10 Reasons Why Translators Should Not Accept Low Rates

Low translation rates are being discussed passionately everywhere in the translation community, and rightly so. I know it’s tempting to accept low rates just to get a job, but in the long run, this hurts the translator and the whole community of translators equally:

  • Have you ever tried to negotiate for higher rates later? It’s virtually impossible. Once a client knows your rate, they want to stick to it, of course – why should they pay more than before for the same service?
  • If more and more translators accept low rates, this level will become normal; translators will be more and more forced to lower their rates too. This will ultimately hurt the profession’s reputation and damage the market to a severe degree. Long-term.
  • Also think about the impression you give when you are willing to work for less than you quoted. It gives the client the impression that you have accepted one thing: that your work is worth less than you thought. You cannot want that.
  • If you look for work with lower rates, you will have no problems finding it. Chances are good you’ll have to deal with a huge workload of underpaid jobs, making it impossible for you to accept better paid ones – and they are bound to come in when you least expect it, trust me.
  • Charging low rates means you have to work more and longer for your money and this can (and will at some point) affect the quality of your translations. What’s worse, you will be so dependent on these low paid jobs that you can’t afford to lose any of them.
  • Many clients ask for a discount of high volume work. While this seems reasonable at first glance – you won’t have to worry about work during this time – it’s really unreasonable at second glance: During the time it takes to complete this big job, you will have to turn down assignments from other and potential clients, risking their not coming back. Also, the average number of words per hour does not change, so why should you settle for a lower payment?
  • Same with fuzzy matches or CAT tools. You paid for the translation technology, so you are entitled to any return on investment. Makes sense?
  • If you accept ludicrously low rates, you simply allow someone else to earn what you could have collected. Well-paid jobs exist; you just have to find them.
  • Clients asking for low rates usually only have one argument: “Our budget is limited.” So either sack those clients up front, or tell them why hiring you, at a higher rate, is actually a good idea: Explain in detail what you do (getting familiar with the source text and background material, research online and offline, the translation itself, final editing and proof-reading and so on), tell the client how long these steps take and how difficult they sometimes are, but most importantly, explain their benefit: a punctual, high quality, flawless translation from a specialized translator in the field that saves them a lot of time checking it and that will improve their image with their client (if it’s a translation agency). My usual answer is: If you want a Mercedes, you have to pay for it. If they don’t understand, they are not interested in quality. Period.
  • Dignity and self-respect

Remember: Rejecting low rates must be done collectively; otherwise it won’t work.

Do you have more reasons to add? Let us all know and leave a comment!

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