Supply and demand, revisited

I don’t give fuzzy match discounts, and I don’t often accept projects that have a software requirement. I do work with new clients to determine a reasonable price for each job. I do offer my services in return for small stipends only (usually for university researchers whose work I find interesting). I do use technology when it can benefit the project. Which isn’t often.

Why do I “limit” my business in this way? Consider some data from Nataly Kelly’s presentation at the 2012 NCATA Regional Conference, based upon the Common Sense Advisory’s Language Services Market: 2012 report.

  • Demand for translation services has grown at an incredible rate in the past few years. Translation is a $33billion industry. There is money out there for language services.
  • Even with the use of sophisticated CAT tools and TM, translator output is stagnating around 2,600 words per day. There are endless combinations of words, and 60% of the words and phrases in most translation projects are “brand new,” meaning they won’t be found in existing TM. Using computer-based tools won’t actually increase my output by much.
  • End-users of translations (my clients’ clients) are more likely to buy a product, service, or idea if it is advertised in their native language, but less likely to buy if their native-language copy is poorly written. I work with legal documents and academic texts, which compound this need for good writing. Even the simplest phrases need to be carefully considered in context for me to be satisfied that I am giving the most accurate translation possible. Quality is more important for everyone’s bottom line.

In brief, demand is increasing but supply is limited. I choose not to artificially increase what I can supply, because it would be at the expense of my output quality. Sometimes, I artificially lower my costs to accommodate a project that seems beneficial to the world. (For instance, transcriptions of focus groups that helped determine how to resolve a health crisis in Cameroon.) My main motivator in choosing this profession was to help people, after all!

This is what I do (and don’t do) to help meet the world’s growing need for translation. What do you do? How do you respond to a client who needs X but can only pay Y?

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One thought on “Supply and demand, revisited

  1. Pingback: Spotlight on: Ernő Rubik | translation, untangled

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