Translation rates, quality and experience: a “golden” combination

19 Dec

This new blog post will be about a “golden” combination of rates, quality and experience. Although a lot of things have been already said and written, my case is quite unique, since I didn’t pay attention to things I speak about frequently.

Generally speaking, people tend to ask for referrals. Although I don’t like to compare translators to plumbers, I will now do exactly that.

Last year I bought a car (a used one actually). As any car owner, I soon realized that certain parts started to vanish (someone unscrewed the fuel tank lead, etc.). The first thing I thought about was to just drive to the closest car service center where experts would take care of my six-year-old car. But it was obvious (for me only, as it turned out) that the price would be twice higher than the price offered by self-trained (and single) amateurs.

So I called my friend who had a very old Soviet car. As far as I saw, he managed to breathe new life into this scrap (I think you all saw similar shows on TV).

I asked him to refer me to any electrician who could help me install the equipment. Well, the first impression was quite standard. You see a man in dirty clothes, with dirt and litter all around in the garage.

The next moment he takes your car and your keys, driving you to the next semi-legal “trade center” where sneaky dealers sell you any car parts almost under the counter. A very unpleasant picture. Okay, it was my choice.

All went well. I paid the price and went off. Real problems started about two months ago. First the lamps stopped flashing when the anti-theft system was activated. Then the rear left door could not be locked any more. It is only natural that the “expert” whom I called the next day did not want to see or hear me.

Finally I had to go to a car service centre and pay extra money for maintenance. In the end I summed up two amounts and realized that I paid a standard rate of any car service centre in my city. They told me it was absolutely his fault, since he did not fixed one wire which was critical to the operation of the equipment.

What lessons did this situation teach me?

First, you have to put quality before price. This is a very important remark, otherwise such situations will occur more frequently. As one translator put it, translation budgets are a tiny fraction of overall product launch budgets, for instance. So there is no sense in haggling over 10-15 cents per word, since this would still be a very tiny amount compared to the quality loss you could face.

Second, people who don’t market themselves (in my case – people who don’t care about their impression they leave on the clients) ain’t experts. They are amateurs, sometimes quite talented ones. They don’t market themselves properly, which means they have only one differentiator – P-R-I-C-E. Which in its turn means that they are destined to stay in these dirty garages for the whole life.

And third, I’m very grateful for this lesson. I would have never written this article if my anti-theft system had worked properly.

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