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America's translation rate appears to be .21 per word / ATA bans rate discussions
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:35
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 29, 2016

Keeping in mind that the government almost always seeks to pay the lowest amount, according to this article, the average amount for translation in the United States appears to be .21 per word, with some of the big companies charging as much as .25 to .30 per word, even for language pairs like English into Spanish:
https://slator.com/deal-wins/usd-0-21-per-word-americas-translation-rate/

Note that none of them mention discounts for repetitions or "matches".

and are ATA members really forbidden to discuss rates (that seems crazy)?:
https://patenttranslator.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/slator-com-goes-boldly-where-ata-american-translators-association-members-fear-to-tread/
"burger flippers can and do demand a living wage and go on strike in United States to achieve just that, but translators can not."

To comply with the gag order, ATA members may respond to this forum post using emoji, semaphore, smoke signals or quipu.

[Edited at 2016-04-29 19:15 GMT]


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Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:35
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
ho ho ho Apr 29, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:

The government almost always seeks to pay the lowest amount. According to this article, the average amount for translation in the United States appears to be 0.21 per word, with some of the big companies charging .25 to .30 per word:
https://slator.com/deal-wins/usd-0-21-per-word-americas-translation-rate/

and are ATA members really forbidden to discuss rates (that seems crazy)?:
https://patenttranslator.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/slator-com-goes-boldly-where-ata-american-translators-association-members-fear-to-tread/


[Edited at 2016-04-29 12:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-04-29 12:27 GMT]


Hilarious, when you consider that there are jokers on this site offering $0.06. That's some profit margin.

MJWB


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 18:35
German to English
+ ...
on a similar note Apr 29, 2016

An acquaintance works in a company where they hire freelance translators frequently. The going rate, she tells me, is between 0.21 and 0.25. I cannot speak to American rates (title of this thread) because I don't get American clients that often. However when I do, my 0.18 per German word (only 3 cents off from what the article says) has not been a problem. It's like there are two worlds out there, and sometimes it feels like one is zipping in an out of some kind of portal.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:35
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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The actual list Apr 29, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:
The average amount for translation in the United States appears to be .21 per word, with some of the big companies charging as much as .25 to .30 per word, even for language pairs like English into Spanish...


Note: this refers to the rates that translation agencies offer translations for (and it includes everything, including editing, proofreading, and second proofreading).

I saw the names of five of the US agencies that I work for. Here's what they charge for my language combination:

* Agency B: USD 0.26 per word
* Agency C: USD 0.2437 per word
* Agency L: Does offer AF, but provides no price information for EN-AF, though EN-NL is USD 0.26 per word.
* Agency P: USD 0.28 per word (or 0.14 for 76-99% matches or 0.08 for 100%/repeats)
* Agency T: USD 0.31 per word

If we assume that these are the same rates as they charge all clients, then the rates they pay me is 30-40% of what they charge their clients, which seems fair to me.

The list that the article is based on, is here.

What was most interesting for me was the information about volume discounts, rush rates, turnaround times, and CAT grids. The Slator article claims that none of the agencies mention things like CAT tools or machine translation, but that is not true. At least one of the agencies on their list that I work for, included a CAT grid.

Also interesting is that many vendors include prices for several years into the future, and the prices increase by 1-3% each year.



[Edited at 2016-04-29 15:51 GMT]


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:35
English to French
+ ...
ATA's antitrust policy... Apr 29, 2016

... is explained at great lengths here:

http://www.atanet.org/governance/governance_policystatement.php

As a side note, burger flippers are employees, but free-lance translators are not.
For all intent and purposes, free-lance translators are full-fledged businesses and, as such, must abide by the same rules as private companies.

LegalTransform wrote:

and are ATA members really forbidden to discuss rates (that seems crazy)?:
https://patenttranslator.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/slator-com-goes-boldly-where-ata-american-translators-association-members-fear-to-tread/
"burger flippers can and do demand a living wage and go on strike in United States to achieve just that, but translators can not."



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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:35
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
For clear legal reasons Apr 30, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:
and are ATA members really forbidden to discuss rates (that seems crazy)?:

Not crazy at all. Translators are in most cases freelance professionals and qualify as businesses. As such, any open discussion -- especially if fostered by a professional body -- of rates goes against antitrust and antifixing law. It makes total sense to me that ATA does not foster such discussions and clearly explains the reasons.

I guess it would not be illegal to discuss your rates with another professional as part of an informal conversation about all aspects of our profession, but in no way should such discussion be aimed at reaching any kind of agreement about what rate will be charged to customers.

[Edited at 2016-04-30 08:07 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:35
Chinese to English
I want 50% Apr 30, 2016

Samuel Murray wrote:
... the rates they pay me is 30-40% of what they charge their clients, which seems fair to me...

A translation process is more than a translator; on the other hand, a translation process without a translator is nothing. An agency would have to be truly spectacular for me to believe that they add twice as much value in the process as I do. As a general rule, if I think the agency is charging the client more than twice what they pay me, then it's time to renegotiate.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:35
Member (2014)
English to German
30% to 40% seems very low? Apr 30, 2016

On the other hand, if my translation is part of a big project that is translated into 10 or 20 languages I wouldn't want to have anything to do with the coordination, proofreading and timing of all that, so 50% sounds fair in that case.

However, if the agency just passes the document on to the client then 70% seems fairer.


[Edited at 2016-04-30 13:27 GMT]


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The reality Apr 30, 2016

Gabriele Demuth wrote:

On the other hand, if my translation is part of a big project that is translated into 10 or 20 languages I wouldn't want to have anything to do with the coordination, proofreading and timing of all that, so 50% sounds fair in that case.

However, if the agency just passes the document on to the client then 70% seems fairer.


[Edited at 2016-04-30 13:27 GMT]


The reality is that sometimes the agency passes on projects and sometimes they coordinate fiendishly difficult projects. We cannot know it and therefore we cannot charge completely different rates for each project, can we?

On the other hand, it looks like on average end client gets a bill of around $0.24/word. Some said we charge (and I agree) around 40% of that rate, i.e. $0.10/word. For this kind of projects we translate and apply our QA process, but the project needs editing, final proofreading, delivery. But it does not end there, agencies need to find customers, invest in marketing, hire employees (and also pay for the time these procrastinate, day-dream or get sick), rent/purchase office space, buy office material, pay for audits, etc.

we all know that from that $0.10 we may be charging we also have costs (taxes, material, software, training, just to mention some), but our cost level is not comparable with the cost level agencies have.

In other words, 40% of $0.24/word does not look completely unfair. I agree, 50% would be better, but claiming that we should be getting 60%, 80% or 90% of that gross rate seems to be unrealistic and ungrounded to me. If someone will die right before out eyes if we do not deliver proper translation in 10 seconds time, I guess the value of our work is very high and we can charge whatever we want, but most of the time, if ever, this is not the case.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:35
English to German
+ ...
See it as an average price for what WE do Apr 30, 2016

Gabriele Demuth wrote:

On the other hand, if my translation is part of a big project that is translated into 10 or 20 languages I wouldn't want to have anything to do with the coordination, proofreading and timing of all that, so 50% sounds fair in that case.

However, if the agency just passes the document on to the client then 70% seems fairer.


[Edited at 2016-04-30 13:27 GMT]


It doesn't make any difference to you or me how complex the agency's task is, we still do the same thing, provide a language service to the best of our abilities and, AFAIC, fit to be used by the end client. Are you going to lower your rate or accept a much lower rate for your work because the agency just has so much to do?
It comes right down to the same old point again: we are service providers, and agencies as well as end clients are our clients. When they find us, they will have to pay fair and reasonable prices.

And as far as agencies in general are concerned, the prices they are willing to pay get more ridiculous every day, with a few exceptions of course.

And if the article this thread refers to cites 21 US Cents as average, then I take it as an average for providing translations that are ready to be used by the end client. And that's what I offer. Yes, agencies will pay less than end clients, but let's remind ourselves that whatever we provide must have an adequate price. Are we flexible with pricing? Yes, but everything has its limits. That's why my main focus today is on end clients.



[Edited at 2016-04-30 15:14 GMT]


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Work with end clients Apr 30, 2016

[/quote]

And if the article this thread refers to cites 21 US Cents as average, then I take it as an average for providing translations that are ready to be used by the end client. And that's what I offer. Yes, agencies will pay less than end clients, but let's remind ourselves that whatever we provide must have an adequate price. Are we flexible with pricing? Yes, but everything has its limits. That's why my main focus today is on end clients.
[/quote]

For the translation work to exist, someone needs to find it. Agencies do, but you too could find it. You can then charge higher rate, but will have to do more work (fully-fledged marketing effort, answer frequent and lengthy emails from individuals who, in most of the cases, do not understand how translation business works, hire a trustworthy editor and proofreader, you name it).


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:35
Member (2014)
English to German
It has to be considered Apr 30, 2016

What the agency does and their pricing is their business, I just consider my own prices and how they fit within the bigger picture (if I can see it), e.g. if an agency advertises on their website that they sell translations for $0.15 then it is unlikely that I could get a reasonable rate from them, so it wouldn't be worth spending time negotiating.

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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:35
English to German
+ ...
Selling yourself cheap is not an option for professional translators Apr 30, 2016

Merab Dekano wrote:


For the translation work to exist, someone needs to find it. Agencies do, but you too could find it. You can then charge higher rate, but will have to do more work (fully-fledged marketing effort, answer frequent and lengthy emails from individuals who, in most of the cases, do not understand how translation business works, hire a trustworthy editor and proofreader, you name it).


Yes, advertising and improving one's own stance in the world of translation is much better than depending on agencies to find you "cheap jobs".

And, again, the average rate is for providing fit-for-purpose work. You never know how much an agency really puts into additional tasks. If they spend so much on advertising and proofreaders (who are they and what do they really do with your work?), then that's their business and they might have to charge their end clients more. But you can't expect us to keep lowering our prices the more an agency supposedly invests. And the lower the rates become that they are willing to pay us, the less interesting they are for us.

Don't forget, without knowledgeable translators, an agency is nothing. And please don't forget that the intellectual work is done by us, and it needs to be paid for adequately.

And by the way, finding clients is what agencies do, and we do it as well. And I don't buy the argument that communicating with prospective clients and marketing in any form justify the profit margins some of these agencies seem to think they are entitled to. Their work is mostly secretarial, no offense.

But here's the thing: an agency can find a hundred clients but it will only be successful if they also find trustworthy people actually carrying out the work that's much more sophisticated than anything an agency ever does. If you then sell yourself short, you're simply adding to the agency's profit margin and are hurting yourself. Nobody says it's easy to be a translator, but selling yourself cheap is not an option for me.

[Edited at 2016-04-30 15:57 GMT]


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree Apr 30, 2016

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

And by the way, finding clients is what agencies do, and we do it as well. And I don't buy the argument that communicating with prospective clients and marketing in any form justify the profit margins some of these agencies seem to think they are entitled to. Their work is mostly secretarial, no offense.



I agree, Bernhard. If there were sides, I would be on yours. The only thing is that when you start digging for direct clients and they come up with a project of 100k words to be done in one week, you will need to turn your freelance business into an agency-like one.

But then you will tell me: "find different kind of client" and you are probably right.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 01:35
English to Polish
+ ...
.. May 4, 2016

Samuel Murray wrote:

If we assume that these are the same rates as they charge all clients, then the rates they pay me is 30-40% of what they charge their clients, which seems fair to me.


Do they provide QA/QC within that margin or do they just resell your stuff?

What was most interesting for me was the information about volume discounts, rush rates, turnaround times, and CAT grids. The Slator article claims that none of the agencies mention things like CAT tools or machine translation, but that is not true. At least one of the agencies on their list that I work for, included a CAT grid.


They included a CAT grid in the tender bid, I take it? I would normally expect agencies to charge the government for the full wordcount while still demanding reductions from their translators.

Also interesting is that many vendors include prices for several years into the future, and the prices increase by 1-3% each year.


At least they put some fight in it. Given that inflation has been on a 0.7–0.9 level in the US this year and the last two years, some of those guys go a bit beyond simply compensating for it.

***

Regarding the ATA's shameful policy, it seems to be the direct result of successful intimidation by federal authorities. Liberal governments across the world have crossed the line of ludicrous in how they restrict people's freedoms, most notably the freedom of speech.

[Edited at 2016-05-04 09:35 GMT]


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