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What stops translators from thriving?
Thread poster: Andrew Morris

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
May 31

We’re surrounded by tips, courses and blogs on how to succeed as a translator. The information is out there in a million forms.

The clients are also out there, as we know from our own experience and that of others. There are, it seems, still plenty to go round.

So what are the issues that are holding so many translators back from thriving?

Simple lack of quality? Is it that easy? Do the best translators always end up with the most clients, the most wor
... See more
We’re surrounded by tips, courses and blogs on how to succeed as a translator. The information is out there in a million forms.

The clients are also out there, as we know from our own experience and that of others. There are, it seems, still plenty to go round.

So what are the issues that are holding so many translators back from thriving?

Simple lack of quality? Is it that easy? Do the best translators always end up with the most clients, the most work, the highest levels of professional and personal satisfaction?

Anecdotal evidence would suggest not, but I'd be interested to hear your take on this...
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Vadim Kadyrov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 05:07
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
What is "thriving"? May 31

We have to define the verb "to thrive" first.

missdutch
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Challenge accepted! May 31

Vadim Kadyrov wrote:

We have to define the verb "to thrive" first.


Ok here's a rough spontaneous definition:

Have enough money coming in to lead the life that makes you happy
Have enough clients to be able to choose texts that you enjoy (and either reject or outsource the rest)
Have enough time to breathe, not to be translating all day every day without a break
Have the freedom to make more general choices about when, how and with whom to work
Feel generally satisfied with where you are professionally and personally...

Can we work with that?


missdutch
Henry Dotterer
Christine Andersen
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Matheus Chaud
Abril Luhan
 

Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 04:07
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
Lack of business skills May 31

A major reason, I believe, is that many translators don’t realize how important the business aspect is. At least that’s the impression I get when I read different forums. It is not enough "just" to be a skilled translator in order to be able to do well in our profession, we also have to be able to negotiate, market ourselves, plan and manage all paperwork effectively. As in any other enterprise. 😊

Andrew Morris
Teresa Borges
DZiW
Kevin Fulton
John Fossey
JPAlex
Sheila Wilson
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
100% May 31

Vera Schoen wrote:

A major reason, I believe, is that many translators don’t realize how important the business aspect is. At least that’s the impression I get when I read different forums. It is not enough "just" to be a skilled translator in order to be able to do well in our profession, we also have to be able to negotiate, market ourselves, plan and manage all paperwork effectively. As in any other enterprise. 😊


Personally I couldn't agree more, although I've come across many people (including here) who dismiss all that, and insist that it's just the pristine quality of your work that counts...


Martino Dibeltulo Concu
Abril Luhan
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 03:07
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I don't know May 31

If I consider your spontaneous definitions:
Have enough money coming in to lead the life that makes you happy:
Yes
Have enough clients to be able to choose texts that you enjoy (and either reject or outsource the rest):
Yes
Have enough time to breathe, not to be translating all day every day without a break:
Yes (though not always to be fair)
Have the freedom to make more general choices about when, how and with whom to work:
Yes
Feel genera
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If I consider your spontaneous definitions:
Have enough money coming in to lead the life that makes you happy:
Yes
Have enough clients to be able to choose texts that you enjoy (and either reject or outsource the rest):
Yes
Have enough time to breathe, not to be translating all day every day without a break:
Yes (though not always to be fair)
Have the freedom to make more general choices about when, how and with whom to work:
Yes
Feel generally satisfied with where you are professionally and personally:
Yes
So, according to your definitions it looks like I’m successful, though I don’t picture myself as successful, all I wanted to do was be good at my job and earn enough money to raise my kids. Job done!
Why others can’t thrive? I don’t know, but the fact that everybody thinks that translating is easy might play a role…
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Kevin Fulton
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Change the story? May 31

Teresa Borges wrote:

So, according to your definitions it looks like I’m successful, though I don’t picture myself as successful, all I wanted to do was be good at my job and earn enough money to raise my kids. Job done!


Well then maybe it's time to change the way you picture yourself


Thomas Pfann
Vera Schoen
Barbara Sickor
 

Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:07
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Being successful and not seeing it May 31

Teresa Borges wrote:
So, according to your definitions it looks like I’m successful, though I don’t picture myself as successful, all I wanted to do was be good at my job and earn enough money to raise my kids. Job done!


Teresa, you say you don't picture yourself as successful yet at the same time you also say you achieved all your goals. What could be more successful than achieving your goals?


Andrew Morris
Sheila Wilson
Kay Denney
missdutch
Valentina Pecchiar
Barbara Sickor
Olavo Nogueira
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 03:07
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No change May 31

Andrew Morris wrote:

Teresa Borges wrote:

So, according to your definitions it looks like I’m successful, though I don’t picture myself as successful, all I wanted to do was be good at my job and earn enough money to raise my kids. Job done!


Well then maybe it's time to change the way you picture yourself


I'm not going to change now, I'm too old to change my ways...


Jorge Payan
 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 04:07
Member (2016)
English to German
The market situation May 31

I'm still rather new to the game but it seems to me that the market situation is the decisive factor here. The translation market is extremely segmented: every language pair/direction is a market in itself, and within every pair, every specialization is a market. And then, the quality you deliver also puts you in a certain market segment; let's face it, there is a market for high quality translation as well as for low quality translation. Clients who are unwilling to pay anything are prepared to... See more
I'm still rather new to the game but it seems to me that the market situation is the decisive factor here. The translation market is extremely segmented: every language pair/direction is a market in itself, and within every pair, every specialization is a market. And then, the quality you deliver also puts you in a certain market segment; let's face it, there is a market for high quality translation as well as for low quality translation. Clients who are unwilling to pay anything are prepared to accept lousy machine translation, clients who are stingy or lack enough funds are willing to accept amateur quality translations, and only clients who depend on professional quality and who have big enough pockets are willing to pay professional rates.

For the individual translator, everything depends on which of these market segments you are in, and the relation of supply and demand in these market segments. Correct me if I'm wrong, but languages with a high worldwide population of speakers in countries with below average incomes (Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Chinese...?) seem to attract a lot of people seeking a career in freelance translation, so that the competition on the supply side is very fierce here, and the individual translator can do next to nothing in order to thrive, because there is always someone ready to undercut them. In other languages with a smaller population of speakers, and spoken in countries with above average incomes (Japanese, German...?) the market situation can be reversed, demand is higher than supply, and as an individual translator you should be able to thrive no matter what, as long as you don't make any real mistakes.

By acquiring specializations and other skills that put you in market segments with less competition, you can always improve your situation, but I believe that the chances in certain language combinations will always be better than in others.
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Andrew Morris
missdutch
Michele Fauble
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Robert Rietvelt
 

Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Bravery to attempt to go to the next level - grit and perseverance needed to move from A to infinity May 31

Hey Andrew,

I've thought the exact same thing. What is stopping people?

Some observations:

Regarding the certified translator community, I never expected to meet so many part timers, people who say "oh, there's not enough work out there", "I don't trust those online scammers", "The time zones don't suit my schedule" or "I don't work for less than 0.25/word!". They come up with these excuses, rather than making an attempt! They might have hea
... See more
Hey Andrew,

I've thought the exact same thing. What is stopping people?

Some observations:

Regarding the certified translator community, I never expected to meet so many part timers, people who say "oh, there's not enough work out there", "I don't trust those online scammers", "The time zones don't suit my schedule" or "I don't work for less than 0.25/word!". They come up with these excuses, rather than making an attempt! They might have heard of ProZ.com, may even have a profile but are completely inactive yet complain that it doesn't work for them.

Another big factor: Many try to juggle translation with raising children, which in itself is a full-time job!

DJH
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Andrew Morris
Kay Denney
missdutch
Anna Jenman
Robert Rietvelt
Barbara Sickor
Leah Kim
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 03:07
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
@Thomas May 31

Thomas Pfann wrote:

Teresa Borges wrote:
So, according to your definitions it looks like I’m successful, though I don’t picture myself as successful, all I wanted to do was be good at my job and earn enough money to raise my kids. Job done!


Teresa, you say you don't picture yourself as successful yet at the same time you also say you achieved all your goals. What could be more successful than achieving your goals?


Probably it’s not a bad thing as it keeps me going for more. Anyway, I'm not going to change now, I'm too old to change my ways...


 

Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:07
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Nothing stops translators from thriving May 31

Most (if not all) translators I know do thrive. But, of course, as in all professions, there will always be some who will be unsuccessful, unhappy or dissatisfied – ie. not thriving. I think this is always down to the individual's personality rather than some generic hurdles.

John Fossey
Teresa Borges
Fiona Grace Peterson
Andrew Morris
Anastasia Naoumi
 

Andrew Morris
ProZ.com team
TOPIC STARTER
Never too old May 31

Teresa Borges wrote:

Probably it’s not a bad thing as it keeps me going for more. Anyway, I'm not going to change now, I'm too old to change my ways...


I would only accept that argument if you were 110 years old. Which I suspect you're not.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 03:07
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I'm not 110 years old... May 31

Andrew Morris wrote:

Teresa Borges wrote:

Probably it’s not a bad thing as it keeps me going for more. Anyway, I'm not going to change now, I'm too old to change my ways...


I would only accept that argument if you were 110 years old. Which I suspect you're not.


... I still have 33 years ahead of me...


 
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