It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times: How the Premium Market Offers Translators Prosperity in an Era of Collapsing Bulk-Market Rates
September 2, 2014
The skill set required to succeed at professional translation is so demanding, extensive, persistent and endlessly expanding that “being bilingual” falls several light-years short of even qualifying for consideration.
This holds true for successful translators working in every sector of the translation market.
After all, translation is, among other things, the craft of leveraging every aspect of your life-long experience, training, subject-matter expertise, writing skills and cultural sense in a way that allows you to project all that collective and hard-earned knowledge onto the page in a compelling and authoritative narrative.
So it makes sense that the more focused, targeted and specialized that expertise, the more specialized the market served.
And this is where it gets complicated.
It’s perhaps not surprising that since translation is the gateway through which all globalized commerce must pass, the translation market itself is very far from homogenous in a way that would make it easy to identify these specialty disciplines and markets.
In reality the translation market is a wildly expanding explosive galaxy of massively divergent markets, sectors, sub-sectors, specialties and requirements.
It manifests an almost unfathomable agility to expand and evolve very rapidly to serve all the global markets it supports.
Despite this chaos, there does seem to have emerged over time a general delineation that helps us make sense of this enormous explosive cloud.
Bulk vs. Premium
We have found it useful to distinguish between what is referred to as the “bulk market,” where translation is essentially a support function – where knowing what the text or webpage or software dialog generally means is good enough – and what has come to be called the “premium market,” where getting the translation exactly, precisely, elegantly, authoritatively and compelling right is necessary because of the enormous stakes involved at that level of the market.
The bulk market, perhaps not surprisingly, tends to dominate discussions of the industry. It is often treated as though it were the entire industry. This is why most surveys and studies – even those that are marketed and sold aggressively for thousands of dollars – tend to consist largely of self-reported data exclusively from large bulk-market translation companies that in turn buy these surveys, resulting in a lopsided, limited and ultimately highly distorted view.
It’s as though having first discovered the primitive optical telescope, astronomers declared the game over. What they see in the sky with their own eyes is all there is. They never expanded their reach into radio or far-infrared astronomy, or launched orbital telescopes to peer farther into space and hence deeper back into time.
The analogy is useful because it’s exceedingly hard to accurately measure the size of the translation industry or accurately identify its “quality” segments.
The Quality Continuum
The translation industry is best represented as a very long continuum that encompasses all market segments, with raw bulk free machine translation (MT) at one end and $25,000 tag line translations of three words at the other.
And it’s far more accurate to characterize the “quality” continuum in terms of gradual and consistent gradations of shade rather than in terms of clear differentiating boundary lines.
So to be clear, the “premium vs. bulk” dichotomy is a form of shorthand only.
Having said that, it’s still quite useful for how it illuminates markets that are not always screaming for recognition.
For example, the premium sector includes commercial segments that are fiercely guarded and often shrouded in secrecy to prevent additional competition. Many of these are boutique translator-owned companies, marketing corporations, multimedia conglomerates, think tanks, government agencies, regulatory bodies, and even embedded subsidiaries in multinational corporations that deliberately fly under the radar of “research” companies to avoid alerting other companies to their profitable businesses.
Pure translation alone in the high-end expert pharmaceutical, medical device and IP litigation as well as the premium legal, financial and marketing sectors across all languages and in all countries dwarfs the entire global IT localization industry, for example, by about two to three orders of magnitude.
There are some years where one single IP pharmaceutical litigation case in Japanese-English alone will run into the $10 – $20 million range.
That’s one single translation project in one single language pair.
And the net profit margins in the premium market are considerably higher.
Value Proposition: Cost of Failure
While it’s true that the premium market tends to operate at higher prices, the market really operates on a completely different value proposition than does the bulk market.
That proposition is this: The cost of failure is dramatically higher than the cost of performance.
So in the premium market, the cost of translation errors – liability, regulatory failure, loss of life, damaging publicity or significant loss of prestige – far outweighs the often much higher cost of “getting the translation precisely right.”
Paying whatever cost premium for translation that is necessary to prevent the cost of failure is viewed as a wise investment.
In the bulk market, the value proposition is inverted. The cost of failure is low, so there is no corresponding push to invest in getting it right.
Rates are lower. Sometimes dramatically lower. And falling.
This can be tested by comparison to the dynamics of other industries, too. The cost of failure for a Walmart product is very low – the consumer almost expects it to fall apart. It’s the same with cheap online localization and “just good enough to understand it” bulk translation.
But a fractured fuel pump on a Boeing commercial aircraft in flight has an enormous cost of failure, so several layers of review, ongoing maintenance and testing as well as regulatory enforcement are built around it in an effort to ensure that does not happen, a process which drives up fuel pump manufacturing costs dramatically.
When the failure of an IPO or the collapse of a deal due to a translation-related regulatory failure or when nuclear weapons are improperly dismantled or lost to unknown people – that’s a very, very high cost of failure.
Budgets necessarily expand to pay a premium for translation expertise in these cases.
Of course, translators who want to play in this market must have developed Boeing-quality translation skills through narrow specialization, though, not Walmart-quality generalist abilities.
This means that they must specialize, evaluate, validate, collaborate and continuously improve.
In brief, the difference between a bulk-market translator and premium-market translator can be summarized as follows.
While bulk-market translators’ heads are buried in dictionaries, premium market translators are buried inside their clients’ heads.
By that I mean that it’s an environment where your subject-matter expertise must absolutely be on a par with your customer’s subject-matter expertise. And it’s their core business, so that’s a very high bar. This requires that you specialize. Intensely.
And your writing skills in your target language must be equally compelling.
A helpful analogy to illustrate the difference between the premium market and the bulk market can be found in the health-care industry in the US.
This demonstrates the correlation in another profession between a pure laser focus on a single specialty over a career and higher remuneration.
It also clearly shows that we can appreciate the very significant training and skills required of practitioners to succeed in any sector of the translation market.
Translation vs. Health Care
The bulk market in translation is similar to the general practitioner (GP) physician market in the US health-care industry.
Yes, general practitioner physicians are exceedingly well-trained, work to a high standard and gave up most of their early adult lives to work in poverty while learning to hone their craft. They tackle a wide variety of different cases and enjoy and perhaps even thrive on that variety. They cure a lot of disease and save many lives. There’s actually a shortage of them in the US right now in rural communities, but their earning power peaks out at the floor of the medical industry’s premium market.
They refer out cases and patients that require greater expertise to the specialists.
The premium market in translation is similar the Board Certified specialist physician market in the US health-care industry.
They too are exceedingly well-trained. They share the first 5 years of training with the GPs (4 years medical school + 1 year internship) but then begin a whole new adventure, measured in yet another 5 years, depending on the specialty. They embark on this endless deep dive to develop increasingly well-honed skills in one specific area of specialization.
Their lives are more defined by the patients and cases they don’t see rather than by the ones they do. They see cases and patients the GPs refer to them. They consult constantly with their other Board-Certified specialists on the most difficult cases and conduct research to advance best practices.
Their remuneration is typically considerably higher than what is observed in the GP market.
Like any analogy, this one is imperfect.
Premium-market translators will now and then work outside their primary specialty, but it’s not very common in the US to see a Board Certified cardiovascular radiologist, for example, working as a primary care physician in a health clinic.
Part of the reason is that the medical industry in the US is tightly regulated and licensed and translation is surely at the other end of that spectrum.
So in our industry we must rely more on the honor system and appeal to best practices and professionalism when claiming competence in language directions and levels of subject-matter expertise.
Expanding Demand and Market Rates
We see that the premium sector of the industry is continuing to expand – and rates are rising – which is in stark contrast to the realities of downward rate pressures in the bulk market today.
The fact that the two markets appear to be moving in opposite directions at an accelerating pace is revealing.
This makes it even more urgent to sound the alarm for all translators and encourage them to begin to make the enormous investment in time to specialize, elevate their subject-matter expertise and hone their writing skills in collaboration with their colleagues to jump upmarket as quickly as possible.
Another excellent post. Thank you.
I trust that I have not abused a privilege by quoting a few passages on Translating technical journalism at http://steve-dyson.blogspot.fr
Hi Steve, thanks for your comments. By all means please feel free to quote any content here on your own site if you feel it’s ever quote-worthy. It’s nice to encourage ongoing discussions in other venues as well.
As a long-time participant in international discussions on the importance of translation quality and the limitations of MT, I find this article to contain the clearest explanation yet of bulk and high-quality translation relative to the global market. Many thanks for this clear-minded contribution to the debate.
Thanks, Dan. We’ve been discussing these distinct market segments for some time and I thought it might be valuable to try to set down some navigation points and define parameters that make sense in the real world.
I think the problem is exacerbated by colossally poor market “research” on the industry that encourages endless echo-chamber thinking that is so trapped and blind that it doesn’t even realize it is stuck on one surface of a Möbius strip and it just keeps going around and around in the same loop pattern, oblivious to the three-dimensional spatial reality around it (to say nothing of four-dimensional spacetime). 🙂
“This makes it even more urgent to sound the alarm for all translators and encourage them to begin to make the enormous investment in time to specialize….” Really? All of them? I would do that no more than I would encourage every Walmart stock clerk to study medicine. But for those who meet the prerequisite and have the skills to offer to the markets where “good” might be mediocre at best, by all means. And I would rather see people at any level push to improve their skills and position in either area to the extent possible than leave the discussion to the endless dull droning of the bulk market bogmasters encouraging translators to harm themselves by getting stuck in that mud as human-assisted machine pseudo-translation (HAMPsTr) workers and the like.
Yes, Kevin, quite right, I should have said that we should sound the alarm for all translators (so all are aware of the real market segments — part of the intent here is to shine a bright light on the entire scope of the real-world market) while encouraging those with the skills, dedication and desire to make the enormous investment in time and effort to specialize. Thanks for the correction.
“We see that the premium sector of the industry is continuing to expand – and rates are rising …” – Absolutely, I can confirm this. My clients have no problems with my high prices and they event are ready to wait till I am avalaible to do their translations.
And I agree with Kevin. I would not encourage and “all” translators, only the good ones who have got the skills and understand what is going on. A market, whatever for, needs both sides – and even more. Let me compare it with the tyre market. The tyre market needs the premium brands like Michelin, Goodyear and Bridgestone. And it also needs the low price tyres manufactured in India or China. Those consumers who want Michelin have to pay a higher price – and this is OK.
Thanks a lot for this article (and sorry about my “French English”, English is not a language I work with).
Giselle (blogging on http://www.ruesterweg.de in German)
Hi Giselle, yes, quite right, it’s important to recognize that healthy markets can accommodate all segments along the demand curve.
In the translation industry we’re unfortunately handicapped by the endless braying from the largest bulk-market players and their co-conspirator “research” companies about how the bulk market is the ONLY market. This serves their interests exclusively, as it allows them to preach about cost pressures and demanding clients and how they are helpless to stop the relentless downward pressure on rates. This, of course, is cynical nonsense.
In the premium market, a considerable number of successful translators make higher annual incomes than do the management people at these companies.
Thanks again for your comments.
Thanks Kevin for this really interesting post! A great look at both sides of this issue. Here’s the part I struggle with (because other translators ask me this a lot, and I don’t have a great answer): what about translators who, due to their specializations, are more or less stuck in the bulk/volume-driven market? I’m thinking here of people who do things like pharmaceuticals and software. Realistically, a company the size of Microsoft or Novartis is going to go with a large translation company, because they need 100,000 words into 19 languages in a month (or whatever…you get what I’m saying). And on top of the translation, they need engineering and complicated project management. For people who are trained in or really enjoy those types of specializations, any thoughts?
I have two thoughts on your observation.
One is that there are many thousands of software companies that are not Microsoft. There was a time that Microsoft did a lot of innovative and excellent work but so much translated content now exists across that enterprise that I’m not sure how much creative and compelling work is left to be done, with the exception of new and rare languages, especially those with difficult orthography.
It’s possible to seek out direct clients in the IT indusry with a strong dedication to quality and market impact where the relative cost of excellent translation is small compared to the value delivered by attracting attention in the right global markets.
Pharmaceuticals does include premium segments. Most of the major multinationals have multiple vendors for projects with different quality requirements — they often choose a bulk-market vendor for the ground beef and a boutique vendor for the prime rib and are perfectly happy spending at different levels with that solution.
So the easy answer is seek out the best boutique translation companies that do manage the 19 languages (a small number for the pharma industry — I used to manage projects in 32 languages).
I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out that these companies are not all monoliths. There are often local divisions or subsidiaries with a considerable level of independence in vendor selection. Those are prime for picking as direct clients.
Thanks again for your comments.
Corinne, from my experience it’s possible for translators in the gaming localization niche to become household names and essentially monopolize the business despite occasionally showing a significant lack of skill and imagination, which puts a significant mark on the premium status.
That market is so closed that even as a former hardcore gamer and gaming journalist, despite acing recruitment tests and such like, I would only be able to just simply perhaps once in a longer while get selected by a contractor agency paying significantly less than my agency rate.
Once upon a time, on the strength of my bio and my law degree, I was able to negotiate a very substantial pay increase but only on the strength of the fact that I was already making much more doing legal translation for agencies (not even direct clients). But that’s it.
So perhaps I would be able to enter that sector gradually and jump a couple of steps each time while moving up but that would still mostly mean increasing my chances of getting selected rather than getting paid more. I would probably be unable to do anything if a publisher CFO or someone else up there decided that from then on translators were to take a 10% pay cut.
It comes down to one thing: translators are not expected to make real money or to steal any spotlight from the developer and the publisher.
If their names make it into the credits, they may eventually gain some wider-spread appreciation from the fans and be able to capitalize on it in some way, such as writing books or developing their own games (as designers or writers). But forget about decent rates. According to corporate policies and corporate outlooks, translators are supposed to live in poverty and are on a level with floor cleaners. It’s something akin to social class.
Thus, a couple of months ago, an indie developer actually named his own price already in the informal RFQ and his offer was 60% higher than whatever I could leverage out of corporate/agency gaming translation, probably even without knowing any specifics about my qualifications (and possibly more than 100% more than gaming localization tends to pay if you have little leverage).
I don’t intimately know what it looks like in non-entertainment software, but I have little reason to think it’s different — other than the fact that it does pay higher rates, sometimes higher than the typical agency rate, but it involves a lot of short strings charged at the usual pay-word rates. And a metric heckton of general style guides, specific style guides, reference materials, previous translations to be consistent with, and even correspondence histories between the agency’s QA and the software giant’s QA. At that point your earnings are significantly less than what your rates would suggest, and it’s impossible to be a premium translator also because you’re so thoroughly dehumanized and reduced to a gear in the machine. You don’t have personhood, so much less a personality. And without a personality, there is no premium for you, though you can get decent rates on the strength of multiple referrals from powerful brands.
Smaller IT brands, including sole-props, are more inclined to care which translator they get, but they’ll probably still go through an agency and are capable of being lost to a marginally cheaper translator. I’m pretty sure there must exist a premium market with boutique devs, but I haven’t encountered it yet. The only IT company I’ve ever had as a more permanent client is not actually a software developer or hardware manufactuer (which makes them similar to me), and it mostly asks me to do legal/admin and marketing translation. Don’t know to what extent they were influenced by my legal credentials, IT-related past or the combination of both. I think I’ll actually ask them.
Good response, Kevin.
Corinne, I’d add another point, following on comments I’ve heard from translators who claim (often with a Voice of Authority :)) that “big companies only work with big agencies.” These translators then go on to explain why this is ‘only logical’ given the power/clout of “big agencies”, the large number of languages, tight deadlines for gazillions of words and so on, and often end their “I’ve been around the block and know this all from experience” message with something cynical or depressing about how this state of affairs is not going to change anytime soon.
From my own personal experience (yup :)) I know that that superficially convincing “argument” is in many cases simply untrue.
OK, big companies often have an agreement with bulk providers for some document types and run-of-the-mill work. But seriously important documents never get passed onto them — the risk is too high, or perceived as too high (Kevin’s piece describes this very accurately). For mission-critical work, these customers turn instead to individual translators and/or boutique operations. The existence of this two-tier set-up is hardly ever mentioned by bulk providers, presumably because they don’t know it exists.
So a thought: if the translators you mention (IT, pharma) are really that good (specialized in the way Kevin describes), I would advise them to keep their eyes and ears open for top-tier work outside the bulk contracts. Needless to say, this will entail getting out of the house, going to (client-)industry events, connecting with decision makers well above the Purchasing Department. I agree that it is easier with SMEs than with giant corporations because the chain of command is shorter. But it’s possible in both cases — just takes more investment of time and effort up front.
Chris, I think those translators are rationalizing in a similar way to battered spouses and hostages with Stockholm syndrome. It’s difficult for them to accept that agencies and clients are treating them badly, or that they are so vulnerable that they can be treated badly like that (which is a troubling realization), so they repress it and reframe their thinking and repeat slogans from agency copy. (About the need for complex management, fast turnovers, 20 languages at once etc.)
‘The existence of this two-tier set-up is hardly ever mentioned by bulk providers, presumably because they don’t know it exists,’ — I think they have enough experience to at least suspect that’s the case, but talking about it would make them look bad, so they won’t. Like in the above example, they may also be repressing the realization because it makes them feel bad or vulnerable.
‘Needless to say, this will entail getting out of the house, going to (client-) industry events, connecting with decision makers well above the Purchasing Department,’ — correct me if I’m wrong, but I suspect even sending a CV and cover letter to 30 HR addresses (without getting into the subject of which addresses are more worth writing to) should result in a fair chance of in-house employment with a better salary and other conditions than the sum total of what they can expect from agencies in comparable time-periods. If they still decide to go freelance after a couple of years, they will probably have a better foundation to start with (and some spare capital to invest in getting a proper starter package, enabling them to high-cost client hunting such as conferences and other events or direct mail to decision-makers). Not every translator has to be a freelance translator.
Someone has been reading my business plan. 😉
I agree with Kevin and Chris Durban — the fact is, large companies frequently turn to “boutique” translation firms for their high-profile material, because they know they’ll get a top-notch service. There is a surprisingly large number of very small providers out there doing very nicely by translating very high-profile material for very large corporations — many of them have been doing so for many years. The key is, of course, consistency. Consistency of standard, and above all, consistency of service.
It’s probably also worth noting that there are some SMEs that are well familiar with the corporate world, for example owned by people who have worked in big corporations for even bigger corporations and are now independent consultants with all the trappings of ‘corporateness’. Such hybrids might be more inclined to work with boutiques (which is what they are too) or run a two-tier system. You probably can’t expect too much business from them unless they manage to tap into a large transaction and pull you in, but they should be capable of paying nice rates on nice jobs and giving you nice testimonials that matter (because other corporates work with them, so their word carries weight in the corporate world). They are small firms that work on big cases, just like premium translators.
Excellent and great analogies! We need more people in our industry posting similar truths, hoping that our clients might come across them at some point as validation of what we’ve been saying for a while. Thank you, Kevin, for this contribution!
I never got around to writing a comment on this article at the time, to my shame, but have come back to today as I am researching things for a presentation.
This article offered a great analysis of the situation. Rates for mediocre translations are falling – while rates for (or “earnings generated by”) top-notch, mission-critical translations are going up and up. I’m sure it was you who defined premium as: when you find there is no ceiling to what you can charge.
The term “premium translator” has to date remained only loosely defined. The problem with this is that people tend to seek their own definition, and then apply it to themselves for political and economic reasons. Predictable, right?
Recently we have seen posts on blogs and social media featuring translators attempting to add legitimacy to their stance on this or the other topic by referring to their own status and clients as “premium” clients. The reactions to posts like this one or the recent interview with Chris Durban have been almost cult-like. You yourself, Kevin, and no doubt Chris Durban, too, have found yourselves the subject of much admiration and, by extension, emulation. Many praise you both in the hope that they may, too, be perceived as something of the same. “Premium” as a term has become a buzzword, in the sense that it is both popular and it has started to lose its meaning.
Premium is just a word, though, so what’s the harm? In my very humble and cynical opinion, the harm comes from the fact that some of these people have very different ideas about what premium translation services really are.
Some people consider themselves premium for simply not accepting the few cents offered here or there for rush jobs from bottom-feeding agencies. This is of course often a quite honest assumption. Some people consider themselves premium the second their rates match or slightly exceed the averages we see in ITI, BDÜ or SFT rate surveys. Again you might ask what the harm of this is? If people are happy believing that, what is the problem?
The problem is the deception. The problem is that some of these people are presenting themselves as gurus and coaches, premium translators to be looked up to, “one of you”. They speak from their pedestals to portray their views on the industry and their views on how to do business. Often there is good advice to be had, but on the other hand, there is never anything that would threaten their own position.
It is a masterful act, but they leave traces, ready for the savvy to spot without too much effort. It quickly becomes obvious that many of these people are succeeding on average, or maybe at best “good” rates, not premium ones. They are working a lot with other agencies (even ones without websites…), and outsourcing to other freelance translators. In other words, they are middling agency owners, who may also translate, happily disguising themselves as freelancers. In so doing, they are able to ingratiate themselves with freelancers for various economic and political advantages. Subtle infiltration is certainly a great way to spread views advantageous to your business model.
I took a little while, but that was the point I was getting to: the fact there are many “premium” translators whose own rates and business practices are NOT premium. They are merely living a comfortable life through successful outsourcing. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, except when you mislead others.
My message and warning to anyone looking at any guru claiming to be a premium translator is this: does this person really know what premium is?
Now here is my disclaimer: I wouldn’t say I am anywhere near as premium as certain other premium rate advocates, but I HAVE discovered there is no ceiling. Since discovering that, I’ve been pushing higher and higher, depending on the value of the job and work involved, and reaching levels many translators just would not believe. I get repeat business, complete with “love letters” and referrals from happy clients who got exactly what they needed, all the while counting their lucky stars that they were able to find me.
Word rates of 25 or 30 cents are still nowhere approaching premium, because premium goes beyond such ways of thinking and pricing (and if you converted some project fees back to word rates these people would get quite a shock). Nor does making a decent living outsourcing to other translators for a cut of the profits make you a premium translator, because its the translator’s uniqueness that makes them premium. Loyal clients who value what you and you alone can give them, who don’t give a flying f*ck what you or that other guy cost… that is what premium is all about. That, and recognising that that “ceiling” is just something good writers and translators can keep on pushing higher.
Stay classy. Stay premium.
I think that largely depends on the sector you’re in. In most of them you can probably use some serious storytelling marketing to leverage your unique bio, but in some fields your personality and your individual traits in general show through your translation work more than in others. You are also not perceived as equally close to their core activity by some businesses as by some others (not that they equally care about that, either — for some it just matters how much dough you bring in). Then there are also social concerns, on account of which it may be easier or more difficult to be seen as an equal, depending on the client. You don’t have to be an equal in the strict sense to remove ceilings, but you can’t be a member of the vendor class or some other kind of servile populace. Depending on the culture, hereditary privilege vs non-privilege, ownership vs non-ownership, hard skills vs soft skills, along with the perceived relative status of certain professions. Or the client’s readiness to concede your co-authorship. I would venture as far as saying that this adds a certain randomness to the achievability of premium status (with the ordinary premium and the rockstar premium being two different things).
It’s probably not a coincidence that most true-premium translators are in marketing (words that directly sell and clients who are relatively laid-back but command large budgets) or hard science (hard skill that commands respect).
I can’t really think of premium legal translators, except ones that have a measure of fame and authority — and that largely as authors, lecturers and dictionary curators — but not really money.
I’m pretty sure there are higher-paid legal translators than those are (I might be one of those myself, depending on the month), but they will usually be bunkered up in expensive corporate law firms as inhouse translators with their names unknown to the outside world. For social reasons, as the squire’s squire, they will not be allowed to officially outshine or outrank the lawyers (unlike legal marketers, who sometimes manage the feat); they’ll be like the old warrant officer/CSM who occasionally gets to de facto command 2LTs in combat situations but still salutes first. 😉
Themselves being lawyers (as several such translators are) changes the game, but they probably usually make more money actually practising the law than translating in such a case.
Hi Kevin, thanks for the eye-opening insights. The article has confirmed my intuition. I’m still relatively young in the profession (7 years), but this year I changed my tagline to include “premium translator” (strange coincidence, I promise, Rose). Not because I noticed any vanity trend that I felt I needed to align to, as Rose points out, but simply because I’ve noticed I usually can get people to pay me whatever I ask for. My competences have helped me outrun the bulk market 5-fold in terms of revenue (in my language combinations EN/DE-RO). But I’ve only started leaving the bulk market in the past 2 years.
That said, Kevin and Rose just made me seriously doubt my premium status (both in terms of specialty and revenue). That’s just about the only bad news that made me feel surprisingly good. If anything, I’ve seen the light, and the future’s looking bright. See you there . 🙂
Your experience would be quite valuable, as CEE is basically a combat zone as far as getting good rates for translation goes. Romanian, Hungarian, Czech, Polish etc. are a much different game from the more respected FIGES languages (French, Italian, German, English, Spanish), where the competition is thicker but the language itself doesn’t face social stigma (nor do the speakers, at least not to the same extent). Quintupling the usual rate in Romania is probably a greater achievement than hitting 30 cents as a FIGES translator.