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Getting started without any academic degree
מפרסם התגובה: Sergey Lev

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
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Solution: don't be average Oct 28, 2017

Katze_bro wrote:
3. Average global rates are in fact much lower than what I've come to expect from the stories of successful folk.

Thank you for this update. I am glad to hear that you are doing well. It is always good to see somebody being rewarded for their efforts to learn and improve.

I think people on this forum tend to talk about rates that are acceptable given the translator's level of ability and specialisation, rather than "average" rates. By definition, the average includes rates for all participants in the market. In an unregulated market like translation there is no real floor to pricing, so this puts additional pressure on (pushes down) the average.

You should be aiming at a higher rate than the rate that you think represents the mean. If you can only command average rates, it suggests that there is nothing about you that stands out. I don't think that successful folk charge average rates, because they tend to offer something that clients find more valuable than whatever is offered by the average translator.

In theory, if a translator were very efficient (able to work very quickly at a given level of textual difficulty) they could charge average or lower than average rates and would still make a good deal of money, because they would complete more work per hour. I suspect that is not the case for most successful people. In my experience it is easier simply to find those clients who are prepared to pay rates above the average for high-quality work.

Regards,
Dan

[Edited at 2017-10-28 22:11 GMT]


Jorge Payan
 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:21
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Irrelevant to whom? Oct 28, 2017

philgoddard wrote:

DJHartmann wrote:
Sadly, with only a high-school diploma you won't have much chance competing with other vendors.


The great thing about this job is that qualifications are largely irrelevant. Play down your lack of them, tell people what you translate and put lots of samples on your website and ProZ profile.

You also appear to be almost perfectly bilingual, though your English sentences are way too long This is a big advantage, and you should exploit it.

Good luck!


I have to side with DJ Hartmann here on the absolute need for college or university education, if not a degree. Many of our language pairs are part of highly contested and competitive marketplaces. My competition—Spanish technical translators with at least one graduate degree (BA or similar)—is numerous, partly judging by the number of quotes respectable Proz customers get. By “respectable” I mean a) their job offering is done in proper business English and b) they do not offer barrel-bottom rates. How many? I've seen 30 and 40 respondents for my areas of expertise, even with highly specialized services.

Maybe a rare or uncommon language pair (for example, Canadian French to Mongolian) would drive a customer to pay top dollar and not even look into the translator's qualifications that closely. Generalizations about translators' qualifications cannot be made in these cases.


 

Sergey Lev  Identity Verified
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Been there Oct 30, 2017

Dan Lucas wrote:

Katze_bro wrote:
3. Average global rates are in fact much lower than what I've come to expect from the stories of successful folk.

Thank you for this update. I am glad to hear that you are doing well. It is always good to see somebody being rewarded for their efforts to learn and improve.

I think people on this forum tend to talk about rates that are acceptable given the translator's level of ability and specialisation, rather than "average" rates. By definition, the average includes rates for all participants in the market. In an unregulated market like translation there is no real floor to pricing, so this puts additional pressure on (pushes down) the average.

You should be aiming at a higher rate than the rate that you think represents the mean. If you can only command average rates, it suggests that there is nothing about you that stands out. I don't think that successful folk charge average rates, because they tend to offer something that clients find more valuable than whatever is offered by the average translator.

In theory, if a translator were very efficient (able to work very quickly at a given level of textual difficulty) they could charge average or lower than average rates and would still make a good deal of money, because they would complete more work per hour. I suspect that is not the case for most successful people. In my experience it is easier simply to find those clients who are prepared to pay rates above the average for high-quality work.

Regards,
Dan

[Edited at 2017-10-28 22:11 GMT]


Thank you for your kind words.
Yes, it's a matter of course for me to try and claim rates as high as possible. I'd rather make money fast while I'm still young so I can use it to provide a stable source of income for myself and translate fiction to my heart's content afterwards. So I had been trying to propose $0.10 per Japanese character this whole summer—the rate I'd seen mentioned on one of the forums, which also fit my naive profitability calculations. "Competitive rates" of translation agencies seem to never exceed $0.05 per character, which I did not consider "competitive" on the logic that if I agree to their rates, I'll become a dumper myself. The Indian and Russian agencies mostly go silent after I respond with my price, and another big LSP agreed to a compromise (I saw their rates for clients on their site and thought, "Oh, that's nice, maybe I can request 50% of that") after I described the risks and necessary difference in price (relative to my Russian clients) to cover them, we signed a contract... and then they only sent me a few EN-RU spam offers (about one per month). I replied to those, but even when I was able to respond in 10 minutes, someone from the list still managed to be faster than me.

All this experience has made me waver. The more you claim from the start, the less negotiation freedom you leave for yourself. You can't possibly say you usually translate certain texts for $0.20 per word or $0.10 at the very least, hear that the client's budget can't exceed 20% of that, and agree to their rates. When you don't get to put big names such as Microsoft and Cisco (well, I could name a few big corporations now, but those are end customers, not my direct clients) in your CV, it's hard to communicate your added value ("guaranteed proofreading? impeccable something-something? human-sounding translations? what's that?"). Too many people around who work for peanuts, and the quality they offer may be more than sufficient for the client's task, whilst my quality level is usually claimed by folk who have a lot more credentials and professional experience than me (and may respond more quickly and/or work faster than me). This makes it hard to continue asking for rates I consider pleasing while my accumulated funds keep decreasing. I either have to rely on my luck or accept having to be more humble than what I'd prefer and agree to average or less-than-average rates as long as they are better than what I could possibly get in the Russian market. This doesn't mean I won't try to claim something better at the start of negotiations (if only to have the high ground), but limiting my "flexibility" with minimum rates or market top rates has proven unwise.

P. S. By the way, there's another thing I have learned that I forgot to mention: it's preferable to work with small agencies since their payment terms (and rates) are usually much better than that of corporations. Corporations make it big thanks to high margins. Although smaller agencies also tend to have communication problems since there's only one or two PMs (who also own the agency and translate themselves) to manage all of their 5, 10, or 20 translators.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
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High margins at large agencies are actually rare Oct 30, 2017

Katze_bro wrote:
it's preferable to work with small agencies since their payment terms (and rates) are usually much better than that of corporations. Corporations make it big thanks to high margins.

I agree with you that smaller agencies are often preferable to work with, but the evidence doesn't support your claim about profits. I invite you to take a look at the profit margins of some of the publicly listed agencies. Most of them have a single-digit operating margin. That's not what I would call high. I suspect that this is because, as an agency, if you want the scale, you have to get the big, global customers, and such customers will put as much pressure on prices as they can, in a consistent and organized fashion. Hence you have low margins. There are some exceptions, but very few.

Regards,
Dan


Jorge Payan
 

Sergey Lev  Identity Verified
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So, how did 2018 go? Dec 22, 2018

Well, I had better summarize this year now before I forget about it again.

It has been quite a turbulent year. I finally managed to fail a deadline (by a few hours and thanks to a number of underestimations, but the lesson was learned); I have learned that the Japanese value translations about as much as Russians do but they value copywriting quite a bit more; and I was able to fully experience that "feast or famine" feeling many freelancers talk about, even though I didn't have a r
... See more
Well, I had better summarize this year now before I forget about it again.

It has been quite a turbulent year. I finally managed to fail a deadline (by a few hours and thanks to a number of underestimations, but the lesson was learned); I have learned that the Japanese value translations about as much as Russians do but they value copywriting quite a bit more; and I was able to fully experience that "feast or famine" feeling many freelancers talk about, even though I didn't have a real reason to worry about since I had saved up a good amount of money before my vacation-forced two-month break, even though I spent about an half on refurbishments and the aforementioned vacation. The feast part came in autumn, when both the load and rates rose to an unprecedented level. In these three autumn months alone I earned more than in the previous year or maybe even 4 years before that year. To give you a better picture, my maximum hourly rate from before I realized the worth of my services and went global has since increased 34 fold. In other words, a 3400% increase thanks to increases in my rates, currency exchange rates, my working speed and XP, and, most importantly, sheer luck (without this secret ingredient it'd be only about 2000%). The half-year average hourly rate is hard to calculate precisely, but a 800% increase compared to the same "before 2017" rates should be about correct.

What I currently have is a dream job that leaves one thing to desire: that the higher-paying jobs where I can fully utilize my creativity come more often. There are other moments that could be improved, but those are caused by my country's regulations, so no helping it (and I find it quite cozy here).

Regarding my use of the site, I haven't been using it much at all, and I'm having doubts as to whether it's worth it to renew my membership once it ends next spring. (Maybe a wiser investment would be to spend the money on my own website?) About 50% of clients who contact me through ProZ are some shady agencies with less-than-satisfactory ratings (who may request an English to Spanish translation or something) or simple bottom feeders with rates like $5 per page in the US. I don't even respond to such messages anymore. 30% of the others have slightly better rates and good ratings, but their rates and terms aren't good enough to compensate the risks of dealing with foreign companies in the short run, or they misunderstand my profile. I pass all the tests for the other 20% and get included in their vendor bases or am given access to their "first come first serve" sites, but only about 3% or 4% of the total result in actual jobs. Maybe I should be more proactive and respond to job postings or spam the blueboard to get more value out of my investment, but I'm getting much more than I need to live already, which spoils me and makes me too lazy to seek something even better. In fact, I spent a considerable amount of money on a marketing course in August, but my workload increased soon thereafter, and I haven't actually bothered to access the benefits I bought. Quite different from before, when I knew I had limited funds, so I was much more rational and disciplined—and probably less arrogant.

Feels nice to be able to use both my skills and money to help others, though.

Anyway, dear you who's just read through the above, the summary is as follows: this business year has went well for me, although still way below my original (far-fetched) expectations. Wishing you a similarly satisfying result in the year to come and happy holidays. For me, they have already started.
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Sarah Muda
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
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Good to hear Dec 22, 2018

Sergey Lev wrote:
the summary is as follows: this business year has went well for me, although still way below my original (far-fetched) expectations.

Glad to hear it's been going well.

Have you not acquired any decent clients via ProZ? So far I have accumulated two or three worthwhile new clients a year from contacts initiated (by them) through this site. That has made a significant difference over the course of the past four years. I have read that others have had similar experiences. Hasn't worked for you?

Regards,
Dan


 

Sergey Lev  Identity Verified
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Thank you Dec 22, 2018

I'm also glad to see a reply from you once more.
Yes, that one maximum rate client contacted me through ProZ in April or March (although the first serious job from them came in August). While three-figure-an-hour contracts are extremely rare, even the smallest amount I can earn in an hour (which depends on a number of factors) exceeds $20. Their contracts are hard to get, though, since it's "first come first serve," and other people on the team often respond in less than 3 minutes despite
... See more
I'm also glad to see a reply from you once more.
Yes, that one maximum rate client contacted me through ProZ in April or March (although the first serious job from them came in August). While three-figure-an-hour contracts are extremely rare, even the smallest amount I can earn in an hour (which depends on a number of factors) exceeds $20. Their contracts are hard to get, though, since it's "first come first serve," and other people on the team often respond in less than 3 minutes despite the difference in time zones. Maybe mobile email notifications with a loud ringtone will help. There's also another regular client in our common language pair (mainly); they tend to pay on the last day after a reminder and their rates are somewhat low—compared to the other clients I currently have—but good enough for me and exceptional for the Russian market (the Japanese market too, it seems...).
There were several more as well, but I had to drop them eventually due to uncomfortable rates or, in one case, a risk of nonpayment. Thankfully, so far I haven't had to use anything stronger than a notice to get paid.

I don't know how much I have earned from these clients, but, including the $2000 that is to be paid in January, I think it's at least 6 or even 8 grand.

[Edited at 2018-12-22 22:36 GMT]
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
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Sounds like it's worth continuing then Dec 23, 2018

Sergey Lev wrote:
Yes, that one maximum rate client contacted me through ProZ in April or March (although the first serious job from them came in August).

Well then, given the low cost of a ProZ membership, maybe you should continue with it? (I have no axe to grind - I have my own dissatisfactions with ProZ.) You might find it worthwhile to jazz up your profile a bit, as it looks rather bare. Better profiles probably lead to better offers, but hard to prove either way.

Dan


[Edited at 2018-12-23 08:21 GMT]


 

Sergey Lev  Identity Verified
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You have a point Dec 23, 2018

Looking at the numbers, it does seem like a reasonable investment if we assume that a better position in the list and the pro status badges directly influenced my chances of meeting good clients. Being able to see the text of Blueboard reviews is also nice (especially when people commend a company for good rates), although the ratings alone are enough to decide the level of risk. I'm still not convinced, though, so I'll look how the next quarter goes.

Regarding the profile... it doe
... See more
Looking at the numbers, it does seem like a reasonable investment if we assume that a better position in the list and the pro status badges directly influenced my chances of meeting good clients. Being able to see the text of Blueboard reviews is also nice (especially when people commend a company for good rates), although the ratings alone are enough to decide the level of risk. I'm still not convinced, though, so I'll look how the next quarter goes.

Regarding the profile... it does seem that way, too, when I compare it to yours in the context of basic marketing principles. I should try to improve it during the holidays while leaving it concise. Thank you again.
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Sergey Lev  Identity Verified
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What about 2019? Feb 3

As my income has doubled from 2018 (and tripled compared to 2017), it goes without saying that I'm very well off financially now—compared to the average citizen here, of course. The maximum-rate (which, on one occasion, went up to around $140/hour) client is now my main one (which also means I got the thing I desired), and even though I'm still in a risky situation with only a few clients whom I work with, I could live for 10 or survive for 20 years just with the money I've accumulated in thes... See more
As my income has doubled from 2018 (and tripled compared to 2017), it goes without saying that I'm very well off financially now—compared to the average citizen here, of course. The maximum-rate (which, on one occasion, went up to around $140/hour) client is now my main one (which also means I got the thing I desired), and even though I'm still in a risky situation with only a few clients whom I work with, I could live for 10 or survive for 20 years just with the money I've accumulated in these 3 if I were to never get any more. My health has deteriorated considerably due to succumbing to the sin of sloth and spending most of the time in front of the computer, so that's a possibility, provided it doesn't deteriorate fatally.

About the membership, which I discontinued in April, I will say that the only thing I remotely regretted was being unable to participate in translation contests. I find it only useful when you're actually searching for clients. No need for it if you're living off established long-term connections. As that is my situation, I rarely find myself visiting this site nowadays.
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
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You seem to be contradicting yourself Feb 3

Sergey Lev wrote:
I'm still in a risky situation with only a few clients whom I work with


About the membership ... No need for it if you're living off established long-term connections. As that is my situation, I rarely find myself visiting this site nowadays.

It seems to me as though you are indeed in a very risky situation and in need of far more of those long-term connections. If you relax and do nothing about solidifying a broad client base you could very well end up in trouble. Where you go to target your clients is your own affair, but doing nothing doesn't seem a brilliant option.


Jorge Payan
 

Sergey Lev  Identity Verified
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I see no contradiction Feb 3

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Sergey Lev wrote:
I'm still in a risky situation with only a few clients whom I work with


About the membership ... No need for it if you're living off established long-term connections. As that is my situation, I rarely find myself visiting this site nowadays.

It seems to me as though you are indeed in a very risky situation and in need of far more of those long-term connections. If you relax and do nothing about solidifying a broad client base you could very well end up in trouble. Where you go to target your clients is your own affair, but doing nothing doesn't seem a brilliant option.



Considering I have enough funds, even excluding all the investments and deposits, to live for years without any income, I see little reason to search for clients now, when my workload and pastime are in satisfactory balance. I already have to decline a lot of jobs, and getting more clients right now would mean more of those cases, and if you keep declining jobs from a client who assigns linguists personally, they become less willing to offer. It doesn't hurt to have access to more crowdsourcing/FCFS platforms, but I already have enough of those opportunities stored up too.

While I called my situation risky, it's a probable but very affordable risk.


 

DZiW
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$660 => $1300 ==> $2000 Feb 6

> I could live for 10 or survive for 20 years just with the money I've accumulated in these 3 if I were to never get any more.
It takes some 25-30k rubles a month--minimum $400, so you've got USD$48+k.
Not bad for one without specialty yet with a purposeful entrepreneurial mindset)


Diversification, Exit Plan, or playing bigger (as an agency or b2b)?


 

Sergey Lev  Identity Verified
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I don't live in a city, so it's a bit less than that though Feb 6

Diversification? What kind?

I love this job, so I only intend to exit when I can't do it anymore due to health issues or extreme oversaturation of the market with rate dumpers. It's unlikely AI will be able to replace me in the foreseeable future, and if it ever learns to do even marketing translations just as well as a human, it will be after I will have accumulated enough to live off bank deposits and stock trading alone. While I had some thoughts about starting an agency of my ow
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Diversification? What kind?

I love this job, so I only intend to exit when I can't do it anymore due to health issues or extreme oversaturation of the market with rate dumpers. It's unlikely AI will be able to replace me in the foreseeable future, and if it ever learns to do even marketing translations just as well as a human, it will be after I will have accumulated enough to live off bank deposits and stock trading alone. While I had some thoughts about starting an agency of my own, I hate the idea of being responsible for someone else's failure, and I would have to search for other clients if I were to start one. Not sure what do you mean by b2b since I'm already an entrepreneur providing language services to companies who provide language services to corporations, government agencies, and on rare occasions to small companies and individuals as well.
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Brian Joyce  Identity Verified
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Formal education is corrupt Feb 14

Leonardo Da Vinci never went to university neither did Shakespeare. I went for a year and then dropped out from shear boredom, I hate being told what to read, my niece spent £50'000 going to university, at the end of the course they told her she didn't need to hand in any coursework as they would just give her the degree, go figure.

 
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