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Is there a fierce competition between translators?
Thread poster: tomedes
tomedes
Local time: 18:35
Aug 8, 2013

I was actually just been asked that like 2 minutes ago, and honestly found myself conflicted with an answer. How do you see it?

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:35
Russian to English
+ ...
No, there is no competition Aug 8, 2013

at least in the language pairs that I do, especially if you accept only jobs with higher rates. If you are an experienced translator with a specialization, don't worry about competition. There might be more competition in such language pairs as French-English, German-English and Portuguese English.

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Vadim Kadyrov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:35
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
As one translator said once, Aug 8, 2013

you don`t notice this competition when you are a highly specialized top-notch professional. There is almost none there.

[Edited at 2013-08-08 13:52 GMT]


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:35
German to English
A lot of one-upmanship Aug 8, 2013

I haven't observed much job competition among translators. I have seen jobs go to other colleagues who offered rates much lower than I was willing to accept, but I don't hear about it very often. I suspect many people in my language combination aren't willing to admit they're working for single-digit rates.

Apparently a fair number of people in this line of work have inflated egos, judging by the amount of pontificating in the various fora I've followed here and elsewhere over the years.

I have, however, noticed a certain one-upmanship among translators, such as number of translation tools mastered (admirable), target languages (probably dubious above three), number of source languages (admirable up to a point -- is it really possible to have expert-level knowledge (above reading comprehension) of a dozen languages?), daily capacity (dubious above a certain level), high rates (admirable), number of Kudoz points (probably admirable if the answers provided are accurate. My only goal in this endeavor is to provide more answers than issue queries).

There also seems to be some competition here over who has the stupidest, most demanding, lowest-paying customers. Although I turn down a fair number of potential new clients due to their unrealistic requirements, I enjoy a low-drama relationship with my regular customers.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:35
English to Spanish
+ ...
No Aug 8, 2013

I work mostly a local market where we know one another and share and get along well. We are all competitive and we all do our own thing, but we do not take from our collegaues.

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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:35
Member (2004)
English to Italian
ah, ah... Aug 8, 2013

Kevin Fulton wrote:
I enjoy a low-drama relationship with my regular customers.


Me too!


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 17:35
English to Polish
+ ...
There is a fierce competition among translation agencies Aug 8, 2013

There is a fierce competition among translation agencies, who operate in a red ocean instead of pursuing the bluer waters and – aided therein by the fact they live off commission (markup) like traders and don't directly feel the consequences of a low base rate like craftsmen do – drive the rates into the ground while accepting more and more egregious demands from spoiled customers.

Agencies need to: 1) toughen up and stop accepting the unacceptable, 2) stop passing on their losses and outlays to translators instead of shouldering them on their own as they made the business decision to generate them in connection with their client-pleasing strategy.

Also, there is a pressing needing for agencies to come up with something else than physiologically pleasing the client (as nowadays pleasing the customer is taken so literally that it literally means keeping the client's serotonin high) and actually stand up for the profession.

Furthermore, agencies categorically need to stop competing with individual translators on the lowness of the price, while translators need to stop competing with agencies on the breadth and complexity of the service. We have agencies claiming to be individual translators and obtaining jobs from other agencies that way (and outsourcing them to translators from a lower price bracket without the job master's knowledge) and translators pretending to be agencies. The above situation drives the prices low for both groups.

This will all change when I am the emperor of a reconstituted Roman empire.

[Edited at 2013-08-08 16:44 GMT]


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xxxowhisonant  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:35
German to English
+ ...
Translators are gentle people... Aug 8, 2013

... unless it comes to differences about syntax or terminology!

Seriously though, I don't think the competition between individual translators is particularly fierce. That seems to be a different story when it comes to agencies. When margins are so tight that agencies have to start shaving tenths of a cent from their quotes just to keep them somewhere around the ballpark of what the competition from lower income (and lower cost of living and doing business) countries can afford to quote, then things are hard all over, and that can sometimes trickle down to even the well-qualified individual translator.

I consider myself lucky to have decently paid work from direct clients as well as slightly lower-paid work from agencies. In combination, they both help pay the rent, and keep me busy. I would be even busier if I accepted jobs around 3-4 cents a word, but I think we need to draw the line somewhere...


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xxxowhisonant  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:35
German to English
+ ...
@Lukasz - I agree! Aug 8, 2013

All very well said, sir, however: cave idus martiat!

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

There is a fierce competition among translation agencies, who operate in a red ocean instead of pursuing the bluer waters and – aided therein by the fact they live off commission (markup) like traders and don't directly feel the consequences of a low base rate like craftsmen do – drive the rates into the ground while accepting more and more egregious demands from spoiled customers.

Agencies need to: 1) toughen up and stop accepting the unacceptable, 2) stop passing on their losses and outlays to translators instead of shouldering them on their own as they made the business decision to generate them in connection with their client-pleasing strategy.

Also, there is a pressing needing for agencies to come up with something else than physiologically pleasing the client (as nowadays pleasing the customer is taken so literally that it literally means keeping the client's serotonin high) and actually stand up for the profession.

Furthermore, agencies categorically need to stop competing with individual translators on the lowness of the price, while translators need to stop competing with agencies on the breadth and complexity of the service. We have agencies claiming to be individual translators and obtaining jobs from other agencies that way (and outsourcing them to translators from a lower price bracket without the job master's knowledge) and translators pretending to be agencies. The above situation drives the prices low for both groups.

This will all change when I am the emperor of a reconstituted Roman empire.

[Edited at 2013-08-08 16:44 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 23:35
Chinese to English
Yes! Aug 9, 2013

Ha, funnily enough, I disagree with everyone above.

I don't *feel* a lot of competition because I'm never in a situation where I'm chasing a particular job and other people I know are chasing a job. We're geographically scattered, and agencies work hard to keep us all separated (when an agency sends me a good translation to proofread, I whoop for joy and ask if they'll tell me who did it, and they always say no).

But that doesn't mean the competition isn't there. Prices have been flat for 20 years, say those more experienced than me. How does that happen without competition? The introduction of vast new pools of translators in India and China through the internet has changed the shape of the industry. Many people on Proz, including me, have noticed that an agency will send out an email asking if anyone can take a job, and if you don't reply within a few minutes, it will likely have been snapped up by someone else.

So, yes, we compete hard on time and price. Competition on quality also exists, but only at the very top. In general if your quality is good, you keep raising your rates until you're competing with your quality-peers.

And there's competition on service. I work mostly for agencies because I like what they do for me. I have one or two direct clients, and though I like them a lot, they are tiring because I can't afford to turn down their work. So I'm competing with the greater flexibility of service that agencies offer there.

Because a lot of us are bookish types, we don't sit around like in Glengarry Glenn Ross and boast about our sales. But yeah, we're locked in cutthroat competition all the time.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:35
Partial member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
the times they are a changing Aug 9, 2013

I tried to warn colleagues in another thread of mine that things are getting worse but I am unable to convince them. Regular customers aside, I theorized that more and more jobs that should go to professionals who charge according to their skills and experience instead go to those who answer the call for the "best rate". And it doesn't mean their work is necessarily "so bad".
Just take a look at the blueboard. When native German speakers accept jobs for EUR .03/word and praise the "volume" of work they receive, boasting about the number of jobs in their profiles, I am just disgusted.
Overall, more and more good jobs have already shifted to low bidders and will continue to do so. Don't tell me that won't have an effect on our sector overall.
It's high time to discuss strategies but no one really wants to.
And before someone tries again to tell me what I am doing wrong, don't bother.


[Edited at 2013-08-09 07:03 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:35
English to German
+ ...
Among equals? No. Aug 9, 2013

The really good ones are all alpha animals with their own territories, and if you finally find one that you can entrust with all your work while you are on vacation and vice versa, you have finally understood the concept of networking.

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Hai Anh Teixeira  Identity Verified
Vietnam
Local time: 22:35
Member (2013)
Vietnamese to English
+ ...
No Aug 9, 2013

I don't think there is.

The fact is that there are more and more new freelance translators bidding for 1 job. And the new translators' rates are usually lower than our rates to attract more clients.
However, we are service suppliers, not only does the client choose us, we also have the right to choose client.
As for me, I always have my specific reasonable rate, if the client does not afford to pay that much, it's okay.

We distinguish ourselves from other translators in the market.


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Dariush Robertson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:35
Member (2012)
Chinese to English
I would also say that specialisation is key. Aug 9, 2013

In my first two years of translating, I took on just about any job I could. I ended doing a lot of boring stuff like personal documents, marketing materials, business reports, whatever came up really. Most of my jobs came through agencies contacting me, and others came from this website. At that time I wasn't really specialising and felt that I was more in competition with other translators.

I eventually spotted a localisation project in a field which I have over 25 years of experience in - video gaming! When I began my career as a freelancer I didn't even know this field existed in my language pair. I assumed that most video game localisation work would be going from Japanese to English. But for the last year and a half I've never been out of work and haven't come across anyone in this field that I'd consider to be competition, just team mates (as these projects involve millions of characters and require large teams). The draw back is that you sometimes need to translate around 6000 - 8000 new characters per day... which can mean working 8 hours plus, and sometimes even seven days a week. But, if you enjoy what you're doing, then that's half the battle.


[Edited at 2013-08-09 15:32 GMT]


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:35
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
like Aug 9, 2013

owhisonant wrote:
Translators are gentle people
... unless it comes to differences about syntax or terminology!



That made me laugh!
I agree. Translators are a fine bunch of people (generally).


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