May 8, 2010

Don't be a monkey!

A new blog has been added to the list of recommendations on the left bar of this one: "No Peanuts!" The genius behind it is our translator colleague Wendell Ricketts whose with and wisdom regarding our profession is surely known to many. I support the goals of this new online forum and have given my permission to Wendell to repost anything he finds relevant. I may make an original contribution there too ocassionally if I find the time, because there are so many reasons why we need to respect ourselves, our colleagues and our clients and charge a fair rate to ensure a secure livelihood and the best results for all. This is often not as easy as it sounds, so I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion there.

See also the related post: No Monkeys!


  1. What all this fails to take into account is that there has in fact been a vast economic collapse, qualified people in many sectors in all areas of the globe aren't even earning peanuts any more, and deflation is happening. It seems irresponsible to overlook these significant trends.

    I put my prices down after the Lehman Shock to ensure that I would have at least some income for the duration, to ensure that my clients would survive, and to maintain goodwill with people who were in exactly the same boat. I seem to remember it was predicted that I would go extinct as Nature demanded. Well, I'm still here, and my prices are back where they were again (higher than most people's).

    Fire and manoeuvre always beats holding the line.


  2. I still prefer your "sustainable fees" to W's "living wage". :)

  3. I agree entirely with your 'sustainable fees'. A 'living wage' for a professional??? I subscribe fully to everything that this movement stands for: discouraging fellow translators from working for peanuts and making clients aware of what they need to budget for. However, there is no way that I would ever display that logo on a website. There must be a more positive and marketing-oriented way of presenting the concept?

  4. Chris, Laurent: I suppose you've seen the defense of the term "wage" for referring to translators' fees. But I'm not buying it, and I find the argument about "workers" rather offensive actually. Sure, sure - unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains, I know. Be a part of the hive. Not me, thank you.

    Nonetheless, I do support the idea of sustainable fees for translators. I don't think these will be achieved by whining about the various online portals and begging for minimum rates to be set or anything of that flavor. I have no interest in a minimum of any sort, nor does it interest me where the bottom of the pit is. I'd rather find better ways to package and sell the value I can produce, and if I can't do that I'll move on to another field.

    @Rod: There's a world of difference between your strategy and the campesino mentality of some of our "colleagues". Or would you characterize the attempts of a translator in Peru to cut the throats of her counterparts in other South American countries by openly offering to work for less in a public forum as "fire and maneuver"? Seemed more like shooting herself in the foot and she limps along in a race to the bottom.
    I doubt that your rates before the "Lehman shock" were a serious danger to your clients' survival. And you have noticed perhaps that when companies are in trouble, they often invest heavily in consultants and other resources to try to avoid extinction. I see good translation as part of that necessary investment in hard times, and there should be a greater willingness to bid high for the limited resources that can do the job right. Of course your market is quite different than mine; I gave up trying to understand the dynamics of anything Japanese twenty years ago. Fortunately, enough Germans understand the preceding argument - despite idiotic popular phrases like geiz ist geil - and the translation market demand is high here at any time, so it works for me. But if I were a Bulgarian or Albanian translator I might very well be looking down the other end of the gun barrel. All the more reason to develop a good niche or three I suppose.


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