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Are my rates too high and other newbie help.
Thread poster: Christopher Lewis

Christopher Lewis  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:02
German to English
Feb 19, 2010

Hello to everyone,

I graduated with a BA in German and English two years ago with the objective of getting into translation. As far as experience goes, I have done some translation volunteer work since for an immigration service since graduating (granted projects have been VERY sporadic) and I did an internship more recently. I have been applying to agencies like mad since January with a few responses to the effect that they will keep me on their roster, but no real work as of yet. More recently (yesterday) I applied to an agency which replied saying that my rates are higher than their usual linguists, but they would keep me on file in case they had no one available. So I panicked and replied saying I would be willing to knock my rate down a couple of cents.

So my question is, are my rates to high for my level of experience? I have set them at 0.06€/word after reading some of the advice given beginners in these posts. Should I be working at 0.04€?

I would also appreciate any feedback on my CV found on my profile.

I don't really know what I'm doing wrong. Whether I'm looking in the wrong places, or under-qualified. I just don't know and I'm getting really frustrated. Any help is VERY appreciated!

Thank you for your responses!


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:02
French to English
too low Feb 19, 2010

From what I know about going rates in the DE - EN pair, your rates are far too low. 0.06€ would be absolute rock bottom for a very easy translation, and 0.04 € would be outrageously below the market standard. I know translators working at double, even triple those rates in your pair. The agency who replied that your rates were too high was BSing you!

Just keep doing what you're doing already (after raising your rates) and remember - it takes time to get those first clients, 1 or 2 months is just the beginning, give it at least 6 months, and remember to network with colleagues if you aren't already doing so.


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Regina Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:02
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
your rates are okay Feb 19, 2010

I wish I could agree with Lori, because a rate of 0.06 Euro is indeed quite low and a rate of 0.04 Euro is downright unfair towards the translator, at least for a text under 10000 words. But agencies just don't pay more.

We should demand and be paid 0.08 Euro at least, but we are not. I graduated in 2006 and have worked since then as an employed and freelance translator and the rates have been sliding down, from my experience.
I did jobs for 0.06, for 0.05 and at the moment I work on a (admittedly quite long project) for 0.04 Euro and I'm happy I got it, because it means work for some weeks.
Compared to other academics though, that payment is not exactly luxury, but maybe it will get better once the economy recovers.

Therefore I'd say your rates are not too low, but not too high either. I mean, if you are supposed to work for 0.02 to 0.03 Euro or so and give half to the taxman, you won't have anything left.
Good luck though and don't give up. There is work, even if it's not well paid.

Kind regards,
Regina


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:02
French to German
+ ...
Low end of the market Feb 19, 2010

Hi Chris,
I do not know which agencies you are writing about (and do not wish to know), but they were obviously trying their persuasion skills on a relative newcomer.

6/100 € is, as Lori said, the low end of the market at least in Western Europe; there is no need to discuss rates which are below the current bottom of the market.

The best of British to you!



[Edited at 2010-02-19 17:27 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:02
Member (2008)
French to English
Rate should be okay Feb 19, 2010

The rates mentioned should be okay for starting out. Bear in mind that there's a "trust" factor at play, as well - most agencies have core of translators they work with and you will need some time to elapse to be given a chance to prove your worth to them.

Also, I don't know what others found, but I found that this last January was a little slow - a lot of my clients were not getting orders themselves, and there wasn't even much being posted on the various sites' bulletin boards - it may be a seasonal, post-Christmas thing, so you can't judge it just by this period.


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Kay Barbara
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:02
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
With Laurent Feb 19, 2010

Hi Chris,

I would like to express my utmost objection to Regina's views. It's a fairy tale that agencies do not pay decent rates. Sure, feel free to blame the evil recession, but I don't buy it; I know of enough translators who have as much (or more) work than 2 or 3 years before. Sometimes it just takes some time to find good agencies but eventually you will get there.

The key to earning higher rates, however, is specialization. One of the cardinal virtues of a good translator is to know what he is good at and where he is out of his comfort zone. There is only so much lack of expertise you can compensate by researching during projects. Therefore: present yourself as a specialist - not a mediocre jack-of-all-trades - and higher rates will follow (obviously you will need expertise to back this up).

Looking at your profile and CV I must admit that you don't seem to stand out with any specialisation. Maybe you could use your expertise in gastronomy to try to net some "culinary translations"? Moreover you wrote in your CV that you "wrote award-winning research papers" but where are the references? If I did something like that, I would get into more detail (publisher, topic etc.). Improve your marketing and keep applying for jobs.

Lastly, while £0.06 per word is okay in your situation IMO, please do amend your hourly rate! £6 per hour? Why did you bother with going to uni at all? Your rates should not only reflect your work but express how you value yourself (your time).

Good luck mate!

Kay

Edited for type and addition

[Edited at 2010-02-19 18:26 GMT]


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Alistair Gainey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:02
Member (2009)
Russian to English
My thoughts on this issue Feb 19, 2010

I've had a quick look at your CV, Chris. I think you should make it more specifically relevant to translation. If that means cutting quite a lot of it out, so be it. For example, if you're applying for an actual translation position, as opposed, perhaps, to a project manager position, the organization section could go. So, probably, could most of the Effective Communication section. Half the Work Experience section is irrelevant, and, for that matter, there's no need to mention your high school diploma. The Research & Analyzing section is too vague; many of the skills mentioned there would be expected of any university graduate. Likewise, when it comes to IT skills being proficient with Word and Excel hardly makes you stand out from the crowd. Your typing speed is pretty much irrelevant (you're not going to translate 3900 words an hour).

You could also cut out the Personal Profile section, which adds nothing to what you would presumably be writing in your cover letter. And, what the heck, you could get rid of the References section too. If they need references, they'll ask.

(All the above applies, as I said, if you're going for a translation position (in-house or freelance). If you're more interested in an administrative position at a translation agency, you obviously need to follow different criteria.)

You might also consider changing the order of the sections; a lot of people say the most important information in a CV should come first, and I'm not sure that's the case at the moment. The Languages section, for example, should definitely be given more prominence.

As for your rates, your proofreading rate is definitely way too low. It's barely more than the UK minimum wage (5.80 GBP/hour).

[Edited at 2010-02-19 18:54 GMT]


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Christopher Lewis  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:02
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Feb 19, 2010

Thanks very much everyone!!!!

I may just take your advice, Alistair, and make some adjustments to my CV.


The feedback is greatly appreciated, and please, more input is always welcome.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:02
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Comments Feb 19, 2010

Chris Lewis wrote:
I would also appreciate any feedback on my CV found on my profile.

This is where I turn a bit nasty -- hopefully for your own good. Your ProZ profile and your CV are inadequate.

Let's start with your CV. Bear in mind that translation companies get lots of e-mails and CVs, so you need to attract their attention in the first 10 seconds/the first 10 lines. They want to know your specific translation experience, and it is quite hard to unearth that from your wordy descriptions. The first I found was halfway down page 2, where it turns out you have relevant web experience. Aha!

So, give some specific examples of topics you have translated near the top of page 1. These do not have to be paid work -- they can be pro bono, or work you have undertaking yourself, as long as it does not breach copyright, and demonstrates your translation skills. Leave out most of the touchy-feely stuff, strip it down to one page, and give them something to bite on.

Your ProZ profile is very sparse. Bear in mind that quite a few transition companies never advertise jobs on ProZ, but do trawl through the ProZ profiles to find people with appropriate experience. I reckon that most of my plentiful work has come, one way or another, from agencies finding my details on ProZ. So you need to make your profile much more interesting. Give some examples of your specialisms.

Bear in mind also that answering KudoZ questions pushes you up the list in the directory of translators.

To sum up: beef up your marketing, particularly your profile and CV (more beef, less fat), provide some short crisp examples of your work. And because of the current weakness of the pound, say that your target rate is GBP 0.07. And double your hourly rate.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:02
French to German
+ ...
Err... Feb 19, 2010

John Fossey wrote:

The rates mentioned should be okay for starting out. Bear in mind that there's a "trust" factor at play, as well - most agencies have core of translators they work with and you will need some time to elapse to be given a chance to prove your worth to them.

My opinion: these rates are *not* likely to build up trust between a normal, average agency and a translator. I will not pretend that one can ask for 0.20 € from the very beginning (who knows anyway?), but accepting 0.06 € according to Western European standards is opening the door to exploitation. And by "opening", I do not mean simply leave it ajar.

[Edited at 2010-02-19 21:32 GMT]


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Marcia Liddle BA(Hons), MA, ACIL
Local time: 14:02
French to English
+ ...
Don’t be discouraged! Feb 19, 2010

Hi Chris!

Firstly, I think that your rates are definitely too low at 0.06 € given your language pair and that you are a graduate in languages, and I think that a rate of 0.04€ might actually put translation agencies off. If I were an agency it would make me think that perhaps you aren’t going to put the necessary time into the translation, after all how could you for 0.04€?

I don’t think that because you are new to translation you should charge low rates, unless you plan on producing substandard work, which I’m sure you don’t. I think a better strategy would be to charge a normal market rate for your language pair but take on less words per day than an experienced translator, that way you can ensure you put the right amount of time in to produce a good quality translation. Whilst you would be earning less than if you were working at full daily capacity, you would be paid fairly for your work, hopefully attract better agencies and not have to try to raise your rates later, and your income will increase as your ability to translate faster does.

Secondly, I agree with everything Alistair has said about your CV and it needing to be more relevant to translation. Try to make your language ability, degree and experience more prominent. Expand on your experience as a volunteer translator and your work at the magazine. Also I would take out this part: “in search of enriching work experience to broaden understanding of the translation industry”. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to approach an agency (or an employer for that matter) saying that YOU want to gain experience from THEM, it should be all about what you can offer them. And you should also be trying to demonstrate your knowledge of the translation industry to them rather than telling them that you need to understand it better! There is so much information about the translation industry here on Proz and elsewhere so you can gain a lot of info just by reading around, or by attending conferences or joining a professional body.

Don’t be discouraged by a slow start. I wish you all the best of luck!

Marcia


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:02
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Disagree Feb 19, 2010

Regina Freitag wrote:

But agencies just don't pay more.



I will also have to strongly disagree with this statement. I work with at least 5 agencies in the U.S. who pay me the (current) currency equivalent of .10 - .11 euros per word for Spanish and German into English.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:02
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Too low Feb 20, 2010

Serious agencies will never think you are a serious candidate for their serious work... and their serious rates.

Personally I think that publishing rates in Proz.com, CVs, and solicitation letters is a mistake. Let's explain why we are a better option then others, and then discuss the rate on a job-by-job basis.

It is true that some agencies make their bid at any ridiculously low price and then try to convince you that being paid a third of your usual rate is such a nice deal because the job will keep you busy a full month (they forget that you could work for 10 days at a reasonable rate and have the rest of the month for more work). But this is the practice of some agencies, not all.

Good luck!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:02
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It's just dead competitive out there! Feb 20, 2010

Chris Lewis wrote:
I don't really know what I'm doing wrong. Whether I'm looking in the wrong places, or under-qualified. I just don't know and I'm getting really frustrated. Any help is VERY appreciated!

Maybe you are being too hard on yourself. You must not forget that this is a very competitive market. You need to visibility and respect for your work, and being in that position takes hitting a 100% score on each translation for some years.

In an Internet-based economy, we must not forget good old door-to-door marketing practices: I encourage you to research your local market, see what kind of importing/exporting companies exist there, and prepare yourself to serve them (by studying that market, its terminology, spending time in the library and making lots of notes, doing courses on the matter in schools in your area...), and then offer your services by writing proper letters with a profesionally designed, nicely printed, specific CV. Even agencies around your area will be very interested in a translator who knows what the local industries are about! They might have the customers, but need translators with the know-how.

If you live in Germany, maybe you can try to learn more about machinery, transportation, environment, processing industry, farming... in both your main source and target languages. Only then you will make a great translation in those topics when the first job comes around. If you manage to do that, jobs are bound to start rolling your way.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2010-02-20 09:20 GMT]


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Monika Elisabeth Sieger  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:02
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Your rates are fine Feb 20, 2010

Your rates are at the bottom end for a translator. The market is very competitive and I can tell you from my own experience that agencies and clients constantly try to lower my rates. Some agancies have argued with the credit crunch. But this is not a bazaar where you have to be prepared to accept such lower offers. And: once you have started to work for these low rates you will have difficulties to get better quotes and jobs in some years. Lower rates give no confidence in the quality of your work. Find some good and returning clients recognizing the quality of your work and then you will end with more earnings than working hard on lower rates!
I think you should specialise on a specific area.
I am a specialised legal translator, including finances and conveyancing, all related to law and translate from time to time medical reports.
Specialist translators can expect better rates anyway.
Starting is hard anyway, belive me!


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