If low rates mean low quality, do high rates mean a high level of quality?
Not necessarily, in either case although WHEN COMPARING LIKE WITH LIKE, you generally get what you pay for.
DOMICILE : A translator living in country where average earnings are high is likely to be living in a country where the cost of living is high. He cannot afford to translate at low rates. If he does, he has to work more hours than is reasonable, or humanly possible.
SPECIALISATION : A translator who has specialist knowledge and experience can command higher rates too (perhaps even if starting out) , wherever he is based. He will target his clients, get to know them and work hard to keep them. He may even have been one of them in the past. In any event, a specialist recognises a specialist and should be able to communicate with one on near equal terms. At best, a translator may even have sufficient knowledge to be capable of producing the original document from scratch. At worst, he will not understand the text he has to translate (and this might not always be his fault!)
EXPERIENCE : This is the most difficult question to address. Generally, experience has a price. Never the less, your client will always want two things in varying degrees :
1 - a good job
2 – a good price.
Some clients are prepared to pay more than others. Either client will complain about poor work - some complain when the work is fine! So you might as well charge a decent rate. The “price” to be paid by a client using a “beginner”, is perhaps time. I tend to think that if you start by pricing yourself too low, you can trap yourself into low pricing. As you gain experience, you work faster on certain types of text anyway. (In my experience, it is one of the most noticeable improvements I have made professionally. As my technical knowledge of my chosen fields has grown, I have become more efficient. I can churn out decent texts of a particular type much faster now than I could in the past, safe in the knowledge that the quality is up to scratch).
What choice do you have as a beginner?
Charge low rates :
- Client’s point of view : He is happy to pay less. You might take longer than a less experienced person. There might be a greater risk that you make mistakes (although this is far from being certain – if you know what you’re doing…) or that your work is not quite in tune with the client’s style. Again, this can of course happen with experienced translators.
- Beginner’s point of view : this comes to you spending more time than a more experienced translator but your being paid less for it. Can you afford this?
Charge market rates :
- Client’s point of view : Your client will be used to the rates or will not be shocked by them if he starts looking around to compare.
- Beginner’s point of view : Perhaps you will take longer than an experienced translator, but you will end up with the same amount of money in your hand / word at the end of the day. You will start to see whether you can afford it…
Charge higher than market rates :
- Client’s point of view : Some are happy to do so if they are getting a specialised service. Even if they know you are starting out as a translator but you have other relevant experience which makes you valuable, this may be possible.
- Beginner’s point of view : In such cases, you are perhaps not a beginner after all and this can be reflected in your pricing.
For info : When I started out in 1994, I had a law and a language degree, post-grad legal training and relevant professional legal experience in a couple of bi-lingual legal environments. Chance, personal interest and contacts have led me onto something different, although without the original baggage, I would not have had the necessary credibility to get going. I started out by making the stupid mistake of under-pricing myself, not because I was trying to get clients that way, but because I had underestimated the value of my experience. Clients were asking me to work because of it. I was marketable and should have charged for it - I do now! As a result I undersold myself back in 1994. Since those early days, I have got better, I have improved. I hope to get even better and to improve even more – always. However you look at it, I still have to eat three meals a day and pay contributions into retirement and health funds together with tax! I have always had to pay those. I realise that I had undercharged for my services and could not have made a living from translating. Now I charge much more, vary rates according to complexity, format, and specific requirements and do make a living translating. I work all the time. I raise my rates every year by a tiny amount, informing clients of my intention to do so. None of my 30 or so regular clients has ever so much as batted an eyelid. One or two have even said I should charge more - they asked for it!
[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-26 09:54 ]
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