I was surprised to feel myself smiling in recognition this morning during my usual scan of industry-relevant blogs. In asking himself if translators should care how much their colleagues charge, translator and programmer Ryan Ginstrom summed up what I found myself trying to express only yesterday in an aborted message to a mailing list.
Translator mailing lists are full of discussions about low rates, unqualified colleagues, unreasonable clients and unrealistic deadlines. (And when I say “discussions”, I mean complaints.) There’s nothing wrong with letting off a little steam from time to time, but I usually avoid these kinds of threads like the plague. What more can be gained from yet another indignant rant about how everyone else is doing everything wrong all of the time?
I generally have no problem with what other translators want to charge, and wouldn’t take kindly to other translators trying to dictate how much I should charge. If another translator can offer the same quality as me and charge less, good for them. If there are enough cheaper translators that all the demand in my segment is taken, then I need to lower my rates. Conversely, if there aren’t enough translators, and clients are asking me to do more work than I can handle, then I need to raise my rates.
I’m with Ryan on this one: it’s called running a business and it’s really not that complicated.
Incidentally, I feel the same way about accreditation, marketing and working conditions. That is, while it’s good to be aware of what your colleagues are doing and the wider impact of your actions, as a freelancer you need to make your own decisions, then put your head down and get on with it. That means you’re not always going to agree with how your colleagues package their services. It’s also completely up to you to change your conditions if you’re not happy with them – no-one else is going to do it for you. Frighteningly simple, isn’t it?
I prefer to focus on what other translators do well, to understand the nitty-gritty of their successes so I can think about how I might apply these techniques to how I do things. There are SO many translators who produce good quality work and earn a good living, without recourse to long hours, unethical practices or nervous breakdowns. The problem is we rarely hear about them – and why should we? They are busy doing what they do well and they don’t need to blow their own trumpets. If we truly want to raise standards in the industry, these are precisely the kinds of professionals we need to highlight.
Image by Bob.Fornal via Flickr