To get that price / value balance right, we have 2 options:
- We can pump more value into the product or service.
- We can lower the price.
In the context of translation, I immediately thought of the third way, probably as a result of thoughts crossing my mind of late, perhaps since April or May:
Strictly speaking there is no contradiction here, as the value needs to be in before you can raise awareness about it. But it's worth noting that:
- Once you put the premium value in, you'll need to communicate it or chances are it won't catch, which the author notes in saying: we are fooling ourselves if we expect prospective clients or customers to pay a premium, for something that’s average or close to average.
- Chances are the premium value is already in, so you need not to add it but to communicate it, right now. Which is also in the text but requires some reading into it, preferably with an open mind.
My proposition is that translation does not need any more value pumped into it, it needs better communication of its existing value. Any communication of its value would be a good start.
Actually, it would be false to say that no value communication exists, but it rests on the wrong premises:
- Added services of a kind which is really copy-shop services, or office assistance or entry-level technical assistance, which puts the profile of the profession below what translators' education and credentials would suggest.
A lawyer will naturally end up gophering quite a lot in his initial years at the firm, even brew a couple of cuppas while at it, but no firm ever advertises lawyer-made coffee and lawyer-made copies as the added value that sweatens the deal, let alone its unique sales position. And this even though some lawyers are really conscious about courtesy, hospitality and warm and cosy client care. Plus, if a lawyer drove a truck, it would still be pilled at the same hourly rate as legal advice.
(Or real consulting but without real qualifications. I recall a European translation agency contract where one of the attachments, an ethical code actually, required translators to check the correctness of source code while localizing software. I also recall a smart client who ordered legal advice 'localized', with a translation price tag and not legal advice price tag. Many translators probably have tales of expectations of typesetting, DTP, graphical editing and all sorts of checks in addition to just translating well.)
- Making translators look like that cleaning person with hidden talents, who is probably inreality a good fairy and who will quietly fix and polish a corporate manager's reports, filings and sales mail while sweeping and mopping his office at night. That, and Captain-Obvious-style consulting, telling clients things any twelve year old should know.
- Silly, unnecessary, outright dumb kinds of forcibly peddled added value such as preserving the intact layout of... incoming mail, down to copying the sender's signatures and logos over to the translation. I would question the soundness of mind of any client who really wanted to have his incoming mail translated like that as opposed to having it inadvertently peddled to himself by a translation agency or even translator anxious to furnish something, anything remunerable.
- Distasteful manifestations of ready obedience, submission and flattery, comparable to falling prostrate before the client and begging for scraps that fall from his table. 'Your wish is my command' is a real translation tag line I've seen, but by far not the only one in the same vein. You don't win respect that way. And you get scraps, bones, not serious compensation for your services.
The one thing is, if you don't have faith in yourself, it's hard to expect that others will. I'm not encouraging you to embrace the vice of pride but rather to take honest inventory of your skills and qualifications, their worth, their value, the path that led you to achieving them, the effort, the emotional reward. See the good things, the valuable, the unique. If translation represents no real value to you, then something is going wrong.
The other thing is that unlike what many (but not all!) marketing writers and speakers currently preach, it's not exclusively about defined benefits, or wants, or exclusively things that pertain to your client's business and not you. And it certainly is not about worshipping the ground the client walks on and wagging your tail hoping he'll throw a bone, which is as poor a strategy for winning clients as it is for winning girlfriends. To get a client hooked — and turning clients into hardcore fans is an idea I first heard from a law blogger — you need to tell story. It always is about a story. There are places in this world where stories are currency and the sum of $1, $10 and $100 is 3 colourful paper trinkets, not 111 dolars.
Tell a personal story. There is a reason lawyers use bios on their websites. About 60% of their traffic goes to the bios. Personal does not mean TMI, so skip the laundry of your multilingual home (unless you really are a good writer), but do tell a story about your academic studies and your professional path and the work you do these days. Don't be daft and presume that it would be of no interest to your client, like many people say. How do they know? Besides, I believe I've already covered the nonsense of treating your client like an alcoholic father (who must not be upset in the slightest, not made to listen to even a hint of something that's of no immediate relevance to him and his current situation).
Everybody loves to hear stories, you just need to find a way to tell them without driving people off or putting them to sleep. If you perceive yourself as a 'cultural mediator' (two individuals are also two cultures, on some level), a 'builder of bridges' or whatever else translation propaganda currently bills us as being, it would be a good test of the skills you supposedly rely on for a living.
By way of illustration, I never studied languages or translation myself at a university level because back at the time I'd thought it would teach me nothing new. (Edit: Oh wait, I did for a year in 2010-2011.) However, a couple of months ago, I was mining the faculty website for terminology and buzz words when translating a colleague's transcripts, and I got hooked on the narrative. It sucked me in and wouldn't let me go. Why oh why can't translators put similar narrative on their own websites? If it worked on a cormudgeonly skeptic like yours truly...
In short, believe in the value of what you do. Communicate that belief. Make it contagious. Show, not tell, even using words for the purpose. Give your prospective clients a chance to appreciate the value. They can't if you won't let them.