Is Proz Dead Or Alive?
Ode To Proz
“Proz is dead.”
I bet you’ve heard that one before.
This is what people say in 2015.
This is what they said in 2010.
And I bet that this is what they will be saying in 2020.
Many translators have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Proz. With hate probably playing the key role.
I just want to come out and say: I used to love Proz.
To some degree, this was one of the best things that happened to me.
Yep, you’ve read that correctly.
When I was just starting my freelance career I didn’t have many options. Well, maybe I had, but I didn’t have time to think rationally and plan.
Freelancing was never a choice for me. It was something that I was forced to do when they had to let me go from my office job. No two weeks notice. No nothing.
“You don’t have to come to work tomorrow” — my boss said.
Just like that.
This was the hardest punch in the face I ever had to take.
But without it, I’m afraid I would have never gotten to the place where I am now.
So in some sense I should thank them for that much-needed kick in the butt.
Starting as a freelancer was freaking scary!
I had no idea what I was doing and I was trying to sign up at every job-bidding platform there is.
I started with Russian ones and worked with the Russian-speaking market for a few years.
Wanna know what my first rates were?
My first client was a Ukrainian agency and they paid me 40 RUB per page. If we convert that into words that would be something around 0.003 USD.
As you can guess I was quite popular. No wonder! I was good and I was crazy cheap.
This is the first mistake every freelance translator makes.
When you’re just starting as a freelancer you have to know your worth from day one.
You have to do a market research.
Try analyzing what’s the market average and what industries are booming.
Plus you got an education, so that should account for something, right?
Unfortunately, many newbie translators don’t understand that.
And Then I’ve Found Proz
I don’t really remember how that happened. Probably a Google search or something like that.
To be honest, I was completely fascinated by Proz.
“Jesus Christ, finally a platform that was designed for translators only! No more websites that have the word “freelancer” in them. I can be a Pro now”.
The rates were a godsend too.
Those first 0.03–0.04 USD jobs I did, seemed like a dream come true.
“No more working for peanuts!” — I thought.
I didn’t realize that even back then I was part of the problem.
I was the one who worked for peanuts even though it didn’t seem that way.
I was the one who helped those companies some translators call “bottom-feeders” to breed, make millions and dictate market conditions.
This was the second most important lesson I’ve learned.
There’s that thing called globalization. You have to make it work for you not the other way around.
So What Happened Next?
I was really into Proz for a couple of years.
I even got that Certified Pro badge (whatever that means) — back then I felt really proud about it. I felt like I’ve accomplished something.
I kept on bidding on every single job that got posted, hoping that I’ll get the gig.
Soon enough, this has become the only way of getting new projects.
Because I was cheap it worked pretty well for me.
I think in my first year I managed to make something around 10–12k.
Which was a ridiculous amount of money for someone who was living in Ukraine.
I kind of felt like oligarch.
The only difference was: oligarchs don’t work THIS much.
I worked like crazy.
15–20 pages per day? — Easy!
All-nighters? — Not a problem!
Working on weekends? — Bring it on!
Soon enough I realized that this has to stop.
So I did the most obvious thing to do. I increased my rates.
Little by little, cent by cent I’ve been increasing my rates with every new client.
I even managed to increase my rates with existing clients.
I’ve been doing it until I hit the ceiling. A magic number of 0,08 USD per source word.
This is when getting new gigs at Proz started to feel like Mission Impossible despite a pretty impressive profile and tons of positive feedback from my clients (aka Willingness to Work Again).
This is when my life became pretty painful. I wanted to increase my rates. Because I felt like it was the right and professional thing to do.
The problem was: I had no idea how to find clients outside of Proz. And since getting new gigs through Proz was no longer possible I ended up in a dry spell zone.
No new projects for a whole month. And because I wasn’t ready for this (had zero dollars on my savings account) I had to go back to Proz.
I lowered my rates.
I felt awful, but I had to do it because I was the only breadwinner in our family.
I simply couldn’t afford to stand by my principles.
Life is a strange thing. When you dream too much or make plans for the future, it reminds you that it doesn’t give a fuck about your aspirations.
That’s why the single thing that Proz ever taught me was:
If you want to get a job on Proz you have to be quick AND cheap.
Speed and price are your only competitive advantages. Not your impressive profile or feedback of clients or the quality you provide.
Speed and price.
Getting Off Proz’s Needle
“So what’s your point, man? What do you suggest? Should we all just stop using Proz? That’s impossible!”
I thought that too.
After several years of being hooked on Proz, I was suffering from the most severe withdrawal syndrome.
The fact that I had to go back was a wake-up call.
“Either I’m moving upward or I’ll be stuck here forever” — I thought.
So I started from scratch.
I’ve started learning about business, marketing, and better ways to find clients.
I’ve learned a thing or two about web-design and built this website.
I’ve started writing this blog and sharing my thoughts about our industry and everything that has been weighing on my mind for the past ten years.
And you know what?
And sometimes I’m not making enough money.
But for the first time in my life I’m happy. I know what I’m doing. I know that I’m on the right track and I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
It will be a long ride.
It won’t be easy.
It will be much harder than spending days and nights on Proz.
But at least I know that this time around I’m the one who is in control.
Will you join me on this thrilling ride?
The choice is yours.
But I just want to say that everything is possible and there are people who appreciate your work and are willing to pay the top dollar for it.
So, Is Proz Dead?
It is for me.
I haven’t seen a single interesting project on Proz for about a year and a half now.
And after this fuck up, I decided to break up with Proz once and for all and stopped paying my fees.
But I realize that Proz is still playing a very important role in the lives of thousands of people.
And maybe for them it is a godsend platform like it was for me 3–4 years ago.
So I did something stupid.
Something I regret.
I lied to seven thousand and forty-nine people.
I decided to conduct an experiment.
I created a fake job posting on Proz.
Yes, you have every right to be pissed at me. And I’m really sorry.
But I had to do it. I wanted to understand what’s going on with the market right now.
I wanted to make sure that I’m doing everything right.
I wanted to know about the rates.
What I did was borderline unethical. But I didn’t create a fake profile, no. I used my existing profile. Only the job description was totally made up. There was no job.
I’m sorry if I wasted your time.
You can even send me your hate speech via that chat window on the left side of your screen if you feel like it.
I deserve it.
But before you do please look at those charts below.
Because I think this is something that might potentially change your perception of the market and your role in it.
I received and analyzed over 300 quotes for 12 language pairs.
Since I specialize in English-Russian video game localization I decided to post a job in this field.
So now I know the average Proz rates. And not those rates that you indicate in your profile, no.
The real rates. The ones that people quote on real-life projects.
It’s a powerful knowledge and I feel like you deserve to know it too.
I apologize that I had to do it this way, but I feel like I’m not the first one who’s done that. I believe agencies and sometimes other freelancers do this too.
The only difference is that I want to share this information with you. Because I know how hard it is to get it and surprisingly many translators out there still have problems with identifying the average translation rates.
I analyzed 12 language pairs. Because this is how many Proz allows you to choose. I tried to make them as diverse as possible. I realize that this is just a tiny fraction of a multi-billion industry and probably doesn’t show the whole picture.
But I believe this can definitely help you understand your role and redefine your strategy.
The 12 languages are: Russian, German, Italian, Greek, Czech, Arabic, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese and Dutch.
The job was open for about 36 hours before moderators closed it because it looked suspicious (kudos to them). However, I think 36 hours was enough for everyone to show their interest (I received over 300 quotes in total).
I specifically indicated that this job was for paying members who have reported their credentials. That way I can at least say that they’re professionals with proper education who pay Proz fees which means that they’re probably take their job seriously.
The average rates are below.
Video Game Localization, English-Arabic Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-Czech Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-Chinese Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-German Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-Dutch Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-Greek Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-Spanish Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-French Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-Italian Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-Japanese Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-Portuguese Rates, %
Video Game Localization, English-Russian Rates, %
So there you have it. Now you can really understand your place in the market if you’re working in video games localization like I do.
I’m not going to draw any conclusions in here because the conclusions will be different for each and every translator out there.
For example, if your rate is way below the average, then maybe it’s time to start moving upward?
Or of your rates are too high, maybe it’s time for you to move on? Find direct clients?
What I find ironic is that the average rates are lower than the standard translation rates posted by Proz here by 3–4 cents.
This reminds me that every blind bidding platform is just a price competition.
I understand that I will never be able to change that, but at least you and I now have some actual data and food for thought.
I hope you’ll find it useful.
Oh, here is one more slide. I analyzed the number of notifications sent and the number of quotes I received for every language.
Here it is:
It’s interesting that there are so many paying members yet only a small percentage of them quotes on jobs.
This gives me hope that the remaining 90% of my colleagues are actually busy working at higher rates.
Once again I apologize for the way I’ve collected data, but someone had to do it.
I hope after reading this long post you’ll finally start thinking about your business and realize that there are other ways to do things. There are better ways to find clients.
Clients who pay well.
Because you deserve it.
All you need to do is believe in yourself.
Trust yourself, trust your gut and take this leap of faith. You won’t regret it.
This article was originally published on my blog: Best Russian Translator.