6 Signs That the Translation Industry is Hotter Now Than Ever Before and How to Set Yourself Up For Success

The translation industry is hot right now and despite the doom and gloom spread by naysayers in all the translation forums, there are plenty of opportunities for people to get in the game.

Before I get into the research that shows why the translation industry is still a viable market for translators, let me explain why it is that so many translators are down on translation.

Here’s a post from a translation forum:

After almost 15 years as a pro translator I am seriously considering starting a second job, translating may become a less important part of my life, and I don’t know if I’ll continue updating my Cat tool or subscribing to Pro web site services.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to continue working the way I have in the past, but it really feels like the bottom is dropping out of the translation business.

This sentiment is common among many translators, but in looking at the type of people posting and their profiles, I’ve noticed that most are translators have similar characteristics:

  • over 10 years in the translation industry;
  • only offer translation services; and
  • claim that “a lot” of other translators are in the same dire conditions.

Guess what?
Just because you say something
is a certain way doesn’t make it so.

First of all, there is no translation industry per se where over-arching statements can be generalized to every translator working every single language combination.

That’s now how things work.

Instead, you’ve got an entire group of mostly freelance translators working every kind of language pair imaginable and translating every topic under the sun.

Each of these freelancers do things differently and get different results.

Saying that the translation industry is down would be like saying that the blogging industry is down.

Ridiculous.

That doesn’t even make sense.

Every blogger out there is at a different level. Even bloggers that are in my niche, which is translation and entrepreneurship, are doing things differently and are at different levels. You can’t make general statements that apply to every single translation blogger out there.

So why do people get down on the outlook for the translation field and point to doom and gloom for future translators?

Well, the reasons these people give are actually lies.

Here’s what they say is causing the downfall of the translation industry:

  • Machine translation;
  • Tons  of new translators;
  • Translators charing super low rates; or
  • Clients not caring about quality.

These excuses are just
that: excuses.

Excuses are what weaker translators resort to when they accept defeat.

Excuse #1: Machine Translation

This excuse is ridiculous but even more so when coming from a real translator.

A translator worth his salt, if anyone, should know that machine translation is not going to completely replace human translators anytime soon.

In fact, machine translation is a tool that good translators use to improve their bottom line. Using it effectively can speed up translation time, increasing dollars per hour earned. Not the other way around.

Excuse #2: New Translators

The influx of new translators entering the market should be an encouraging sign of the strength of the industry. Nobody would be entering the market if there was no room to support them.

How many computer scientists enter the market every year? Accountants? Doctors? There is room to support people entering these professions.

What about freelance writers? The market is still there to support them.

It’s the same with freelance translators.

Excuse #3: Low Rates

Globalization means more people from third-world economies are entering the industry charging low rates, pricing western translators out of the industry.

This is a very common excuse among translators who aren’t winners.

Sure, the Internet has given more people a chance to enter the market and charge various amounts. But instead of blaming these translators, these translators should look at their own western mentality.

Costs too high? Then move to a third-world economy and take advantage of your higher earnings to live a higher standard of living.

Don’t complain about the global economy. Suck it up and use it to your advantage.

Excuse #4: Clients Don’t Care About Quality

This is another lame excuse (but so are all excuses).

Why would clients not care about quality? Their livelihood is based on providing quality products to their clients/customers. Of course, a business want the best product at the most economical price.

But that’s different than sacrificing quality for low cost. No business that wants to stay in business for long is going to willfully go that route.

The real reason loser
translators complain is because
they’re not willing to work.

There is plenty of work for translators.

That’s the reality.

If you’re not convinced that there is enough work for translators and interpreters, here are 6 signs that the translation industry is hotter than ever:

  1. According to a translation industry think tank (Common Sense Advisory), the translation industry was worth $33.5 billion in 2012 and was set to continue increasing.
  2. An increase in globalization and overseas expansion will lead to a 4.9% annual growth rate in the translation industry worldwide, according to IBISWorld.
  3. The translation industry in the United State, while not increasing as fast as the market in Europe and Asia, is set to rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2014 and 2015 estimates that the translation market in the United States will grow 46% by the year 2020, an increase from roughly 60,000 jobs to 93,000 jobs.
  4. While translation forums are always a bastion of complainers crying about the state of the translation industry, anecdotal accounts from the forums indicate that most people’s translation job numbers are actually increasing. Along with that, people’s rates are not going down, but instead going up, especially for those with direct clients who understand the investment that is required when dealing with a professional translator.
  5. Online job boards, the bane of anyone’s job searching experience, still show a strong need for language professionals. A search for the term interpreter or translator on Indeed.com yields 788 jobs posted in the last week alone. Adding the terms bilingual and linguist increases that total to 16,176 total jobs. And these are jobs only in the U.S.
  6. According to Slator, 190 translation startups have been established on Crunchbase since 2005. These startups have received a total of $231 million worth of funding. More funding means more confidence regarding the increased need for language professionals.

So, it can be reasonably assumed that the need for professional language providers is not going away. Translators and interpreters are still in demand and are going to be for the foreseeable future.

Pay will also be stable. It’s true that there will always be clients that are only interested in the cheapest solution, but most customers will continue to recognize the added-value that translators bring and pay them appropriately.

That being said, there will still be competition in the industry.

How you approach your own
translation business will reflect
your success.

Work Hard

No talent in the world can replace hard work and focus, especially when it comes to succeeding as a professional translator. This is true in almost every single industry, and language is no exception.

Will Smith said this about hard work:

Will Smith on Hard Work
Will Smith on Hard Work

Is that the way you approach your freelance translation career? Do you put everything you have in it, knowing that nobody is going to out-hustle you? If not, you better rethink your approach because it’s not going to work without hard work.

Adapt and Change

The translation world is changing. What used to work for translators in the 70s and 80s in no longer going to work for translators today.

Just like every other industry out there, the translation industry has embraced technology and if you don’t figure out how that is going to affect your freelance career, you’ll be dead in the water in less than a year, if you’re not already.

Technology is always a game changer but it is usually not a game replacer. Look at the computer science industry and specifically at programming. Programmers used to program with one or two languages for a handful of markets. Now programmers are needed for dozens of programming languages in markets that would have never even been imagined five years ago.

Same thing with language. Technology has increased the opportunities for translators, not diminished them, and the industry will keep changing to reflect the evolution of technology.

Translators that adapt to those changes will see a boom in their business; those that don’t adapt will complain, and then fall out.

Learn New Skills

It used to be that translators did one thing: translate.

That is not going to cut it anymore.

In the same vein as adapting and changing, translators need to understand that clients need someone who can fill multiple roles. Translation is just one of those.

Translators should be knowledgeable (at least at a basic level) on things such as localization, web design, business writing, and image manipulation, among others.

You become much more valuable to a potential client when you can offer an entire language solution, rather than just a translation.

In addition, by adding new skills to your portfolio, you insulate yourself against possible downturns and dry spells that will come up.

What about you? Which factors have been the most important for your success in the translation/language services industry?

6 thoughts on “6 Signs That the Translation Industry is Hotter Now Than Ever Before and How to Set Yourself Up For Success”

  1. Pingback: Weekly translation favorites (Oct 16-22)

  2. Sarah Miller

    Superbly written article, Its glad to hear that translation industry is booming now a days. Thanks!!

    1. Glad you liked it, Sarah. I tend to try and focus on the positives instead of the negatives.

  3. Jessica Martinez

    Really focus on all positive aspects of translation industry. Thanks for sharing such information.

  4. Estéban Rómulo Cortázar

    I moved to The Dominican Republic where I now live like a king on a wage that was mediocre in the states.

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