should be easy to find a solution to this “feature”. I’m watching closely what messages come up in the upgrade menu.

Resources

All in all Windows 10 runs very smoothly and I managed to extract my new key for future clean installs of Windows 10. Here’s a list of all the resources that helped me through this circus:

Download Windows 10 Disc Image (ISO File)

Meter your Ethernet connection in Windows 10

How to permanently stop Windows 10 reboots after installing updates

How to find Windows 10 product key

How to Add Programs, Files, and Folders to System Startup in Windows

How to Turn On or Off the Favorites Bar in Microsoft Edge in Windows 10

Freelance Translation Jobs Online

Sounds great, doesn’t it? And easy too, right?

I think it’s useful to look at different scenarios, if you plan on making any serious money off of freelance translation jobs online. Like with every other aspect of life, there are certain hard connections between quality, speed and price.

I would like you to consider this one scenario, and then afterwards, I will describe another scenario, and both will fit perfectly in the category called Freelance Translation Jobs Online. The two will put you in very different situations as a freelance translator.

Scenario 1

I mean, why does it have to be so hard? Got PC, will translate.

That’s your starting point, and the companies you want to work with, if you want to do high volume for a translation agency, have jobs on their hands that they want to have translated. And through our dear and wonderful Internet, you are able to connect.

They post a job description of some kind, a price and a deadline. The people in the group of freelance translators you fall into, due to your languages, location and skills, bid on this job, and the agency picks the translator they want.

Hopefully you get the job, translate it and earn the money. Then you’re ready to bid on the next job.

This is one way of doing business in the translation industry, which co-exists with this other scenario. Now consider this:

Scenario 2

You decide that you absolutely love translating, and realize, that you need money in order to pay your bills, while you pursue this great activity. Hey, why not ask people for money for the translations, that you do for them?

So how much money do you actually need, to keep going and translate all you want? Well, only you have a chance of figuring that out, by looking at your expenses.

And who are going to pay for that? Your customers.

Your customers look at your price and decide, if what you offer is valuable enough for them in order to pay that price. If it’s not, you’ll soon find out.

Your potential customers come by your online shop, and in this case, shop around for a translation. Congratulations, you’re an online freelance translator.

Now you can go and help the next customer in the line.

The difference

See the difference here? It’s like opposite ways of thinking, regarding price.

The two scenarios are played out all the time, side by side, in the industry. In my experience it takes two very different mindsets to play the two.

Let’s say you want a translation at the lowest price you can get. Why not post the job, and see who’s more hungry by waiting for the price to drop by way of bidding?

Let’s say you want the best translation, you can get. Why not spend as much time as your customer will allow you, and really shop around at online “translation shops” as much as you can?

This is the tendency I see, that the focus is on price, when you’re in scenario one. Nothing wrong with that, but personally I find it impossible to produce low quality on purpose, because the price has been lowered by someone who doesn’t know what their expenses are, or have an incredible low price, because they translate now and then while they’re still living with their parents.

It simply doesn’t work for me as a professional translator, to approach the market this way. I have to flip it, and start the other way around.

It doesn’t really matter if other translators can translate at 10% of my price, if I can’t even survive if I were to accept this price.

I completely accept the free market and I wouldn’t live without it, but I recommend that you look out for this tendency, regarding the way you approach the market. Does a big agency, who are very often also in a hurry, really know what it costs you to translate?

Do you really tell your hairdresser what she should charge you for a haircut? If she’s been offering haircuts for a living for more than three weeks, I bet she knows what it costs to run a saloon.

And yes, she has plenty of customers, because people know her, likes the way she treats them and does a really good job. And also, because she keeps working as a hairdresser, although annoyed “potential clients” are trying to suggest to her, what she should be charging, in order to be considered for “potential work”.