Last year I was contacted by an agency offering me to work on a localization project for a travel portal. The PM mentioned that they had already translated several hundred thousand words for this client, but they kept getting regular updates and hence were looking for EN>RU translators. Since translations for travel industry is something I love working on, I readily agreed and sent them my CV and my rates.
Sadly I never got to hear from them again. I’m not sure why. Maybe the rate was too high, or maybe the project manager had too much to do and then my email got buried under dozens of client requests and job applications.
Anyway, last week I got a request from an old agency client. They wanted me to translate a text for the same travel portal, which obviously meant that the end client had switched from one agency to another.
This made me wonder: why would someone change a service provider after working on such a huge project together?
I see three reasons for this:
- The first agency stops operations altogether and the client is left with no one to translate their content
- There are quality issues
- The client wants to reduce costs and decides to find a supplier who offers the same services for a lower price
The first two reasons are fully legitimate and the only way out of these unpleasant situations is to look for a new supplier.
The third reason is a little bit more tricky. While I understand the desire to cut down expenses doing so with regard to translation services is rarely a good decision. Here’s why:
Your brand voice
Even if somebody offers you a lower price, think twice before accepting it. The reason is simple: your translator knows your product and the voice of your brand.
And I’m talking about the translator and not an agency, because it’s always the translator who does the job and hopefully you work with a good agency, that understands the value of having a small team or dedicated translators working on all projects for the same client.
In fact, your translator is the one who created your brand’s voice in another language! No matter how good your new provider is, they’ll have to get used to your style and your quirks. So when you want to save some money and switch to a cheaper provider, you should weigh the risks of loosing or at the very least changing the unique voice of your brand.
Have you ever thought about the reasons for differences in prices for translation services?
Of course, some companies use more efficient processes than others or save money in different ways. I know of British translation agencies with offices in the Eastern Europe or Asian countries, which helps them cut the costs on salaries for PMs. Some agencies encourage their employees to work from home, which makes it possible for them to rent a smaller office and thus save on rent. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, if you ask me, but these are not the most popular ways of cutting expenses in order to provide a better price for the client.
Unfortunately, more often than not a more attractive price means lower pay for translators. But as any other professionals good translators know their value. They provide high-quality work. They spend time and money on their professional development. They don’t want to work for peanuts.
Ok, there are always exceptions. There are great translators with a lack of entrepreneurial spirit who settle for what they are offered and don’t try to find higher paying clients. But there’s a catch.
In order to earn the same amount of money they have to work more. What does this mean for you as the end client?
- Less time spent on studying your style guides and glossaries
- More chances of blowing a deadline, because the translator has to cram more projects into the same amount of hours in a day
- Less attention and care devoted to your translation simply because there’s not enough time (the translator has to complete more projects in order to earn a living, remember?)
High-quality translation does not scale well. We hear a lot of talk of machines replacing human translators in the near future. In fact, we’ve been hearing that for the past 50 years. And the prediction has partly come true: now the machines can replace humans, who translate like machines (I wouldn’t go so far as to call them translators, though).
Translation requires more than the ability to replace the words and grammar structures of one language with the words and grammar structures of the other. Translators have to understand your idea, internalize it and then express this idea in another language so that the native speakers of this language could relate to it and find it engaging. This is a skill that takes time to build and if you were lucky enough to find someone who has mastered it, don’t make the mistake of letting this person go. Because in the long run you will loose more, than you can save.