time-price-quality pressure in translation industry

The translation industry is facing pressure from both inside and outside the industry. The pressure is causing some instability and uneasiness that affect the work. Uncertainty makes the industry inefficient and the people unhappy. By acknowledging and identifying the pressure it becomes tangible and maybe even resolvable. Let’s try to find both the internal and external pressures.

Internal pressures. Competition is very tough in the translation industry. Both the Internet and online translation services have widened the potential customer base around the globe and brought new international actors into the local markets. Today’s translation service providers are not a uniform group. There are players with all sorts of knowledge, skills and ethical perspectives. The competition isn’t always fair which adds stress to the everyday work of finding new customers.

It is common that translators offer their service for a fixed price per word (PPW). PPW makes it possible to earn more when one works more. However, time is a scarce resource. A day will always have only 24 hours and even translators need to eat and rest and have a social life outside their profession. Finding the balance under these internal pressures isn’t easy.

External pressures. Automation has helped so many industries to improve their productivity that no one can avoid it anymore. Although translation work is manual in its nature, languages have grammar and rules that are systematic and repetitive − at least partly. All sorts of translation tools, MTs, TMs, CATs and so on are automating the translation work. Some translators like it, some others don’t. Anyway, the pressure to find ways to work more efficiently is real.

Customers are vital to the translation industry. The challenge is that translation buyers and translation service providers have different perspectives. Professional translators keep it a matter of honor to produce highest translation quality. Quality is in fact the key to repeated buying behavior and long term customer relationships but quality comes with time. The potential customer might not be ready to invest the time. Thus, money talks often when the translation need is a one-time case or when the buyer is looking for a translation provider for the first time. Also recommendations play a big role in cases like this, but prices are easy to compare.

All these pressures deal with the three common aspects: time, quality, and price. It seems to be impossible to optimize all of them. Like they say, you can’t have good quality quickly and cheaply. Some industries have found a balance, so maybe the translation industry will find it too. Instability and continuous changes are healthy only in reasonable proportions.


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