In the translation business, a rate of $0.02 per word is generally considered ridiculous. After starting my writing and translating company in January 2010, I quickly discovered it’s just impossible to run such a business for a word price below $0.10.
Me and my fellow translators often get wound up over agencies or companies that demand top quality translations for absolute bargain prices.
Anyone who’s new to the translation industry will recognize how hard it can be to charge decent rates right from the start. This is actually a common struggle for many entrepreneurs.
But having the opportunity to deliver a voluntary translation to an NGO suddenly shifted my perspective.
I recently translated the captions of a set of gorgeous nature photos on forests, animals and sustainable development into Dutch for an NGO named GoodPlanet, a project brought to my attention by Translators Without Borders. These guys provide regular support to NGOs by having professional translators do voluntary work, so the organization’s scarce resources can be used elsewhere.
As a volunteer translator on sustainability, one of my favorite subjects, I didn’t mind working for $0.00 at all! It was an honor to rewrite the information accompanying stunning pictures of world-famous photographers like Yann Arthus-Bertrand (Psst… You can actually download the posters for free! Just hit the link.)
Volunteering changes your business identity. It makes haggling over one or two cents look silly.
The point is that it matters which hat you are wearing at a certain moment. Do you label yourself as a volunteer or an entrepreneur? You can switch roles at any time without noticing, but one will always overpower the other since they aren’t 100% compatible.
While you’re wearing your business hat, you may be looking to be applauded for your success, provide a stable income for your family, or simply survive.
The moment you switch to a volunteer role, the underlying goals change into things such as showing you care about your environment, feeling fulfilled and being appreciated by others for your generosity.
So what can you take away from this?
Become aware of which part of your identity you are called at when you are asked to do something, whether it’s for cash or for charity. Then act on it.
I believe anyone with some skills and the right mindset should consider giving their two cents to the world every now and then.
At the same time, we do need to charge professional rates for the work we do on a daily basis. The world won’t benefit from our efforts if we continuously sell ourselves short.
But that’s just my two cents.
How have you used your business skills to volunteer? Has this changed your perspective of work and rates in any way?