3 reasons why you should not underprice your services as a translator

Why low prices to “break into the market” are not a good idea

Are you in the process of starting up as a freelance translator? Are you under pressure to pay the bills? Then for you there is a big temptation underprice your services and sell yourself well below current average going rates.

We believe that start-ups, especially translators solely responsible for all household bills who are lacking savings to help them through the initial period are most likely to do anything to “break into the market”. Trained translators on temporary full-time breaks also often fall into this trap. They feel the best strategy to establish themselves is to offer cheap translation services.

1) Long-term effect on price levels in the translation industry

What they don’t consider is the long-term effect on their own business and the long-term effect on the translation market in general.

The UK and mainland European translation markets already suffer downward pressure on price due to cheap translation providers from countries with low costs of living. UK translators trying to break into the market add considerably to this downward pressure by undercutting colleagues and agencies by vast margins.

The long-term effect is obvious. The more translators offer super-cheap services, the lower overall prices will be.

2) Effect on the image you create for your business

When you underprice your services clients may draw the conclusion that you are not a good translator. If you were fully qualified and experienced you would have spent a lot of time and money in doing so. So why would you sell your services cheaply?

If you are a quality translator then charge the price that reflects your qualification.

3) Problems in increasing prices to “normal” level when established

A few years down the line, when you are an established translator and have a great client base, you will want to increase your prices in line with what your work is actually worth.

You are now going to come up against two brick walls.

  1. Your existing clients have always paid cheap rates. Why would they want to pay you any more, especially when there are lots of people like you out there?
  2. Due to the constant stream of new entries into the translation market, plus the “non-serious” translators offering their services in the cheap you’ll find average translation prices are low. This means that you’ll have trouble to cover your real costs and make a decent living.

To overcome these obstacles you will have to target higher value market segments or improve your level of specialisation – you will, in effect, have to start all over again.

So, although the temptation is extremely high. Please don’t fall for it. Specialise from the outset, research your target market and focus on professional, well-paying agencies and direct clients. It’s a little more effort in the short term, but it makes a lot of sense long-term.

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