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Agencies - fair salary for beginner?
Thread poster: mattsmith
mattsmith
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:14
German to English
+ ...
Jun 8, 2006

Hi everyone,

I'm new to the industry and have just completed a six months' German - English translating internship in Germany, as well as modern languages degree and translation MA.

The same company here in Germany has offered me a contract of employment that sees me getting paid around 1,400 - 2,000 (max) Euros a month for translating a variety of technical, legal, marketing and general texts, depending upon how much I do. They expect at least 2,000 words a day if not more. Also, there are possible salary deductions if translations aren't accepted by clients.

Is this acceptable - or should I apply for new jobs? I want to stay in-house. How much should I realistically expect to earn?

Thanks in advance,

matts.


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AnnikaLight  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:14
English to German
Run! Jun 8, 2006

Matts,

I'm a freelancer, so I can't give you any specific "in-house" advice, however... here's my general advice: Run!

You wrote, "Also, there are possible salary deductions if translations aren't accepted by clients."

Don't sign anything like that! Some clients are fickle. I've proofread perfectly fine translations that were accepted by two different translators - yet the client said, "The translation is wrong." Sometimes, clients don't even specifiy the so-called "mistakes and errors."

Don't subject yourself to the possiblity of having to accept a salary reduction because a client might not "like" your work.

Just my 2 cents - and good luck with your career

Annika


[Edited at 2006-06-08 15:50]


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:14
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Not sure Jun 8, 2006

I find an expected output of 2,000 words per day approximately acceptable. That is 45,000 words per month. For 45,000 words a freelancer just starting out would get at least EUR 3,600. Working in-house that would equal a value of EUR 1,800, because it costs the company about twice your salary to employ you. Nevertheless, it is not a lot to live on.

The possible salary deductions if translations are not accepted is, as far as I am concerned, not an acceptable arrangement. If you are employed in-house, the employer has to take the risk regarding the quality of your work. You should only bear the risk yourself if you are a freelancer. Your employer can decide whether to hire or fire you. If they hire you, they accept your work.

You will have to discuss the latter point with them, I think, and otherwise consider the matter carefully.

Astrid


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AnnikaLight  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:14
English to German
Run # 2 Jun 8, 2006

Hello again,

Furthermore, you wrote, "They expect at least 2,000 words a day if not more."

It's unreasonable to expect the translation of a DEFINITE (as opposed to an AVERAGE) amount of words per day. You don't know what kind of text you will be dealing with. Sometimes, you might have to spend half a day on background research. There's no way to make sure that you'll always be able to translate a minimum of 2,000 words.

Translating is a creative process. You'll need the freedom and time to deliver good work.

If you always have to translate 2,000 words a day, you'll soon make mistakes - and will then have to accept said "salary reduction."

Regards,

Annika

[Edited at 2006-06-08 16:05]


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Claudia Aguero  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 07:14
Spanish to English
+ ...
Be sure to fully understand all terms of such possible agreement...better run Jun 8, 2006

At the beginning is very hard to create a stable portfolio and one might even get very nervous because clients do not appear as often as on would like. However, it is better to work as a freelancer since you'd be able to negotiate your own rates, delivery dates and general terms for the translation.

If you feel that it is better to have some fixed income every month, I would advice yo not to sign an agreement for more than 6 months, so you can see how things are working and how seriuos is the company on the amounts of words translated per day, payments and even discounts.

Be sure to fully understand their policy regarding clients that do not accept translations: Is the agency going to support you by paying a proofreader? or will you be responsible for this? If the translation is correct, will the agency help you collect the money or they will just leave it up to you?

How would delivery dates be fixed: just per the amount of words a document have? In case of very technical documents, would you be given any extra time? Would you be asked about possible delivery dates?

Something very important is to have clear whether the 2000 words refer to source language or target language. In real life, this makes a huge difference! Are you going to be paid per words in source language or in target language? Does the agency have a policy of paying higher rates for working overtime, at night, weekends, holidays? (It may sound weird but in my country, the Law for Official Translations and Interpretatios sets forth that we "must " charge 50% extra if a client needs an official translation under such conditions.) By the way, would you get a salary raise, at least, every year? Would you be able to negotiate better rates based on your performance?

Another issue is analyzing the possibility of getting other translations independently from the agency. Would it be allowed? What would happen if you accept a translation and the agency gets to know it? Would you be fired? I have only worked once for an agency, but I kept all my clients and was able to do other works.


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:14
German to English
Sounds fishy to me... Jun 8, 2006

Matts25 wrote:
The same company here in Germany has offered me a contract of employment that sees me getting paid around 1,400 - 2,000 (max) Euros a month for translating a variety of technical, legal, marketing and general texts, depending upon how much I do.


That sounds like piecework, i.e. a "Lohn" (wage) not a "Gehalt" (salary). Staff translators don't do piecework, period. Under German law, a salary is fixed, though of course there can be bonuses on top of it

They expect at least 2,000 words a day if not more.


Reasonable as an average for a newbie.

Also, there are possible salary deductions if translations aren't accepted by clients.


Absolutely illegal under German law. Ohne wenn und aber.

Are they really offering you an employment contract, or are they expecting you to work as an "inhouse freelance", i.e. illegal bogus self-employment (Scheinselbständigkeit)? Will they pay your social security contributions, i.e. the employer contributions and your own (deducted) employee contributions and wage tax? Or are they just going to pay you an amount per month without deductions? If the latter, it's illegal under German law (and in many other countries as well).

I suggest you check these things out - if the answer to any of them indicates that your work would be illegal, I suggest you give these cowboys a *very* wide berth.

Robin
(100% legit employer of staff translators in Germany)


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AnnikaLight  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:14
English to German
2,000 words - not reasonable average for newbie Jun 8, 2006

RobinB wrote:

Reasonable as an average for a newbie.



Robin,

I disagree. I don't believe 2,000 words are reasonable as a daily average.

Sure, if you don't have to do any research and have absolutely no queries for the client - that's fine.

If your source text isn't ambiguous, vague, or badly written - that's fine as well.

If you have a straight-forward, boring, non-creative business text with constant repetitions - that's fine.

But if you work with marketing, advertising, entertainment-related or literary source texts, you might be in for a surprise. You might spend half an hour trying to translate a a five-word pun into your native language....

It really, really depends on the source text and SUBJECT area!!

Regards,

Annika

[Edited at 2006-06-08 19:41]


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:14
German to English
2000 words perfectly reasonable Jun 8, 2006

AnnikaLight wrote:
I disagree. I don't believe 2,000 words are reasonable as a daily average.

....

But if you work with marketing, advertising, entertainment-related or literary source texts, you might be in for a surprise. You might spend half an hour trying to translate a a five-word pun into your native language....


I think if you look what Matts wrote about the sort of text he would be called on to translate, 2000 wpd is perfectly OK, though possibly not in the first few weeks. And "marketing" isn't all fluffy work, and there's no mention by Matts of entertainment or literary texts. Personally, I'd never give advertising stuff to a newbie, except perhaps together with an experienced colleague. And in any case, that sort of work is billed differently (by the hour), so it isn't factored into the wpd calculation. Similarly, how many staff translators handle literary translations, I wonder??

2000 words translates into about 7 standard pages of German per day, say 8 English standard pages. That's OK. And don't forget we're talking about an average. I wouldn't expect him to achieve that in the first couple of months, but he should be hitting that volume regularly after, say, three months, and be up to an average of 10 standard pages per day or appr. 2,500 wpd by the end of six months.

Anything lower than that is not economically feasible, I'm afraid (unless of course the employer is a crook employing him illegally, which is unfortunately a sadly rampant phenomenon in our industry).

Robin


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:14
English to French
+ ...
I agree with most of what others said before me Jun 9, 2006

I would just like to add that there is no such thing as a beginner's rate. If beginners charge less, then soon enough they will get most of the work and experienced translators will be forced to work for lower rates eventually to keep up the competition. The overall market rate would then suffer - while agencies will still charge clients as mkuch as before. Also, the overall quality of work on the market would suffer, because not all beginners went to school, have good knowledge of the target language, are talented. So, this would actually hurt people's opinion of outr profession - which will eventually contribute even more to bring the rates further down.

Always sell your services at a sound rate that's in line with the average market rate.

For more info, there are tons of threads on whether beginners should be paid less than seasoned translators.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2006-06-09 00:58]


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mattsmith
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:14
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks everyone... Jun 9, 2006

Just to clarify things,

I'm getting a basic 1,200 Euros.

Everything above that is a 'boneus payment' and depends on how much I translate per day. If it's around 2000 words, it'll normally be more like 1,800. Translators who consistently translate above 2,600 get more like 2,500 euros a month.

However, on all of the translations, I get money taken away depending on how long the proofreading takes and how many errors the proffreaders find. This brings the 'bonus payment' down.

And if translations aren't accepted by the client, or if I fall below the 1,500 words mark a day, then yes, it's also conceivable that I could get deductions from my basic 1,200 Euros.

By the way - does anyone know what a 'fair monthly rate' for an in-house post in Germany would be?

Thanks for all your help.

Matts.


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:14
German to English
"translations aren't accepted by customers"? Jun 9, 2006

Matts,

One thing I forgot:

Also, there are possible salary deductions if translations aren't accepted by clients.


That can't be serious. As I wrote earlier, it's illegal if you're being paid a salary. But at a more general level, does this mean that your prospective employer would send your work to the customer unrevised? If so, that's unpardonable and unprofessional. Sounds more and more like a translation boiler-room to me.

Robin


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mattsmith
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:14
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Update Sep 15, 2006

Just an update, since I'd be interested in any comments.

I'm still at the same company here in Germany, no longer an intern. They've given me a temporary contract of employment of sorts.

In short, I worked out that after proofreading deductions, I was paid about 0.035 Euros per word for my work in July, when I translated approx. 36,000 words and worked about 8 hours a day at least.

I'm trying to figure out my next move. Is this a reasonable in house rate for Germany? Would I get more in a different in house role with roughly a year's experience?

Any suggestions from experienced professionals very appreciated.

Thanks in advance, Matts.

[Edited at 2006-09-15 11:33]


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theangel  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:14
Member (2006)
Swedish to Italian
+ ...
Did I understand well? Sep 17, 2006

You do your translations and the agency pays their proofreading with your salary??? ("after proofreading deductions, I was paid about 0.035 Euros per word for my work in July, when I translated approx. 36,000 words and worked about 8 hours a day at least")
Did you read any of the advice given above?
I have no experience as inhouse, but everything you wrote sounds unacceptable to me.


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