How many competitors do we actually have?

6 May

The main question is not the figure, which tells you nothing. Does it help you to know that you have 100 of them? It surely doesn`t. The fact that all these 100 people work in your language pair does not make them your competitors. As a result, the question of quantity becomes the question of quality of your competitors. Not all of them is your competition: (i) not all of them work in your area of specialization, and/or (ii) not all of them have the experience you have, and/or (iii) not all of these people have credentials you have, and/or (iv) not all of these translators have the clientele you have helping you reject “give-me-your-best-rate” projects, and/or (v) only some of them have a website/blog (i.e. stand out in the crowd), and/or (vi) only a tiny number of these service providers have marketing skills necessary for getting new clients, and/or (vii) not all of these translators will offer the price your clients want (sometimes this factor is the first one in terms of importance), etc. The list is virtually endless. Try to come up with your own characteristics, if you like.

By the way, this is why it is impossible to say who is the BEST translator in this language pair (some claim they are, which is an obviously absurd statement), since too many factors and characteristics should be taken into account (see above). If you take any other factor from the list (say, language pair + area of specialization), you still won`t be able to name this best expert, although your choice will be narrowed down to several dozens of specialists. Then you will take other factors – price, age (why not? A reflection of experience), etc.

In other words, it is completely wrong to try to size up your competition by simply running a directory search at, for example. First of all, a vast majority of people there are bottom-feeders (especially non-paying members). Do you want to consider them your competition? I don`t. Most of them will disappear within a year or less, or will be replaced by newcomers.

But do we have to reject the very notion of competition? Of course, not. But it is this unique mixture of your characteristics as a translation specialist that lets you stand out in the crowd. Don`t overestimate your competitors. Moreover, we don`t need 100 clients to be successful freelancers (that was a real revelation to me!). And, given the bursting effect of data volume virtually doubling every year on-line that can`t be processed by MT tools, you can (absolutely justifiably) take much less care about the competition.

2 Responses to “How many competitors do we actually have?”

  1. Marco Diaz February 8, 2017 at 08:01 #

    Thank you for this uplifting article. I say this as a translator who works in one of the most common language pairs, which is English to Spanish. As the years go by, and the more I specialize in the legal field, I can relate to some of the intuitions and feelings you express in this article. It’s good to learn more about like-minded peers in our profession.

    • Vadim Kadyrov May 5, 2017 at 13:26 #

      Sure, but nothing can compare to the English-Russian language pair, believe me )))

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