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How much should a student charge?
Thread poster: Johanna González

Johanna González  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
Aug 13, 2009

Hello!

I`m a still a student (starting my third year), but would like to start gaining a little bit of experience by translating some texts. The question is, what would be an acceptable fee for a student?

For example:

During my studies I´ve been mainly dealing with economic text (from the Economist, the Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine, etc.) and of course texts on general, widespread topics. Since I grew up in a trilingual household, I can call myself native in English, German and Spanish and translations in either direction within these languages are OK for me.

I´ve been thinking to charge EUR 1,00/line for normal texts without specific terminology, EUR 1,20/line for specialized texts. OR to have a basic price of EUR 10 per page for normal texts, EUR 11 or 12 for specialized texts depending on the difficulty and wether it is my area or not.

For a 30-page marketing study for example, I´d charge EUR 300. Would that be acceptable? Or would I be undercutting rates?

And maybe on a more general basis: Upon what criteria can a student of translation and interpreting establish his/her fees and rates?


 

Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:06
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
When? Aug 13, 2009

Hi Johanna,

How do you think you will be able to increase your rates in the future? Will you call your clients and tell them "hey, I'm not a student anymore, please pay me more".

It's not going to work. As an end-client, I pay for the product I will receive, not for the status of the producer.

For example, if I buy a car, I will not say "the person who painted this car it is still a student, please give me a discount". Or "the person who put the wheels on this car doesn't have a PhD and is not married either". It doesn't make any sense. The price will depend on the car (and how consumers are willing to pay for it), not on "who assembled it".

Price depends on your quality, the turn-around time, difficulty, the volume, etc.

That is, again, price depends on the product, not on your educational activities.


 

Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 20:06
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
Agree Aug 13, 2009

I agree completely with Eleftherios.
No matter what your educational status may be, you are expected to deliver a clean, good translation. This, of course, is what you charge for – and nothing else.
Wishing you lots of work and a pleasant day!
Vera


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:06
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
student rates? Aug 13, 2009

I don't think so..

You are either going to provide excellent translations or you will not be contacted again for a repeat job. This means you A) put in a lot of hours and get it right or B) pay a 2nd translator to check the text...
Anyway you will need to charge as any other professional would do, or you might as well go to any burger place and apply there.

I knwow Germany is a bit odd in pricing per line or page, but 30 pages is 5000-6000 words so with 300 euros you are seriously undercutting the market, which is fine if you want to do that, but at some point you will want to earn a proper living from you translations I guess.. you might as well start now.

Ed


 

Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Belize
Dutch to German
+ ...
Invest in a proofreader and get familiar with counting standards Aug 13, 2009

Hi Johanna!

If you feel insecure about the quality you will be able to deliver as a student, invest in a proofreader to compensate that and pay that proofreader a part of your (normal market) rate.

Your rate proposals are a bit confusing. Charging 1,00/1,20 EUR per line sounds quite decent, but you should define how many characters a line has. Normally, this will be between 50 and 60 characters (for example: most German agencies use lines with 55 characters, in Belgium 60 characters seems to be usual).

It is not quite clear to me how you get from 1,00 per line to 10 EUR per page. A page normally has more than 10 lines. In some countries, translations are in fact charged by the page. In my experience, the number of characters varies between 1100 and 1800.

However, in most cases you will be requested to charge per word. So my advice is: make yourself familiar with the way translations are counted and billed.

And... good luck!

Wolfgang


 

nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:06
English to French
+ ...
charge normal rates and deliver quality Aug 13, 2009

Why would you ask for a substandard rate ? Will you deliver substandard quality ?

You will certainly earn less per hour that an established translator because you will need more hours to finish the job.
Or you will have to hire a pro for proofreading as Wolfgang says.

But you should charge a normal, standard rate.


 

xxxavsie  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:06
English to French
+ ...
Professional activity Aug 13, 2009

If you engage in a professional activity, you should charge professional rates, period. Your status as a student isn't a factor here.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:06
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Charge high, and don't telll Aug 13, 2009

Johanna González wrote:
The question is, what would be an acceptable fee for a student?


Don't tell anyone you're just a student. Charge a rate that is as high as or somewhat higher than the average for your language. Then let your translations be reviewed by a thorough and pen-happy reviser before delivering it to the client (pay him well).


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:06
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Well, yes Aug 13, 2009

I do not refer to the particular rates you quote, as I am not familiar with the market for your pair. What I would like to comment on is the principle.

Yes, I believe entry level rates make perfect marketing sense. Before you build an impressive portofolio of projects and references, rate is the one of the few marketing instruments you have at your disposal. Even when you "don't tell", if you have no experience to show to the client, they will know anyway, won't they?

As for the quality, I do hope for your sake it is lower now. If it is the same in twenty years from now, it will mean that you have not improved professionally at all and that would be most unfortunate in the profession which trademark is constant development.

As I wrote, rate is a marketing instrument, quite powerful I would say. It is the means to regulate supply and demand.

If you are flooded with jobs and you just cannot keep up with them - it is a sign that rates should be increased. It is not that difficult - if you are afraid you will lose your clients, do not propose new rates to all of them at once! (If you have just one big client, then it is quite another problem...). Besides, you can always "test" higher rates on new clients.

Just a thing to remember - rates are not set in stone. Experimenting might give you a good "feel" of the market, especially when you are starting out. You alone decide what you want to charge for your time and your expertise. If you feel comfortable with specific figures, it is nobody else's business.


 

Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:06
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Huh? Aug 13, 2009

"The question is, what would be an acceptable fee for a student?"

So, if I open a car dealership to sell cars, should I sell them cheaper because I'm new in the business?

Or, if my daughter opens a car dealership, should she sell the cars cheaper because she's a student?

Let's go to services: If I buy a health insurance police from a new agent, will it be cheaper?

Or let's go to personal services: How much do dance instructors charge per hour in Germany? How much do the new ones charge (maybe a little less than the more experienced, but how much less? 10%?). Should a dance instructor charge more per hour than a professional translator?

I have to again repeat, no offense, that the translation industry never ceases to amaze me...

Nevertheless, at least you said "1 euro per line" which is pretty good! (compared to my Greek colleagues who would probably charge one third of this rate, even if they are 30 years old with 10 yrs in the business...)

The agencies, keep in mind, have enaged in suicidal practices: by lowering the rates to the translators, they have turned their own clients into "price hunters" and their profits are greatly reduced in many cases... end clients are wondering "if the translators are paid so little, why should be pay the agency more?". I have never seen before an entire sector commiting suicide like that... (except the real estate sector, for the exact opposite reasons).


"Yes, I believe entry level rates make perfect marketing sense. "

Only to a certain extend. No client will accept an increase of rates by her in the future. What will she say to her clients 3 years from now? "Dear client, I'm not that new in the business anymore, please pay me more". Yeah, right...






[Edited at 2009-08-13 14:38 GMT]


 

Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
This is what I would also do in your case Aug 13, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:
Don't tell anyone you're just a student. Charge a rate that is as high as or somewhat higher than the average for your language. Then let your translations be reviewed by a thorough and pen-happy reviser before delivering it to the client (pay him well).


Exactly, what I would also do if I were you.


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:06
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Professionals and professions Aug 13, 2009

Eleftherios Kritikakis wrote:
Or let's go to personal services: How much do dance instructors charge per hour in Germany? How much do the new ones charge (maybe a little less than the more experienced, but how much less? 10%?).



Or let's look at independent professionals, who are better for comparison... Is a law intern paid as much as an established partner? I do not think so... What about e.g. architects? Does a fresh graduate get as much as a famous name in the industry (who, I am pretty positive, started from the low level some day)? Not really...

You seem to miss the point that while Johanna wants to be a professional translator, she is really not there yet... This profession, as many others, requires quite a long period of apprenticeship. And apprentices, as far as I know, learn a lot but earn somewhat less...



Only to a certain extend. No client will accept an increase of rates by her in the future. What will she say to her clients 3 years from now? "Dear client, I'm not that new in the business anymore, please pay me more". Yeah, right...



How about "Dear Client, as demand for my services significantly exceeds my capacity, I have decided to raise my rates to XX.XX from 01.09". It worked for me... you should try it, it's funicon_smile.gif

The best way is to get new clients (with higher rates). Then if one old client refuses to pay the higher rate (and you part ways), it is not a matter of life and death. If they accept, you try this with another one...


 

Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not the same expectations Aug 13, 2009

Jabberwock wrote:

Or let's look at independent professionals, who are better for comparison... Is a law intern paid as much as an established partner? I do not think so... What about e.g. architects? Does a fresh graduate get as much as a famous name in the industry (who, I am pretty positive, started from the low level some day)? Not really...



The truth of the matter is that the law intern, at the beginning, doesn't go to court and defend all by himself a big case. Nor does the novel architect do the same work as the famous one.
In fact, the interns are probably doing clerical work most of the time (at least here in Spain).

On the other hand, Johanna will be asked for a flawless, high-quality translation right from the beginning. The end-client doesn't really care if she is a student or not, he wants a perfect translation no matter what.


 

Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:06
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Ahem... Aug 13, 2009

"Is a law intern paid as much as an established partner?"

A law intern doesn't have the license to practice law.

On principle you are probably right, HOWEVER:

a) Project managers are highly suspicious of low rates. They assume that the translator is not good enough.

b) Project managers do not trust "students" for any important project, or for any project at all.

c) A project manager will tell her: "are you offering anything more than you were offering in the past? Because I really do not care if you' re so much in demand, that's not my business and it doesn't benefit me at all".

People pay to buy something, they don't just pay because someone else is paying you as well.

"You seem to miss the point that while Johanna wants to be a professional translator, she is really not there yet... "

So, are you saying that a project manager will say "ok, no problem, we will accept you now as an amateur and we will wait until you become a professional and then we will increase your rates... for the time being, we will give to our clients the lower quality you provide until you are ready to give us something better at a higher price".

Doesn't make any sense, does it... you are writing theories, but none of these theories actually applies in the real world. NOBODY will buy an "amateur" translation at ANY PRICE, and NOBODY will wait until she becomes a professional, when they can already find professionals.

Try sending an email to your clients telling them "we also offer amateur translations at 1 cent per word". NOBODY will buy. People prefer low prices, but they will not risk their clients.


 

xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
trilingualism Aug 13, 2009

Johanna González wrote:

Since I grew up in a trilingual household, I can call myself native in English, German and Spanish and translations in either direction within these languages are OK for me.



Yes, but can you write all three to a truly professional standard?

You have the advantage certainly of 2 source languages at a high level, but it would be better to focus on perfecting professional writing skills and acquiring field experience in a single target language, otherwise you'll be spreading yourself very thin.

If you check the profiles of successful translators, they usually translate into a single language and specialise to a high degree in a knowledge field.

I agree with others about pricing - but to justify a good rate you'll have to deliver impeccable translations, and to do that requires focus and learning (of writing skills and field knowledge). It's not really realistic to think you can learn to be a professional translator into three languages, as you'll be competing, probably unsuccessfully, with people who focus all their skills acquisition in one target language.

Writing a language to a professional standard (that commands a professional price) is very very tricky, and it's not even just about having impeccable grammar and punctuation, you also need to know about publishing and a range of different styles, how em dashes are made for articles to be published in a particular journal, whether "for example" is abbreviated at all or as "eg" or "e.g.", etc. Even if you're translating a website, you still have to have good knowledge of style issues.


 
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