The Key to Never Accepting a Low-Paying Translation Job

As I shared recently in one of my previous posts, translation pricing is one of those hot topics that’ll never get old in the translation field.

Ever since becoming acquainted with the translation pricing world, I’ve been intrigued by the number of translators who are willing to work for extremely low rates.

Is it a lack of confidence in their own abilities?

Is their financial situation leading them to accept whatever comes?

Are they going by what they believe a potential client is willing to pay?

Do they not see themselves as professionals in the field?

Are they fearful of charging too much?

Do they not value their own expertise and education?

Are they doing it as a hobby and don’t care to get paid what their skills are worth?

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure it out.

In the past I’ve run into many translations that are horrible. We’ve all seen them. They’re all over the internet.

I couldn’t believe people actually paid for translations that were so low-quality.

And that was the moment I realized I could make a difference as a professional translator.

Once I knew I could do better than what I’ve seen out there,

I gained enough confidence to value my own language skills and abilities.

How about you?

Do you value your own skills and abilities as a translator?

I realize many translators feel trapped into accepting low-paying jobs for financial reasons.

We all have to make a living, and for some translators, that means accepting what comes their way, no matter how low.

Do you see yourself in the above statement?

If you do, I’m afraid you’re not alone.

So here’s my solution.

Here’s the key to avoid price-sensitive clients and stop accepting low-paying jobs once and for all:

Be a PART-TIME translator first.

Let me tell you why.

Establishing yourself as a credible, high quality translator takes time and patience.

It requires that you give it your all.

If on top of that you have to worry about finding enough translation work to make a living, chances are you’ll be kind of desperate and accept any job, even those low-paying ones.

So, having a reliable, full-time job while establishing your freelance career will give you some stability while you pursue your translation gig on the side.

It’ll also provide you with a way to promote your translation business and find new clients.

And this is the best part—you’ll never have the need to accept a translation job that pays below the rates you’ve already established your work is worth.

Right now I have two other jobs that take a lot of my time—I teach an online college class and I’m also a full-time mom.

I also have a great husband who’s been able to support our family from the very beginning while I stay home raising my children.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Although my plan is to eventually be a full-time translator, my current plan is to go at a pace that I can handle and focus on growing my translation business without worrying about making ends meet.

So, having a full-time job that provides a steady income will allow you to work on marketing yourself, finding clients, and perfecting your skills.

You’ll also be able to establish higher rates for your services early in your career and not be afraid to say no to a low-paying offer.

Think about it. When someone charges more than the national average for a certain language pair, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Do you think, “wow, this translator is overpriced”?

I didn’t think so.

Quite the opposite, actually.

You’ll most likely think, “this translator must be good.”

And you know what else I think?

This translator has CONFIDENCE.

This translator knows what his/her work is worth and has the guts to charge accordingly.

Now, who says this translator we’re talking about couldn’t be YOU?

 

About the author:
Beverly Hayes specializes in social, adoption-related topics, healthcare, travel and tourism, and marketing/website translations from English into Spanish. A mother of five, Beverly is the founder/owner of Spanish Connect Translations, a translation agency based in Rexburg, Idaho. She graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah with a Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Laboratory Science, and this last December she finished her Master’s degree in Spanish Linguistics from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Being a stay-at-home mom for most of her life, Beverly has now taken upon herself a new goal–to contribute to the world in a different way by jumping on the entrepreneurship bandwagon. She has the education, the cultural background, and the writing skills that are necessary to succeed in this competitive field and provide a quality product that’ll stand out among the rest. You may visit her website at spctranslations.com, or contact her via Twitter: MySpanConnect and email: beverly@spctranslations.com.

6 thoughts on “The Key to Never Accepting a Low-Paying Translation Job

  1. Loved your article and I’m basically doing the same thing now where I work part-time as an ESL instructor in Colombia and work part-time as a translator while growing my client base. Over the past 3 years I’ve taken on sporadic translation work but it wasn’t my main focus, but because I really only teach very early in the morning or late in the evening I decided that I really wanted to light a fire under my a$$ and really get more translation clients. That said, I have started off with low rates, but I plan on raising my rates a cent come the new year. I live in Colombia so making dollars and euros is definitely more enticing than just making pesos. Plus the cost of living here is lower than NYC where I used to live so I don’t feel the overwhelming urge to charge $.10 cents per word when I can simply start low and then work my way up. I’ve got a couple of agency clients right now and things are going well. I just finished a subtitling job with a new client and she was impressed and said she would be sending me more work soon. I’m hoping I can eventually teach less and focus more on translation and transcription.

    So while I TOTALLY understand where you’re coming from in my case I feel it makes more sense to start off charging a bit on the lower side, get some clients, then raise rates for the new year. Eventually I would like to get clients who will be willing to pay more and replace the lower paying clients… but yeah, we’ll see how it goes! Thanks for the article!

  2. Paulette,

    Thank you for the reply! I know that many translators may not have the flexibility they would want to start charging higher rates, but let me tell you, once you set a rate with a specific client, it becomes really difficult to change that rate. You basically don’t. As you well noted, you would have to find new clients and eventually replace the low-paying ones.

    Many well-known translators in the field charge quite a bit more than the national average, even more than $0.30 cents per word. For instance, check out Judy Jenner’s translation rates on her website Twin Translations. Her rates are publicly displayed, and believe me, she has clients that are willing to pay that much.

    So, my point is there are clients out there that are happy to pay for quality. The key is to be patient and emphasize how much value we are able to provide through our work. The rate that we give our clients includes more than just translating from one language to another, and if we don’t value what we have to offer first, who will? Thanks for the comment!

  3. Hi Beverly,

    Thanks for writing! I had been translating on a part-time basis for 3 years while I taught full-time. I’ve just recently made the switch to full-time translation.

    I think you are absolutely right that one shouldn’t accept low rates out of fear. However, I’m not sure charging higher-than-average rates is the solution for many translators. Translators who are charging those rates also likely have a very specialized expertise and lots of experience in the field. They are also probably working with direct clients and not mostly agencies. They have confidence, too, but that confidence must be based on something. So, for the translators who are still gaining expertise (10,000 hours according to one study), charging those rates may be dishonest. I’m not advocating for accepting bottom-feeding rates, though..far from it! I think translators need to look at the cost of living in their area, see how much they would need to charge to be able to live comfortably and provide for family, and then see how it compares to the national average. As much as I would love to charge $0.30/word, I also know that working with primarily agencies makes that very difficult. I do set my own rates for agencies, but I also come to that rate out of an honest assessment of my experience, credentials, and national average.

    In sum, I agree with you, but I also think the solution is nuanced.

  4. Victoria,

    Thanks for your message! I couldn’t agree with you more. This topic has enough ramifications to write many other posts!

    There are many factors that drive translation pricing, and all those you mentioned play a huge part. My post is mostly directed to many translators who fit the profile I mentioned at the beginning. My motto is this: If you’ve got what it takes, and you know you’re a better translator than many translators charging $0.12 cents per source word, don’t be afraid to charge what your work is worth, even if you’re fairly new. My $0.30 example is more the exception than the rule, but I’m almost certain this same translator did not start out at anything lower than a two-digit rate. It would be interesting to find out, right?

    Anyway, my post was simply to raise awareness of the obstacles that sometimes many translators put in front of them that can very well be solved with a little bit of patience and a boost of confidence. Thanks again for your comments!

  5. I actually did the same thing that you suggest – I was part time for at least 2 years, as I translated on weekends whilst working full time. Then I decided to travel a lot more and so I had to go freelance basically. Luckily I was in Ukraine at the time, where the cost of living is low and so I didn’t get ‘desperate’, needing to accept whatever jobs I saw just to earn money, so I had a bit of leeway. So it’s a great suggestion, definitely, as well as starting freelancing (if possible) in a position where you don’t need to panic (living in a cheap country, having a supportive partner, savings…)

    I’ve just started to crack down on some of the low paid jobs I used to accept for various reasons such as having a good relationship with the client, a slow period where I didn’t have much work, or not ‘needing’ the money so much. However that was whilst I still considered myself ‘new’ as a translator, which I don’t any more, so I’m currently trying to get tough and implement your strategy.

  6. Hi Alexandra! Thank you for your message. I can tell you know exactly what I mean as far as validating our skills and not being shaky about the value of our work. The key is to find clients that actually see the big picture and are running a business that’ll benefit from buying translation. The moment you get a potential client who’s trying to negotiate your rate down from the very beginning should prompt you to run away from him/her as fast as you can! I find that the best clients are those who budget for these kinds of expenses and are not wasting time trying to get a deal from a specialized service. I’m glad you are moving on to finding clients who pay better and letting go of those who don’t. Well done!

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