Direct clients over Internet? Why not?

15 Aug

(This was a comment to a blog post by Corinne McKay – Agencies won’t pay my rates, and I can’t find direct clients”: what to do?)

What about this kind of situation: rates acceptable in the country where I live (Ukraine) are sometime 8-10 times lower than the rates paid even by Indian and/or Chinese translation agencies. In order to be precise, I have just visited a web-site of one of numerous translation agencies in the city of Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine). 70 UAH per page of EN-RU translation, which is about 0,009 USD per word (now imagine how much a translator will get in this case). Actually, the same situation is in almost any other country of the ex-USSR (it would take too much time to tell you why, and it is not only about GDP-per-capita indices of these countries).

Which means that direct clients here will never accept something as high as 0,1 USD per word (which is 11(!) times higher than the number above offered by a translation agency – a company with several project managers and dozens of freelancers ready to offer their help).

Which in its turn means that once you start working with translation agencies in Europe or the US (thanks to proz, or similar platforms), you will no longer accept those ridiculous rates local market offers you. In other words, you just don`t have both direct and “indirect” clients here ready to pay you the rates even the most, well, “greedy” Western agencies can offer you (ca. 0,06 USD).

In other words, there is no way back. In order to raise your rates, you have now to look for direct clients in the US, Western Europe, etc. Which is not an easy task. Some businesses (like IT startups, video game producers) are accustomed to working with people living thousands of miles away. But the general attitude is not very favorable. It is just too risky to hire a freelancer living in a country you heard about only a couple of times.

I have managed to come up with several marketing ideas – talking to my colleagues located in these countries (I now have several translators who outsource me their projects regularly). Another strategy I made use of was a direct mail campaign to some 100 companies abroad who cooperate heavily with Russians (no leads for now, but that was a nice try, I think). Google Ads – well, it is good for highly commoditized products, but it is almost useless for sophisticated services like translation.

BTW, that is exactly why I am shocked to hear translators living in, say, in Canada who “just can`t find (direct) clients”.

Well, I mean, as Corinne puts it, you have to change your mindset first. There is always a way out – just notice the pains one has to take in order to get some direct clients here.


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