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Seriously, blame me.
I’m that a-hole who is responsible for low translation rates.
I’m sorry guys, but I can’t help it.
It’s been a very bad habit for a very long time.
I developed this habit over the years by participating in never-ending price wars on all sorts of job boards and bidding platforms.
Of course, you have to understand that the definition of peanuts is quite different in each country and to some extent each and every one of us has his/her own number in mind.
To me, it’s anything bellow 0.10 USD per source word. Because everything below that hurts my bottom line. Plus, if we do some simple math, 0.10 USD per source word should be an absolute minimum for professional English-Russian translation no matter where they live.
Your story is probably totally different. My point is:
[bctt tweet=”In order to solve the problem of translation rates, you have to admit that you have one.”]
And that’s why I need to confess that every now and then I work for 0.09 and sometimes even 0.08 USD per source word. And I realize that this is absolutely unacceptable for someone living in Canada.
But I keep doing it.
Well, there are many reasons, actually. Let’s make a list and see. Maybe you’ll recognize yourself or someone you know in the items on my list and, who knows, maybe we’ll discover the ultimate cure by the end of this post.
Problem 1: I’m Terrible with Finances and Planning
Guilty as charged.
No rainy day fund.
Over 15k in credit card debt (yes, a credit card debt with a whopping 15% interest rate).
And a general “money comes and goes” philosophy that runs in my family. Which is not a bad thing, but sometimes you got have a cushion, you know. For emergencies and unplanned expenses, for example.
I don’t have that.
That’s why every now and then I find myself in situations where I simply cannot meet my financial obligations.
But how does that affect my rates?
When you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to afford to pay your rent next month, it automatically puts you in a very uncomfortable position.
The “I gotta get that project no matter what” position.
That dependency on money blurs my vision and pushes me to take the easiest route: offer a lower rate to get that gig.
All that financial pressure leaves me no time to think. No time for negotiation. No time to be proud and stand my ground.
So what’s the solution here?
Like I’ve said before: accept the problem. Try to understand it. Own it.
Get that savings account and start actually saving money.
Get rid of unnecessary expenses. Plan your budget. Learn to say “No” to some overly expensive things.
But more importantly: start and grow your rainy day fund, so that next time you’re going through a dry spell, you’ll at least you know that you and your family are covered. That way you’ll be able to focus on your business and discuss translation rates openly and with confidence, without any financial pressure.
Problem 2: I Suck at Sales and Negotiations
This is one of the biggest problems every creative person faces.
The small matter of selling yourself and proving to strangers that you’re worth it.
[bctt tweet=”We, as translators, are the definition of creativity.”]
Even if you translate specification sheets or legal mumbo-jumbo all day long.
That’s why I loathe sales and negotiating. I hate the process of finding and persuading people that I’m actually worth it.
Why can’t I just be a translator and do what I do best?
I tell you the price, you give me the money. I send you the translation. Easy-peasy.
Seriously, I just want to translate and devise and let my creativity shine.
But in reality I spend a lot of my time on mundane tasks such as finding and retaining clients, negotiating, looking for leads, following up with prospects, etc.
These are tasks that I’m not really good at. Both sales and negotiating are their own games. They have their own rules. Every sale, every negotiation I’ve ever had were different.
Because every person is different.
Some people like the casual, easy-going Dmitry. Some people like business-style Dmitry. Some people just like to be served and appreciate it when you go the extra mile. Others like the Dmitry who speaks from the position of authority and tells them what to do.
Figuring out what kind of buyer persona you’re dealing with at any given moment is not easy. For me, sales and negotiating are losing games. You lose much more often than you win.
That’s why sometimes I just cave in or let the prospect/client have their way. I get impatient and want to be done with it so that I can go back to doing what I do best: translating.
Even if it doesn’t pay that well, I still love my job.
So what’s the solution here?
I think reading books and taking courses on sales definitely helps.
At the very least it’s a good idea to read blogs about sales, the psychology behind the buying process, what kind of emotions are involved in the process, how to “connect” with your clients, etc.
Plus you have to be strategic and persistent.
One thing I can tell for sure:
[bctt tweet=”You won’t turn into a super-salesman overnight. It’s a hard work that requires 100% dedication.”]
I think that over the years my overall sales and negotiation skills will improve and that I’ll be able to talk about my translation rates freely without the fear of losing that game.
Because I know that I’m worth it, and I understand that I should be in charge of my prices and fees and not anyone else.
That’s the only thing that matters.
Problem 3: My Marketing Could Be Better
Many would probably disagree with that one.
I have a blog.
I have a gorgeous though not very informative and well-functioning website.
You can find me in Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and when you do you know that this fella here is an English-Russian translator because this basically everything I ever talk about on those social networks.
I have 219 amazing subscribers on my blog.
Overall I’m doing much better (marketing-wise) than the majority of English-Russian translators out there.
But is it working?
The short answer would be “Yes, but …”
Here is the thing: I’ve been doing all that marketing for about a year.
There was nothing before that.
Just me, Proz, bidding and an occasional emails sent to prospective translation companies and direct clients.
I cringe when I read my emails from last year. They’re just awful. No wonder I barely got any replies.
But then something clicked.
Something changed inside of me.
I realized that I needed to move forward. I needed to free myself from the chains of job bidding.
And this is how the Best Russian Translator was born about a year ago.
I’ve learned a lot about marketing in the past year and I feel like there’s a lot more to learn.
I need to find a better way of positioning myself in the market.
I need to find a better way to communicate my fields of expertise (which are video games, IT, marketing and e-commerce, thanks for asking).
I have to figure out a way to hang out in the places where my potential clients will be.
I’ll need to learn how to diversify my income streams.
Bottom line is: I need to learn.
Yes, my marketing efforts bring some leads and help me build long-lasting relationships and meet amazing people in my industry.
But I feel like there is a lot of room for growth. I feel like I’m at the very beginning of my journey.
Even though this website and blog bring new leads, those leads are not “pre-sold” meaning that we still need to negotiate my translation rates.
And as you already know, there are a lot of things that need to be improved in my sales department.
Problem 4: Lack of Confidence
Pretty strange to hear something like this from the self-proclaimed Best Russian Translator, isn’t it?
Even though that business name was a ballsy move and a great SEO trick, I feel that nobody is perfect and there are thousands of English-Russian translators that are better and probably cheaper than me.
And I’m sort of stuck with this feeling. It doesn’t allow me to be confident about my rates.
Sometimes I feel like there is always a better English-Russian translator somewhere out there, looming in the shadows, trying to steal my clients right from under my nose.
I know that sounds like paranoia.
And I realize that this paranoia was probably induced by job-bidding platforms that I’ve been addicted to for such a long time.
But I feel like I’m not alone in this.
Have you ever had a similar feeling? A feeling that you’re competing with the imaginary translator who is better than you every single part of the translation process, including translation rates?
Please, tell me I’m not losing my mind here.
The ungrounded fear of competition, the fear of not being good enough definitely affects my translation rates.
I’m constantly asking myself: “Should I charge more? Should I charge less? What if they find somebody better and cheaper? Should I tell everyone about my rates or keep them a secret?”
This is madness.
But this is the world I live in.
I guess the solution is embracing it. Trying to control those fears and demons.
Finding a way to persuade myself that I’m actually good and deserve to be paid accordingly.
Because I am good. I love my job.
All of my friends envy me (in a good way, of course) because I’ve found my true passion.
I’m married to this profession, I FREAKING LOVE IT!
There, I said it.
And you know what?
I feel much better now. I really do.
You’ll think that writing about your problems openly won’t help, but it does.
It helps me and I’ll hope it’ll help you.
[bctt tweet=”Don’t run from your problems. Embrace them. Own them. Be in charge of your life.”]
I guess that’s the advice I want to give you at the end of this post.
Oh, and one more thing:
[bctt tweet=”Don’t make such a big deal out of your translation rates. These are just numbers. They mean nothing.”]
People in this amazing industry really need to be more open about their rates. Do you agree?
I’ll start with myself:
“Hi, my name is Dmitry Kornyukhov, I’m an English-Russian translator and localization specialist and my rates are 0.12-0.14 USD for translation agencies and 0.16 USD for direct clients.
Sometimes I work for 0.08-0.09 USD because of the reasons described above.
I want to keep increasing my rates.
I deserve it. It’s a healthy and professional approach to doing business.
My goal is to get to at least 0.20 USD per source word for direct clients and 0.15 USD for agencies. I think it’s possible, and I’ll keep working my butt off to achieve that goal.
That was easy.
Now it’s your turn.
P.S.: Thanks a lot for reading and sharing this post and sorry I hadn’t been around for the past month.
The truth is work has been kind of crazy plus I’m working tirelessly on designing a new free web-project that will shape the future of the translation industry.
I’m embarking on a seemingly impossible mission of uniting the brightest minds in our industry, with a strong emphasis on knowledge-sharing, CPD, inspiration, and online presence.
The project is in a pre-pre-pre-alpha stage, but it looks absolutely stunning. I’m really pouring my heart and soul into it. Plus, I’m a sucker for great web design, so it will be absolutely unique, clean and beautiful.
I feel like the translation industry needs something like this – new way to collaborate and talk about our problems together.
It will be absolutely free. Anyone will be able to join the conversation and change the way we talk about our industry.
This will be my way of giving back to the most amazing industry in this world!
I’m not sure about the launch date, I still need to prioritize my translation work (a man’s got to eat and provide for his family, after all). But if you’re interested in joining the private beta, just let me know here or via email. Let’s build something awesome together! 🙂
P.P.S.: This post was edited by the amazing Jesse Tomlinson from Tomlinson Translation. Check out her website!
You can follow her on Twitter too 🙂