The Five Steps to Charging on Value not on Price

Value

Today’s post is a guest post by my own coach, Vanessa Ugatti, The True Worth Expert. Over to Vanessa:

No doubt, you’ve heard it before – focus on value, not on price.  The question is are you doing that or not?  I would hazard a guess that many businesses pay lip service to this, rather than really doing it.  Fear dominates the world of commerce – there’s always someone willing to do it cheaper.  So let’s get straight to the point – no procrastination or shilly-shallying; it’s time to make a decision and the sooner you make it the better.  Neither path is easy; ultimately the choice is yours.

Step 1

Ask yourself the following question:

Do I want to be the person doing it cheaper?

If the answer is yes, keep on doing the same thing and I can guarantee that you will get the same results. Don’t bother reading this article either, because you’ll be wasting your time. On the other hand, if the answer is no, take a deep breath and carry on reading.

So far, so good.  If you’re still with me, you’ve successfully jumped over the first hurdle.  Well done.

Step 2

Ask yourself this: When was the last time I really looked at and understood my value?

For most people who have an expertise, it’s not easy to understand their value.  The longer they have been doing it, and the easier it has become, the more they take it for granted.  Consider the following:

  • How long did it take you to become a professional translator?
  • What did it cost you?
  • What did you have to give up while training/learning?
  • How long have you been a professional translator?
  • If you were to rate yourself in terms of how good you were when you first trained on a scale of 1-10, what figure would you put on it?
  • If you were to rate yourself in terms of how good you are now on a scale of 1-10, what figure would you put on it?

I will hazard a guess that it took years – longer than it took a chartered accountant to train, a doctor or even an architect.  It’s no mean feat.  Although I’m not a translator, I am a fluent French speaker and know how much time and effort was required to reach that stage. Remember you have gone beyond that level and are able to communicate a message effectively from one language into another. It’s an amazing skill and don’t you ever doubt it!  Are you starting to see your value?  If you don’t understand your own value, it will be unlikely that your clients will.  Understanding your value is something which takes time and you also need to review it on a regular basis.

Step 3

Ask yourself the following question:

Are the clients I’m working with in general the sort of clients who will pay me on value or are they looking for cheap and cheerful? 

If it’s the latter, then clearly you’re working with the wrong clients!  As previously mentioned, although I’m not a translator, I do know from coaching Karen that those of you who are working for agencies, for example, will definitely not be able to charge on value, as the agencies are dictating the prices and driving them down.

This situation means that you are not actually in control of your business; the agency acts as your employer, but without any of the benefits of actually being employed. This then erodes confidence, creates self-doubt and makes it harder to change.  It’s a vicious circle which needs to be broken.

Either way, you must target those clients who will value your service and pay you accordingly.  This may well mean making some radical changes in your business to be able to achieve this.  I would also encourage you to decide on a specialism so that your marketing can be focussed on a particular industry or profession.  As a generalist, you will be competing with all and sundry and therefore price will likely be the dictator.  On the other hand, as a specialist, you elevate yourself from the masses and it’s then that you can charge a premium for your expertise.

Step 4

Eliminating limiting beliefs

By now, I get the impression that you could be feeling a little overwhelmed.  If that’s the case, I apologise.  However, I’m not one of those fluffy people who say this is going to be easy.  If it was, everyone would be doing it.  Rome wasn’t built in a day; you’ll need focus, patience and determination to get where you want to.  Moreover, it’s not just about marketing and what you do practically; it’s also vital to work on yourself.   If you fail to do this, you’ll potentially limit your earnings and feel frustrated into the bargain.

What limiting beliefs do you have which are getting in the way of your success?

Karen is proof of what I’m saying.  She recently told me that because of the work we’ve been doing together, that she is now charging top fees to her clients and getting them, whereas before, that wasn’t happening.  Even though there are others in the marketplace willing to charge significantly less, (their competence level may or may not be as good as hers) because she now understands her value, both consciously and unconsciously, and has no qualms stating her fees, she is able to charge her true worth.

Step 5

Get help!  You can’t do it alone.  Be willing to invest in yourself.  Find the right people to support you on your journey.

Author biography:

Vanessa Ugatti, The True Worth Expert, coach, speaker and author of Amazon Bestseller, True Worth, dramatically shifts the thinking for people in professional services  taking them from their own perceptions of not feeling they can really charge what they are worth, to doing just that – and more! This unique ability, to bring out the best in people, has evolved for her over many years of facing similar challenges both professionally and personally, even questioning her own value in business. 

To access a complimentary copy of True Worth: How to Charge What You’re Worth and Get It, and to find out more, visit: www.thetrueworthexpert.com.

True Worth

 

 

 

 

Title photo credit: Got Credit

Focus on your goal – but don’t get ahead of yourself

The elevator to success is out of order

After talking to my mentee recently, I realised that it was perhaps about time I wrote a post on how to transition from where you are now to the better paid direct client market. Because it is, of course, a process and doesn’t happen overnight. The journey won’t be the same for everyone, however, so my aim in this article is to provide a few tips to point you in the right direction and to help you stay on track:

  1. Keep your sights on your goal – but don’t get impatient and don’t rush it

If you have been working exclusively or mainly for agencies for some years, there is no sense whatsoever in waking up one day and deciding to ditch all of those agencies so that you can start working for direct clients – as tempting as this may be – because, unless you have a magic wand, it’s going to take time to build up a direct client base. The important thing is to note the status quo and to ascertain what it is that you want to change and why (perhaps you would like to work with more direct clients because you think the work will be more rewarding, perhaps you want to find better paying clients so that you can work less whilst earning the same amount). It is important that you know your “what” and your “why” so that you can keep yourself focussed and on track.

  1. Step by step – replace clients successively

If you have been freelancing for a while you probably have at least a handful of different clients. Make a list of them and rate them according to categories that are important to you (e.g. good communication, fast payers, interesting work, rates, etc.). Do you already have some clients that you consider to be category A clients? If you do, make a list of all of the qualities and characteristics of those clients so that you know what you are looking for in new clients. If not, use your imagination. What qualities would your ideal category A clients have? When potential clients come along who seem to have these qualities and characteristics, you can start to replace the less than ideal clients on your list with these new clients. Be sure to do it successively and not to cross off all of your less than ideal clients at once: you still have to ensure that you are earning at least the same amount as before and ideally more.

  1. Create time for marketing – and do it

If you are currently working flat out for agencies to make ends meet, then you will need to claw back some time from somewhere in your day for marketing activities. Although it can sometimes feel like marketing is futile because it is unusual to see immediate results, constant steady marketing will bring you a steady stream of new clients over time and allow you to build your business in a gradual and healthy manner.

  1. Accept where you are now – and that growth is a gradual process

It is tempting to get frustrated and impatient about business growth but the fact is that you are where you are at the moment and you can’t change that for the present. By constantly taking steps, however small, towards your goal you will get there – in time. Just stick with it.

  1. Face your fears – and move past them

Many people find that the reason they can’t move forward with their business in the direction they want to go is that they are standing in their own way. Somewhere there is a misalignment between what they want to achieve and what they think they can achieve. There can be all kinds of reasons for this, usually based on past experience or the limiting beliefs they have grown up with. As a freelance translator you are your business’ most important asset. Personal development is a key aspect of business development and well worth considering undertaking if you find that you are struggling to reach your goals – or even to take the action which you hope will take you there.

Photo credit: Steps to success © Celestine Chua, http://www.flickr.com

Being good at what you do is only half the battle

Strategy Sean MacEntee

Many freelance translators complain about the quality of the translations produced by translation agencies and the way that they “force” translators to accept extremely low rates. However, looking at the situation without the emotional element, they are simply implementing a business model which works for them. Freelancers are, in effect, facilitating their business model by being prepared (if under perceived duress) to work for such low rates.

Where freelancers often go wrong and agencies win out

As a freelancer you stand alone. You are your business’ most important asset. You have the skills, you do the marketing, you set your rates, your draw up your business plan. It’s all about you, and you are a person, an emotional human being. As such you internalise your decisions, you let your emotions and feelings feed into your decisions and sometimes you even stand in your own way.

An agency, on the other hand, is a legal person. It does not feel emotion. An agency will have employees, people trained and employed to do different jobs such as marketing, customer acquisition and customer service. They each have their individual roles and, because what they are doing is for the business, they will normally feel one step removed on an emotional level. (Of course, this may not necessarily apply to smaller agencies where the business owner is still ultimately the only one running the show).

There are pros and cons to both of these scenarios.

Because the freelancer has a vested interest in his work and his business and he is doing all of the work himself, he can ensure that the quality he produces meets his very high standards. On the other hand, he may struggle with marketing and client acquisition because he knows that what he is doing is putting himself out there, exposing him, and he alone is facing the pressure that only he can keep his business thriving and make it work.

By contrast, an agency, with a non-emotive approach, is able to move through what it simply regards as tasks much more swiftly and effectively. The agency is marketing “the business”, there is always a name or a concept to hide behind. This makes marketing efforts less personal and easier in many ways. However, since the whole concept is also bigger, it is also more difficult to keep an eye on quality standards. Even where an agency has set quality processes, the extremely high levels of specialist knowledge required to produce a very specialist high-quality translation will not be able to be replicated in house (unless we are talking about a highly specialised agency) which often results in in-house staff misguidedly adding mistakes to excellent translations produced by freelancers all in the name of proof-reading and post-editing. The fact that the agency also has to earn a good margin to be able to afford to pay its staff, cover its other operating costs and still make a profit whilst offering competitive prices to clients means that more and more agencies are paying lower and lower rates to their freelance translators.

This business model should automatically fail when good freelance translators simply refuse to work for agencies on this basis and clients start to reject the quality of translations produced by inexperienced and less competent translators. However, we all know that agencies are thriving. So what’s going wrong? I think there are two main factors:

  1. Freelancers succumbing to the pressure to accept lower rates

If freelancers didn’t allow themselves to succumb to the downward price pressure, agencies would be forced to up their game and start competing on quality rather than on price. The fact that freelancers accept very low rates means that they are facilitating the very problem they are complaining about.

  1. False assumptions on the part of clients

One of the saddest things about our industry is the misguided blanket assumption clients often make about translators and our work, e.g.

  • Anyone who can speak a bit of a foreign language can translate = I don’t see why I should pay very much for this service
  • Translations are always full of mistakes = I don’t see why I should pay very much for this service

All of the assumptions we make in life are based on our past experiences. Can you really blame a lawyer for thinking that there are no decent legal translators if he’s tried out 10 different translators and still not got the results he’s after? And can you really blame him for not wanting to pay very much for a translation which he knows in advance will fall well below his quality standards?

Way forward?

If we as freelance translators really want to change the status quo, there would seem to me to be only one way forward. First, we need to stop allowing translation agencies to dictate rates to us. And second, we need to learn to be less emotional about our business decisions so that we don’t feel the need to succumb to downward price pressure, so that we stop seeing ourselves as dependent on translation agencies for our work and so that we become more business-minded. By detaching from the emotional side enough to implement some sound business decisions and carry out some effective marketing of our individual skillsets to direct clients, whilst simultaneously carrying out client education, we can become real competitors for translation agencies.

So the next time you find yourself or hear someone else complaining about the business practices of translation agencies, perhaps you might like to consider or discuss some of these points and think about how you could up your game.

Photo credit: Strategy © Sean MacEntee, http://www.flickr.com

Are you undervaluing yourself? The effects on you, your business and the translation industry

Value

Many translators complain that industry rates are low. They feel forced to lower their rates in order to attract new clients and even to continue to be able to get regular work from their existing clients. Indeed, it is not only translation agencies who are reducing the rates they pay to their freelancer translators, but also direct clients in many sectors. This particularly applies to companies whose internal regulations require them to obtain several price quotes and to go with the cheapest each time.

Language services undervalued

People generally don’t see why they should pay what they consider to be high prices for translation services because everyone has a friend, acquaintance, niece or nephew who did languages at school who could probably help out, or so they think. Unfortunately misconceptions about the skills translation involves continue to be widespread. But not charging what your work is worth only reinforces these misconceptions and beliefs and is not only bad for you and your business but also for the translation industry as a whole.

The downward spiral of underpricing

Not charging and earning the rates you know that you need to survive – not to mention that you know your work is worth – is a sure-fire way to run both yourself and your business into the ground. You will be working long hours, weekends, be neglecting your health and your family and friends and still not be satisfied with the amount of money coming in at the end of the month.

Avoiding the vicious circle

Competing on price is simply not a good idea in an era where there will always be someone somewhere in the world willing to provide what appears on paper to be a similar service for a much lower price. This is a fact we must accept. It is our job to convince our clients that the value we provide to them in terms of the benefits they receive is worth the money they pay. This is a much more sustainable marketing strategy than always trying to undercut the competition on price.

Translations are not commodities

If you are looking for a product and you find the exact same product on two different websites, one much cheaper than the other, then you are likely to plump for the cheaper offer – providing of course that delivery charges, delivery period and service are all comparable with the more expensive offer. Translations, on the other hand, are never exactly the same – but many potential clients are simply not aware of this. If you want to avoid potential clients making a decision solely on the basis of price, you need to explain the benefits the potential client will get for his/her money.

Communicating value

In her international bestselling book, True Worth, How to Charge What You’re Worth and Get It, Vanessa Ugatti, The True Worth Expert, says “Prospective clients will always regard the quote you give as high if you don’t first demonstrate the value of what you do. Without knowing the benefit, they will regard the fee as too high, no matter what fee you offer”.

Without being aware of additional benefits and, in turn, the value you provide, can you really blame prospective clients for comparing quotes on the basis of price alone? It is our responsibility as translators, both freelancers and agencies, in the 21st century to be proactive in turning the tide and helping our clients understand that quality translations by skilled qualified translators have, and indeed should have, their price.

Photo credit: © eef ink Do-not-undervalue-your-work

Marketing to translation agencies

Defining targets differently

Defining Targets Differently © Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

Working with translation agencies

Readers of this blog will know that my focus is on working with direct clients. However, I do recognize that translation agencies have their place. Many translators start out working with translation agencies and some translators choose to continue working primarily with translation agencies throughout their careers. Aspiring specialist translators without any industry experience will likely benefit greatly from working with good agencies that provide constructive feedback, particularly in the early days when they themselves recognize that they still have a lot to learn and are motivated to do so.

Marketing to translation agencies

Marketing to translation agencies is a different kettle of fish to marketing to direct clients but it is marketing nonetheless. I, as a freelance practitioner who does not outsource work, receive many badly written applications from freelance translators every week – I wrote a blog post about this last year which you can find here – so large translation agencies must receive a large number of such applications every day.

Finding agencies suited to your skillset

As a translator my advice would be to refrain from sending out mass applications to large numbers of agencies but to drill down and find those agencies specializing in the fields and languages you yourself specialize in or want to focus on. These will often be smaller boutique agencies and translation companies which have the added advantage of being small enough to be in a position to treat their translators as individuals rather than simply as names in a database.

How to make contact, information to provide

Some agencies have forms on their websites which prospective translators need to fill in. Others ask for applications by email. When emailing translation agencies it is important to specify your language pair(s) and direction(s), your specialist areas and, very importantly, your rates. You are the service provider: translation agencies don’t have to agree to work with you on the basis of the rates you suggest, they may propose or require a rate adjustment as a condition for including you on their list of translators, but you should not let them dictate rates to you either. Be aware of how low you are prepared to go and stick to your guns. You are not destined to work with every potential agency.

Advice from the agency’s perspective

I recently came across this useful Translator’s Guide to Contacting Translation Agencies by Email which Affinity Translation has written about best practices, things to avoid and advanced techniques for contacting translation agencies. The Guide includes advice on what to put in the body of the email, why it is important to differentiate yourself from other translators and why it is essential that your follow up. Perhaps readers of this blog will find it useful.

Tess Whitty’s most recent podcast interview on Marketing Tips for Translators Episode 045: Marketing your translation services to translation companies/agencies, which I listened to this morning, also provides some good advice from a translation company’s perspective. Be sure to check that out too.

 

 

 

 

Regarding disclosure, I have no commercial relationship with the company Affinity Translation of any kind, and provide the above information purely for information purposes.

 

How can niche marketing help translators?

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Photo credit: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

One of the questions I’m always asked by mentees I work with is how to go about identifying prospects and – once identified – how to work out the best person to contact. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a very big fan of specialization and this is always my starting point when answering this question. There are so many advantages of specializing as a translator, some of which I talk about here. In this post, however, I want to look at how specializing can help you with your marketing efforts and, more specifically, at the concept of niche marketing.

Concepts

  • Target market = the entire market which you serve (i.e. (specific types of) businesses/private individuals who need translations in your language pair(s))
  • Niche = the subset of your target market on which you focus your services

What is niche marketing?

An online business dictionary defines “niche marketing” as “concentrating all marketing efforts on a small but specific and well defined segment of the population. Niches to not ‘exist’ but are ‘created’ by identifying needs, wants and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering goods or services to satisfy them. As a strategy, niche marketing is aimed at being a big fish in a small point instead of being a small fish in a big pond.”

In niche marketing then, you take advantage of your specialization and your USP to determine your niche and target your marketing efforts directly to those members of your target market who require the specific services you offer.

What are the advantages of niche marketing?

As you drill down you will find that

the focus group is smaller meaning that it is

  1. easier to identify prospects,
  2. easier to identify suitable contact persons at the prospect,
  3. easier to identify which client events, networks and activities will be the most productive for your marketing efforts.

All this makes marketing much less overwhelming and time-consuming and much more focussed and effective.

On procrastination and productivity

Now later

So it’s now the end of January already! How is your business plan looking? Have you already started making some progress towards your goals or are you still at the planning stage? Are you feeling productive? Or is procrastination the name of the game?

I came across an interesting podcast this week on Beyond The To-Do List in which the host Erik Fischer interviews Chris Bailey about productivity. I would definitely recommend that you check it out because it contains some very useful insights. For instance, did you know that there are 7 key attributes that tasks have which make us more likely to procrastinate?

These are if the task

1) is boring

2) is frustrating

3) is difficult

4) lacks personal meaning

5) lacks intrinsic rewards

6) is ambiguous

7) is unstructured.

Think about some of the things which have been on your to-do list for a while. Do any of them have any of these attributes? If so, it’s not surprising that you haven’t got round to tackling them yet.

So what can we do about it?

My personal way of dealing with these issues would be to try to work out why the particular attribute applies to the task concerned and to work out a strategy to combat the attribute which, in turn, should combat the problem. For example, if the task

1) is boring – consider how you could make it more interesting. What about working on the task in tandem with a colleague and checking on each other’s progress?

2) is frustrating – try to work out why you find it frustrating – are you trying to do too much at once? Could you break the task down into smaller, more manageable components?

3) is difficult – why is it difficult? Are you trying to start off a step too high up the ladder? Do you need to go back a step and rethink your plan of action? Do you need to find a mentor?

4) lacks personal meaning – look at the larger picture. What is it you are trying to achieve and how does this one task fit into that picture?

5) lacks intrinsic rewards – I think this applies to a lot of the marketing we do as freelancers. Often there does not appear to be a direct, clear or immediate correlation between the time we spend on marketing activities and the new clients we acquire. Again look at the larger picture, these tasks do pay off long-term. And don’t forget to consider the consequences of not doing them. Perhaps that is enough motivation in itself?

6) is ambiguous – why is it ambiguous? Make sure you write down the individual steps which you need to take to reach your goal.

7) is unstructured – again it will be difficult to get started on something if you haven’t yet ascertained the first step. Write down the individual steps you need to take to reach your goal.

For further tactics for dealing with procrastination have a look at this article by Chris Bailey.