Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
How much do translators make?
Thread poster: jaliyah
Nov 17, 2010

I'm considering a career as a translator, but I'm having a hard time find some critical information, so I hope some of you will be kind enough to indulge me here...

How much does the average freelance translator make, or should I as "what is the range of pay"? I hear "six-figure income" is not at all unusual (either dollars or euro or pounds - makes no difference). Is this true?

How many hours do translators typically work in a week?

Which languages pay the most (translating into English)?

Which specializations pay the most?

And finally, which language/specialization combos pay the most (again, translating into English)?

Is it possible to work from anywhere over the internet? So, for instance, could you be a perpetual traveler, living wherever you like in the world, and continue to work steadily as a translator?

What is the best, cheapest, most efficient way to master a language and get all the credentials necessary to be an excellent translator and be able to make a very good living at it?

Many thanks in advance!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Stéphanie Soudais  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:32
Member (2006)
English to French
Question already asked Nov 17, 2010

Dear Jaliyah,

You might find some answers in http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/132674-how_much_do_freelance_translators_earn.html

Stéphanie


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:32
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some answers Nov 17, 2010

jaliyah wrote:
How much does the average freelance translator make, or should I as "what is the range of pay"? I hear "six-figure income" is not at all unusual (either dollars or euro or pounds - makes no difference). Is this true?


Various reports vary. You should be able to support a mortgage, a car or two, three or four children, an annual holiday, and various savings plans, if you do it right and if you are established in the industry. Whether that equates to six figures depends on where you live.

How many hours do translators typically work in a week?


It's up to you, and your health. I have done 10 hour days in the past, but my average is between 4 and 7 hours a day. That said, I'm no longer the main bread winner in my family.

Which languages pay the most (translating into English)?


Google for "Select graph scale and language combinations, then click the Get Rates button" and click the first link. Then do some searches for various languages.

Which specializations pay the most?
And finally, which language/specialization combos pay the most (again, translating into English)?


Dunno... but I suspect it would vary over time.

Is it possible to work from anywhere over the internet? So, for instance, could you be a perpetual traveler, living wherever you like in the world, and continue to work steadily as a translator?


Yes, but you'd have to deal with travel time, visas and passports, and uncertain internet and electricity availability.

What is the best, cheapest, most efficient way to master a language and get all the credentials necessary to be an excellent translator and be able to make a very good living at it?


Credentials are usually not even necessary. I'd say: choose a language, study it for 3 years, then go live in that country for 4 years while still studying it, and then you'll be okay.



[Edited at 2010-11-17 13:31 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:32
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Some more answers... Nov 17, 2010

jaliyah wrote:
what is the range of pay"? I hear "six-figure income" is not at all unusual.

The range is 4 figures to 6 figures. There are thousands of translators who work part-time, either voluntarily or because they cannot get enough work, and earn only 4 figures. At the other end of the scale there are a few highly experienced translators earning 6 figures. A survey a few years ago by the Swedish translators' association reported about half a dozen in 6 figures.
How many hours do translators typically work in a week?
Freelance translation is a feast or famine business. Therefore translators work between 0 and 168 hours a week.

Which languages pay the most (translating into English)?
No-one knows for sure. But Scandinavian languages to English are certainly among the highest. Further down the scale are FIGS ( French, Italian, German, and particularly Spanish)

Which specializations pay the most?
The ones in which you have genuine career experience – you have been a lawyer or doctor or accountant and turned to translation late in life. Then you can operate more as a consultant, not just as a translator, and charge accordingly.

Self-taught specialisations are worth acquiring, particularly in legal and medical. But they cannot be as good as career specialisations, and they are also risky – if you make a serious translation error it may have severe, even life-threatening consequences.

Is it possible to work from anywhere over the internet? So, for instance, could you be a perpetual traveler, living wherever you like in the world, and continue to work steadily as a translator?
Theoretically yes, but you run the risk of losing contact with your languages / countries / cultures / etc. And you might have to work unsocial hours, so that your office hours coincide with your customers.

What is the best, cheapest, most efficient way to master a language and get all the credentials necessary to be an excellent translator and be able to make a very good living at it?

I agree with Samuel Murray -- 7 years hard work.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:32
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My answers Nov 17, 2010

jaliyah wrote:
How much does the average freelance translator make, or should I as "what is the range of pay"? I hear "six-figure income" is not at all unusual (either dollars or euro or pounds - makes no difference). Is this true?

"Not at all unusual" is misleading. Some translators (I would say not more than 5% of the profession) make six-figure incomes only with very hard work, a great specialisation, good marketing skills, good computer skills, and top-quality translations.

jaliyah wrote:
How many hours do translators typically work in a week?

I cannot speak for others, but I work some 10 hours a day as the very minimum, including 1/4 of my weekends.

jaliyah wrote:
Which languages pay the most (translating into English)?

I would say this question is useless, since making calculations based on languages you don't master is quite futile in my opinion. In what languages do you write fluently already?

jaliyah wrote:
Which specializations pay the most?

The question here is what industries do you master? Even if microbiology or nuclear power paid a lot, if you don't master those areas you will not make your six-figure income since good customers only pay high rates who people who know what they are doing... If finance and economy is your current profession, that might be a good start.

jaliyah wrote:
And finally, which language/specialization combos pay the most (again, translating into English)?

Again, in what languages do you write fluently apart from English?

jaliyah wrote:
Is it possible to work from anywhere over the internet? So, for instance, could you be a perpetual traveler, living wherever you like in the world, and continue to work steadily as a translator?

Yes, but forget about the six-figure income. For your six-figure income you need to have very good production means (good, permanent Internet connection, good computers, good databases, lots of different software), some help (a good in-house reviewer or a trusted freelance reviewer who is always available for you) and be available to answer any calls or emails of your valued customers all the time and in no time. All these things are, if you ask me, incompatible with the lifestyle you describe. Translation is far from the "beach-and-laptop" concept of business.

jaliyah wrote:
What is the best, cheapest, most efficient way to master a language and get all the credentials necessary to be an excellent translator and be able to make a very good living at it?

If you know nothing about the language, I would say that first you need to spend a minimum of a year with classes with a teacher at least 10 hours a week, read, speak, and write a lot in the language, and then, ideally, go to live for a couple of years to a country where the language is spoken. That might help you master a language enough to start translating from it (never into it).

As for credentials to be an excellent translator, you need to ask yourself how to learn to translate properly, and then worry about the credentials. The best way to go is definitely high education. Look for universities in your area who offer a bachelor programme in translation and interpretation.

jaliyah wrote:
Many thanks in advance!

Good luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Homing in on just two questions Nov 17, 2010

jaliyah wrote:
Which languages pay the most (translating into English)?
Which specializations pay the most?


Besically, it's the ones you know best! At this moment in time, I'm not really interested in rates earned by Swedish to English medical translators: doing those translations today wouldn't earn me a cent and learning Swedish and medicine is not going to happen before the bills need to be paid!

I realise you are thinking of the longer term but why not start with the languages you already know and the sectors you already know or at least have some interest in? If you're mainly interested in making a million then I suspect translating isn't for you.

Why not test the water before expatriating and/or going back to uni? I'm sure good translators can earn a crust in just about any pair once they establish a client base.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:32
English to Dutch
+ ...
Confirmed Nov 17, 2010

For your six-figure income you need to have very good production means (good, permanent Internet connection, good computers, good databases, lots of different software), some help (a good in-house reviewer or a trusted freelance reviewer who is always available for you) and be available to answer any calls or emails of your valued customers all the time and in no time. All these things are, if you ask me, incompatible with the lifestyle you describe. Translation is far from the "beach-and-laptop" concept of business.


As a translator with a 6-figure income, I can confirm this, except for the reviewer. You don't need one if you review your translations twice yourself.

[Edited at 2010-11-17 21:33 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:32
Member (2008)
English to French
Ditto Nov 18, 2010

Loek van Kooten wrote:

For your six-figure income you need to have very good production means (good, permanent Internet connection, good computers, good databases, lots of different software), some help (a good in-house reviewer or a trusted freelance reviewer who is always available for you) and be available to answer any calls or emails of your valued customers all the time and in no time. All these things are, if you ask me, incompatible with the lifestyle you describe. Translation is far from the "beach-and-laptop" concept of business.


As a translator with a 6-figure income, I can confirm this, except for the reviewer. You don't need one if you review your translations twice yourself.

[Edited at 2010-11-17 21:33 GMT]


I concur with both quotes and I also pull in 6 figures but as another translator mentioned, it's feast or famine; I tend to either work 12-hour days or 3-hour days and at the end of the month, my income can vary by a factor of 4. I work through weekends but I've taken over 10 weeks of vacation this year - it's a trade-off I'm more than happy to make (there are about 104 weekend days in the year - this is equivalent to almost 15 weeks of "extra" working days, so for me, this translates to vacation time). Since you charge per word translation speed is part of the calculation and this is where specializations come in, why everyone is telling you to specialize; you build glossaries in Multiterm or Wordfast Pro so that you no longer need to do terminology research. At that point, with zero terminology research and a field you know well, translating a little more than 1000words an hour becomes feasible and if you're charging professional rates in FIGS this can amount to 150-200$ per hour. But once again, it's utterly impossible to START there... you have to GET there through education, experience and the ability to market yourself. You always have to strive to be better, faster, more efficient; I'm a self-professed information junkie and I think many translators are, it's why we do what we do; every single translation makes you a little better, a little more experienced and a little more knowledgeable. You have to get the ball rolling, how big it'll get is entirely up to you.

If you're starting from scratch, if you only speak English, it will be an uphill battle to get the proficiency needed in a foreign language to simply understand it - a good example of what not to do is : http://mac.proz.com/translation-news/?p=8705&_click_=Y29tbWVudGluZ2ZlYXR1cmU6OTE5 You have to understand the source language well enough to read between the lines, get nuances, identify false friends, etc. I like to think that I write pretty well in English but I never translate to English; the few times I've tried in the context of a back translation I've realized how utterly horrible my translations into English are; they read like French, they sound like French, etc. So knowing the language well is not enough, there are specific skills involved with translation; just like every English native is not a novelist or a journalist, every bilingual person is not a translator, though the former is a prerequisite for the later.

A specific answer to your question about average salaries would best be answered by statistics from in-house jobs; in Montreal (where I'm from) they start at 35-40K/year for a fresh translation graduate (B.A.) and the most I've seen advertised is 85-90K/year + bonus for a senior translator with 10+ years experience and some managerial responsibility.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 13:32
English to French
+ ...
Figures Nov 18, 2010

I used to earn a 7-figure gross income, but that was before the Euro came in
There may be a huge difference between gross and net income: in some countries, taxes are as high as 50%++ and social security must be taken into account too (30% of my net income)!
For the record, I work 50-70 hours/week on average, but as some others, I take up to 12 weeks off some years.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
jaliyah

TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Nov 18, 2010

Many thanks to all who replied!

Samuel Murray - I did play around with the "rates" tool you described, but the results are puzzling... I was under the impression that rates would differ quite a bit depending on language pair (in my case, always into English, but still)... with languages like Japanese or Swedish paying substantially more than languages like Spanish, for instance.

But actually, no matter which language I put in, including those above plus Farsi just for the hell of it, they all came to about the same rate... around 0.10 per word or $27-30/hour.

How can this be? It would be a lot easier and faster to master a language like Swedish or Spanish than Japanese or Persian, so how can the rates be the same?

Something doesn't add up here. Can anyone help?
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Tomás and Sheila - the reason I'm asking these questions is because I don't have a language or specialization yet, so they're valid questions. If I'm starting basically from scratch, then I can choose which language and specialization to study, right?

I have studied a few languages, but only to the level of advanced beginner (I would guess). So, I could pick one of these, or start another from zero and it wouldn't make much difference I think.

Right?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:32
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The rates tool Nov 18, 2010

jaliyah wrote:
But actually, no matter which language I put in, including those above plus Farsi just for the hell of it, they all came to about the same rate... around 0.10 per word or $27-30/hour.


Interesting. I myself get two very different rates for the two combinations that I had checked:





It would be a lot easier and faster to master a language like Swedish or Spanish than Japanese or Persian, so how can the rates be the same?


Rates are not determined by just one factor. In fact, how difficult a language is or how difficult a language is to learn typically has very little influence on the rate. Rates are influenced far more by economic factors (e.g. do English people want to buy Swedish or Persian products) and social factors (e.g. do Spanish or Japanese people often travel to English countries).


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A question ... Nov 18, 2010

jaliyah wrote:
Tomás and Sheila - the reason I'm asking these questions is because I don't have a language or specialization yet, so they're valid questions. If I'm starting basically from scratch, then I can choose which language and specialization to study, right?

I have studied a few languages, but only to the level of advanced beginner (I would guess). So, I could pick one of these, or start another from zero and it wouldn't make much difference I think.
Right?


Why do you have your heart set on translating, then? I'm not saying you won't make a fantastic translator one day, but neither does it seem an ideal career choice for you.

Most us us either come from multilingual backgrounds or knew from an early age that we were "good at languages". I imagine that the number who couldn't get by in at least one foreign language by the end of school must be pretty close to zero.

Are you perhaps a school leaver wanting to know what to study at uni?


Direct link Reply with quote
 
copheoske
Netherlands
Local time: 13:32
Dutch to English
Why translation? Nov 18, 2010

jaliyah wrote:

Tomás and Sheila - the reason I'm asking these questions is because I don't have a language or specialization yet, so they're valid questions. If I'm starting basically from scratch, then I can choose which language and specialization to study, right?

I have studied a few languages, but only to the level of advanced beginner (I would guess). So, I could pick one of these, or start another from zero and it wouldn't make much difference I think.

Right?


Typically, one doesn't simply decide to become a translator and then find themselves searching for a language to translate from based on the expected financial rewards. I think it would be fair to say that most freelance translators already have a certain level of proficiency in at least two languages before translation even becomes an option.

I see two potential problems with your agenda.

First, you cannot possibly have any idea yet if translation is something you would be good at. Would you say that having studied a few languages to the level of advanced beginner indicates that you have a natural affinity for foreign languages? Just being able to speak, read and write a foreign languge does not necessarily mean that you would enjoy (or be good at) translation.

Second, being a good translator is a lot more than just learning the source language. Learning the culture gives insight into the fabric of a specific society - often extremely important to understand before the source text can be translated. As Samuel has already suggested, the language would need to be studied within its culture and not only in the classroom.

Needless to say, your written English needs to be more than just acceptable. IMO half the battle is won if the target text reads smoothly and has colour and vibrance.

Good luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 
jaliyah

TOPIC STARTER
bottom-line averages about the same Nov 21, 2010

Samuel Murray wrote:

jaliyah wrote:
But actually, no matter which language I put in, including those above plus Farsi just for the hell of it, they all came to about the same rate... around 0.10 per word or $27-30/hour.


Interesting. I myself get two very different rates for the two combinations that I had checked:








I guess I was looking at the bottom-line averages for my country (USA, and just to keep the comparison simple across language pairs... but I guess I could've used any other country and the outcome would be similar)... in this case:
Afrikaans > English = 0.08 USD/word or 30.78 USD/hour
Dutch > English = 0.11 USD/word or 28.57 USD/hour

Again, roughly in line with the quotes for the other languages I checked, in other words, all about the same. I had really thought there would be a much bigger difference, that's all.

Maybe there still is a big difference, but it's not reflected in this rate tool for some reason?


Direct link Reply with quote
 
jaliyah

TOPIC STARTER
why translating? Nov 21, 2010

Sheila Wilson wrote:

jaliyah wrote:
Tomás and Sheila - the reason I'm asking these questions is because I don't have a language or specialization yet, so they're valid questions. If I'm starting basically from scratch, then I can choose which language and specialization to study, right?

I have studied a few languages, but only to the level of advanced beginner (I would guess). So, I could pick one of these, or start another from zero and it wouldn't make much difference I think.
Right?


Why do you have your heart set on translating, then? I'm not saying you won't make a fantastic translator one day, but neither does it seem an ideal career choice for you.

Most us us either come from multilingual backgrounds or knew from an early age that we were "good at languages". I imagine that the number who couldn't get by in at least one foreign language by the end of school must be pretty close to zero.

Are you perhaps a school leaver wanting to know what to study at uni?


I've already finished uni; thinking of maybe going back to master a language. I'm told I have an aptitude for learning languages, so I think I could do it if I have a good motivation.

I appreciate your asking me the tough question - why translating? In fact, I don't have my heart set on it - I'm just exploring it at this point, to see if it might be an answer for me.

You're right - it's probably not an ideal career choice - in fact, I know it's not. I fear it might actually be rather boring. But I'm having a hell of a time figuring out what I can do. See, I'm very introverted, hearing-impaired from birth, probably also have Asperger's syndrome, etc. So my social skills are lame, I've always been a loner, and if you haven't noticed, every job ad asks for "outgoing, enthusiastic, great people skills", etc.

I have always been interested in languages and cultures and everything international. And when someone told me that you can easily make $80K/year translating Japanese to English working only about 20 hours/week.... well, that piqued my interest. And since it can be done from anywhere, over the internet, I thought, well, this could be the thing that lets me live my ideal lifestyle - perpetual travel, or something like it. I always thought it'd be cool to move with the seasons, spend fall in a place with beatiful autumn leaves, spend winter someplace with beautiful winters, etc. It'd be great to live 3 months or so and then move to another country for a similar stay.

What do you think... is something like this possible?


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

How much do translators make?

Advanced search







PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
LSP.expert
You’re a freelance translator? LSP.expert helps you manage your daily translation jobs. It’s easy, fast and secure.

How about you start tracking translation jobs and sending invoices in minutes? You can also manage your clients and generate reports about your business activities. So you always keep a clear view on your planning, AND you get a free 30 day trial period!

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search