How do I price my services as a new translator?
Thread poster: Kalar75
Kalar75
Local time: 08:39
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Dec 7, 2007

I have recently joined this site, as a first step in establishing a translating business with my husband. I am a native of Brazil and speak Portuguese, English and Spanish fluently. My husband owns a teaching business, preparing students for the GMAT and LSAT (including graduate-level English grammar). I have had success recently teaching Portuguese here in St. Louis. Our plan is to work in conjunction: I will complete the first translation, and my husband will edit my work to provide a high-level translation from Portuguese or Spanish.

English translators in Brazil make over $50 (U.S.) per page, and my husband earns $50-$70 per hour for his business, so I don't want to underprice our services. However, not knowing the going rate for services on this site, I don't want to overprice, either. I would like to use this website to build a portfolio of work and gain experience with various types of translation before marketing directly to businesses in Brazil. If anyone would be willing to share his or her personal experience starting a service through this website, any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


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Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Belize
Member
Dutch to German
+ ...
Full rate Dec 8, 2007

Cannot comment on how much you should actually charge, but whatever you do, do not charge less than colleagues with years of experience would do. If you feel insecure about what you deliver, a proofreader is a good investment.

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:39
English to French
+ ...
Going rate on this site Dec 8, 2007

Please, be cautious with the going rate on this site. It is not truly representative of the industry. This is because most of the outsourcers on this site are agencies, many of which are agencies working for agencies (translators outsourcing agency contracts disguised as agencies). As you probably know, if a client outsources work to outsourcer A, who then outsources to outsourcer B, who will eventually outsource to a translator, the rate the translator is paid is not even close to the rate the end client at the top of the chain pays.

One of the things you should look at is whether you want to target direct clients or if it is OK for you to work with agencies. Most of those who are fresh to this business go with the agencies, for the obvious reason that it is much easier to find contracts. Hunting down direct clients is much like prospection for a salesman, or even cold calling - you have to make many attempts before you actually land a contract/client. If you have time and don't need to start working full time right away, then I recommend you investigate the possibility of picking up direct clients - they usually pay a good 40% more than agencies.

If you were a paying member of this site, you would have access to the average rates people on this site charge - which is a good 30% below the professional market rate in most cases. But you can get this kind of information on other similar sites without being a paying member, so you may want to look these up to start with. You may also want to look up websites of translators who work in your language combination and specializations. Many of them display rates on their sites, which again can be a good indicator of what people in your market segment charge. However, the best method is to pretend you are a company looking to have documents translated and ask agencies/translators for a quote on a dummy document (make sure your dummy document represents well the type of documents you want to translate). They will quote you rates that will more accurately reflect the going rates of your market segment.

If you are serious and want to pursue a career in freelance translation for a long time, then I advise you to start looking for direct clients right away. You can still work for agencies in the meantime, which will help you to get a steady flow of work, maybe not paid as good a rate, but this would fill in the financial void until you get your break with direct clients. Ultimately, working for direct clients is your best bet.

All the best!

P.S.: I sent you a link privately to a website where you can find out lots of infomation on the business - the person whose website it is works in your language combination and has lots of experience. You can tell this person is highly popular in his market segment. There is lots of information there that will probably help you a lot. I found it very useful, and I don't even work in this person's language combination. Please, check your messages - you will be glad you did.

[Edited at 2007-12-08 16:57]


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:39
English to German
+ ...
Rate calculator Dec 8, 2007

Hi Kalar,
To get a preliminary indication of what your price might be, try the ProZ.com rate calculator.

Admittedly somewhat simplistic, the tool gives you some idea regarding the factors you may want to take into account.

Viktoria wrote:

If you are serious and want to pursue a career in freelance translation for a long time, then I advise you to start looking for direct clients right away. You can still work for agencies in the meantime, which will help you to get a steady flow of work, maybe not paid as good a rate, but this would fill in the financial void until you get your break with direct clients. Ultimately, working for direct clients is your best bet.

Wholeheartedly agree.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Eman Riesh  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:39
Member (2010)
Arabic to English
+ ...
How-to-do this, Viktoria? Dec 8, 2007

Hi all,
Kalar, I may don't have a clue about how you should charge for your language pairs, but the least I can say is that you should keep in your mind that it is even much harder to raise your rates which you applied with a certain client. I, personally, still facing this problem. So, my advice to you, if you'd accept it from me as a translator with 5 years experience, is not to go so down with your rates for sake of just working. Years later, you'll get much experience and still your clients insist on treating you financially much the same as you were in your beginnings.

ViKtoria, you've mentioned many useful points, like targeting direct clients.
Dear all, along those five years of my freelance working, I've spent three of them locally with such greedy agencies whom you may call (translator's vampires) as they pay you the least!!!, though they were satisfied with my work quality.
My question here is, to Viktoria and you all, how to target the direct clients? Do you have some ideas/strategies regarding this point? Though I've been contacted by only two direct clients, but it was not me who initiated such contacts.
Do you really make direct contacts through which you may get in business with new direct clients?
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Best wishes,
Eman


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
And if you feel like spending money to get an answer.... Dec 8, 2007

The American Translators Association publishes a national (U.S.) survey of what translators earn, broken out by freelance versus in-house, language pairs, etc. Presumably it's available through their web site (though I haven't checked): www.atanet.org.

[Edited at 2007-12-08 23:03]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:39
English to French
+ ...
Prospection Dec 9, 2007

jasmen wrote:

My question here is, to Viktoria and you all, how to target the direct clients? Do you have some ideas/strategies regarding this point?


I don't have any fool-proof plan or solution to this. In my experience, the logical approach would be to build a list of people you want to work with. This means you have to find out who would be interested in buying translation services from you rather than from somebody else. Obviously, the main factor here is specialization. For example, if you translate lots of technical manuals, you need to approach people who are likely to produce technical manuals. You also need to ask yourself the question: what can I offer this prospective client that they probably wouldn't get from an agency? You basically need to custom build an offer for the client. Then, you sell them the idea. You have to be a good listener - when you first get in touch with the representative of a company you would like to work with, you have to try to detect what their needs are and offer a service that is tailor-made for their needs. A good argument is that you can offer the same service to the client as they would get from an agency (or better, in some cases) for a lower rate. Professional agencies charge somewhere between USD 0.20 and 0.30 nowadays, and if you offer them a rate of 0.18, they pay less. Of course, you need to evaluate the kind of translation projects the prospective client is likely to have. If they want to get a document translated into 20 different languages, it may not be interesting for them to work with you because they would need project management, which is what the agencies are good at. It is always best to try contacting a local office of companies. For example, I translate for a very popular Japanese electronics company, who usually deals with agencies, but they have just discovered the advantage of working with freelancers. They get their manuals translated into many languages, but they leave the work to their regional offices, so the North American office deals only with Spanish and French, so they only have two languages to deal with instead of 20. This makes it possible for them to work with freelancers. So, if you want to translate for, say, Moët et Chandon, because you are specialized in wine and spirits, then don't contact their head office in France - try to get a hold of their local office. They would be more likely to have translation work that is better handled by a freelancer.

In any case, prospecting is hard work in our field. It takes a long time to get a direct client, and you shouldn't give up just because you've been trying for a year to no avail. Look at it this way: if you pick up one direct client per year, then five years from now, most of your work will probably come from direct sources. And if they are repeat clients who like your work, they just might send other direct clients your way. Freelancing is a bit like good wine - it gets better with time.

All the best!


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
Tried and true Dec 9, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

However, the best method is to pretend you are a company looking to have documents translated and ask agencies/translators for a quote on a dummy document (make sure your dummy document represents well the type of documents you want to translate). They will quote you rates that will more accurately reflect the going rates of your market segment.



I've done it. It's a tried and true method for getting useful information.


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Iza Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:39
English to Polish
+ ...
Or you can work the other way round Dec 9, 2007

The method is borrowed from a friend in the Polish forum, but to me there is much sense in his theory
First, think how much you WOULD LIKE to earn, add some percentage to cover for the slow periods, then add the costs that can be expected and taxes to be paid, and then translate it into a gross daily rate. Finally, divide it by your productivity in terms of the number of words you feel able to translate during an 8-hour day.
In this way you arrive at your wished-for rate (upper bracket) and can compare that to the estimates from other sources ... outcome might prove interesting


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:39
English to Russian
+ ...
I wouldn't do this Dec 10, 2007

As it could lead to some kind of a situation like this one

Imagine some teacher of English makes 10 thousand roubles a month in Russia. It is about 500 usd.
The person makes a calculation from that opposite point - 10 pages daily, 5 usd a page of 1800 charavters or about 250 words. 30 days give and enormous yield of 1500 dollars.

No wonder some russian translators make questions on forums like "I have been offered 4 cents per word and they want to sign a contract with me immediately. It is suspicious, too much money,
colleagues , what should I do?"

++
I am of the opinion that we should use market level and not our expectation as a primary basis for our rates.


[Edited at 2007-12-10 00:52]


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marybro  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
International Institute Dec 10, 2007

You may want to get in touch with the International Institute of Metropolitan St. Louis. They hire interpreters, but also may have a network of verifiable sources for translators.

314-773-9090


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Iza Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:39
English to Polish
+ ...
But Dec 10, 2007

Sergei Tumanov wrote:

As it could lead to some kind of a situation like this one

Imagine some teacher of English makes 10 thousand roubles a month in Russia. It is about 500 usd.
The person makes a calculation from that opposite point - 10 pages daily, 5 usd a page of 1800 charavters or about 250 words. 30 days give and enormous yield of 1500 dollars.

No wonder some russian translators make questions on forums like "I have been offered 4 cents per word and they want to sign a contract with me immediately. It is suspicious, too much money, colleagues , what should I do?"


That's why I say COMPARE with info from other sources. And why the outcome of comparison may be extremely interesting


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 14:39
French to Dutch
+ ...
Don't forget Dec 12, 2007

that about one-third of your time will be non-productive (that is: phone calls, invoicing, prospection, administrative tasks, documentation, troubleshooting, software problems, etc.).

Skilled translators say often that you should start with the amount you want to earn in a month. In general, your turnover should be about the double (irrespective of the country you're living in). Divide this by the number of working hours (two-third of the number of hours you'll spend in your business) and you'll have the minimum price you should charge per hour. If you want to take some holidays, you do the same for a whole year.

Don't forget too that you should have a cash flow of about three months (if you don't have work for a while, you should be able to pay your social security contributions and taxes).


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:39
English to Russian
+ ...
totally agree Dec 13, 2007

Iza Szczypka wrote:
That's why I say COMPARE with info from other sources. And why the outcome of comparison may be extremely interesting


I totally agree with this.


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