Archive | February, 2014

Have you ever been told that you rates are suspiciously low?

26 Feb

Have you ever been told that you rates are suspiciously low?

I have never been told this. But this week I was contacted by one translation agency from Spain. Although it was a generic email requesting people to send their quotes (I don`t like answering these emails), I sent my generic reply stating my rates range– just in case.

In fact, I landed the job. This was not too surprising. What surprised me more was the following sentence: “We have received more than one hundred offers (some of them ridiculously expensive, and some others suspiciously cheap to be considered).”

Once again, I don`t like being told that I was selected from 50 people, because it inevitably leads to price competition among translators. This is the main reason I don`t usually reply to generic emails. But the thing is that even these agencies sending emails to a lot of translators do not always look for the cheapest ones (for a lot of translators this may be a kind of revelation). Moreover, it turns out that there is only a tiny percentage of agencies which exclusively hunt for  the best/most competitive rates, while paying absolutely no attention to the experience and/or expertise of translators.

It all means that almost every translation agency (and, of course, every direct client) do not look for the cheapest service providers. What they are looking for are translators with certain level of expertise and rates these agencies can afford. Which in its turn means that you can`t “guess” their price range – you have to have your range of prices set before you start marketing your business. And this range has to be within generally accepted ranges of translation rates. Because sale of your expertise for lower rates will always raise questions.

Translator management strategies for translation agencies

11 Feb

During the last week I was actively engaged in translating Harvard Business Review articles for one of my clients. I would like to make a comment here. The main reason I translate is because this activity pays off – both in terms of money and in terms of getting new and (sometimes) thrilling information.

This translation project was definitely a very valuable experience. The thing is that Harvard Business Review is a very respected publication. Every article there is a precious stone for any businessman, marketer, investor, etc. While people tend to read any piece of information once or twice, translators, on the other hand, usually do this up to ten times before they are able to formulate a sentence in the target language. And that is a true blessing in disguise!

The article I am going to refer to is called “Talent Management for the Twenty-First Century” ( ) by Peter Cappelli. Quote: “At its heart, talent management is simply a matter of anticipating the need for human capital and then setting out a plan to meet it.” He describes three options when facing the challenge of getting (key) talents for any American company: 1) you just do nothing, i.e. no talent management system is available, 2) you hire an excess of managers to literally  park people on a bench until opportunities became available (so-called internal development strategy), and 3) you “resort” to recruiting talents away (as one CEO in the article said, “Why should we develop people when our competitors are willing to do it for us?”)

Well, the author insists that these three models are outdated and now dead. But before we go on and compare them to strategies used by buyers of translation services (well, agencies), let me outline, in brief, the model the author suggests.

Well, the first model is not a model actually. We do not seriously consider it. Peter Cappelli, on the other hand, suggests that corporations combine two models using forecasts of demand on talents for a year or so. In case you see you will need 100 managers, you then develop 85 of them internally, and in case the actual need is 100 managers or slightly more, you will than hire the rest outside.

Let`s now extrapolate the findings to the translation industry. You don’t necessarily have to employ in-house translators. Instead, you have to cooperate with the number of freelancers that will allow you to cover, say, 85% of demand (by language pairs, ideally). The rest can be hired in case of “emergency” outside.

Although this is not rocket science, a lot of other thrilling conclusions can be drawn from this simple notion. You just have to brainstorm the idea, taking also into account the nature of freelancing.

But that will be another article.

Have a nice day!