We all tend to agree that the “you get what you pay for” rule generally applies to goods and services regardless of the industry. In the translation business, what I describe in a previous text about the common scenarios involving the cost-time-quality triangle is usually true:
“Lower rates are often charged by novice translators or those who have no option but to work for extremely long hours to make a living. Conversely, more experienced professionals usually charge higher rates, which are, more often than not, proportional to the quality level of their services.”
In a subsequent post under the same category, I briefly analyze the relationship between a professional’s working hours and translation rates. Those who charge peanuts have to work incredibly hard to make a decent living. Moreover, those who have no choice but to work very long hours are less likely to focus on their translations, do exhaustive research, and revise the text until it’s impeccable, among other details that interfere in the quality of their output.
All these arguments seem logical, as quality is a direct result of a combination of attention, research, revision, and expertise, of course. A professional needs to spend time with a text to be able to put all these into action. If time is not available, one will expect a drop in quality. Naturally.
Now what if a “bottom-feeder” intentionally disregards quality because the rate s/he is getting is “not enough” to pay for his/her full attention, proper research, and careful revision? Sad but true, as you can see in this Google Groups discussion. I’ve reproduced the original text (which is a reply to another translator’s message) and highlighted the parts I consider a must-read.
This is an interesting scenario, especially because I believe it happens more often than we would expect. And I don’t mean the intentional “customer suffers” approach. Instead, the real, widespread problem is the circumstantial—and sometimes inevitable—results of low rates, as I’ve described.
This attitude will sooner or later boomerang back at unprofessional individuals like this one and damage their reputation, as Kevin Lossner points out in his comment under a blog post about it. To complement the cycle, I quote Werner Patel’s explanation, found in another a blog comment, of how it can backfire on clients:
“If they [clients] are too short-sighted to realize that they’re only hurting themselves by throwing peanuts at language professionals, they will eventually go out of business due to lack of quality and professionalism.”
There has been good discussion around this topic through blog posts and comments, as seen in Ryan Ginstrom’s and Corinne McKay’s posts, both published in 2008. Still, I thought I should bring this up again by adding a few extra lines about it and making these links available. The subject is a perfect fit for this blog, in harmony with a bunch of previous articles, and I don’t think it’ll ever be outdated.