A “two-cent” story

This story is about a translator who wanted to earn a living through his profession. He offered his services at an average market rate.

One day, a client asked him to make a small effort by lowering his rate by one cent per word.

The translator’s initial reaction was to get angry and ask the client what she’d do if her own employer – after five years without a raise despite the quality of work delivered – announced one fine day that wages would be reduced by a small amount, say 10%, “because of the economic situation”.

But the translator knew that freelancers cannot compare themselves to salaried employees. So he agreed to lower his rates a little.

All he has to do now is find a bit more work to make ends meet each month. If he’s lucky enough to find extra work, he’ll need to work weekends and late evenings to make up for the missed earnings, sacrificing his social and personal life, not to mention his health.

If he doesn’t find extra work, he’ll end up changing his lifestyle. If he lives in the city, he’ll move to the country. Or if he was foolish enough to found a family despite his precarious situation and therefore cannot move easily, he’ll start by missing out on holidays and days’ out, while waiting to find a new job and say goodbye to his years of training, study and experience.

Each time a client asks a translator to “make a gesture of goodwill” he or she is asking that person to forego a part of his or her life. That’s not business, it’s blackmail.

That is why, when I align with competitors’ rates, I lower my margin but not the rate requested by the translator(s). I’ll probably end up having to change my own lifestyle, unless I can change the world first…