Four Tweaks That Will Make You a More Profitable Translator

One of the biggest complaints that I hear from new translators is how hard it is to offer affordable translations while still charging enough to make a decent living as a freelance translator.

For any new translator that is looking at charging for translations, the numbers out there on freelance websites can be disheartening.

For example, if you do a search on any freelancing site, you’ll quickly find translators who routinely charge $0.02 a word.

Freelancers in third-world countries can bid lower than other freelancers.
Freelancers in third-world countries can bid lower than other freelancers.

Many of these translators are from developing countries, where it’s easier to make a living off of charging a lesser amount.

However, if you’re a translator from somewhere where the cost of living is a lot higher, doing translations for such a small amount is not practical and not worth it.

Charging such a low amount for translations isn’t merely caused by translators, though. If you look on the same site for translation job offers, you will see that many people in need of translations are only willing to pay half a cent to one cent per word!

This is ridiculous and was something I would have though unfathomable when I started in the translation industry in the mid-90s.

However, one thing in particular has contributed to this phenomenon:

The world is a smaller place than it used to be.

Because of technology, it is a lot easier these days to match up providers and clients.

Using these freelance sites, a client in the United States can easily have translation work done by a provider in Chile just as easily (or even easier) than having work done by someone in their own backyard.

These sites allow a client to receive bids and get a finished translation all electronically.

This sure beats the old days of having to call on the phone trying to find translation providers, and then having the finished job either faxed or mailed to the client.

Also, as I alluded to earlier, because the technology, and the Internet in particular, make the world such a smaller place, it is easier to get bids from translation providers all over the world and find affordable translation providers.

And it’s true no matter the language combination.

Many of these places have a lower cost of living and for most clients, it’s second nature to look for the cheapest translator.

Here’s the funny thing, though:

Many translators bemoan the fact that there are translators in third world countries that charge so little, but the truth is that most of us in the same position would do the exact same thing.

What kind of hypocrisy is that?

Rather than blame these translators for lowering the cost of translations worldwide, translators should look for ways that they can offer affordable translation services while still making it possible to earn a living as a freelance translator.

How to Offer Affordable Spanish Translations

I’ve said it multiple times and it’s worth repeating it again here. Translators need to know more than just how to translate.

In this case, translators need to know how to offer affordable translations. Follow these tips to make your freelance translation career more profitable:

(These all assume you don’t want to charge $0.02 a word.)

1) Don’t rely on freelance job sites as your main source of income

Like I said before, I don’t blame translators for lowering the cost of translations, and I don’t blame these freelance sites either.

They have provided a way for people throughout the world to earn money in a way that they never would have before.

However, this has inevitably lowered the price of translations, so don’t rely on these sites as a major source of your income if you want to be a profitable translator. Sure you can bid on some higher-paying jobs if it’s worth your time, but if you rely on these sites for the majority of your business, you will be disappointed and frustrated.

2) Work on finding repeat direct clients

That being said, the best way for a translator to not only be successful but to also offer an affordable translation services is to have repeat direct clients.

These clients know your work, are happy with your work, and call on you when they need work done. Once you’ve established a price point with this type of client, you can keep it at that price (usually) without fear that the client will want a lower price.

It’s usually much easier to retain a satisfied client than to continually look for new ones.

3) Do more than just translate

There was a time when all translators needed to do was translate.

This is no longer the case and any translator that still believes that won’t be a successful translator for very long.

As a translator, one way you can still offer affordable translation services while remaining successful is by offering more than just translation services. For example, get knowledgeable one how to do desktop publishing. This will increase the types of translations you can do, such as certificate translations.

As bad as the economy is, people are still being born, are getting married, and are going to school, and these people need their certificates translated. If you know how to manipulate computer programs to translate certificates, this will open up a new revenue stream for you.

Don’t be so rigid that you can’t change your focus.

The world does not owe you anything. It doesn’t care that you studied Japanese for 12 years and are the world’s foremost translator of anime.

anime, manga, and translation

You have to look for ways to solve clients’ problems. If their problems involve more than translation, you better be equipped to provide them a solution.

4) Don’t be afraid to say no

Trust me.

I know the feeling all too well.

A translator just starting out is trying to earn money as a translator and feels that he or she has to take whatever jobs are out there.

I’ve been there.

I’ve done that.

And there might be a point in your translation career when you have to do that as well.

Some translators think you should never take a low-paying translation because this hurts the industry for them. That’s easy for a translator to say that who already has a clientele and earns decent money translating.

But for a translator just starting out, or one that has fallen on hard times, sometimes the only thing that he or she can do is translate low-paying jobs, and I’m OK with that.

I will say this, though.

That as soon as you can afford to, say no to the low paying jobs.

Working on these types of translation jobs end up not being worth the time and effort put into them.

Your time could probably be spent more efficiently by working on marketing yourself more or finding more freelance translation jobs.

Offering an affordable translation service is important to becoming a successful translator.

Follow these tips, don’t get caught up in all the rest, and you should be well on your way.

Until next time.

Happy translating.

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