How competitive is the translation industry really?

I often hear people complaining about how competitive the translation industry is and from new translators trying to work out how low they can afford to set their rates in the hope that will get any work at all.

But is the translation industry really that competitive?

In many ways, of course, it is. There are a lot of translation agencies and a lot of freelance translators out there fighting for work and trying their very best to undercut each other on prices. You only need to look at Proz.com and similar sites to see that this is where many translators spend their time and where they seem to find their translation work. The lower-end of the market, therefore, is indeed fiercely competitive. But is the lower-end of the market really where you want to be?

A premium product for a premium price

I for one certainly wouldn’t still be a freelance translator if my daily bread consisted of grappling round at the bottom of the food chain for a few cents here and there. This is why I offer a premium product – but not only that, I offer this premium product to those customers who want and are therefore also prepared to pay for a premium product.

Here’s how:

1) Identify your ideal customers on the basis of your unique set of skills –  you cannot possibly serve everybody or provide the range of different types of services every potential customer will ever need, so work out what you can do and what you want to do and seek out customers who match your profile.

2) Get to know your customers and make sure that you are providing them with the precise service and product they want and need – if not, make adjustments where feasible and where these seem sensible, otherwise consider whether this particular customer is really a good match for you.

3) Build up a long-term partnership with your customers so that when they have a translation requirement, they automatically come straight to you – it is much easier to keep existing customers then to attract new ones and you also have the added benefit of knowing how they operate, that they pay on time, etc.

4) Make yourself indispensable – I know they say we’re all dispensible but if you find ways to go the extra mile for your customers and become a valuable asset, they should never have reason to find out whether or not this is true.

If price is the only thing you feel you have to compete on, I urge you to take another look at your business strategy.

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2 thoughts on “How competitive is the translation industry really?

  1. Pingback: Weekly favorites (Jan 17-23) | Adventures in Freelance Translation

  2. Hi Karen. I run a technology company that connects Remote Interpreters to potential sources of work, and vice versa. Part of our mantra is that we aim to be champions of the cause of the best professional interpreters around the World. I hear so often the complaint that agencies are using less qualified (less professional, much cheaper) interpreters to satisfy low cost contracts. I believe that cream does always float to the top, and agree completely with you that the really good professionals in the language industry focus on delivering quality to those customers who value their professionalism. If (low) price is the determining factor for getting work, say “No, thank you” and re-focus on those customers, whether they are LSPs or direct users, who understand the difference between “price” and “value”.

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