Are Translators Underpaid?

Dec 1, 2021



Are Translators Underpaid?

You have huge translation agencies making billions of dollars per year, but the translators make so little that the business model starts to look suspicious. Unfortunately, this is a sad reality in the translations-localization world. People tell us we’re expensive, but their reference point is the low-cost translator that gets peanuts from these big agencies. It’s probably not going to suit your Amazon listing if you decide to get a translation from a low-cost translator. As with everything in life, you get what you pay for.

Let’s go into the world of underpaid translators, and why YLT absolutely refuses to adapt this business model.

The Affordable Translator & the Massive Agency

In 2020, the 50th largest translation agency in the world still managed to earn more than $20M for the whole year. To be clear, we don’t know exactly how much these translators get, but we do know that many translators who work for large agencies are underpaid. (Don’t forget, Jana was a translator before.)

There are two possible reasons why translators are underpaid.

  1. The translator is either a beginner, still earning his stripes, or he lives in a country where the standard of living is lower. India has a lot of translators who are able to keep their costs low because the standard of living is similarly low.
  2. Translators like to work for huge agencies because they don’t have to chase clients. Imagine if you are working 100% as a freelancer. If you say no to a project, you feel guilty about it. But if you work for a huge agency, you don’t feel as bad. There’s more work coming soon.


This Won’t Work for Your Amazon Listing

Of course, you can go to one of these huge agencies. Hopefully you work with one that isn’t exploitative of its translators. But it’s not without its risks.

  1. As we have already established, translators that have low rates aren’t experienced. They may even be from a country with a lower standard of living.
  2. That means they’re probably not native speakers of French, German, Italian, or Spanish — the top European languages for Amazon sellers, given these markets are the largest in Europe.


It’s still better to get a native speaker to do your listing. Even moreso, it’s a good idea to have an experienced translator who knows how to write sales copy.

  1. If you find a translator that can take your US listing into the German market for a low price, chances are they’re not that experienced.
  2. You’re putting your listing in the hands of an amateur who probably doesn’t know the marketing, persuasion, or sales copywriting in order for your listing to convert in your new target culture.
  3. Also, the translator may not even understand the culture of the target destination. He or she might take your words and translate them to be as close to the source text as possible, but there’s little to no localization, because they may never have lived in Germany, France, Italy, or Spain.
  4. Also, you need trained translators. Someone took the time and money to really invest in them. As a result, they understand the keywords that your market needs to convert. They know which keywords to use, and how to slot them into your listing so the result is easy to read.


Our Prices Mean We Care About Our People

We’ve seen it many times. Translators go to work for a big agency, where they’re not looked after. Agencies don’t invest in their freelance translators. They don’t upgrade the translators’ skills. They don’t offer training in any specific field. They don’t have a personal relationship or a personal approach to their people.

That’s where we are different. We’re not as expensive as the Fortune 500 translation firms, so that’s good for our clients – they’re not spending their ROI before they make it! On the other hand though we’re not as cheap as many translation and content mills out there. That’s because we take the time out to care for our people. To nurture them and to sharpen the saw so they continue to be successful in their careers.

The result is a well-translated listing for every client that comes YLT’s way. It’s done by a translator who’s happy in their line of work, and who’s well-trained in all the things you need to convert and engage.


So, Are Translators Underpaid?

Perhaps some are. It’s a difficult question to generalize an answer to, because it has so many layers as we’ve identified. But we can say something for sure — our translators are too important for us to charge bargain basement prices. At least you can be sure that part of the price tag you pay is for competent, happy, and satisfied translators who can do your listing justice.


What do you think? Are translations worth the fees? Share your thoughts in the comments; we’d love to hear from you!