Ode To Proz

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“Proz is dead.”

I bet you’ve heard that one before.

This is what people say in 2015.

This is what they said in 2010.

And I bet that this is what they will be saying in 2020.

Many translators have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Proz. With hate probably playing the key role.

I just want to come out and say: I used to love Proz.

To some degree, this was one of the best things that happened to me.

Yep, you’ve read that correctly.

When I was just starting my freelance career I didn’t have many options. Well, maybe I had, but I didn’t have time to think rationally and plan.

Freelancing was never a choice for me. It was something that I was forced to do when they had to let me go from my office job. No two weeks notice. No nothing.

“You don’t have to come to work tomorrow” – my boss said.

Just like that.

This was the hardest punch in the face I ever had to take.

But without it, I’m afraid I would have never gotten to the place where I am now.

So in some sense I should thank them for that much-needed kick in the butt.

Starting as a freelancer was freaking scary!

I had no idea what I was doing and I was trying to sign up at every job-bidding platform there is.

I started with Russian ones and worked with the Russian-speaking market for a few years.

Wanna know what my first rates were?

My first client was a Ukrainian agency and they paid me 40 RUB per page. If we convert that into words that would be something around 0.003 USD.

As you can guess I was quite popular. No wonder! I was good and I was crazy cheap.

This is the first mistake every freelance translator makes.

[bctt tweet=”When you’re just starting as a freelancer you have to know your worth from day one.”]

You have to do a market research.

Try analyzing what’s the market average and what industries are booming.

Plus you got an education, so that should account for something, right?

Unfortunately, many newbie translators don’t understand that.

And Then I’ve Found Proz

I don’t really remember how that happened. Probably a Google search or something like that.

To be honest, I was completely fascinated by Proz.

“Jesus Christ, finally a platform that was designed for translators only! No more websites that have the word “freelancer” in them. I can be a Pro now”.

The rates were a godsend too.

Those first 0.03-0.04 USD jobs I did, seemed like a dream come true.

“No more working for peanuts!” – I thought.

I didn’t realize that even back then I was part of the problem.

I was the one who worked for peanuts even though it didn’t seem that way.

I was the one who helped those companies some translators call “bottom-feeders” to breed, make millions and dictate market conditions.

This was the second most important lesson I’ve learned.

[bctt tweet=”There’s that thing called globalization. You have to make it work for you not the other way around”]

So What Happened Next?

I was really into Proz for a couple of years.

I even got that Certified Pro badge (whatever that means) – back then I felt really proud about it. I felt like I’ve accomplished something.

I kept on bidding on every single job that got posted, hoping that I’ll get the gig.

Soon enough, this has become the only way of getting new projects.

Because I was cheap it worked pretty well for me.

I think in my first year I managed to make something around 10-12k.

Which was a ridiculous amount of money for someone who was living in Ukraine.

I kind of felt like oligarch.

The only difference was: oligarchs don’t work THIS much.

I worked like crazy.

15-20 pages per day? – Easy!

All-nighters? – Not a problem!

Working on weekends? – Bring it on!

Soon enough I realized that this has to stop.

So I did the most obvious thing to do. I increased my rates.

Little by little, cent by cent I’ve been increasing my rates with every new client.

I even managed to increase my rates with existing clients.

I’ve been doing it until I hit the ceiling. A magic number of 0,08 USD per source word.

This is when getting new gigs at Proz started to feel like Mission Impossible despite a pretty impressive profile and tons of positive feedback from my clients (aka Willingness to Work Again).

This is when my life became pretty painful. I wanted to increase my rates. Because I felt like it was the right and professional thing to do.

The problem was: I had no idea how to find clients outside of Proz. And since getting new gigs through Proz was no longer possible I ended up in a dry spell zone.

No new projects for a whole month. And because I wasn’t ready for this (had zero dollars on my savings account) I had to go back to Proz.

I lowered my rates.

I felt awful, but I had to do it because I was the only breadwinner in our family.

I simply couldn’t afford to stand by my principles.

Life is a strange thing. When you dream too much or make plans for the future, it reminds you that it doesn’t give a fuck about your aspirations.

That’s why the single thing that Proz ever taught me was:

[bctt tweet=”If you want to get a job on Proz you have to be quick AND cheap.”]

Speed and price are your only competitive advantages. Not your impressive profile or feedback of clients or the quality you provide.

Speed and price.


And price.

Getting Off Proz’s Needle

“So what’s your point, man? What do you suggest? Should we all just stop using Proz? That’s impossible!”

I know.

I thought that too.

After several years of being hooked on Proz, I was suffering from the most severe withdrawal syndrome.

The fact that I had to go back was a wake-up call.

“Either I’m moving upward or I’ll be stuck here forever” – I thought.

So I started from scratch.

I’ve started learning about business, marketing, and better ways to find clients.

I’ve learned a thing or two about web-design and built this website.

I’ve started writing this blog and sharing my thoughts about our industry and everything that has been weighing on my mind for the past ten years.

And you know what?

It’s tough.

And sometimes I’m not making enough money.

But for the first time in my life I’m happy. I know what I’m doing. I know that I’m on the right track and I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

It will be a long ride.

It won’t be easy.

It will be much harder than spending days and nights on Proz.

But at least I know that this time around I’m the one who is in control.

Will you join me on this thrilling ride?

The choice is yours.

But I just want to say that everything is possible and there are people who appreciate your work and are willing to pay the top dollar for it.

So, Is Proz Dead?

It is for me.

I haven’t seen a single interesting project on Proz for about a year and a half now.

And after this fuck up, I decided to break up with Proz once and for all and stopped paying my fees.

But I realize that Proz is still playing a very important role in the lives of thousands of people.

And maybe for them it is a godsend platform like it was for me 3-4 years ago.

So I did something stupid.

Something I regret.

I lied.

I lied to seven thousand and forty-nine people.


I decided to conduct an experiment.

I created a fake job posting on Proz.

Yes, you have every right to be pissed at me. And I’m really sorry.

But I had to do it. I wanted to understand what’s going on with the market right now.

I wanted to make sure that I’m doing everything right.

I wanted to know about the rates.

What I did was borderline unethical. But I didn’t create a fake profile, no. I used my existing profile. Only the job description was totally made up. There was no job.

I’m sorry if I wasted your time.

You can even send me your hate speech via that chat window on the left side of your screen if you feel like it.

I deserve it.

But before you do please look at those charts below.

Because I think this is something that might potentially change your perception of the market and your role in it.

I received and analyzed over 300 quotes for 12 language pairs.

Since I specialize in English-Russian video game localization I decided to post a job in this field.

So now I know the average Proz rates. And not those rates that you indicate in your profile, no.

The real rates. The ones that people quote on real-life projects.

It’s a powerful knowledge and I feel like you deserve to know it too.

I apologize that I had to do it this way, but I feel like I’m not the first one who’s done that. I believe agencies and sometimes other freelancers do this too.

 The only difference is that I want to share this information with you. Because I know how hard it is to get it and surprisingly many translators out there still have problems with identifying the average translation rates.

I analyzed 12 language pairs. Because this is how many Proz allows you to choose. I tried to make them as diverse as possible. I realize that this is just a tiny fraction of a multi-billion industry and probably doesn’t show the whole picture.

But I believe this can definitely help you understand your role and redefine your strategy.

The 12 languages are: Russian, German, Italian, Greek, Czech, Arabic, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese and Dutch.

The job was open for about 36 hours before moderators closed it because it looked suspicious (kudos to them). However, I think 36 hours was enough for everyone to show their interest (I received over 300 quotes in total).

I specifically indicated that this job was for paying members who has reported their credentials. That way I can at least say that they’re professionals with proper education who pay Proz fees which means that they’re probably take their job seriously.

The average rates are below.

Video Game Localization, English-Arabic Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates1.1) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-Czech Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates2) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-Chinese Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates3) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-German Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates4) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-Dutch Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates5) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-Greek Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates6) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-Spanish Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates7) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-French Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates8) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-Italian Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates9) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-Japanese Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates10) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-Portuguese Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates11) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

Video Game Localization, English-Russian Rates, %

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-rates12) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

So there you have it. Now you can really understand your place in the market if you’re working in video games localization like I do.

I’m not going to draw any conclusions in here because the conclusions will be different for each and every translator out there.

For example, if your rate is way below the average, then maybe it’s time to start moving upward?

Or of your rates are too high, maybe it’s time for you to move on? Find direct clients?

What I find ironic is that the average rates are lower than the standard translation rates posted by Proz here by 3-4 cents.

This reminds me that every blind bidding platform is just a price competition.

I understand that I will never be able to change that, but at least you and I now have some actual data and food for thought.

I hope you’ll find it useful.

Oh, here is one more slide. I analyzed the number of notifications sent and the number of quotes I received for every language.

Here it is:

Is Proz Dead Or Alive (image-quotes received vs. sent) by Dmitry Kornyukhov (Best Russian Translator)

It’s interesting that there are so many paying members yet only a small percentage of them quotes on jobs.

This gives me hope that the remaining 90% of my colleagues are actually busy working at higher rates.

Once again I apologize for the way I’ve collected data, but someone had to do it.

I hope after reading this long post you’ll finally start thinking about your business and realize that there are other ways to do things. There are better ways to find clients.

Clients who pay well.

Because you deserve it.

All you need to do is believe in yourself.

[bctt tweet=”Trust yourself, trust your gut and take this leap of faith. You won’t regret it.”]

Dmitry Kornyukhov

Entrepreneur. English-Russian Translator. Video game localization specialist. Helping small and medium-sized businesses go global. Loving every minute of it.


Natalia · July 27, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Dmitry, thank you for your post! It’s made me pause to think… I am still on Proz and a little proud of PRO certificate, but I rarely bid and only occasionally win any of these bids. However Proz is still alive for me in another respect: it is one more online profile where potential customers can notice me and get more information about me. It is another prove of my online presence. Moreover there are testimonials from my clients which is good, isn’t it? It takes time to move to another level: personal website, social network marketing, etc. And I am moving forward.

You are absolutely right about the real picture with dumping, it is terrifying. You are among few people (especially Russian translators) who are so sincere about the real situation on our market. You share your experience and you tell not only about facts but you share your ideas about how to overcome plateau in freelance business and how to reach another height. You are doing a great job!

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 28, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Thank you so much, Natalia. Unfortunately, not everyone can be open and honest about their problems. I think that the best way to solving a problem is admitting that you got one and figuring out the ways to fix it. I’m still in the middle of my journey as a freelance translator, and I make a lot of mistakes almost every day. But I think I’m on the right track and I’m glad that my message resonates with so many people. Thank you for reading and commenting!

Santiago de Miguel · July 27, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Very interesting post!

I’m a newbie translator who discovered your blog a few days ago when a colleague recommended it to me. I’m glad she did so!

Keep it up.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 28, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Thank you, Santiago! I’ll do my best! And please high five your colleague for me, she did the right thing 🙂 Have an awesome day!

      Santiago de Miguel · July 29, 2015 at 7:57 am

      Thanks, I will!

      I’ve been going through your blog and I’m even trying out Feedly right now, it’s great. I’m really glad you specialize in videogame localization, that’s the path I’m willing to follow as well 😀

      Read you later!

Cheryl · July 27, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Thank you, this is very interesting. I am just starting out in translation and have been asking myself exactly these questions about ProZ. Good luck to you!

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 28, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you, Cheryl! And good luck on your amazing journey! Believe me, translation industry is the best place to be in right now even despite some problems with rates and pricing.

Els Govaerts · July 27, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Hi Dmitry,
Thank you for giving us your valuable insights, even underpinned with some well-presented data. The numbers are more or less as I expected for my language combinations.

I share your views as far as bidding is concerned. I have not been bidding on any job for more than 14 years, but yet, some very nice clients have come to me through ProZ. I must say that my rates are not visible and that I have been a Platinum member for a few years.

However, the customers gained through ProZ were only translation agencies, mostly specialised boutique agencies looking for a very specific profile, and they were ready to accept “normal” rates. Since I am looking for more direct customers now, I decided to spend my time and money elsewhere, but even with a non-paying profile I am still contacted by some professional and reliable agencies through ProZ. I just wanted to add some nuance to the picture you paint.

Keep up the good work on your blog and your career!

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 28, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Thank you so much for reaching and commenting, Els! I agree that Proz can work for some people and some languages as a form of online presence, but it’s not easy to stand out. Especially when a potential agency or end client is practically one click away from your competition. I still have a profile on Proz and I had a few clients who found me there, but it’s not working for me anymore. I don’t know, maybe my profile is not compelling enough. I didn’t update my copy in a while to be honest.

    I’m a big believer that personal website and blog should be your main platforms. Yes, it takes time to rank higher, but it is totally achievable if you update your site regularly and write a blog. My website is currently on the 2-4 page of Google worldwide when you search for “Russian translator” (no quotation marks). Proz is using outdated keyword tactics where you stuff your profile with keywords, hoping it’ll work. It’s not working anymore. These days it’s all about great content and social sharing.

    I’m not going to delete my profile at Proz for now, who knows, maybe it’ll bring me some decent leads. Although I doubt it. Proz is very outdated as a platform I’m afraid. Professional translators are leaving and opening up their websites or translation agencies, and probably a lot of people are registered but have no idea why. Just look at the number of notifications that have been sent and the number of quotes I actually received (7000 vs 300 – that’s huge!) Plus the web-design is just horrible. I had a couple of web designers who went on a record and said: “Where did you find it? In the 90ies?” That’s why there are not so many direct clients there. They just got scared away by ugly design. Proz should really re-design their website if they want to keep up with competition.

    Anyway, thank for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

      Lendelat · July 29, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Proz are only interested in getting the subscription fees, nothing more and people there are dumb enough to pay (As if paying to be a ‘pro’ (lol) actually meant something…)

Natalia Pedrosa · July 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm

Hello Dymitry,

Very interesting your post indeed, but I don’t know where to start looking for clients outside of Proz. I did a mailing some years ago with business cards and all the rest and I only got one reply to do a one-hour interpreting job. I would like some advice on your side. Thanks. Natalia

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 29, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Hi Natalia! Thanks for stopping by and reading! Can you please send me an email and I’ll give you some tips 🙂

David · July 27, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Hello Dmitry,

Remember me? Yes…we were the same summer in Perugia. You have said it all. And it is all true. I am on the stage of increasing my rates…we will se how much I struggle to get new jobs…I will let you know…All the best.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 29, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Thanks David! It’s an uphill battle but it will be worth it at the end of the day. Trust your gut and keep going in that direction, because that’s the way to go! Good luck!

Fiona Robson · July 27, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Hi Dmitry, thanks for your interesting post. Like you, I found Proz very helpful when I was starting out, many years ago, and it helped me get a lot of my early clients. Regarding your research, I would just like to point out that your job posting in the area of video game localization may not have given you the most representative sample. Though I see that you specialize in this area, many translations would be put off by the idea that it might be perceived as too technical, or that html or special coding might be required, or the general perception that it involves huge projects with very short turnaround times. Most translators who charge higher rates will probably be specializing in more generalist areas, such as medicine or law, but video game localization is quite a narrow field, and I feel this that would have had the effect of knocking many (or most) of the higher-rate translators out of your survey sample, i.e. they would not have quoted on that job, since most of them will only quote on jobs in their own area of specialization, hence creating a research bias. That’s just my view, you may not agree.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 29, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Hi Fiona. Thanks for reading and for commenting! I absolutely agree, Proz is a great way to kick-start your career, especially when you live in countries that have very low rates (Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia, India). I think this is where Proz is a great alternative to local market.

    My problem is that many translators fear or don’t understand how global economy works and charge the same rate for each and every client no matter where in the world that client is located. I think it’s a very wrong and dangerous practice and even despite my overall good marketing efforts and decent online visibility I have to compete against translators who live in Russia where 0.06 USD is average. A recent example: I lost a potential 5k project to someone who agreed to work for 0.05 USD. That is 3 times less than my offer. And that someone had the same level of qualification and experience as I do. And this was a direct client – a video game developer! People just don’t understand that translation is one of the most valuable forms of investment for our clients. Our work can bring them millions in sales! Don’t we all deserve a slightly higher average that 0.08 USD?

    My data is just a small sneak peak and it’s highly unlikely that they represent a full picture of our industry. But my general feeling that the overall rates situation needs to improve.

Valerij Tomarenko · July 27, 2015 at 4:22 pm

Congratulations, Dmitry! Very well written. And a good mystery shopping tour.
Proz is the Fiver of the translation industry. As a marketplace it has been long dead. Or dead ever since. However, Proz’ value is not in its marketplace, but in its global database for sourcing. As long as databases of national translators’ associations remain unmerged, Proz will make sense to source for translators. As I wrote a couple of years ago, as long as “there is no single, central international platform to fill the gap between professional, quality-driven translators and clients who require more than what the bulk translation companies have to offer“, Proz – like Dracula – will remain undead. See http://anmerkungen-des-uebersetzers.com/2013/01/16/something-a-changin/

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 29, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Hi Valerij! Thank you so much for reading and sharing your article. Yes, Proz is an amazing database. No wonder – 16 years in business and many more to come! And in some way it’s probably the only platform for translators. I haven’t seen any other platforms like Proz. I believe there were many attempts to do something similar but as far as I can tell Proz dominates the market of bidding platform for translators. They have no other competitors worth mentioning, really.

    Proz has its positive sides like webinars, kudoz and forums, but many people complain that they’re becoming less and less useful. What I really don’t understand is why we can’t sort translators by the number of WWA. Because the reviews of the clients is the only way I can say that this or that translator could be somewhat reliable. It’s great that translators earn kudoz and help each other, but as a buyer of translation services I’d like to see what other buyers are saying.

    But yeah, I agree that Proz is here to stay. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just how it is. Who knows, maybe someone is already working on a better platform? Wordycat seemed like the great idea to me, but they couldn’t get the proper funding (although they’re going to build it regardless which deserves respect). We’ll see what happens in the next few years.

Chiara · July 27, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Hi Dmitry,

Thanks for your analysis! I was a paying member of Proz for just one year, then I decided to just keep my profile as a mere window for potential clients.
Soon after I paid my membership on Proz I realized that dumping rules in there and that it was not what I was looking for. To some extent, Proz and similar translation-only platforms have significantly contributed to lowering rates all over the world and to play down the complex work that stands behind the translation process.

Thanks for your help!

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 29, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Hi Chiara,
    Thank you for your comment. There are many ways to look at Proz. Some say they’re evil because they don’t really encourage translators to charge higher rates and some say they help people to get their business off the ground and kick-start their freelance career (like it happened to me). It all depends on your market and your language pair. My language pair remains the same, but I have changed the market 3 years ago. That’s why I simply cannot be there anymore. The majority of English-Russian translators who actively use Proz are in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and other countries where average rates are around 0.06.

    I realized that if I’ll keep bidding on jobs with my average rate of 0.12-014 USD I’d never win that battle (because I’ll be basically competing against very talented translators who happen to charge waaay less than I do). That’s why I decided to leave. I still check on jobs every now and then just to see if there is a decent agency or a direct client looking for translators. But I’m doing it less and less. I’m hunting down my own clients now. And it’s way more challenging, yet exciting and very rewarding.

Simon · July 28, 2015 at 2:08 am

Hi Dmitry,
Thanks for your experiment! As you mentioned – someone should have done this. I quit my official job (technical translator) in mining company in 2013. That time Proz was almost the only place where I found new projects. Since that time, I got PRO badge and I was proud of that. Now I have several regular clients and find new clients at UpWork, including some other platforms and my own website. But after reading your blog post I realized that i haven’t placed bids on Proz projects for about several months (though I pay for membership). This is a point to think about. However, I agree with Natalia. Proz is not dead as translators’ community and social platform helping to enhance online presence.
Thanks again for your post. Now I have another blog to read with pleasure!

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · August 3, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Simon! I’m not sure if it’s alive as a community and social platform. I feel like social networks do a much better job for interactions with fellow translators. I haven’t used Proz forums in years and I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about very ruthless moderators. Do you use their forums? As for online presence, I think it’s a good platform to show your profile to agency clients, but I’m not so sure about direct clients. I’ve had only a few direct clients who approached me after they’ve “found” my profile on Proz.
    I think Proz’s design is a bit outdated and not very attractive to people who are not familiar with our industry. That’s why I prefer to have a website. At least I can control how it looks and make it attractive to my target customers. Plus it works much better in terms of SEO. Try Googling “Russian translator”, for example. I’m sure my website would come up somewhere on the first 2-3 pages 🙂 There is no way I could’ve achieved something like that with Proz profile.
    Anyway, thanks a lot for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      Simon · September 24, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Dmitry, actually I use Proz forum from time to time to find solutions for some specific issues, for instance, how do deal with Trados errors or how to translate rare/unusual word combinations and terms.
      As for the design, I cannot but agree with you! It seems that there were little or almost no changes in UI and general structure of Proz website since 2005. It is not just outdated, it looks like no one cares about its “facade”. Now thinking about presentable look of Proz profile I also agree that personal website provides more opportunities to showcase professional experience, portfolio, etc.
      Referring to SEO, I think it might be a good topic for a new post at your blog. Also I agree that personal website can outperform Proz profile in terms of SEO targeting.

Zhihua · July 28, 2015 at 6:04 am

Hi Dmitry,
We are so much alike. And thank you so much for your sincerity and work.
Generally speaking, I agree that Proz is not dead, it’s still a useful even powerful tool, such as the blueboard…
I quit my job in a bank in a big city a few year ago, then I came back to a small town, finding no opportunity for my field. So I turned to English > Chinese translation.
Then, I met Proz, began by $0.01 and then 0.02, 0.03, 0.04…I was also a paid member for a few years, but since this month, I decided not to pay. Finding more direct clients, that’s my plan and what I am doing now. But, this really is a tough work…
The direction is right, to be sure, maybe the marketing method and tactics not, I guess.
Again, you did the right thing!

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · August 3, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks a lot for reading, Zhihua! And sorry I didn’t get back to last week. I quite agree with you, finding direct clients is a right direction, but you have to be ready for this. Direct clients can put a lot of pressure on you, especially when they have someone on their team, who speaks your target language. In that case, your work can turn into a nightmare. I had this client where we had to argue a lot and I had to explain the theory of translation to a person who had no idea who translation works. You know, the kind of client that doesn’t like your job but cannot explain why. When you work with agencies at least they play the role of bullet-proof vest for you.
    What I found is that the majority of so-called boutique agencies don’t look for translators on Proz. They go to Facebook groups, Twitter, LinkedIn or even to your website (if you got one). My perception is that the majority of agencies who work through Proz cannot afford to pay more than 0.10 USD per word for my language pair. I wish some of my Russian colleagues could prove me wrong, but I’ve never seen an agency on Proz paying more than 0.10 USD for English-Russian translation.

Claire Cox · July 28, 2015 at 7:03 am

Hi Dmitry,

More space to comment here than on Twitter! Interesting post, but as others have said, I think you’re only looking at one very small side of the ProZ picture. I wrote about my impressions of ProZ last year ( https://clairecoxtranslations.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/proz-membership-a-worthwhile-investment-for-serious-translators/ ), and I think the situation is still the same. I won’t go into detail here, but the chief benefits are ProZ’s high ranking on Google searches, so a strong ProZ profile will often bring you high up on Google search rankings if someone types in your language combinations and specialism onto Google. I’ve just checked mine again now, even though I’ve not been particularly active on KudoZ or the forums recently, and it brought me up in second position on the first Google search page – there’s no way that your own website, or even a professional association website, would do that…. I regard it as a useful extra business card in a global shop window and over the years I’ve been approached by many clients, mainly agencies, but willing to pay my professional rates. I’ve never got involved in bidding for jobs, but if you use it as a stall to set out your wares so that clients can find you, it is a very useful addition to your marketing armoury. That said, having a strong profile and a relatively niche specialism is probably key: you need something that sets you apart from the crowd, so general translators might find it less useful in that respect. I’m still working with some of the highly professional and charming clients who contacted me back when I first discovered ProZ, over ten years ago, even before I became a paying member, and I’ve been able to increase my rates to them regularly over that time – but I must admit that I get very few ProZ-based enquiries these days that actually come to anything. For that reason, I may well not renew my paid subscription next year, although I’m happy to keep my profile up there just in case.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · August 4, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Hi Clair!
    Finally got the time to reply to your comment! How was your weekend? My last week was crazy busy and it seems like this week it’ll get even busier 🙂
    Great point about specialization and having a very narrow profile, that’s very important. But I still think that personal website is a way better form of marketing (especially when it has a blog attached to it). I currently rank on a 3rd page worldwide for Russian translator and that’s very rare. Yes, it’s a very generic keyword, BUT tens of thousands of people look for it every day and I’ve got a few leads and clients who said they found me on Google. And my website has been around for just a year. I think that’s very impressive. Long-term keywords like french & german nuclear technology translation can put your profile on the first page, but how many people actually use this keyword?
    Anyway, I think online platforms like Proz are still useful for spreading the word about your services, as long as you don’t pay too much and you can control how it looks and feels. And I feel like we need more platforms that would put translators front and center and allow them to showcase the skills and abilities in such a way that it would attract direct clients. I’m afraid direct clients don’t use Proz. It’s more of a insider website that only a person who knows the industry can make the sense of. At least in my language pair.
    I’ve been following the new job posting on Proz and it’s all agencies (with a few exceptions), which is not bad, but I’d like to see more variety. Henry admitted below that direct clients don’t use Proz to post jobs much and that’s a shame. I wish we had a platform where direct clients could meet translators. That would be a platform worth investing my time into.

Heidi · July 28, 2015 at 9:32 am

Your post is excellent, and you did a great job with your “mystery shopper” charts. And you have, sadly, confirmed what I feared and saw was coming to Proz years ago…
I used to love Proz, about 13 years ago. Got there by accident, when they had just changed their platform, because they previously had an amazing boolean string to find dictionaries online (before Google).
I actually met a lot of great colleagues there, who are now even personal friends. I also made contacts there who indirectly got me to great clients I still work for today.
I became a “verified site user”, with a little check next to my name, because I was asked to send a copy of my diploma to prove I was a professional translator. I have NEVER paid any dues.
I used to do a lot of Kudoz just for fun (I had just moved to a new city, work via the internet was in diapers) and had healthy discussions with new found colleagues out there. Had interesting discussions with others on the forums. Learned a lot about what was going out in the world, outside my lonely translator cave. (Facebook wasn’t even a twinkle in Zuckerberg’s eye). That was the beauty of Proz back then: it was a social media site at a time when the concept didn’t even exist.
Went to a Powwow in my new city, met a group of colleagues who were terribly depressed because they were all working at Berlitz teaching languages while hoping to get thrown a translation assignment. And getting paid peanuts, and depressed about the rates they saw in Proz. But I met there the woman who told me how to become a federally certified interpreter and that really changed my life…
Then the kudoz started degenerating. People giving suggestions without any backing, with comments such as “done”, “my best guess”, or even from people from other language pairs. And voting for terms by friends, as if kudoz was a popularity contest.
Then the job posting started, and the low low rates. I wrote several times in forums that this was dangerous, as newbies only saw the very low rates and that would create a downwards spiral as they had no chance to learn any better.
Then came the mass exodus of the people I respected.
I did get a job from Proz once: a special directed search from a company for a project that matched my profile exactly (Spanish-English translator with experience in language teaching with a degree in translating and teaching). And the recruiter was a big language agency when it was just starting, who subcontracted me and made a good profit too (by the way, the other 2 recruits were from Argentina and were being paid a fraction of what I was being paid). Years later, the original client hired us again directly, at a pretty higher rate…
To me, Proz is neither dead nor alive. My profile is still there. Once in a while I get an invitation to pay. Once in a while I get an email inviting me to bid for a job.
Once in while, I go do a term search, hoping it appears in a discussion from way back or with an offering from someone who has an idea. At least it is a good starting point (sometimes) and offers a wide variety of wild guesses…
But it is enlightening to see your blog and the perspective of one of those newbies I tried to forewarn. I am glad you got out of the downward vicious spiral…

Natalie Soper · July 28, 2015 at 10:08 am

This was really interesting! I’m still feel like a complete newb to freelance translating, but it quickly became apparent to me that Proz, although it’s a great place for community and advice, is full of low-paying jobs and seemly angry, jaded veteran translators. Although I’ve bid on many jobs I have only won one or two, but I find Proz very useful for researching agencies. I, too, am stuck at the finding-direct-clients stage. But, I’m happy with my progress so far – it’s all been a learning curve, but at least I’ve obeyed the golden rule of not encouraging bottom-feeders!

And don’t worry, I’m not mad at you for doing this experiment. 😉 I would have loved to have done it myself in my own language combinations, just to see what people REALLY quote and the kind of language they use in their “pitch!”

Omar · July 28, 2015 at 11:44 am

As a beginner in translation I learned a lot from your Post.

Thank you very much!


Thais Castanheira · July 28, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Great research. Thanks for sharing this valuable info with everyone!
As PTBR game localizer, it was very interesting. (I didn’t quote for your job post, though lol)
In the end, ProZ works for me as a professional profile, since so many serious agencies and clients search for professionals there. I quit on bidding long time ago, but I still use the website.

anna giulia · July 28, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Great post!
The only thing I use Proz for is the kudoz and terminology help. Bidding is a disater. Thanks for your research!

Henry Dotterer · July 28, 2015 at 4:25 pm

This is a pretty good article, Dmitry. You speak from the heart, with an obvious desire to share what you have learned with others. Your experience is not uncommon and your data is not wrong. The information you share is sure to be helpful to many people. Thanks for that.

That said, there are a two areas in which I would like to provide an alternative perspective. And I may even quote you to do it. 🙂

First, I would like to disagree with you on the issue of whether or not quality matters. (And to avoid the perception of bias, I will make my point generally, without regard to ProZ.com.)

You wrote: “No new projects for a whole month… I lowered my rates… I simply couldn’t afford to stand by my principles.”

You then said, “If you want to get a job […] you have to be quick AND cheap.” You added: “Speed and price are your only competitive advantages. Not your impressive profile or feedback of clients or the quality you provide. Speed and price. Speed. And price.”

This is wrong. Speed and price are differentiators in a free market, no doubt. And sometimes — depending on the circles you are traveling in — it may be that they will feel like they are the only differentiators.

There is even a fringe cult of freelancers who insist that quality does not matter, and then goes out and acts accordingly. (Freelancers join that club ultimately to their detriment.)

But make no mistake, quality does matter. Over time, no one will continue to pay for what does not meet their needs.

And quite contrary to your early statement — which I think it would be unfortunate to have others take as advice — good presentation matters. A good profile matters!

Of course you know this. (“I’ve started learning about business, marketing, and better ways to find clients.”)

And congratulations on deciding to leave the “clients don’t care about quality” club!

But here is the advice I would give you. Your new attitude — “at least I know that this time around I’m the one who is in control” — is not an attitude to have in one place and discard in another. It is an attitude to carry with you wherever you go. Whether that be ProZ.com or elsewhere.

To put that differently, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can be your own boss in some places but can not be in others. If you go around thinking that way, it is not hard for me to imagine you making the same mistake you have made at ProZ.com, again in other places. (Or do you think that translation agencies you reach through other channels do not have multiple candidates to consider? Or, carrying the thought forward, that agencies are not themselves competitors in a marketplace?)

In short, be the one in control of your own business, charging what you need to charge and trying not to get into desperate situations or frames of mind, no matter the venue.

By the way, do that, and you can use ProZ.com successfully, too. (As do several of those who responded to this posting of yours. Just read their comments.)

Second, a point to consider for those examining the rates data you provided. You called these the “real rates”. That is not quite true.

As I said, for your readers, as rates quoted in response to job postings, I believe your data is good data. These rates are not made up and they are not wrong. But it is important to understand the rates you present as the rates quoted in response to job postings. That means:

– These are not necessarily the rates of the translators selected. (Clients go to profiles before making selections!)
– These are not the average rates quoted when a client contacts a translator via their profile.
– These rates are not as high as the average rates that would be accepted by a person who is more or less fully booked.
– These are also rates quoted at the (possible) start of a new working relationship. They are not necessarily the rates invoiced in established relationships. (Although for many people, rates do tend to hold for some time.)

You made another important statement that has bearing on rates, Dmitry. “It’s interesting that there are so many paying members yet only a small percentage of them quotes on jobs.” It crosses my mind to wonder why this should be surprising to you… but at least you have made the observation. That, together with postings of the sort you have received from others here, should be evidence enough to you of a whole area of commercial activity outside of job postings.

Anyway, congratulations. You are in a good frame of mind and that is contagious. I also think you are doing very well in the marketing area. Good luck and happy translating!

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 29, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Thank you so much for reading and for such a thourough comment, Henry! I really value your insights! There many ways to aproach the issue of quality and you’re absolutely right – quality matters! But not always and not for every client. Some clients spend months or years looking for a translator that would meet their quality standards, others are just trying to do it fast and cheap. There is also a third category – people who are looking for a great value at affordable price (by their standards).

    All of those types of clients exist on Proz, after all, you’re the only platform that was built specifically for translators. So, as some of my readers said you have the most largest database of translators. And I agree that it’s not a bad thing to be in your database and with proper care and effort you can even make it work in such a way that clients would come to you and you won’t have to bid on jobs.

    My situation was a little bit different. Instead of nurturing my online presence and participating in all sorts of activities on Proz I was using it to get the gigs by bidding. And I’m afraid when you bid on jobs you’re competing against a lot of great professionals with great profiles. And the problem is: those professionals and me, we’re on different markets. What’s good enougth for them simply won’t cut it for me because I moved to Canada 3 years ago. I moved to a different market with different income expectations and simply couldn’t compete with my colleagues anymore.

    All of the suddent there was no place for me in this whole bidding process. So I started to reach out to end clients and agencies directly. And you know what? It’s much harder than bidding on jobs, but it is soooo rewarding. It’s an amazing feeling when you win a client using different sales and marketing tactics. I never had that feeling on Proz, I’m afraid. I tried to stand out, I really did! I reported my credentials, I was a certified PRO (which made my immensly proud back in the days), I helped on kudoz to improve my ranking, I learned a little bit of HTML to make my profile bio look pretty: http://www.proz.com/translator/1336264

    When I was bidding on jobs I tried to personalize my message to make it sound as human as possible. But it just never worked. I was never able to win in the bidding because I was competing against people of the same calibre with same amazing profiles. People, who are 2 times cheaper than me.

    What I want to say is I guess being part of a database or community never hurts but unless you spend a lot of time on your profile it won’t bring you any leads. I tried to spend as much time as I could on improving my profile but at the end of the day I couldn’t afford to invest my time and money into something that wasn’t bringing any results.

    I could have returned and tried again, but I prefer to build my own brand and my own website. I think that at this point of my life this is the best way to go and I know it for a fact because I already see some positive results. Only time will show what we’ll happen to me or my business, but at least something chages and I’m not longer in that horrible mind set. My new mind set is much more focused, energetic and optimistic about my future. And I have so many great idea about this industry and I know that some of them have the potential to change this industry forever. So, that’s my new path.

    As for the data, it is probably not very representetive of the whole market situation. I’m afraid it is impossible to get the actual “real data” But at least I tried to analyze it and could share it with the public. And junging by the feedback I got and by the sheer amount of people who read and shared this article there are a lot of people who could relate to my situation and feel like this data indeed could be quite accurate even though there were lots of variables that I simply couldn’t measure (like for example, what price an average client accepts, this is something only you guys know it would be awesome if you could share it with us). 🙂

      Henry Dotterer · July 29, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      Hi Dmitry,

      I think we mostly agree then. Your current path is exemplary, and I commend you for sharing your ways. I highly recommend people follow your example. In fact, your approach is similar to the way I approached my own career as a freelance translator. You want to pick up end clients and it is in your interest to get beyond the confines of ProZ.com, etc., to do so. (Unfortunately, only 5% of those using ProZ.com to find translators are end clients. This is why we started offering hosting, when setting up one’s own website was non-trivial, to help translators get on the web reaching out to others. Today, of course, there are much better ways to do it than our hosting: http://bestrussiantranslator.com/website-for-your-translation-business-part-1/ )

      Anyway, no translator should limit him- or herself to ProZ.com as a source of clients. Why would you? I used to encourage people to join industry associations… I don’t mean translator associations (although why would a professional translator not join their local association and contribute?), but say, an advertising industry group, a local import/export promotion board, and so on. Put yourself in situations when people know you as “the translator”. Today I suppose that probably happens more online these days — maybe someone else can comment on that.

      Within the industry, and at ProZ.com, the ideal strategy is a bit different. Make yourself THE person to go to for one (or maybe a couple) of things. If you are THE person for translating content related to (financial) derivates into Spanish, you stand a chance of picking up the occasional client who needs high level work and is able to pay what you charge.

      Even in job postings, it is a mistake to assume that the trick to getting jobs is to look like the best translator IN GENERAL, at the most attractive price. The truth is — believe it or not — clients are actually rational. They are interested in finding the best translator FOR THE JOB IN HAND. Specialization is therefore critical.

      I looked at your ProZ.com profile, and while it is very nice, my guess is that sometimes when you were bidding, you got overlooked not because you look worse overall, but because you did not necessarily look like THE person to go to for THAT SPECIFIC JOB. In fact my guess is that you lost out more than once to people charging more than you. (Your tagline is “Russian translator in Toronto”. Someone else”s might be “Twelve years in contract law. TRADOS.”)

      How does one make it clear that she/he is THE person to go to for a certain type of work? Well, first, you should actually be that person. Become very good at some field. Know the major industry players, keep up on the latest terminologies. (Would feedly help with this? http://bestrussiantranslator.com/app-for-newbie-translator/ ) Subscribe to your expert field in KudoZ, and poke in every time there is a question. Contribute, but also see who is asking, and who is answering. Have a glossary in that field, and publish it on your website. Ask for suggestions from others who read it. (Credit Giles Watson, RIP.) Maybe maintain a blog on translation in that field: http://www.francescaairaghi.it/blog/2015/05/pocket-glossary-of-the-banking-union-in-4-languages/ Write taglines, signatures, etc., that convey your areas of greatest expertise.

      Build a TM in your field. Maybe train MT for your own use in that field. (Am I getting controversial there? If so, please ignore!) As you connect with other translators working in the field, you may find someone you can partner with, to offer faster turnaround, double-checked work, or the ability to take on large projects.

      Many people say “How can I pick one field, or three, when I am actually able to work in twelve?” My answer is that in trying to get work in all twelve fields, you are reducing your chances of getting attractive work in any of them. Here is a possible strategy: pick one to three fields (one main and two extra), and build your ProZ.com presence around them. Take the next three and make them your thing somewhere else. (TranslatorsCafe.com? Just one request, though — we want your top three fields at ProZ.com! :))

      Is ProZ.com membership worth it? I am very confident in the value we offer. Specialized translators tend to retain clients, and they earn thousands over the lifetime of a client relationship. What is 120 euros then? If you get one specialized client every few years it will pay off in spades. (The average paying member of ProZ.com gets 3-4 new clients per year.) There is no reason for a professional translator, equipped with an understand of what his or her work is worth, should not have their shingle up at the main place for industry clients and service providers to meet.

      But don’t misunderstand me. You are doing great in marketing, and you are getting end clients, so I think it is fair to consider yourself to have “graduated” to operating primarily in different circles, and I would expect ProZ.com, with a maintained subscription, only to be a supplement for you and not your main thing.

      Thanks again for being a person who shares your techniques with others. It is very generous.


      PS. You asked about rates data. We have not done a careful analysis in several years so I don’t want to give bad info. But I can say that the indications are that per-word rates are lower than before, driven by productivity increases on the part of some translators. There are some translators who are really flying now, by reports producing high quality work in significantly less time, thereby earning more per hour while charging less per word. I have the impression that some of the freelancers, and translation companies, who do not fall into that category are getting squeezed. This is a further argument for specializing (in our productivity surveys, specialization is cited as the number one or number two booster of productivity.)

Vadim Kadyrov · July 29, 2015 at 4:36 am

PROZ is a great way to start out. Then you gradually gain experience, you increase your rates, and what is more important, you gather your pool of your loyal customers. You soon realize that you don`t have to bid for every project you see. Still, you definitely have to have a cushion against famine periods. That is a must. It can be your partner earning enough to get through several months of dry spell.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · August 22, 2015 at 8:41 am

    I think it used to be a great way to start out, but now it doesn’t seem to be doing that well for our language pair, Vadym. I remember the times when the number of Russian agencies on Proz amounted to zero. These day though the job board is dominated by agencies from Russia, India, China and Arabic countries. Unfortunately, all those countries are not able to offer even half-decent rates.

Vadim Kadyrov · July 29, 2015 at 4:42 am

BTW, Henry said that “over time, no one will continue to pay for what does not meet their needs.” This is absolutely true. Even if price is the first question people ask, the second question they will ask is about quality.

Serg · July 31, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Man, this is powerful stuff you’ve shared here. Thanks.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · August 1, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Thank you, Serge! Oh, and I’ve checked out your website. It looks awesome! Мені подобається 🙂

      Serg · August 3, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Dmitry, thanks for the nice words about my website. It really matters a lot, since to me your voice is that of authority.

Alina Cincan · August 3, 2015 at 3:59 am

I guess there is very little I can add to the discussion, as a lot has been said already. ProZ is still a good tool – like some said, it may help someone rank higher (even if they already have their own website – which I am always in favour of), it can be a good networking platform via its forum. I also thing the LWA and WWA rating systems are useful – both for freelancers and agencies.

As an agency, I only posted a job once (at the very beginning) and I was a bit disappointed in the sort of answers I received, so that was that, I haven’t used it since. If a translator has a ProZ profile, I usually check it (especially the WWA rating). I have approached only two translators via ProZ, as I usually look in other places first.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · August 22, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Hi Alina,
    I agree that Blueboard and WWA are quite useful, but what puzzles me is why do they make the Blueboard visible to paying members only. It should be an open source because it’s quite useful. Everyone seem to agree that Proz helps them “rank higher”, but to me it seems like there is little understanding that ranking alone doesn’t bring you clients. You need a proper way to convert them when they land on your page. It’s much easier with a personal website because you’re in charge, while on Proz and any other platform you’re competing with other people with better-looking profiles. Plus their web design is very outdated so a lot of direct clients bounce right off and go to better-designed websites that look modern and up to date.
    Do you mind if I ask where do you normally find translators?

Cherry Shelton-Mills · August 17, 2015 at 3:42 pm

I would always recommend joining the professional association in your country (addresses of member associations can be found here: http://www.fit-ift.org/?page_id=1735) and possibly in the countries of your source language(s).
This gives you a professional accreditation and puts you in contact with a network of members. Here in the UK the ITI provides courses for new translators, continuing professional education, rates surveys, forums, legal advice, language, subject and regional networks etc etc. Some of the language networks offer mentoring and there is a directory of members that potential clients can search too.
There is no substitute for this!
I found it a great means of support when starting out (and now it is good to be able to give something back by volunteering for the association).

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · August 18, 2015 at 10:46 am

    That’s a very good suggestion, Cherry! I’m not a member of any association myself because I don’t see any value in them, but for those who’re starting in this profession associations can provide the much-needed support, encouragement and continuous professional development.

Alina Cincan · August 22, 2015 at 9:35 am

Hi Dmitry, I agree with everything you say. The WWA is good when looking at translators’ profiles and that one is not restricted. True, the Blue Board should be available to everyone, but you can at least see the overall score. I don’t know if or how some may get help in improving their ratings, but there are other websites where translators can check agencies.

As for your question, no, I don’t mind 🙂 We have our own database of freelancers (who register through our online application form). When we don’t have a suitable/available translator, I use the ITI and the CIOL directories. Like Cherry said, joining a professional association is very good – not only does this give one more credibility if you’d like, but they offer CPD and support as well.

Anna Zeygerman · October 22, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Hi Dmitry,

I absolutely love your article. It is honest, sincere and contains a lot of valuable information based on experience and facts. Pretty much everything you say about ProZ is true, at least from my perspective. It is brilliant to use a job post to do a price research. I was about to do that too when I started, but I guess my conscience spoke a little louder than yours:-) And I stepped back thinking it would have been unfair to my colleagues trying to find a decent project to work on. On the other hand, if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean that it is not effective, we all know that. I know many translators who are quite successful thanks to ProZ. I personally think that in order to be successful in any freelance business you cannot rely on just one source, the combination of elements (other platforms, direct clients, membership in local associations, etc.) is what makes it work and brings you awesome results. Thank you and good luck to you! And I think you just got another follower:)

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · November 3, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Thank you, Anna!
    I agree with you: you have to try all kinds of things in business until you find what really works for you. P.S.: love your website! Great job!

Sarah Downham · October 27, 2015 at 6:00 am

Hi Dmitry
I found your blog by Googling “Does anyone make money out of Proz?”. I already freelance but the market is always changing and my life does too, so I am looking into ways of diversifying my work. Your article is fascinating and the job post was a brilliant idea, bravo for initiative!

Taha · November 3, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Hello Dmitry,

As a translator from India, I guess I am the personification of the dwindling-price syndrome from which the industry is suffering. Your excellent post has pretty much summed up everything that a beginner should be wary about before quoting, negotiating and caving-in to the mercy of a high and mighty translation agencies.

Although I feel lucky to have never joined ProZ in my 2-3 years of on-and-off translation, I should admit that I worked through freelancer dot com for almost a year, ploughing through their starving rates which were driven deep down into the bed rock by fellow translators with an appalling lack of quality. Later, just like you, I realised that if I were to flourish, I’d have to establish contact somehow with end-clients who were looking for translators in my niche. I contacted scores of agencies and potential clients. I received replies. Yes, I admit that I was not contacted by them and it was I who contacted them, but well – I am a beginner and I don’t have (or rather did not want to have) a formal platform.

I can confidently say that developing a clientele outside of professional websites is completely feasible, thanks to low-priced workers who are chasing away quality-loving rational clients to seek refuge elsewhere.

I sincerely hope that someone is prudent enough to launch a website with its main motto being ‘quality’ control to attract end-clients ONLY. Only something like that can salvage this sinking boat.

Gulnar · November 7, 2015 at 2:26 am

Hi, Dmitry!

It was very intersting to read your posts. You have excellent writing and creative thinking! Your website looks perfetly with its professional design. Continue on the same line.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · November 7, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Thank you, Gulnar, you’re too kind! Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

verlow · November 28, 2015 at 9:30 am

Dear Dmitry,

I agree with you. However, let’s remember that there are other aspects too. There is the networking, the webinars, the forums, presentatiion of CAT tools, which really help professionals to start somewhere in this business. And of course, depennding on where a professional is living, as per standard of life, or even chosen way of life, they are able to live comfortably with the lowest rates.

I will give a personal example, so people can better understand. Here in Brazil, for example, a single person can live well with USD 1k (given the current exchange rate), while a parent with 3 kids needs “at least” USD 2k. And don’t even let me start on the rates! If a Brazilian agency pays you USD 0.03/word, they are paying you well, because most of them pay freelancers less than 2 cents/word. So imagine how I felt when I made clients abroad, paying from 0.05/word, and how I could work less for more, through Proz, and following proz’s marketing and professional guides, started to make clients through linkedin, started to take note of the names of good companies through chats and other translators’ profiles, contacted them and got into their radar to become a prospective contractor. I need to make 1.5k every month just to pay my bills, after which anything that comes in is profit.

But most certainly, i cannot deliver quality work at less than 2 cents/word. To make 1.5k at less than 2 cents, that is just too much work – yet there are people doing it – but not me, not anymore, not ever again. I ‘d rather go back to teaching than stay overnight working, over the weekend working, at less than 2 cents/word. I’d rather lower my expenses, move to the countryside (which I did), cut cable TV, internet speed, get a cheaper car, make do
with the public health system, I’d rather do all that and more, than return to being a slave to low rates.

So, like I said, depending on where you live, how you live, and how much work you are willing to take, 3 cents/word is not bad, though for me, sometimes it is not an option, I am fully aware that I can get more. But if there is steady work – everyday single day I get work, I have my quota for low rates, and keep my agenda open for the clients who pay better, because they come first, and that is how I live.

I believe that the issue of rates is a problem that will persist because there are translators living everywhere, competent and qualified, I might add, and since the market is now international, there will always be lower rates. If clients don’t care where the professionals are, then there is not much we can do about the rates. Nothing at all.


Dmitry Kornyukhov · November 28, 2015 at 11:14 am

Thank you so much for reading, Verlow. And thank you for this comment.
You’re right, there are translators living everywhere in the world. But I hope that the problem with rates will improve over time. Yes, I agree that 0.03 USD could be an amazing rate in some countries, but look at this this way: why would you want to take 0.03 USD from a client who live in Europe, US, Canada or other countries where standard of living is much higher?

I think it’s up to us, freelancers to decide how much we should charge. The market or our clients cannot dictate how much we should be earning.

I agree that Proz has many other interesting and useful features: forums (although they’re severely moderated), webinars, pow-wows are great for learning and networking. But their bidding mechanism is broken. And it’s not their fault, I think. The whole concept of bidding for jobs is outdated in my humble opinion. 9 times out 10 it is used to find the cheapest service provider. And it gives the service providers a false idea that if they charge less they might get the gig.

Look at other freelance professions – all of them criticize job-bidding websites because they drive their rates down. Translator need to wake up and focus on what best for them. We’re just too afraid of marketing or getting out there. We prefer to sit on Proz all day long and bid on jobs. This very dangerous and self-destructive. It’s been almost a years since I stopped using Proz to bid on jobs and this has been the best decision I have ever made. I can now focus on my website and my marketing and my business and the results has been astonishing.

I really wish all the translators stopped using Proz as a bidding platform and focused on their own marketing instead. That would make our industry and our profession so much better. You can still use Proz for networking and e-learning, but job-bidding is a dead end and many other freelance professions (web-designers, developers, marketers, copy-writers) realized it a long time ago. Now it’s our turn.

I also recommend you check out The Open Mic https://theopenmic.co This is a new platform I’ve build that focuses on transparency and knowledge-sharing. It’s a great networking tool too.

Pradeep · November 29, 2015 at 5:23 pm


Thanks for an illuminating post and of course, the comments. Yes, bidding through a single platform is driving us into low rates. We need to be on our own and make people notice us, reach us.

But Proz’s BB has really helped me in taking worthwhile decisions. When I pointed to a client about their poor BB rating and expressed apprehension, they paid me an advance upfront. For the first time, I felt I had a tool to bring the agency to senses.

So, I think it’s a mix and match we need to adapt for opportunity and security in this profession.

Rina · December 20, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Hi, Dmitry,
I came across your article by accident. Not sure if yet relevant but wanted to add some detail to your research as important for the profession in general.

You are absolutely right in your main point, either you work on your own, for end-clients or reliable agencies, or it’s not worth working at all.

I’m not and haven’t been a Proz member (honestly too old and busy to be able to even figure out how it works). But heard about it from people who have nothing to do with translations as reliable source of translators. In Spring of 2014, I had a client who besides my languages needed urgent (2 business days) VERY EASY one page police clearance certificate to be translated from English into Portuguese and into Spanish. They asked for my assistance in finding translators and making sure the job is done properly. My knowledge of these two languages is sufficient to assess the quality of translation into these 2 languages.

I posted a job on Proz as a private person. VERY few responses, maybe 30. Rates normal, 8-10 cents, unlike in your experiment. But …1. Nobody was available to translate a police clearance certificate into their own language in 2 days (?). 2. They required my ‘PO’ number or refused to work. I’ve been working as a translator since 1990, and that was the first time I’ve even heard about it. 3. Some also wanted my business registration number. Again, I acted as a private person and provided my billing details, so why would I be asked for it in the first place? Besides not too eager to share my business details with unknown strangers. At the end, there were 5 translators who agreed to work, so I wasn’t even given much choice. Client knew what I was doing and agreed to pay for all 5, in case something goes wrong.

Results: 3 were ran through google translate without even proofreading. One of them insisted on being paid and I did so to avoid any complications, the other two were honest and refused payment, but not happy with my reaction. One translation into Spanish was all right, I only had a few comments and she agreed with them and introduced changes. And one translator into Portuguese was very well willing and I could see from what she did, she tried her best, but I had to call her and we had to go line by line fixing her translation… At least she was happy with the lesson, but I also paid her.

That was the beginning and the end of Proz for me. My rhetoric question is: what exactly is still alive there if no one can translate simple police clearance certificate into two very widespread languages?

End of the story – It’s December of 2015, and I’m still getting responses to that post of spring 2014, which tells me that most of Proz members can’t even read numbers….

And not to discourage you, but I’ll allow a personal comment to you about 15-20 pages per day. I was training translators for a few international organizations in late 90’s, and the standard has always been 15-18 pages per day (8 hours), 2 pages per hour. That’s normal. More experienced translators easily handle 3-4 pages per hour, so our working day is shorter. If you tell me that a translator cannot do it, he or she is not professional in my view. Of course, it is expected that freelancers have multiple jobs, but delivery of one page document the next day, and 15-18 pages in 2-3 business days should be sort of professional ethics.

Otherwise, again, very interesting post and I hope many starters will start considering more client-based and real life experience options rather than sitting and waiting for the jobs to pour onto them. Good luck to you.

    Igor · December 22, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Yes, 20 pages a day is the norm. I often manage 40 pages but this depends on the subject.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · December 23, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Hi Rina,
    Thank you so much for stopping by and sticking around to read the whole piece even if it was “by accident” 🙂
    That’s a very interesting and sad story you’ve told. I wouldn’t call a police certificate a simple document, because it requires a certain familiarity with the language used in those documents, but compared to everything else (nuclear energy, for example) it should be pretty straightforward for a professional translator with required skill set.

    What I don’t see in your story though is what made you buy from these service providers? Did you just buy their services without any background check? Because maybe it’s just me, but when I buy something online, be it a product or service, I always try to find as much information as possible. I never buy from people or businesses who don’t have enough online credibility and trustworthy enough to make me feel safe.

    Pros has a system of reviews, although that system is flawed because it doesn’t allow the buyers of translation services to leave negative reviews.

    Did those people who used Google Translate have any positive reviews?

    As far as the volume goes – every translator is different. I tend to think of my work as the product of creative thinking and sometimes you can’t force creativity without ruining the quality of your output. I could produce more, but I’m afraid my clients would suffer from that because I’d have less time for proofreading and quality assurance. The one thing I want to try someday to improve my productivity is to use speech recognition software to increase my output, but I haven’t found a good and reliable tool with the support of my language yet.

    P.S.: PO is short for Purchase Order. It’s a commercial document issued by a buyer to a seller, indicating types, quantities, and agreed prices for products or services the seller will provide to the buyer. Sending a PO to a supplier constitutes a legal offer to buy products or services. It is commonly used in US and a lot of agencies send those documents to translators as an official confirmation that they can start work. I won’t start any project with my agency clients until I receive a PO from them. It’s a very healthy thing to do for a freelance translator, taking into account that there are a lot of scammers out there.
    So it seems like that those folks who asked you for a PO were the one’s you should’ve hired, and I think they would’ve provided a decent translation, but, alas, we’ll never know now 🙂

Igor · December 22, 2015 at 3:46 am

This is a fairly interesting piece of writing (and blog), Dmitry. I’ve been in the translation business for over 15 years and forgive me for saying so, but $0.18 per word is an outrageous rate for somebody working solo. My rate is less than half your rate and I’ve been netting over $100k after taxes ($150k in better years) over the past 5-6 years, no all-nighters, but some and/or a lot of weekend work (which I always welcome because weekends tend to derail me as far as work is concerned). So my question is this: Is it just me or do you actually have too much free time on your hands? I could never find the time to come up with such a magnum opus, much less create such a nice blog. I don’t have the time to update my CV, for that matter. I’ve been offered rates near your $0.18@word on a number of occasions and found that you tend to get hooked on higher rates, which inevitably force you to turn your back on your loyal albeit less generous customers. I think we have to face the reality of the translation market where rates in the range of $0.07-$0.10 are the norm, what with the mounting competition, new performance boosting tools (Trados Studio alone boosted my output by a third), and the US dollar rising in value at the fastest pace in the past 40(!) years (which makes your rate untenable in the post-Soviet space)…
All that said, I think it’s high time you advanced from a solo venture to a small business (which has a huge growth potential, judging by your skills and drive)… I’ve been looking in that direction myself for a while. Maybe it’s something we could discuss over the phone / via email. Incidentally, I got an email from you on January 23, 2012, in which you offered me your translation services at $0.03@word, so you’ve clearly made enormous progress 🙂

    Rina · December 23, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Igor, you’re 100% right about the rates. I’d like to add 2 tiny nuances about the rates. 1. Civic responsibility of professional translator. We all work at 8-10 cents for agencies and 15-20 cents for private clients. Maybe depending on the country you can’t get past 16 cents (I have client one who pays 25 cents, but one contract every two years 🙂 ). If we, professional translators, quote higher to agencies, they’ll simply turn their back to us and go to a cheaper guy who in many cases is not a professional. Clients may actually suffer from this. I work with family courts, and you won’t even imagine which awful translations mistakes I was called in to correct. 2. Again, looking from client’s perspective, if someone’s rates are way higher than everyone’s, I will doubt this translator has enough experience. But higher rates will definitely create some free time 🙂

    And you are also right, we all do weekends or overnight. That’s called ‘translator’. I’d often work overnight so that I could spend the entire day with my family. Simple.

    Wishing easy clients to all in the coming year and thereafter.

      Dmitry Kornyukhov · December 23, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      Hey Rita!
      I have a feeling that a lot of translators simply don’t understand their worth and what kind of value they bring to the table. Translation is a form of investment for our clients. Good translation can bring millions in revenue and of course bad translation can lead to a substantial financial loss.

      One thing I know for sure: I’m worth what I ask and sometimes even more than that because of how I excel at customer service and taking a good care of my clients and walking all those extra miles every single time to make them happy.

      It’s hard to stay positive when everyone around you is charging less than you do, but hey, at least I got all that free time in the world that I can spend on all those wonderful things: familiy, my health, my business, marketing, continous professional developmen, networking, etc. 🙂

      I have a few friends from other segments of freelance economy: writers, web-developers, programmer, etc. And when I dicuss all our problems with them I realize how immature the translation segment is compared to other professions.

      We’re underepresented on the media, we’re always have problems with finding clients or establishing our rates, etc. Only a few of us have an actual website and invest into marketing. I also think that we don’t have a good online community which could represent our interests on a global scale and promote our image world-wide. That’s part of the reason why I’ve built The Open Mic (https://theopenmic.co/about/), so we could talk about all those problems and take back the control of the market into our own hands, – the hands that are actually doing all the work and have every right to determine the average rates.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · December 23, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Igor!
    Wow! Times flies fast, doesn’t it? I found that email you’re referring too, it’s insane how much can change in just 4 years. 🙂

    That was before we moved to Canada in June 2012. I gotta tell you this: moving from one economy into another one really puts your life, your work and your pricing strategies into perspective. Overnight my monthly expenses went from 3000 UAH to 3000 CAD. And the fact that my wife wasn’t working for 6 months and both of us went to college didn’t make it any easier for me. That’s why I made the most obvious decision – I increased my rates so I could work smarter, not harder.

    I also parted my ways with all of my clients based in post-Soviet countries because you’re absolutely right about it: my new rates were “untenable” for those countries. That’s why I completely removed any ties to those markets and trying my luck on a more generous North American market 🙂

    0.18 USD per source word is my ideal rate at the moment and I’ve just started to work my way towards my goal. Last year my average was 0.06 USD per source word, this year my average is 0.12 USD. It’s a huge leap, if you ask me, and the only downside was that my sales went down from 51k to 37k before tax, but so did my work volume! I worked more than 2 times less this year with only 307k words translated compared to 750k translate over the last year! So, even though I didn’t win financially, I won in terms of work-life balance.

    This is the year when I finally get the feeling for that “free” bit in the word “freelance”.

    I’m not quite at 0.18 USD yet, but I’m working my way towards it and I won’t stop until I get there. That’s why I choose to invest all that free time that I’ve got into my branding, in my personal development, in my marketing, in my grown and in my education.

    I think it’s a way more sustainable way of doing business rather than working every single day without rest or spending quality time with your family.

    I think that I did quite a good job with all my free time 🙂

    In just one year I:
    – Increased my rates by more than 50%;
    – Reduced the volume of work I do by 60%;
    – Built this website and started writing this blog;
    – Grew my online presence on Twitter and Facebook;
    – Met hundreds of colleagues online thanks to this blog;
    – Worked on my online authority to land better-paying clients;
    – And I actually did end up landing those better-paying clients because they found me on this blog! There’re not so many of them yet, but it’s just the beginning and their list will only keep growing every year;
    – I’ve envisioned, founded and built The Open Mic – a new free professional community/blogging platform for translators where people can share stories, meet their colleagues, find and share inspiration and even meet clients. You might want to check it out, it’s absolutely amazing: https://theopenmic.co/about/ – this was one of the most epic and time-consuming things I’ve done this year (over 5 months of development)

    All of those things were possible because I work really hard and I choose to move forward. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it means that I have to swim against the tide, but I love it and I think you’ll love it too if you give it a try. And who knows, maybe one day we won’t have to “face the reality” because we will be the ones making that reality.

    That’s why I’m asking you, Igor, please, try something new next year, start a new business or a new project, or start working on your marketing campaign and help me make this new reality happen. All it takes is just one tiny step. It’s great to live in your comfort zone, but sometimes you need to step out and make a change so that your comfort zone could be even comfier 😉

    Thank you so much for reading and have a smashing 2016!

Lautaro · January 20, 2016 at 9:39 pm

Man, I was one of the English – Spanish people that quoted on this.
I found it weird that the head said Arabic, but it doesn’t sound impossible.
You took 10 minutes of my time, and I thank you for it, because this is so insightful.

I think Proz is still a valid platform for me, but I agree that the next step is to go out and hunt, instead of going to the supermarket.
Offering the translation to the cliend, cutting the fat middle man is what I, and my chums have to do.

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