Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Translation Is Worth Charging For!

Dear Reader, what I'm saying to you tonight is at variance with what most translation speakers and writers and gurus say — all of them more experienced, more economically knowledgeable and economically and professionally successful than I am. You have more reason to listen to them than to me. But I still say it. I can't not say it:

Translation is the core value of what you do, the service you provide to your clients. Don't advertise and build your brand and USP on 'more than translation'. Don't justify your prices with additional services or added value.

If your value proposal and your proposal in general is based on additional services or added value, you are sending the message that your core value and core services are not valuable, not worth charging for.

By contrast, translation is a prestigious professional service.


  1. It's not that 'they' (i.e. everybody else with a book or blog) wouldn't agree that translation is worth charging for. It's just that they don't necessarily believe — perhaps no longer believe, as a result of personal crushing experience? — that it can be done or should be done.

    I don't know if it can, though I believe and choose to believe that it can.

    What I know is that if we continue do deprecate translation by promoting additional services and added value and building our value messages and brand messages around those, we will end up completely destroying the perceived value of translation, just like the bottomfeeding market does. Translation will then become only a carrier for added value and added services. This is already happening in the broad agency sector and among many individual translators.

    Be a proud translator, not an apologetic mini-LSP, language specialist, linguist, communication specialist, translation consultant or whatever else may disguise your true calling and true place and true title to value.

  2. I think you'll find that translators who provide additional services make less money from the additional services than they do from translation. This is logical: if these people could make more money from offering the additional services, they'd specialise in doing that.
    So why do translators provide these "extra services". The uncharitable explanation is that they're not good enough to make enough money from translation alone: there must be people like that, because there are people like that in every profession, specialising in the ancillary bits because they're not really good enough to do the core work. But there is also a simple economic reason: if these services really are simply ancillary to the translation work (e.g. simple page layout), it might be cheaper to pay the translator's rates to do it rather than waste time looking for a separate professional to take on the task. Is it really helpful for a translator to refuse to do secretarial work in this latter situation?

  3. Thanks, Nigel. Your observations are correct, but I think especially the 'uncharitable explanation' is very relevant here — which is not to say that those folks *really* aren't good at what they do, nope, but that they, perhaps subconsciously, think, feel or fear that they are. This is essentially part of a broader self-esteem problem imposed on all of us by 1) agencies with their business model, structure and habits etc., and 2) assertion and weight throwing by dominant buyers.

    I think there is little more to all this than just the way translators feel the pressure to be apologetic about translation and charging money in general or serious money in particular for it.


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