Why You Should Start Writing
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Have you ever wondered why such platforms as Proz and Translator’s Cafe still exist and doing pretty well?
Why are there thousands of newbies and sometimes seasoned translators hitting their heads against the wall and participating in never-ending price wars?
Why is there such a big gap between an overcrowded bulk market and a more spacious premium market?
Why do some *ahem* “colleagues” prefer undercutting each other instead of adding value to their services?
Why on Earth crowdsourcing is the next big thing in startups world with hundreds of investors lining up to invest MILLIONS into yet another crowdsourcing portal where the sacred act of translation will be mutilated by non-translators?
Why instead of standing their ground many translators choose to cave in and work for peanuts?
I think you know where I’m going with this one.
It might sound a bit as a surprise to you but all those problems that we have, that our industry has, can be easily solved by… talking and writing about them.
That’s right. Just by writing.
[bctt tweet=”Words are the most powerful and deadliest weapon of the 21st century.”]
So why don’t you just do it?
Yes, you can!
Nothing terrible will happen to you.
Yes, I get it. You like it there, don’t you? In your own warm and fuzzy comfort zone. You’re on fire. You’re in high demand. Clients love you. You don’t have time for that.
Well… so am I. I’m as busy as it gets yet somehow, I find the time to write about things that worry me.
And I know you have that feeling too. That something is missing. That something can be improved.
I mean, don’t you want to fight for the greater cause? Don’t you want to improve the image of our profession?
Tell everyone in the world that our work is equally important as the work of doctors, lawyers, architects?
Don’t you want to live in the world where 100k, hell, even 200k is considered an average income of a translation professional?
The world where they make movies and TV shows about translators.
Because our profession is a great TV-show material. Our days are much more fun than your average lawyer’s daily routine. I mean that.
Did I ever tell you what my first interpreting gig was?
I was working on a huge pig-breeding farm. I was interpreting for a French pig-breading professional during artificial inseminations and farrowings while standing ankle-deep in I’d rather not say what.
I once interpreted during a traditional Russian business meeting in a… SAUNA!
Now tell me you wouldn’t watch a sitcom about my job!
So, please, start writing.
Share your experience.
The things you’ve lost and found in translation.
I don’t believe you have nothing to say. You’re the most experienced and fun person I know. Help other people not to make the same mistakes you did.
You have the key to solving our problems. Maybe you don’t realize that yet. But, trust me, you do.
Yes, it’s hard. I mean, look at me. English is not even my native language. It never was and it never will be.
I’ll never have the same level of fluency or command as Steve or Paula have.
My grammar will never be perfect.
But it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that I know that we can change things together.
You and I.
I Want To Start Writing But I Don’t Know How
You know what? Me neither. I have no idea how to do it.
I’m just doing it.
I’ve been just a fly on the wall for the past 10 years.
I was silent. I’ve never participated in any discussion.
Partly because I was laughed at several times when I was just starting as a freelance translator and had questions.
I’ve learned that translators can be cruel too.
So I’ve kept my mouth shut and dived head first into work.
But having translated several million words I realized that I just can’t be quiet anymore.
I just can’t.
I realized that I can’t do this alone.
[bctt tweet=”We’re in this together and we need to support each other.”]
And once you realize that too, words would come easy.
Jane · July 13, 2015 at 3:13 pm
I’ve got to say that I’m really enjoying your posts, Dmitry – which of course means that I feel ashamed of not writing (my excuses are exactly what you describe – no time, don’t know what to say etc. etc.). What I’d like to know is how you stopped being that silent fly on the wall and started blogging? I guess there’s another blog post just in that!
Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 14, 2015 at 9:32 am
Hey Jane! Well at least you wrote this comment, so that’s a good start 🙂 Writing takes a lot of discipline, something that many freelancers lack. I felt like my career has come to a standstill and this was the only way to improve things. It’s a rewarding experience. One thing I’ve learned is that there is always something you can say. You can find ideas literally everywhere.
Delfina · July 13, 2015 at 4:14 pm
Thanks for this post, Dmitry, I was in need for motivation here!!
Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 14, 2015 at 9:33 am
I’m glad it helped, Delfina! Now go do something awesome! 🙂
Elisabeth Villiger Toufexis · July 15, 2015 at 8:54 am
You just touched my soul! I really want to start writing because I am not only an interpreter but also a life coach. I have lots of very interesting jobs and lots of stories to tell. I was a tour guide when I was young and have lots of stories to tell from that period as well. I must start writing… you inspired me today to just do it. Thank you very much and lots of love, Elisabeth
Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 15, 2015 at 10:12 am
Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting, Elisabeth!
I’m so glad that this post inspired you to start writing! Don’t let those stories go to waste! Share them so anybody could read them. I would certainly love to read them! And I bet those stories can inspire young interpreters and translators to pursue their dreams!
Nigel Wheatley · July 15, 2015 at 12:34 pm
The best reason to start writing? You get to realise that not everyone thinks the same way as you do, and not everybody agrees with you, but nine times out of ten it really doesn’t matter! Because by talking to other translators and writing about your ideas, you are also analysing what you yourself are doing in your business and professional life.
Translators and interpreters overwhelming work as individual professionals, so it is no surprise that each of our businesses is different. What works for one person might not work for another for a simple reason of differences in personality. What is pretty certain not to work is blindly following a set of rules written for someone else! And how can you know the range of options available to you if you don’t interact with your colleagues?
Keep up the good work Dmitry!
Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 16, 2015 at 10:39 am
I absolutely agree with you, Nigel! Interaction with your colleagues is something that we all need. We can’t just sit locked up in our rooms and hope that something will change. We need to interact with each other. Share our ideas. Discuss our future. Yes, different people have different opinions, but I think every opinion matters. Thanks for stopping by!
Mario · July 15, 2015 at 12:43 pm
Yeah, sure. Implying our potential costumers will ever read how we manage ourselves to offer a reasonable price for our work. Let’s face it, 0,001 per cent read what we post. However, if a potential costumer read a positive review of another client it might buy our service. You know, monkey sees, monkey does.
Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 16, 2015 at 10:46 am
You know, Mario, I’ve noticed that my clients rarely read my blog mostly because the things I share are for translators anyway. I agree that testimonials or referrals can play a great role for getting new clients, but having your blog never hurts. At least it shows that you care about your profession, that you know something about the industry you’re in. And it helps you build authority and earn the respect of your community which is also a good sign of professionalism. Even when your clients don’t read your blog they’ll at very least see that you have one and it might add some points in your favour.
Mario · July 16, 2015 at 12:51 pm
Potential customers will know for certain if you’re good or not when they see that you have actually excellent reviews and testimonials. I don’t believe that having a blog will show off that we care about our profession, I think blogs can be useful for getting subscribers and generating SEO activity, which eventually will help your site to be among the first pages of searching on google. Another way of promoting, let’s say. However, if we post a video or a piece of local news that involve us doing what we love to do, THAT will show our love off for our profession. I know nothing about your translators community but as regards mine…Making a blog like yours will be a total waste of time because they see me as “the competitor” they need to take down.
Roula · July 16, 2015 at 1:02 am
There is a serious lack of information as to what the going rates are and how to access these premium markets. I can’t think of another industry where this happens and it is one of the main barriers that keep newbies and even experienced translators stuck on low rates. They are constantly told that there are serious agencies that pay well, but who are they? One might say that, as self-employed professionals, they should take it upon themselves to find out and that’s correct. But the lack of readily available essential industry information, such as what’s the average rate for your language pair, is causing real damage – real damage to established translators too, because the pool of low-paid ones is driving their income down as well.
Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 16, 2015 at 11:12 am
Thanks for commenting Roula! Yes, I agree, we all need more data, more actionable information more research studies and it has to be free and not like those overly expensive Common Sense Advisory reports that only top agencies can get their hands on.
We also need to modify the curriculum of modern-day Schools of Translation and Interpretation to add more modules about marketing, web-design, sales, globalization, customer service. The only thing they taught me in school was linguistics and the theory of translation (and the language, of course, although it is a life-long process that started when I was 7). Yes, it’s a useful knowledge, but that knowledge won’t help you find clients.
Newbie translators have to understand that knowing languages and being able to translate is not enough, you got to learn about marketing, business, sales and a ton of other things.
You can’t just expect everything being handed to you on a silver platter.
That’s not how it works.
You learn and learn and learn and learn every single day until you finally make it.
No one will ever tell you about good clients, because, well, it’s your clients and you want to keep it that way, right? Last thing you need is having your client bombarded by a storm of unsolicited emails from your fellow translators trying to undercut you or get ahead of you.
There are tons of information about bad clients and poor rates and bad payment practices and I wish every newbie would read that before jumping to his/her first gig working for well-known sweat-shops.
But people still let hunger rule over common sense and that’s why we have good translators working at shitty companies at shitty rates. But that’s the topic for a whole new discussion.
Natalia · July 16, 2015 at 5:07 am
Dmitry, bravo! You know how to touch translator’s soul))
“I’ve learned that translators can be cruel too.” — especially true about Russian translators. I think it is even our national feature: we do not like to share successful ideas, but we like to terrify and describe everything in dark colors.
Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 16, 2015 at 11:26 am
Thank you, Natalia! I know, right? When someone needs our help we can be very condescending! I don’t know why do some people do it. I find that kind of attitude counter-productive. If you want to improve your profession you got to help the newbies to make good choices and avoid the mistakes that you’ve made. That way you’ll create a healthy value-based competition. But when you push people away they end up working for peanuts (like I did) and if they’re good translators you might potentially put yourself into a lot of trouble because you were too busy or rude or condescending or cruel or selfish or egocentric.
Natalia · July 16, 2015 at 12:15 pm
I’ve seen a lot of discussions in Russian translation communities where some people try to assure others that “peanuts” is actually a good rate and you have nothing to complain about. At the same moment these people can be some agency owners and know real rates of end customers but they continue pushing their policy and many newbies still think that everything is ok and 150 rubles per 250 words is fine.
I have just started my way out of this world of low rates and Proz bids. I have never worked for peanuts actually. I’d say my rates are at the lower limit of sound rates. But they are still far from desired. So at least I know the truth now, and I know where to go and what to aim for. And blogs similar to yours help on this way very much.
Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm
I’m really happy for you, Natalia! I know what it feels like to be stuck in that low-paying market. I’ve been stuck there for years! And I’m still in the process of moving away from that market which started a year ago.
I’m not a saint, yes, sometimes I have to work for peanuts myself when the times are hard (although my peanuts are probably way more what they pay in Russia).
Sometimes I work for 0.08 USD and I hate myself for it. This is an absolute minimum that I need just to survive and meet my financial obligations (try living in the downtown of the most expensive city in Canada, getting your wife through 2 years of college and helping your parents with mortgage).
I realize that I could’ve charged much more. But since I’m the main breadwinner in our family sometimes I just can’t say no. I need to provide for my family.
But I’m lucky that I pushed myself very hard to move away from those low paying markets and I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and my rates are improving every year. Just like you, I know what I’m doing, I got a goal and I’m working my way toward it.
I’m really excited and proud that the things I write here could inspire you. This is the only thing that matters.
By the way, do you wanna hear something crazy?
I grew up in the Urals 🙂
I lived at a tiny little closed military town between Nizny Tagil and Verkhnyaya Salda called Svobodny. And now you’re from the Urals too and I’m in Canada. How crazy is that? 🙂
Natalia · July 16, 2015 at 1:06 pm
Oh, that’s really crazy!)) The Earth is too small)) Even funnier: it was only 4 months ago that we were going to move to Canada. We withdrew our application due to several reasons, but if we didn’t, you and I could have been double compatriots)) By the way you are the evidence for my husband that Russian translators are able to survive in Canada and even reach good results.
Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 16, 2015 at 1:23 pm
As far as I’m concerned, translators can survive anywhere in the world as long as there is Internet connection and people who speak different languages 🙂
RolandC · September 13, 2015 at 4:17 am
Hi Dmitry, well in essence I do agree with you with every point you have made, now roughly, I’d say to things and I’m probably going to write that on behalf of much of the translator/interpreter’s population….Fact is, the minute you start writing about how unfair are things, someone’s gonna read that and take note. Fine I would say, and that’s what we want right? The only problem is those taking notes are sometimes the agencies that are supposed to help us put the meat on the table… . Therefore, please trust that not only I do not lack the skills required to write, but I well know what to write, unfortunately, as examples of undeserving translation professionals are no dying breed, nor are translators who cave in because sometimes there are hardly other ways around the money problem.
But this first point all leads me to my second point, which is rather about cognitivity, behaviour if you will, the way we as human beings perceive things, think, behave and follow our objectives. Simply put, reeling all day long about what’s negative is only insufflating a negative energy in us, placing a dark cloud constantly above our heads. As what you think is what you feel, thinking all day long about all the negatity one has encountered recently makes us only prone to feel negatively about ourselves and other people, loosing confidence and interest, feeling burned out, which equals to entrepreneurial coma, if not death.
Having said that, I believe every translator/interpretor should be able to know where to draw the line between not closing eyes on grave matters and taking care off oneself. Especially for interpretors who get easily exposed to real life drama at work.
To be perfectly honest, I reckon either everyone in the industry takes action now, and starts refusing/confronting that threatening global slavery that faces us, sacrificing personal comfort, or the nightmare will go on an on, until 60$ is considered high rate for 1k words, and that’s only the first step.
But before even taking about rates, If I have to shed anything negative in here that comes from personal experience this time, what’s the point of struggling months after months to get recruited by an agency, pass their test succesfully and everything, if that agency never gives you work? and what’s the point when you don’t even know for sure if that agency’s only looking to have you bend over for lower prices?
Dmitry Kornyukhov · September 13, 2015 at 8:27 pm
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts! I agree with you that focusing on negativity won’t do much good. That’s why instead of writing about the negative experiences and tendencies maybe we need to focus on positive side? Or try finding solutions? I think that writing can be a great tool that can change the way we percive ourselves and do business. Writing certainly helps me establish myself as a professional translator, it helps build authority and solve my problems… and hopefully the problems of people who read me and share the same views.
Even when I’m facing cold facts and harsh reality I’m always trying to stay positive and look at things from a different persepctive. Because there is always different perspective, a different angle, different opinion… Writing helps me find answers to my questions, help and inspire people and chage this industry little by little.
I’ve been writing this blog for about a year know and I know that my thoughts helped a few people to look at their own lives and bussiness from a different persepcitve. I think it’s great and that’s the way to go.