Pay and be paid The mindset of saving on online services

  • Greater than 2 minutes, my friend!

    Recently, I had a friendly argument with my friend, a programmer whom I asked to have a look over my website. I had some issues with my WordPress theme and was not sure how to solve them. After having a quick look she asked:

    Actually, that’s some free theme, isn’t it? Ever considered buying a professional one?

    No, never. That’s some sort of an attitude towards virtual services. I never pay online for things I can’t touch.

    Just want to be sure: how then do you distinguish your translations and other virtual services?

    Translations don’t necessarily have to be online and virtual. Take any of my specializations and you will see that people really need my help; I create text which they are proud to show to their customers, translations that make their hospital treatment a lot cheaper, prevent legal issues, documentation which explains the functionality of their machines … and helps them generate new clients!

    New clients, you say? You mean, by localizing websites?


    So, again, what’s the difference between you helping your client by creating high quality website content which attracts new customers for them; and a programmer who does the very same for you by making your site run smoothly?

    That’s where I gave up. My argument that the programmer once works and then can sell his result to as many people as he can find didn’t really count, because together with the product you usually get service and updates, etc. That makes a comparison with a translator once doing a good job and living on it from then on quite difficult.

    Far too often I had potential customers thinking that my own translation services are “virtual”, that they “just spend money for work too boring” for themselves and that I should work almost for free. Needless to say, they never happened to buy my services, ending up with poor texts made by some MT editing “translator”. So, in fact I was stuck in similar stereotypes about a programmer’s work as the ones they might have about mine. And you can see that I’m in no way a programmer of any level if you consider that my website looked that way until now.

    Something inside me still hesitated to buy a mass product from someone I didn’t know and that’s the point where I opted to pay my friend to create something tailored to my needs. Yet, there are some open questions which I would like to discuss:

    • I really like the idea of “my time for your time” and it usually works well, but what do you do in situations when you don’t have the right specialist at hand or they are not interested in such an exchange?
    • What services do you usually buy for your work?
    • How do you choose the right person to provide you those products or services if you vaguely know what you need in the end but have absolutely no clue about how it shall be done?
    • Do you consider your own services “virtual”? If so – and that would be understandable – how do you monetize them? Later in the discussion I can share my opinion about getting enough benefits from my “virtual” translations which are valued by quite a few but which no one would even consider to pay for.

    Looking forward to hearing about your thoughts!

    Oleg Pogrebnyak

    About Oleg Pogrebnyak

    Translating between German, Russian and English since 2006, with areas of specialization including banking, medicine, engineering, sciences, law and politics.

    4 thoughts on “Pay and be paid

    1. Interesting questions, Oleg and congrats on publishing your first article on The Open Mic! Whenever I have to buy services online I’m always looking at several factors:
      – Reliability/trustworthiness;
      – Communication;
      – Cost;

      I had to hire all sorts of freelancers: designers, translators, web-developers, photographers, programmers and I’ve noticed that their online visibility (social media presence, personal website) and trustworthiness (client testimonials, case studies, blog articles) are major indicators that work in their favor.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “virtual”, though. Sure we operate mostly in the digital space. Some of us never saw our clients in real life, but I think our services have real value and when it’s properly communicated (through website’s copy, personal emails, branding, blogging) we’ll have clients willing to pay top dollar for that value. Just my 2 cents 🙂

      1. Thank you for such a detailed comment, Dmitry!
        You are right: by “virtual” I mean not only digital in the sense that you’re never meeting your client in person (that’s absolutely normal nowadays), but also digital in the way of contributing your time and knowledge to a greater society without knowing exactly who the beneficiaries might be and without the direct intent to earn money on that particular piece of work which you have accomplished. Actually, writing articles often goes in line with this definition of mine.

        So this website was mainly created by freelancers, right? Great job, really. Maybe, some day you’d like to write about all the organizational work which stood behind that?

        1. Hi Oleg! Yep, I’ve built The Open Mic all by myself without any prior coding or design knowledge. It was a pretty steep learning curve, if you ask me, but I’m happy I took that leap of faith because the results are outstanding.

          I’ve often shared my thoughts on building this platform in a form of developer diaries. You can find one here: link to

          I also value transparency and recommend you check out our Transparency Dashboard: link to

          We still have a very long way to go, because The Open Mic is still just me and a small team of volunteers, but we’re getting there 🙂

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