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How to set rates? advice for a beginner
Thread poster: Caroline Lakey

Caroline Lakey  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
French to English
Jun 24, 2008

There are many discussions on about the evils of the low rates that some translators propose, and quite rightly so - at the end of the day, the aim of the exercise, however noble the art may be, is to make a living.

My question is quite simple - as a beginner, how can I decide how much I should be charging?

Many thanks in advance for any advice you can give.


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United Kingdom
Local time: 11:27
Member (2004)
Ukrainian to English
+ ...
an idea Jun 27, 2008

Put it this way, how low can your rate go before its not worth doing a translation? (i.e you can do another job for better money)

My advice would be to start at just about the minimum for your language pair and economic circumstances (where you live in the world, standard of living etc) then increase gradually as you get more experience.

Hope that helps.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:27
English to German
+ ...
There are beginners and there are beginners Jun 27, 2008

Some beginners just graduated from university with a beautiful diploma that they have studied for for several years.

Some beginners just happened to wake up this morning, and decided "Hey, I want to be a translator!".

Translation doesn't come with a price sheet like in a copy-shop or a cafeteria.

Unfortunately, your profile page is entirely empty. Maybe you would like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

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Fabiana Zardo  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:27
Member (2009)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Depends on your country Jun 27, 2008

Here in Brazil we have associations of translators that try to stablish a minimum rate.
However, not all of us can charge that to all of our clients or agencies(R$0,32/word or US$0,20), but it's a good way to have some ideas.

Isn't there somethig like that in your country? Associations, Unions, etc...

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Caroline Lakey  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
French to English
Thanks Jun 27, 2008

Thanks for your help so far! I knew there wasn't going to be an easy answer to the question.

My empty profile is actually deliberate for the moment. As I'm going to be away a fair bit this summer, I'm not starting up until September. Here in France, it's strictly forbidden to do any kind of advertising before you're registered as a business - so I think it's best that I leave my profile blank until then.

I'm quite happy to tell you a bit about myself though - I'll do my best to be brief!

I did an International Management and French degree at Bath University, and have been working in the travel industry, based in France for a British company for the last 11 years. Translating and interpreting for staff and customers was the biggest part of my job, because most of the time I would be the only "real" French speaker on the staff, and most clients did not speak much French. So I've interpreted and translated in all sorts of situations, every time that anyone other than me neded to communicate with the outside world in fact! Run of the mill stuff like correspondance, medical visits, local authorities etc, but also full scale emergencies including a coach crash and a fire. I've also done quite a bit of work for the local Gendarmes, in a sort of exchange agreement with the centre where I worked. When I got to the point that I felt ready to move on from that job, I decided to go into translating and interpreting full time (I've always been interested in the idea of running my own business too). I'm now doing a correspondance course in translating in order to get some experienced feedback on my work, and I would like to do the IoL exams once I have a little more experience. (Proz has been very useful for researching courses too.)

At home, I speak French with my partner and his 2 children, and English with my son, so I feel that I shouldn't have too much difficulty keeping up my skills in both languages.

I'll certainly look into whether the translators' union here sets any rates, I hadn't thought of that option, so thanks Fabiana.

Hope I haven't waffled on for too long!

Kind regards,


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
English to German
+ ...
Rate calculator Jun 27, 2008

Hi Caroline,
Have you played around with the Rate Calculator? It admittedly simplistic, but good to get an initial idea.

Best regards,

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Ioana Isai  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:27
Romanian to German
+ ...
Must beginners charge lower rates? Jun 28, 2008

This is a question that has been bothering me for some time, especially since I have started to bid for translation assignments via

I consider myself a beginner, although I am in the translation business for 5 years now - which involved mostly translating and interpreting during my studies. But most of all I consider myself a beginner because I am just starting to enter the competitive world of translation. From my experience, as a beginner you do not get many chances to receive an assignment, because there are your "older" colleagues, with n-years of experience, all sorts of translation-tool-certifications and what not, so you are pretty much doomed. And then there are those colleagues who charge so little per word, that your rate seems an enormity, although it isn't.

I am still trying to figure out what it is that makes outsourcers content: low rates or top-nodge qualifications and experience?

As you may see, calculating the rate for a translation is relative to many factors. I for one still have not found the "magic formula".

Maybe someone can give some tipps/advice...

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:27
Member (2003)
German to English
Not at all Jun 28, 2008

Should beginners charge lower rates? Lower than what? Rates vary so widely that I don't think a comparison makes much sense. You certainly shouldn't charge less than what would constitute a "living wage" for your efforts. The ProZ rate calculator can help you figure that out.

When I started translating it never occurred to me to charge a lower rate. Nobody asked me for one either based on a "lack" of experience (though this may have been offset by subject matter experience in most cases). If you can deliver high quality work on time, I don't see any reason why I should pay you less than a colleague who has been translating for ten years, and if you have specialist expertise that colleague doesn't, you may very well be worth more. There is no seniority system here - it's about what you can do. In most cases, you can do it better (faster, etc.) with time, but not always.

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