You’re a Translator, Not a Free Language Translation

Free language translation is supposed to be one of those things relegated to translation engines like Google or Babelfish. That’s because everyone (non-translators included) knows that free translation engines don’t give you the results that a professional translator can provide.

And ever since the invention of these translation engines, there have been choices when deciding to have a translation done.

The first option is a client could do a little research and choose a professional translator. Another option has been to strictly use free translation engines and just accept the fact that the translation results were not going to be accurate. The last option was for clients to use a combination of the two. Enlisting the services of a professional translator for those important jobs, while resorting to free language translation websites when all that was needed was a gist or overall meaning of a texts.

Lately, though, it seems that this supposed common sense by non-translators has gone by the wayside, with more and more clients wanting professional translation services but want to pay next to nothing (if even that much). And if you’re a translator, you should take heed.

Because the freelance translation market is one that is fought in a worldwide marketplace, competition can be pretty fierce, especially with translators in third world countries able to charge significantly less than translators based out of North America or Europe. No where is this more evident than on freelance job boards.

A Real-Life Example

Let me give you an example of this “free language translation” attitude that I think is becoming all too common. The other day I was checking out some translation jobs posted on For those that don’t know, UpWork is an online marketplace where people can post their job needs, and providers can market their services.

There are translators from all over the world marketing their translation services on the website, and I’m always curious to see what people expect to pay translators, as well as how low translators are willing to go to secure a job. Well, what I found even surprised me.

This is an exact posting I found from someone looking for a translation provider:

We need approximately 70,000 words to be translated from English into Spanish.There is nothing technical about the work. The work is in a dialogue format.

We want to hire someone now. We will only use elance escrow service and the work needs to be quality. It will be checked by a third party.

Only bids under 0.01 will be entertained. The ideal bidder could do it for 0.005.

OK, so can anyone actually believe this!!! This guy has 70,000 words he wants translated, he wants them to be quality, and he only wants to pay a half cent per word!!! Honestly, how can someone in good conscious do this?

Yet, I don’t know what’s worse, this person’s request or the fact that 6 people had already replied to this guy saying they were willing to do the job! (Specifically, two people from Mexico, two from Uruguay, one from Pakistan, and one from the U.S.)

Worse Than Free Language Translation

So is this what people think of us as translators? That we are only slightly better than some free online language translator? That we are willing to do our job for so cheap that we couldn’t even make a living? A mere $350 for 70,000 words and he wants “quality?”

That’s so ridiculous it’s not even funny.

I know that a lot of translators just starting out are especially worried about their ability to find translation jobs and because of their worry and the tough job market for translators, are often willing to lower their prices just to “break into the business.”

I understand this desire and that sacrifices often have to be made in order to get clients and find work.

I, for one, decided long ago that I would not sacrifice my talents to extremely low-paying jobs that didn’t give me the respect I felt I deserve. Charging less than you normally charge for a job is one thing, but drastically lowering your price so you’re strictly free labor is another issues.

Don’t sell yourself short.

After I do a job, I want to feel like the client has respected me and my work and that I in turn have given it my best effort and provided the best possible translation for a client. But this would be nearly impossible for me if I dramatically lowered by price point (especially to half a cent a word!).

I am not a free language translation program. And neither are you.

Want to get paid what you’re worth? Check out the Ultimate List of Translation Agencies to find agencies hiring translators.

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