Recession seems to be the new buzzword. For people in our industry (translation, localization, globalization), it's not just a buzzword, but a fact of life.
The business is slowing down, and for some of us it's almost grinding to a halt. What will the future bring?
The majority of my work in the past few years has been connected to mobile technologies (mobile phones, mobile operators, user manuals for various gadgets, etc.). It's been a steady source of work and income, but the emerging crisis has me thinking - and thinking hard
The work is already slowing down seriously, and thinking about it, I need to reconsider my position and try to get my bearings in a new situation.
The mobile industry is probably going to be hurt by the crisis - and probably quite hard. If you think about it, you don't have to be clairvoyant to predict the future.
In a crisis, people always cut their spending - beginning with non-essential (luxury) expenses. If you consider that the mobile industry has been thriving for some time selling products and services which are simply "gadgets" (think of MMS, live chat, etc.), and that the mobile phone manufacturers survive simply by producing more and more items that actually sell "lifestyle", you can naturally expect that, once the "lifestyle" balloon pops, the sales will drop, and the cutting of costs will begin.
Who needs a new mobile phone/gadget every three months, anyway? I still have a mobile phone I got four years ago, and it still works OK. (I had to buy a new battery, though....)
So, the sales will drop, and the manufacturers will try to cut costs any way they can. The funds from the quality assurance (read: better localization and translation) will be diverted to even more aggressive marketing. The result: less work for me. I can already tell you that the financial results for mobile phone manufacturers in the next quarter will show a lot of red numbers....
(BTW, for those of you who have invested in mobile technologies, you might consider selling those shares, if it's not already too late....)
In my area, I can also expect to receive more and more "Chinglish" source material, since the "big players" will turn to cheaper and cheaper sources of the products they sell. There will be a lot of pressure on me to lower the rates, too.
In general, it's a natural progression of the trend I have seen and predicted in a way ever since Trados became the de facto industry standard. "Google Translate" is the next big step. "Crowdsourcing" was the next idea. In short, the role of a good translator is becoming less and less important - the end result being that our work is less and less appreciated and valued - and paid less.
For the past several years I've seen that I have to work more and more, provide more value (besides "translation" I need to provide DTP, consulting, etc...) for the same price. I have not raised my rates in the past 7 years - and have been forced to work more and more just to keep the income at the same level.
So, it would be foolish not to reconsider my options for the future. As a head of a small translation agency, I don't have the "muscle" to compete with the likes of SDL or Lionbridge. I can turn to domestic market, but the crisis is evident there, too. Simply put, in the times of economic crisis, translation is seen as a luxury, a non-essential cost. There's less work, and it's being done at cutthroat rates.
Right now, I'm considering how to make a living in troubled times. I already have a "test bed" project, which has absolutely nothing to do with translation, and we'll see what happens in the next 2-3 months, once the project takes off. Maybe I'll switch careers, who knows?
What are you doing about it?