The Freelancer’s Journal: 5 Reasons Why Low Translation Rates Are Hurting Your Freelance Business

It seems obvious.

To get a foot in the door, newbies have to beat the competition.

Low translation rates make your freelance service more affordable, allowing you to snap up more new clients.

It’s basic economics, isn’t it?

Well, no. Not exactly.

In fact, low translation rates are hurting your business. Let me explain.


  1. You can’t provide quality work when you’re under pressure to translate in bulk.

Okay, great, so the orders are coming. But how are you going to be able to work effectively when you have to turn out several thousand words per day?

The answer is you can’t. At least not sustainably.

Sooner or later you’ll rush a translation, deliver gobble-de-gook and perhaps even burn out. And of course, you’ll lose your clients.


  1. Professionalism doesn’t come cheap. And clients know it.

If you’re offering your services for less than half what others in the industry are charging, questions are going to be raised.

Is the translator not worth the market rate? Are they not familiar with their own industry? Can we trust them?

If you’re good at what you do, you should charge the rate you’re worth. This way you can sustainably commit yourself to each project you receive and produce the quality your clients expect.


  1. You neglect the other sides to your business.

Translators don’t just translate. We’re often also our own marketers, sales representatives and accountants.

If you fret over how little you’re earning. You’re not going to be able to afford to spend time developing your brand, reaching out to higher quality clients or optimising your business.

This results in a vicious circle: you focus purely on translating in order to make up for your low rates, and because of your low rates, you can only spend time translating instead of improving your service and acquiring better clients, which in turn makes it harder to raise your rates.


  1. Say hello to the ‘bottom feeders’.

The translation industry is roughly split in two. The first group of translators are specialised in their field and charge accordingly high, but fair rates.

The second group charge extremely low rates and help support the so-called ‘bottom feeders’: commercially savvy, yet unsustainable translation agencies that pay a pittance for your work. Many argue that this kind of work is the bane of the translation industry as a whole as it undercuts the professionals.

Personally, I argue that clients want quality. In the long-run, clients are only going to get this from the first group. And there are many perfectly professional translation agencies you can work with.

What do you want to deliver? Quantity or quality?


  1. You have to invest in yourself.

Low rates will not allow you to continually improve your service.

While some CAT tools are free, the best and most professional ones can be relatively expensive, and that’s before you consider any of your other office needs.

The life of a freelancer can all too easily become unstructured and lead to stagnation. To avoid this, you ought to continually seek further training and professional advice.

Unless you charge the rates that are fair for your work, you will not be able to devote the time you need to invest in yourself.


What are your experiences with pricing in the translation industry? Have any more points to add? I’d be glad to hear from you!

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