Rates - Unrealistic Expectations?
Thread poster: Elizabeth Tamblin

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:12
Member (2012)
French to English
Jun 20, 2016

The average rate charged for translations by ProZ.com users in my language pair, French to English, is €0.08 (minimum) - €0.11 (standard) per word, based on a sample of nearly 7,000 translators. That's approximately £0.06 to £0.09 in GBP.

When I successfully completed a test for an agency a couple of years ago, therefore, I thought £0.06 / word sounded like a reasonable amount to charge for my work - on the low side, if anything.

Although I continue to receive regular newsletters from this agency, I have never been offered any work. I sent them an email to ask why this was.

The reply I received was:

"Your standard translation rate is above £50/1000words – we will always approach linguists with a standard rate that is closer to our budget first and only approach those with a higher rate if we are unable to find someone else. Would you be willing to lower your rates to be closer to this range."

This company has a good website, on which it states that it is "in the top 3% of UK translation agencies". On the Blue Board, there is a long list of satisfied translators that appear to be delighted to work for them again.

So when I read posts on the ProZ.com forums, saying that translators should not lower their rates, as it's bad for the profession, etc., I can't help wondering if that is creating unrealistic expectations of how much people are willing to pay. For every translator earning high rates, there are probably hundreds more who have to settle for less. I am certainly one of the latter group.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 06:12
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
As far as I know... Jun 20, 2016

... this seems to be more of a British agencies problem (too much offer?) as there are lots of other European agencies willing to pay more (at least in my pairs and for some subjects). £0.06/word is, at today’s rate, €0.075/word and I haven’t charged that to any of my clients for a long, long time… My minimum is €0.09 (for a very regular, meaning work every month, translation agency) and my maximum is €0.14 (for a sporadic translation agency).

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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:12
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Create a market for yourself Jun 20, 2016

Hi Elizabeth,
There are a lot of agencies who regularly get work at €0,06/7 word or less and as they'll be charging their clients about €0,14 or less, using a translator who asks for higher rates will not happen unless they NEED YOU. If they do need you you'll probably be able to negotiate rates of around €8/9 cents even from an agency charging their clients 0,014. If they don't NEED you there is no way they'll go for that though.

From a good agency charging their clients €0,22 it'll be much easier to get good rates in the region of €0,10-0,11.

You'll probably be able to charge higher rates outside your source language country.

To get higher rates:
Ask for them (as you are)
Stick to 'em
Be reliable
Be the best and/or only person who can do the job
Let clients come to you instead of looking for them
Select who you work with
Say no to free tests, other demeaning tasks or unfair contractual clauses
Apply a min. fee of about €20/30, a 30% surcharge for urgent jobs and 10% for jobs that take longer such as pdfs/images
Get respect
Be great at what you do
Have fun


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David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:12
Member (2009)
French to English
Not much experience of UK. Jun 20, 2016

Despite being on the books of a fair few UK agencies, I have only done one job (2 years ago) for a UK-based agency in the past five years. It was paid at €0.09 (they quoted and paid in euros). Since then, they've all complained about my 'high' rates.
Here in France, I find that I can charge €0.1/ €0.11 to smaller agencies (and even more to direct clients) fairly easily. Larger agencies still seem to balk at more than €0.08 per word. Of course, there are still many unscrupulous ones expecting translators to work for €0.05 per word. I ignore the latter and only accept jobs for €0.08 when I'm really desperate for work.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:12
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I charge £80 - £90 per thousand Danish source words Jun 20, 2016

That is my rate for UK agencies. I don't work for them much - I get more elsewhere, but other factors play in, and if the current exchange rate for the pound is reasonable, then I do work for them.

You have to take into consideration that you get 1200 English words for 1000 Danish words, and the ratio goes the other way with French, I believe - you get fewer English words for 1000 French words, and this would justify a lower rate.

But £50 per thousand words is way too low in my opinion. Can you really make a living at that level? Try telling the agency about the Proz.com average - which does NOT have a reputation for being high, and negotiate your rates up.

Agencies need translators who can deliver a professional job, and machines are NOT going to take over - only the routine work at best. The jobs left for human translators are not going to be suitable as sidelines for earning pocket-money, and professionals have to keep the pressure up.

The CIoL did a rates survey some years ago - ask them about rates in your language pair, and quote that. You have to try not to undercut the clients who do pay realistic rates.

Even if you don't get above £60 at the first round, it is better than £50, and you make your point. Of course, low-paid work is better than no work at all, but rates have gone down, not up, over the last 20 years, while everything else goes up.

Translators are entitled to a decent living like everyone else! Keep fighting, and good luck!


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:12
Russian to English
+ ...
Well, it is a problem of being able to afford something. Jun 20, 2016

Not everyone can afford everything, and it is a fact of life. A direct customer may not be able to afford things , and then you can perhaps lower the rate slightly. The affordability problem seems really absurd when speaking about agencies. A company that cannot afford the prevailing rate, or average rate, should not be in the business.

[Edited at 2016-06-20 11:10 GMT]


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:12
Member
English to French
Everywhere the same Jun 20, 2016

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:
...For every translator earning high rates, there are probably hundreds more who have to settle for less...

You can transpose that to football players, you-tubers, bloggers, models, designers, writers, actors, architects, musicians, singers, glass blowers, painters, etc.
Not only are there customers who can afford to get their service, but they likely have some kind of edge that makes them more compelling. And lucky, because besides negociation skills, knowledge and experience, being at the right place at the right time has its importance.

Philippe


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Alina A
United States
Local time: 01:12
English to Polish
+ ...
Any comments from US-based translators like me? Jun 20, 2016

What do you think is the case here in the US? Sounds to like the overall situation and solutions are similar. Any comments?

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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:12
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
although rates state around 0,10... Jun 20, 2016

a small research by the best russian translator shows that your colleagues here regularly offer rates between 0,04 - 0,06 for any job posted on Proz...
So there are a lot of people do not have to live of their translation work, do it for a hobby, simply because they need some brain exercise, or they want to boast to their girlfriends they are an entrepreneur and have their own company / freelance agency...

So, what is realistic? - find the cherries in the pie and work for the best (and NOT the biggest) agencies... find a niche... or find direct clients....

Ed

[Edited at 2016-06-20 21:19 GMT]


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Hannah Keet  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:12
German to English
+ ...
£0.06 per word is not unrealistic Jun 21, 2016

£0.06 is actually rather low! In my experience, I can earn more working for agencies in Europe. I would leave this agency to it and look for nicer, better paying ones! Good luck

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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:12
Member (2012)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all your comments Jun 21, 2016

I occasionally do some work for a European agency, which pays better rates. I need to find more like that.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:12
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Some thoughts Jun 21, 2016

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:
When I successfully completed a test for an agency a couple of years ago, therefore, I thought £0.06 / word sounded like a reasonable amount to charge for my work - on the low side, if anything.

Agreed
"Your standard translation rate is above £50/1000words – we will always approach linguists with a standard rate that is closer to our budget first

This company has a good website, on which it states that it is "in the top 3% of UK translation agencies". On the Blue Board, there is a long list of satisfied translators that appear to be delighted to work for them again.

That's exactly why they don't need to pay you a higher rate! They are a big company with a big marketing budget. They can reach out to a vast number of clients and a vast number of translators. They stay big by slimming down costs to the minimum - and their biggest cost is to their suppliers i.e. us. From their enormous pool of translators they'll always choose the cheapest, unless or until they get too many complaints about the quality of their work.
The average rate charged for translations by ProZ.com users in my language pair, French to English, is €0.08 (minimum) - €0.11 (standard) per word, based on a sample of nearly 7,000 translators. That's approximately £0.06 to £0.09 in GBP.

So, those working for this agency you mention are being paid £0.05. That means that among those 7,000 there must be a fair few who get paid quite a lot more. Also, many who work for that agency will be accepting lower rates than they'd like as those jobs will be supplying their "bread and margarine" income each month. But the cream of their clients may well be paying as much as to double that.

The solution: cast your net far, far wider. Search in different countries, different markets, targeting boutique agencies, specialists in what you do best, and/or direct clients. (I personally find Switzerland the best place to look for clients for French to English.) Only look to the big agencies as a stop-gap measure for "les fins de mois", while ignoring their promises of high volumes for best rates - who wants MORE of something that pays LESS?


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