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How much does an 'average' translator earn?
Thread poster: Katrien De Clercq

Katrien De Clercq  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:00
Member (2006)
French to Dutch
+ ...
Nov 20, 2009

Hi everyone

I'd like to post a topic that might be delicate. Having started as a freelance translator three years ago, I have to say that business is going quite well. I haven't been a day without work and some texts go a lot better than others. I'm learning every day and I still enjoy translating. That's the most important part.

But I haven't got any idea what an 'average' translator earns. There isn't much information on the internet about that. I don't know if my rates are too high or too low, if my income is a bit in conformity with the market, how much words you all translate per day. That's why I wanted to post this topic. I hope I'm not offending anyone and I'm really looking forward to your replies. This would help me to give me an idea whether I can go on the same way or whether I have to implement some changes...

Thank you for your cooperation!

Katrien De Clercq

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-11-21 17:47 GMT]


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Natasha Dupuy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:00
French to English
The most relevant question... Nov 20, 2009

Hi Katrien,

If you search through past forum discussions on the topic, you'll not only find a lot of interesting things to read, but you will probably find that most people are very reluctant to talk about their rates and how much they earn. Personally I don't think there is any such thing as an "average" translator, since rates differ from one language pair to another, one country to another, one specialty to another, and the list goes on.

I think what you really need to ask yourself is whether you are earning enough to meet your financial commitments and maintain an appropriate lifestyle. Is this enough for you? Are you able to put money aside for a rainy day and invest some back into your business?

If you haven't been a day without work and this work comes from several clients - not just one or two - then you are doing very well and are probably having to turn work away. Are you turning new clients away? This should signal a good opportunity to try raising your rates!


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Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:00
English to Polish
+ ...
rates Nov 20, 2009

I guess people do mention their rates at times, so if you multiply a rate that you hear most often by your monthly output and discount for average monthly idle time (such as time spent in proz.com forums), I guess it's a pretty good estimate.

Some translators have permanent positions; I'd expect them to make less, though there is no way of saying, to me at least, how much less.


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Kathi Stock  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:00
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Former forum post Nov 20, 2009

Refer to: http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/112457-average_salary_for_translators.html

That should give you an idea.

Kathi


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Geraldine LAVILLE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:00
English to French
SFT survey Nov 20, 2009

Hi Katrien,

The SFT has made available the results of a big survey about translators rates:

http://www.sft.fr/page470.html


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:00
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Words per day - There is no average Nov 20, 2009

Katrien De Clercq wrote:
I don't know if my rates are too high or too low, if my income is a bit in conformity with the market, how much words you all translate per day.

Personally I would say there is no "average" or "standard" figure about words done per day. It will really vary based on a number of factors, including:
- The source and target languages
- How many hours you work per day
- How well you are acquainted with the subject matter of the jobs you normally get
- How well your translation tools work and how well they behave
- How fast you can think and how well you can keep concentrated
- How fast you can type and how accurately
- How many interruptions you have during the day to attend calls, emails, visits, family, or pets
- Your general experience and skill as a translator and writer

The list goes on.

In order to compare whether you are faring good or bad in terms of number of words, why don't you answer these questions just to see whether other people match this same profile and you can compare yourself with them?


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Paul Cohen  Identity Verified
Greenland
Local time: 19:00
German to English
+ ...
Some people make amazing claims Nov 20, 2009

I've seen beginners on this site brag that they can churn out 19,000 words in just four days ... and 130,000 words in six weeks, allowing them to save $16,000. Amazing!

Beginner's luck??
See: http://www.proz.com/topic/111281

Such claims should be taken with a grain of salt.

It sounds like you are doing well, Katrien. No matter how much you earn, there will always be those who earn more and those who earn less than you do. It's all relative. To find out how you are fairing in your particular market, I'd recommend directly asking colleagues who you trust -- and who trust you.

I compare rates with fellow translators all the time. I've always been told, for example, that translators of literary works tend to earn paltry amounts for their efforts. Nevertheless, that kind of work must be more satisfying than translating press releases and corporate newsletters, or at least that's what I'd like to believe.

I also heartily agree with Natasha's advice on evaluating your income, work situation and lifestyle.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:00
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Unfounded bragging Nov 20, 2009

Paul Cohen wrote:
I've seen beginners on this site brag that they can churn out 19,000 words in just four days ... and 130,000 words in six weeks, allowing them to save $16,000. Amazing!

Honestly 4,000 words per working day (5 days a week) does not sound like too much to me. I have known a number of people who can effortlessly and sustainably translate 6-7 thousand words per day in my language pair, and even remember a guy in a company I worked for who translated 9 or 10 thousand words day in day out and had time to enjoy a nice lunch, make good jokes, and go home early enough to have dinner with his family.

So all in all I agree: bragging about 4 thousand words a day sounds plain stupid indeed!


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 00:00
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
For how long? Nov 21, 2009

How much you can earn depends on many factors. Even if you can churn out let's say ten thousand words daily, it could happen that after 10 years you are burned out.
I once took a rush job, about 25 pages in 24 hours, but the next day I simply could not concentrate on work, exhausted. And the quality was probably not very high, but I got paid. After that I would never except such an offer again.

During the last 6 years my income prior to tax was 25000 - 33000 euro. That's less than I would get on a 8 hour job in industry or commerce, but I work on average maybe 3 hours daily, no weekends. And every year I had at least 6 weeks holidays and also weeks with no work, just checking mail and watching tv etc and waiting for the next job.

Translators of literature, if they are busy all the time, would maybe earn 15-20000 euro. I only do technical translations and stick to my rates, even if others don't.

Above 30000 euro the tax rises to 45 %, so I do not see any reason why I should work more.

And much depends on a good TM. If you are lucky, you find half of the stuff as 100 % matches, but the client doesn't know.

I never understood why people do not like to talk about their income.

Regards
Heinrich

[Bearbeitet am 2009-11-21 06:39 GMT]


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:00
French to German
+ ...
Some reasons Nov 21, 2009

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

I never understood why people do not like to talk about their income.

Regards
Heinrich

[Bearbeitet am 2009-11-21 06:39 GMT]


I personally don't like to talk about my income because it is linked to the French mentality (even if I find this stupid), i. e. the fact that earning money from translation is sometimes seen as suspect - I should add that all liberal professions are potential cheaters for the DGI (French revenue services).

As per other colleagues living in other countries, I assume some of them would see this as giving away too much information to unknown third parties.

Sad but true, money - and the things it allows you to do - still seems to stink, especially in nominally "Catholic" countries.

[Edited at 2009-11-21 08:29 GMT]


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Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:00
English to Polish
+ ...
wow Nov 21, 2009

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

During the last 6 years my income prior to tax was 25000 - 33000 euro. That's less than I would get on a 8 hour job in industry or commerce, but I work on average maybe 3 hours daily, no weekends. And every year I had at least 6 weeks holidays and also weeks with no work, just checking mail and watching tv etc and waiting for the next job.

(...)

Above 30000 euro the tax rises to 45 %, so I do not see any reason why I should work more.


If you excuse the slight offtopic, I really think politicians everywhere should be obliged to print the above quote with the concluding sentence in bold, frame it and hang it over their beds.

[Edited at 2009-11-21 09:44 GMT]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:00
Flemish to English
+ ...
Money is the name of the game Nov 21, 2009

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

I never understood why people do not like to talk about their income.

Regards
Heinrich

[Bearbeitet am 2009-11-21 06:39 GMT]


I personally don't like to talk about my income because it is linked to the French mentality (even if I find this stupid), i. e. the fact that earning money from translation is sometimes seen as suspect - I should add that all liberal professions are potential cheaters for the DGI (French revenue services).

As per other colleagues living in other countries, I assume some of them would see this as giving away too much information to unknown third parties.

Sad but true, money - and the things it allows you to do - still seems to stink, especially in nominally "Catholic" countries.

[Edited at 2009-11-21 08:29 GMT]


Money is the name of the game. Not the love of words.
The "crisis" is the result of a couple of billions which went up in smoke in one day. In high-taxed countries (France is the absolute champion, followed by China and Belgium), the emphasis is on "work", "feeling good at work", "interesting work", whereas in the Anglosaxon culture, how much "K per annum" you earn is mentioned in job-offers.
I am not one of those human-resources adepts. If the work is interesting, but the amount of money low, my motivation is as low as that amount.

Politicians are those who, once elected, distribute positions and give themselves a tax-free amount of money and severance pay.
You can always go to the UAE: 0% taxes.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:00
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A cultural thing Nov 21, 2009

Heinrich Pesch wrote:
I never understood why people do not like to talk about their income.

Maybe because we are human? In many cultures, talking about your professional success in terms of money puts you right in the bull's eye of envy, criticism, and rejection. People tend to be distrustful of people who report good income: they immediately think that you are a liar, are running some illegal business, or exploit an unlawful advantageous position created by family or friend relations with the people in power.

In Spain for instance, discussing your income is something you only do --and with great care and a degree of ambiguity-- with very close friends and after opening a number of bottles of reasonably good wine. It is OK to discuss your professional achievements, like working for this or that world-class company, gaining this or that domestic or international credential, or enjoying a nice flow of work, but money is a very different matter.


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
Some facts Nov 21, 2009

I work as a full-time translator from Spanish to English and I live in Spain. My gross income for the past three years has been fairly static at 35.000 euros. I work some weekends and have holidays. I have two children and a mortgage so my tax rate is very low. My social security and medical insurance monthly charge is just 320 euros.

Sorry Tomás. I did not mean to disprove what you said about the reluctance of people in Spain to discuss their income. You are right - most Spaniards would prefer to walk through Carrefour naked and wearing a cowboy hat rather than discuss their exact income. Of course, I am not Spanish.

[Edited at 2009-11-21 10:33 GMT]


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AnneMarieG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:00
Member (2009)
German to French
+ ...
Suggestion Nov 21, 2009

Hi Katrien,
you are not the first one to ask this question: asking others to disclose their rates.
However, I find it interesting that most of the time the asker him/her self does not publicize his/her own rates...

Strange isn't it...?!

And please don't take it personally

Best regards,

Anne-Marie
www.amgtraduction.com


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