Specialization and Qualifications
Thread poster: schold
Feb 19, 2010

I'm not in the translation business but have done 2 patent translations when I was in graduate school. I'm an R&D manager at a BioTech company and I was recently contacted by a colleague to help check a translation of a surgical procedure that an agency had done for us. The document was translated into German - no "mistakes", good style etc. However, I needed the English original in order to perform the procedure. The translator simply did not understand what he/she was writing about. I found out that we had paid the agency $0.35 per word including proof reading, and that they had claimed that they only use people with the appropriate technical background.

I've thought about doing translations on the side for some time (ever since I was paid $100/hr for it in school). I've been reading through some of the posts in this forum and would like to know if the rates that I got were "freak accidents"icon_smile.gif. Basically, I was approached by people who knew I was a bilingual engineer. I told them I wanted $100/hr. I did about 9,000 words in 25 hours. I was paid $2,500. The document was highly technical. They said that an agency would have charged them $3,000. The main reason though that they approached me was not the cost savings, but rather the lack of trust that they had in a translation agency. I can understand that now that I've had to deal with a few translated documents.

In my opinion, it seems like at least some agencies provide real garbage when it comes to highly specialized translations, while demanding fees on the order of $0.25-$0.40. Wouldn't a lot of the freelance translators here benefit by becoming highly specialized and approaching companies directly? How do people show or prove to a business that they will do better work than for example the reputable agency that I was talking about?


Karen Tkaczyk  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:21
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
A few different points Feb 20, 2010

'Doing translations on the side ' gets the gander up of professional translators. There are many bilingual people who do very bad translations on the side, just as there are many bad translations produced by agencies.
Yes, specialized translators tend to make more money than 'general' translators. Developing specializations is not always easy.
The rates you were paid are a lot higher than many specialized translators earn in European languages.
If you are considering doing this more often, how is your writing? Many scientists and engineers have the technical expertise without being good writers.
Many excellent translators are trying to increase their direct client base, but it is much easier to find work through agencies.


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