I used to spend a lot of time searching for translation jobs posted online. And there are a lot of them, that’s for sure.
I would spend most of my time reserved for marketing looking through the different job boards online, and apply for many jobs. I did find some regular clients this way, but I’m not at all impressed by many of the jobs coming through via the boards.
Most of the time I find that the rate per word is really low. On top of that, most of the clients seem to live by the job boards instead of building relationships with regular suppliers (freelance translators).
I think it should be possible to use the job boards professionally, but I suspect that both parties, i.e. agencies and freelance translators are focusing to much on price, when it comes to hiring and applying. Are you acting professionally if you only look at the price?
What about skills, experience, trust, relationships, etc.? I think agencies often become lazy when they look at the list of bidders, and why not shave a bit off the price, when the translators almost look the same on paper?
And the freelance translators are scared of bidding to high and not getting the job, so they lower their price. The result is that the prices drop.
It’s not sustainable to lower your price every time you go onto a job board. But what is sustainable?
If the agencies get a new translator for every job, because the bidder don’t know what a sustainable price is for running a translation business, then I would say that the quality drops. And that’s okay, because this market is as free as it can be.
You could say that some agencies are depending on a continuous stream of introductory prices – and that is sustainable, although the quality could be suffering. But if the agencies are getting paid for the translations delivered to their clients, then it is sustainable.
It’s like if you want to get your car fixed and you put up a sign, “fix my car – how cheap are you?” and you expect mechanics come running from near and far and fighting over your repair job. Normally, I go to a reputable mechanic, that I know and have used before, and ask for the price.
If they price is not ridiculously high, I get my car repaired, because he charges what everyone else in the market is charging, who are running a sustainable business. Just like when I get a haircut.
I have found some regular clients (agencies) through job boards, who I really like working with and who pays a good price, but I suspect this mostly happens if something goes wrong and the clients have to try the job boards in order to get things solved quickly, because they have run out of options.
I often compare this market to that of the employees, who are looking for a job. I don’t think the really good and high paying jobs are distributed through a big public job board, but rather through networking, which could be initiated by both employers and the employees.
You might as well do that as a freelance translator, and get your card into the hands of potential clients. I would prefer producing quality translations, which is hard if you’re only going for the lowest price.
What is most important to you in the translation industry, price or quality?