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Is it impossible for newcomers to compete with established translators without lowering their rates?
Thread poster: Aditya Ikhsan Prasiddha

Aditya Ikhsan Prasiddha  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 03:40
Member (2012)
English to Indonesian
Mar 15, 2011

Dear colleagues,

I've been in the translating business for about a year. Only part time, though. So far I've only done "simple" jobs such as book translation and subtitling. I haven't attended any education program about translating. I've been learning it all by myself. I also have no ability to operate translation softwares. One positive thing I know I have is my ability to translate well. So now, since I'm nearing graduation (I'm taking accounting), I'm thinking of becoming a full time translator that specializes in (but not limited to) economics. One thought lingers in my mind. With the high competition in the market, what can I use as an advantage against those established translators? Call me pessimistic but if I set my rates equal to those of the established ones, wouldn't the customers choose them instead of me? Your thoughts?

[Edited at 2011-03-15 02:37 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-03-15 05:52 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:40
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You answered your question Mar 15, 2011

The answer is a quite simple one actually: apart from graduating, you need to learn about translation itself and translation tools.

For the first thing, you should probably check universities around you who offer courses on translation, or maybe take an online course by some international university (do a search in proz.com and you will find opinions about many).

For the second thing, you should probably do a course in at least one of the three main tools today (memoQ, Wordfast, and SDL Trados); this will give you enough basic knowledge to learn the other two and even more tools. If you want to succeed in this market today, you definitely must learn about these tools.

My advice is that you start saving money from the translations you do for this additional training. With it, you will be in a very good position to start charging reasonable rates, since our industry values people who know about the matter at hand.

May I also recommend that, if at all possible, you do a specific course on economic and financial translation? The world of finance is surely much wider than your current studies, although you have a good starting point.

Good luck!!


 

Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
You set the rates, not your client Mar 15, 2011

My answer regarding to your question about without lowering your rates, you do not have to. Even if you are a newcomer to the industry, you have already been working as a translator for a year now. Of course, years of experience may be a big factor, but you should not forget that you are running a business, and you are the businss owner. It is YOU who decide what you charge for a translation, not your client. To put it simple, you don't go to your local restaurant for a plate of nasi goreng and decide how much you pay for the food. It's the restaurant who decides how much a plate for this dish costs.

If you take pride in your work (I assume you do), and believe that you are best in the industry and could prove that to your clients, they will pay you your rate.

And, as Tomas pointed out, you should keep up with today's industry's standard and deepen your knowledge in which you specialize.


 

Aditya Ikhsan Prasiddha  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 03:40
Member (2012)
English to Indonesian
TOPIC STARTER
It all come down to money Mar 15, 2011

Thank you for the answers, Tomás and Yasutomo. Unfortunately there's no translation course available in my city. Online course from foreign university is just too expensive for me. Is course experience really essential for my CV/bio? If that's the case then I might have to travel to the capital city to take a course.

About CAT tools, it's still impossible for me right now to acquire since I'd have to use almost all of my savings. What about free CAT tools like OmegaT and Wordfast Classic? Would it be enough to get some clients while I'm saving for Trados?


 

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:40
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Sorry, but I'm skeptical Mar 15, 2011

dan138zig wrote:

Dear colleagues,

I've been in the translating business for about a year. Only part time, though. So far I've only done "simple" jobs such as book translation and subtitling. I haven't attended any education program about translating. I've been learning it all by myself. I also have no ability to operate translation softwares. One positive thing I know I have is my ability to translate well. So now, since I'm nearing graduation (I'm taking accounting), I'm thinking of becoming a full time translator that specializes in (but not limited to) economics. One thought lingers in my mind. With the high competition in the market, what can I use as an advantage against those established translators? Call me pessimistic but if I set my rates equal to those of the established ones, wouldn't the customers choose them instead of me? Your thoughts?

[Edited at 2011-03-15 02:37 GMT]


OK, let me translate your post into a short ad:

"Part time translator, with a single year of experience, no formal translation education, as yet no graduation in other subjects and no experience with translation software offers his/her translation services."

Can you see why a customer might be reluctant to entrust translation work to you?


 

Aditya Ikhsan Prasiddha  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 03:40
Member (2012)
English to Indonesian
TOPIC STARTER
Translation quality Mar 15, 2011

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:



OK, let me translate your post into a short ad:

"Part time translator, with a single year of experience, no formal translation education, as yet no graduation in other subjects and no experience with translation software offers his/her translation services."

Can you see why a customer might be reluctant to entrust translation work to you?


Haha, yeah, I see what you mean. But what if after that sentence I add "But I can assure you I'm able to provide high quality translation. You can give me a test or see my translation sample." Would they consider me then? I read somewhere that the most important thing of all is translation quality.

[Edited at 2011-03-15 06:13 GMT]


 

Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:40
French to German
+ ...
An objective look... Mar 15, 2011

Hello Dan138zig,
please let me advise you to take what I call an "objective" look at the profession and at your initial post.

It is a common mistake to think that established translators *must* be more expensive - many of them are in fact not, because they manage to compete mainly on rates.

So the real problem nowadays is rather to generate real added value for the client, not to quote the lowest rate.


 

Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 22:40
English to Czech
+ ...
Yep Mar 15, 2011

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:
So the real problem nowadays is rather to generate real added value for the client, not to quote the lowest rate.

And I would sign this statement with my own blood...


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:40
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
CAT tools Mar 15, 2011

dan138zig wrote:
What about free CAT tools like OmegaT and Wordfast Classic? Would it be enough to get some clients while I'm saving for Trados?


Wordfast Classic would be a good starting point, I'd say. I don't know anything about OmegaT but there are many translators using Wordfast and I'm not sure whether anyone can tell whether it's the Classic or Pro version if you are translating MS-Office files. Wordfast stays free until you have translated enough units to know that you're going to make a go of translating. By then you'll (hopefully) have the cash for the business investment.

For the rates, there are highly specialised translators who charge incredibly high rates. There are also many other highly experienced and proficient translators who charge average rates. If you charge an average rate and deliver at least average translations you should survive and gather a client base.

Don't for one moment think it'll be easy, though and don't forget that you will need all the business skills as well as translation skills.


 

Theo Bernards  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:40
English to Dutch
+ ...
A few thoughts... Mar 15, 2011

...One positive thing I know I have is my ability to translate well...

That is a good start, you're sort of halfway there in my opinion: self confidence is a major asset in any profession.

...I haven't attended any education program about translating. I've been learning it all by myself. I also have no ability to operate translation softwares....

As an esteemed colleague once said: translation education is a "nice to have", not a "must have". In my opinion, a strong desire to learn, a mind like a sponge and an inquisitive mindset are also important.

Learning Computer Aided Translation Tools is optional and while you consider this option: it doesn't have to be expensive or difficult to learn how to work with such tools. There are several low-cost packages and freeware packages available and mastering two or three of them is not that difficult. As I said, it is optional: there are many translators who work without such tools and they by and large deliver excellent work.

...since I'm nearing graduation (I'm taking accounting), I'm thinking of becoming a full time translator that specializes in (but not limited to) economics...

First: best of luck with graduating! You are thinking along the right lines in my honest opinion, but as is mentioned in this thread: economics is a vast field of disciplines and simply stating you have specialized in economics may not be specific enough. Why not specialize in accounting? I'm pretty sure there is a market for good accountancy translators.

...Call me pessimistic but if I set my rates equal to those of the established ones, wouldn't the customers choose them instead of me?...

That happens often, not being offered an assignment, also to established translators. I think that starting in business is a matter of patience and hard work. I also think that in translation it is important that you not only know your strengths and weaknesses, but that you have to show confidence, display your strengths and work on your weaknesses to turn them into strengths you can display. You seem to perceive being a novice as being a weakness: why show that weakness to your prospects? Better yet: stop seeing a novice status as a weakness, because it isn't. Everybody had to start sometime, and yet we all managed to survive the first few years.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:40
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It depends a lot on your language pair(s) too. Mar 15, 2011

I don't know about your languages, but I am in the lucky position that there are not too many of us, and we welcome serious newcomers.

If you can offer a quality translation - with the latest terminology used correctly etc. etc. then in principle it makes no difference whether it is your first job or whether you have years of experience. That is the point about freelancing - every job is judged on its own merit. Convince the client you can do it well, and it is yours.
(I know that is not easy, but that is in fact how it works.)
If clients are satisfied, they will come again, and suddenly you are gathering experience. The value to the client is the same, so why should they pay less?

I won't repeat all the advice above, just wish you the best of luck!


 

Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:40
German to English
It depends on how your present yourself too Mar 15, 2011

I'd be intrigued to know how the website you link to on your profile is supposed to enhance your credibility as a translator.

 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:40
Italian to English
It depends on your specialisation Mar 15, 2011

Those with documentable experience in profitable market sectors can command very good rates, even in popular language combinations, particularly if they concentrate on direct clients.

 

xxxavsie  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:40
English to French
+ ...
Indeed Mar 15, 2011

Armorel Young wrote:

I'd be intrigued to know how the website you link to on your profile is supposed to enhance your credibility as a translator.


I was asking myself the same question!

As for gaining experience, there are always voluntary translations for various NGOs.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:40
Member (2008)
French to English
The key: "Ability to translate well" Mar 15, 2011

dan138zig wrote:
...
One positive thing I know I have is my ability to translate well....


You say you can translate well. If this is so, you have no reason to lower rates. It may take you a while to build credibility with enough clients, but if you can actually provide perfect quality delivered on time, that's all clients want. Good translators are hard to find, because they're busy, so if you are truly a good translator clients will come to you in due course and then stay with you because of your perfect service.


 
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