Business, rates, Translation

Business as usual

piazzale romaI live 800 meters from the beach. Not the most beautiful one, quite famous though in Italy due to its VIP status in the 60’s.
Not too many VIP anymore, nowadays Riccione is a good place for a stag party or to pass a night in one of the beautiful discotheques.
The town lives from the tourist. There are over one hundred hotels and you can find restaurants on every corner. Awfully big conference center and 4D movie theatre – on the left –cinepalace and many other things, which usually can not be found in a 10 thousand dweller town. We have from everything one more than enough.
Since I live here I take very seriously my share of helping the local economy and the local people to survive. The last decade with the economic crisis is visible everywhere, also in Riccione. I choose to buy in small shops, possibly avoid buying at the big supermarkets and try to build up a relationship with the owner of these places, to understand, what they go through, to remain sensible that the shop helps people to survive, just like my business helps me. I know, how hard it is for some of them, when a new regulation comes, which from all of a sudden changes the severity with which their products might be sold. Regulations are important, so are people’s life though.

My situation in this town is very unique. I can freelance really calmly, I do not pay rent – my partner owns the flat – I have no car, no mortgage, no kids, no expenses really, except for the bottle of wine, which I grant myself regularly.

My business flourishes and it goes every day just better and better. This year I paid so much taxes from which a person could live off for a year (Imagine, how much I earned. And yes, I am very proud of it).

The money, which remains after taxes goes back into my activity. I started to participate on conferences, buy books about translation and how to run a business, I have up to date hardware and software. I invest into memberships in several translators associations, I want to become more and better. This year, ATA was my new investment.
Being an ATA member doesn’t mean, you also are certified by them as a translator. By paying you pretty much can get anything from them, but the certification. This was something I really wanted to try, being certified by this association would mean a lot to me. Not just because there are about 10 people in my language combination, who made it, so being one of them would be like living in a different dimension, but also for myself, to show, how good I really am.
Since at BP14 I had the opportunity to sit their exam, I decided to try it (for not less than 225 $ membership, 35 $ for eligibility test (they had to examine, if I am eligible to take the exam), 100 $ for practice tests – 2 pieces -, 300 $ exam fee). I haven’t passed.

Yesterday, when I read the “I regret to inform you blabla”, I was shocked. I immediately thought I would be the worst translator ever, it was just throwing away money to get it written on paper.

Then I thought about how much I earn doing what I am certified at not doing well.

Is it possible that no-one ever reads my translations and I am just lucky enough to pass by every time and get paid since years from the same clients? (Mainly I do manuals, now come on, how many times, after you buy a product, you search for the manual and are keen to go back to the producer to report that in the third sentence there was an inconsistency error?) But come on again, just last week I got a feedback email from a client who said that the end-client said my translation would be excellent. Yes, they used this word: excellent.)

I immediately said the result to my friend who is one of the best translators I’ve ever known and who helped me to prepare for this exam. She read and corrected all my translations for months (certainly I paid her, it is a job, friends or not friends). She responded to me saying, she’d be sorry and this news just completes her bad day, since she would struggle getting her money from the clients she worked for, which is going on since almost a year and although she loves translating and this business, she thinks to give it up, because she is never liquid enough.

Now get this. There is me, who has money and does not get certified, and there is she, who can translate and survives by the gratitude of her clients, who finally pay her for jobs, she obviously had to send off accurately meeting a deadline.

This just brings me back to Riccione, when heading home from the beach I stepped by at my optician to buy new sunglasses, since I am not able to read at the beach without. He said me the same thing: he comes from Switzerland, learnt the profession there and is pretty good at it, but thinks to move away from Riccione, because he doesn’t sell enough to survive. He is not able to sell enough sunglasses in an Italian city, right at the beach (and normal glasses too). So what counts, when you run a business?

Am I on the side where the big names with no quality sail? Is it, where I want to be? Have I found the right place to be at or should I –raise my prices//change my clients//stand up more for the right of the single translator– more than I already do and sit over a sentence for an hour, just because in that way I would lean more towards quality and care less about money? Is a financially healthy business, without certification healthy at all? Does quality and money exclude each other? Where is the balance between doing it for money and doing it good?

I have so many questions I struggle asking them all…and, more importantly I have no time to think about it all since today as for the rest of the month: I have lot of projects to work on.


Business, Linguistics, Uncategorized

In the jungle

I started my campaign of increasing my prices.

Before you think, how easy it is and come with the ideological s***t, what I just posted last week, I can tell you, there are few and very important problems, when you increase your prices:

1. an agency has more than one of you. Literally you are interchangeable with other translators. There is no agency, who only keeps one translator in a language pair and this for obvious reasons. Neither there is a translator working for only one agency, I think, or if, than that translator certainly has another occupation.

2. you are not the first person, who wanted to change the cards on the table. Vendor managers – yes, for those people there is a name, they are the vendor managers – are used to get emails from translators saying: “I want to have more from the marmalade jar”.

3. you might think, you are sure, when you want to increase your prices, until you get the responses from your outsourcers, who then make you feel, like the most fortunate to be their slave and this is good so, so please shu-up and labor!

I had sent my new year’s resolution emails to my outsourcers.

No-one accepted my increase. Truly, not one agency said: you are right, sure, no worries, sorry, we used you this way. What they did say?

1. We can’t accept your decision to increase your rate to <my_new_rate>. Your <previous_even_lower_rate> was your advance. If you increase your rate, you lose this advance and our PM-s will give the jobs to other translators, because the quality will be the same.

Well…I truly had no idea, how to respond. It was like being punched into the stomach on the day of your worst hangover. You not only confirm to me, that I work for less, than the majority of your translators, but you also confirm, that the only reason, you chose me was not, because I am pretty the best, you can get in the specialty  fields, you work in, but only because you pay me less, than the others? Than a figure comes, which gives me an overview, that I got through them so much money, so if I increase instead of my newly proposed rate only with the half of the amount, I still will even get lot more money, than I got this year and this is the only thing, they can offer me.

The figure was right, don’t get me wrong, but the way, how they got here, was wrong. I can’t possibly work for a low rate, because with this low rate, working 12 hours a day, having my computer all-over-the-time on my back(pack), I get a lot of money. I want to do quality! I need time to think, it is not like assembling a chair from IKEA. What I actually do, requires time and a working mind! I am still perplexed about their response.

But here another one:

2. Thank you for your email, I forwarded it to our boss. Until (s)he gets back to you, could you please proofread for us 220 words for 1 euro?

I was crawling from laughing. I know, why she asked me to do this. Because the girl, who proofreads by them also gave them the goodbye letter. You imagine 220 words for just 1 euro? I told them my rate again and they told me, I would be too expensive, they can’t afford to work with me. Strangely this agency just has sent out to its translators a beautiful email about having taken important steps (conformity to some industry standards, new image, new website, more important international clients) to move from a small translation agency to one of the monster agencies on the market. So what, you grow on my shoulders, but I should get a single euro for working?

The last is the best:

3. Thank you for your email. If you consider to work for these rates, I hope, you understand, that we need to give you other type of work too. In this first step, please do a translation into a foreign language. We will provide a native proofreader. (and after I refused to do this translation into a foreign language, they said:) I hope, you understand how easy task this would have been for you. You just would had to translate, the native proofer will do the main job.

I couldn’t believe it. I question my ability to find good agencies. If I worked for people, who really treat me like this to follow their own interest, what should I wait from agencies, who I will work for? I sent out some applications, no answer yet. Today I continue hunting. wish me luck!