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 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.


Advantages of Working with More than One Screen

It took me quite a while to get from the idea of trying out a multi-screen set-up to actually implementing it this summer. I think I thought it would be more complicated to set up than it actually was and I’m so glad I had a go because it was really straight-forward and the additional screen has revolutionised the way I work.

Advantages of Working with More than One Screen

  1. Working with more than one screen increases productivity (providing you use it sensibly – if you tend to get distracted and use your second screen for social media or private e-mails, your productivity is likely to decrease, however).
  2. If you work with more than one program, which translators normally do, you can have your main program (CAT tool or word processing program) open on your main screen and use your second screen for internet research or reference documentation. The second screen stops you having to toggle between windows or having to resize all of your windows to fit everything you want to see at once on one screen.
  3. Putting later source text amendments and additions into the target text is a doddle with two screens. I often used to end up having to print out the source text for this type of work. Using two screens allows you to have both documents open at full size and to easily copy and paste between documents.

There are lots of online step-by-step guides which show you how to set up an additional screen and once you are up and running you can simply drag windows between the two screens. The best thing, in my view, is the fact that each program remembers where it was last open and so opens on the screen and in the position it was in the last time you used it.

I would say that, for me at least, having two screens (of whatever size) is a definite improvement on having one large screen. It has reduced, by far, the number of times I have to click on different tabs and has definitely greatly increased my productivity.

Book recommendation for those who read German


Today I’d like to recommend a book for those of you who read German called “Online-Marketing für freiberufliche Übersetzer” by Britta Fischenich which she recently published based on her MA dissertation. Her book gives a clear overview of the online marketing possibilities for freelancer translators, discusses the results of a survey of freelance translators she carried out to determine the status quo and suggests ways freelance translators can easily improve their online presence and visibility. Since most freelance translators have a very limited marketing budget and online marketing can be free and also extremely effective, in my view this book is a definite must-read for all freelance translators who are serious about building and growing their businesses.

For a summary in German and more Information about purchasing her book take a look at her website:

Free webinars for freelance translators

As freelance translators we should always be trying to increase our knowledge and improve our skills and I’m not only talking about our language skills or the specialist knowledge we need to be able to translate well in our specialist areas. We also need the skills required to run a successful business and those skills aren’t necessarily taught as part of degree programmes. There are, of course, lots of seminars available which we can attend. Sometimes, however, when you just have an unexpected free hour to spare between translation assignments, a free pre-recorded webinar might be just the ticket.

Where can I find free webinars?

SDL has lots of pre-recorded webinars on their site and they are by no means restricted to Trados and CAT Tools. I can highly recommend Judy Jenner’s “5 Habits of Highly Successful Translators” and am looking forward to finding the time to listen to Louisa Stockley’s “Freelancers Guide to LinkedIn” myself soon. Here’s the link: