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Five Reasons Translators Should Ask to Get

In the previous post about applying the “Ask and you shall receive” principle to our trade, I suggested it was essential to ask for the price you consider fair every time, even if it seems high. Now, let’s look more closely at some ideas why finding the courage to ask for what you want is a good business decision.

1. First and foremost, if you realize that by accepting a rate imposed by a client, you’ll only break even or sustain a loss on a project, what’s the point of doing that project? If you know that your hour is worth X dollars, why spend your time working at 0.7X or 0.5X? Isn’t your time better spent on doing or looking for more lucrative work? This is not to say that you can’t reduce your rates once in a while, e.g. by providing a discount. A discount is okay as long as it’s reasonable, simply reflecting the value of previous or future business from a specific client.

2. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive what you deserve. If you work for translation agencies a lot, this normally means that you agreed upon what’s called a basic rate. The agency saves this basic rate in their database and applies it to each job—irregardless of how challenging this job is. It’s then extremely easy for you to forget to offer a higher rate when necessary. And as you continue working with a specific agency, you gradually convince yourself that it’s completely inappropriate to ask for anything higher than the basic rate. Because people feel they need to be consistent, asking for a higher rate after you completed 20 or 30 jobs at the basic rate becomes an unsurmountable task. You can avoid this trap by remembering that you set your own rates and everything is negotiable.

3. Each time you accept a low price, you harm yourself and other market players by leading your client to believe a low price is the norm. Next time, you’ll find it more difficult to request a higher price because your client will think they can get translation much cheaper. As you lower your rates, your self-esteem will decrease as well and you’ll be finding it increasingly harder to speak up and ask for more.

4. Don’t rush to offer an outrageously low rate for a large project just because it’s a big amount of money even at a low rate. I believe that even if the total amount looks extremely tempting, it’s best to assess a big potential project objectively. I do realize that not thinking about how nice this amount will look on a cheque might be brutally hard as I’m speaking from experience here—I used to be ridiculous myself in the early days of my career. I remember quoting an unbelievably low price of €0.01 for a project because of the staggering volume of 800,000 words. That quote was so ludicrous that even the client was dumbfounded and asked in disbelief whether I gave the right price. If I were them, I’d run away as fast as I could from a vendor like me because trusting a translation of that size to someone who quotes ridiculous prices is beyond unwise. Since then, we’ve made immense progress in this regard and now take it easy when we lose a large project because we can’t negotiate the rate we want.

5. One of the biggest temptations to accept whatever price is offered is when you’re on the “famine” side of the “feast or famine” situation. Not receiving a good translation job in weeks or months can bring any translator down, making them eager to accept whatever comes their way irregardless of the price. When a long-awaited project hits the inbox, you’re quick to dismiss the financial alarm going off in your head with something like “A low-paid work is better than no work at all” or “Who cares, at least I’ll be working… finally.” Although I do realize the following advice isn’t applicable in all situations, I generally recommend not to let this factor influence your decision about accepting a project. I’d rather wait for a better-paying project and pursue some other line of work or just work on myself in the meantime. If you put quality first and select your areas of specialization carefully, I bet you’ll attract good clients. To reassure you: since the beginning of this year, I’ve been closely monitoring all English to Russian translation jobs announced at, and it’s impossible not to notice that agencies offering low rates keep coming back with the same jobs or new projects, especially when these jobs are difficult. It’s a challenge to find an excellent translator even for a good price, let alone for what they’re offering. This means that if you’re an excellent translator in the “famine” situation, you don’t have to panic. Finding great customers is just a matter of time and patience. Accepting projects at low rates while you’re waiting for better-paying clients won’t help you achieve your financial goals and become a respected translation professional.

Do you agree that it’s only by asking that you can get what you want as a translator? Please share your opinion in the comments below.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.