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Rates for a newbie
Thread poster: Emily Scott

Emily Scott
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:10
French to English
+ ...
Aug 10

Hi everyone,

I know this question gets asked a lot but I'm really unsure what rates to set for my translation services. I've used the rates calculator feature on ProZ and I've currently got my rates set at 0.06 GBP per word for both FR>EN and IT>EN. I've got years of voluntary translation experience and have always received good feedback so I believe I have the skills/experience to be able to charge slightly higher rates than other new starters but I don't want to charge too high and not get the work - the eternal struggle!

I haven't sent my CV out to any agencies yet as I want to be happy with the rates I've set.

If anyone has any advice then I would be very gratefulicon_smile.gif


 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:10
Dutch to English
+ ...
yes, realistic rates Aug 10

I reckon you've got it right. You should state that it's for editable documents though, and set a minimum, before you get landed with awful PDFs or scans.

Before anybody else starts bragging about how they get endless work while charging 0.15 per word or whatever, remember that if you're good and do around 3,000 words a day, you'll have an income of around 900 GBP a week, so maybe an annual income of 35K.


123Translations
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:10
Member (2008)
Italian to English
NO such thing as a Aug 10

There's no such thing as a newbie. Whether you are new to this métier or not should be invisible to the end user. All they need is the translation.

There is simply a good translation or a bad translation. If you can't do a good translation you should not do it. If you can do a very good translation you should charge the full market rate for it.


Teresa Borges
Edward Potter
Elke Fehling
Jorge Payan
Kevin Clayton, PhD
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
José Henrique Lamensdorf
 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:10
Dutch to English
+ ...
Disagree Aug 10

Tom in London wrote:

There's no such thing as a newbie. Whether you are new to this métier or not should be invisible to the end user. All they need is the translation.

There is simply a good translation or a bad translation. If you can't do a good translation you should not do it. If you can do a very good translation you should charge the full market rate for it.


Firstly, there are different kinds of translations; some, such as a judicial decision or medical report, require great expertise and care, while someone wanting a website for a campsite translated may not care if you can write a 5-page essay explaining the difference between a 'contract' and an 'agreement'. Others just want to understand the general gist of something.

Neither is there any such thing as 'the full market rate' for translation, anymore than there is a 'full-market rate' for a private doctor, a mechanic, a flight to Barbados, or a cup of tea.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:10
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Either you are professional or not Aug 10

If you are a professional, you deliver a translation that is fit for the client's use, or you turn down the job because you are out of your depth. After 20 years I still turn down quite a lot of jobs...

If you deliver a professional job, it has the same value for the client, regardless of whether you are a newbie or have years of experience. Well-qualified beginners can produce excellent work, luckily for clients! We all have to begin somewhere, and if the translation is not fit for its purpose, it is absolutely useless. As with so many other tailored products, there is no soft option. You jump in and have to swim from the start.

So your rate has to be the full rate too. It is not easy to raise rates later! You more or less have to find new clients who accept higher rates. (Many of us have ditched early clients, because we no longer accept the rates they pay!)

GBP 0.06 strikes me as very low, but I know the Scandinavian languages I work with are 'expensive', and because of the differences between word counts in source and target languages, and other market factors, I can still claim to give value for money and charge nearly twice that rate!

Some of the best clients will not take you seriously if your rates are too low: can you really invest in dictionaries, online resources, keeping up with your specialist areas, insurance, a pension scheme, holiday savings and all the rest? Don't compare your desired income with an employee's take-home pay - when you are self-employed, you have to cover all the expenses of running a business and pay yourself a realistic living 'salary'. It won't be high, but you cannot live on bottom feeders.

Check your rates here:
[Edited at 2018-08-10 15:15 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Vera Schoen
Kevin Clayton, PhD
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
José Henrique Lamensdorf
Kuochoe Nikoi
Lucien Rousseau
 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 14:10
Member (2016)
English to German
Rates are not fixed Aug 10

scotters wrote:

Hi everyone,

I know this question gets asked a lot but I'm really unsure what rates to set for my translation services. I've used the rates calculator feature on ProZ and I've currently got my rates set at 0.06 GBP per word for both FR>EN and IT>EN. I've got years of voluntary translation experience and have always received good feedback so I believe I have the skills/experience to be able to charge slightly higher rates than other new starters but I don't want to charge too high and not get the work - the eternal struggle!

I haven't sent my CV out to any agencies yet as I want to be happy with the rates I've set.

If anyone has any advice then I would be very gratefulicon_smile.gif


You can publish your rates here or not, you can advertise your rates to the agency beforehand or not, but the fact is that your rates are not fixed, they are a matter of negotiation. In most cases, agencies and direct clients have their own ideas about what they want to pay. If their and your ideas do not correspond, you will need to negotiate. And what happens then depends very much on the state of the market. If there is a long list of other translators who would happily do the same work, your position is weak. But if the client or agency has difficulties to find a competent translator, your position is strong. There are many factors at work here: the language pair and the situation in this language pair, the field of expertise and the need of special knowledge or capabilities or tools, the season (like now, where many translators are on vacation) and so on. You have to find your place in this overall situation somewhere. Your chances will be better if you can offer something that few others can. In any case, the rate you advertise will often not be the rate you finally settle for, so it might be a good idea to start on the high side.


Annamaria Sondrio
Michele Fauble
 

Annamaria Sondrio
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:10
Member (Mar 2018)
English to Italian
+ ...
I don't think you're a newbie Aug 10

scotters wrote:

...I've got years of voluntary translation experience...


Then you're not a 'newbie' anymore, test the waters with the rates you think are right, and start from there. You can always adapt them based on the circumstances and the kind of work you are offered. Best of luck.


Valérie Ourset
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
Lucien Rousseau
 

Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:10
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Don't charge "newbie rates" Aug 10

I agree with the others. If you want to sell your translations they have to be good/perfect. You cannot expect your clients to understand that you aren't perfect and justify your imperfection with lower rates. All the clients want is a translation, and it has to be good enough to be used for whatever the clients intend to do with it.

If you really feel your translations aren't good enough to be published - team up with another translator/proofreader and have him/her help you. You will have to pay for this service, but if you expect to be paid a lower rate by your clients anyway this shouldn't be a problem. But don't charge your clients a lower price because you aren't confident. It doesn't look good, and it's not good for the industry.


Jorge Payan
Teresa Borges
Sheila Wilson
Lucien Rousseau
 
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Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member because it was not in line with site rule

Emily Scott
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:10
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Okay... Aug 11

Well thank you to those of you who gave advice and shared your experiences, it's definitely made me more aware and made me realise that I am an experienced translator who produces good translations and therefore I should charge accordingly.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Newbies earn less but the client pays the "normal" rate Aug 11

Elke Fehling wrote:
If you really feel your translations aren't good enough to be published - team up with another translator/proofreader and have him/her help you. You will have to pay for this service, but if you expect to be paid a lower rate by your clients anyway this shouldn't be a problem. But don't charge your clients a lower price because you aren't confident. It doesn't look good, and it's not good for the industry.

Paying a proofreader is one way in which a newbie will earn less than a more experienced translator. Being mentored is another. But even when people are beyond that stage, or prefer to bypass it, they would normally earn considerably less per hour than experienced translators. They'll spend a lot of time on a text - researching terms, tweaking things, checking their work, re-checking their work... - whilst the experienced person would just start typing. They also don't have the benefit of vast TMs and glossaries/termbanks when they start out. Everything takes that bit longer, so the same per-word rate is going to bring in a very different income per hour. That's if the newbie is intent on doing a good job and becoming a sought-after human translator, of course. If they're starting out by dashing off 1,000 wph, then they aren't ever going to be able to command good rates and will always risk being replaced by MT.

If you start out with a rate that's only very little short of average, you quickly go from earning a pittance per hour to earning a fair rate - without having to raise your rates. Clients really don't like us raising our rates icon_frown.gif ! You need to put that off until you're well-established. Then you can raise them just for all new clients and your worst current one. As you get more better-paying work then you can approach the next-worst client on the list, and so on. You WILL lose some, but that's fine as long as you aren't dependent on them.


Elke Fehling
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
Valérie Ourset
Lucien Rousseau
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:10
French to English
"Newbie" rates Aug 11

Here's one piece of information that might help set the cursor. I started out in 1994 and agencies were offering around 0,08 euros per word at that time. That was more than 24 years ago.

As a newcomer, you will be sufficiently "penalized" by the fact that you will take longer to do the work than a more experienced translator. When you initially sign with an agency, they will (should) allow more time for proofreading your work. Once they are familiar with your strengths and your weaknesses, if they continue working with you, it means that you are up to scratch. However, prepare yourself for the hard fact that they are unlikely to offer to increase your rates and will probably refuse your request to increase your rate later on. That is when you regret having pitched your rates too low. The volume of work you will have to get through at 0,06/word will mean you need to work fast, when the chances are that starting out you will be slower. Can you make a living like that? Probably not. You will last more easily if you do good work. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by reducing rates to the point that producing work to the best of your ability is compromised from the word go.

Think of it this way: can you see yourself saying to the client, I'm going to charge 40% under the market rate and produce work that is 40% below marketable quality. It doesn't make sense, does it? Yet that is effectively what you are telling yourself. It is also what you should tell a client who says that you are new and should, therefore, charge less. No client wants substandard work. Take the time to provide quality work and sell it at a market rate.

Edit: if you have someone who can read your work through, that's great. You could also seek the assistance of a mentor, as Sheila suggests.


[Edited at 2018-08-11 12:04 GMT]


Josephine Cassar
Valérie Ourset
 

Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:10
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Experienced translator vs newbie Aug 11

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Paying a proofreader is one way in which a newbie will earn less than a more experienced translator.


I was very lucky when I started out as a translator. I was allowed to work in a translation agency and there were always translators around that I could ask. I was still payed by word, but I had all the help that I needed, and that was wonderful. Thank you, Lu's Paragraph in Belgium!

If you start out with a rate that's only very little short of average, you quickly go from earning a pittance per hour to earning a fair rate - without having to raise your rates. Clients really don't like us raising our rates icon_frown.gif ! You need to put that off until you're well-established. Then you can raise them just for all new clients and your worst current one. As you get more better-paying work then you can approach the next-worst client on the list, and so on. You WILL lose some, but that's fine as long as you aren't dependent on them.


What do you mean bey "very little short of average"?

Yes, I agree, I probably translated about 500 words per day at the very beginning. And I had huge problems to decide when a translation was actually done.

One of my friends - whose knowledge of the English languages is great and who is a great copywriter in German - once mentioned that he thought he could do my job. Yes, of course he could. I gave him a 200 words text and it took him about 3 hours to deliver something ok. With a little practice he would surely have been able do great translations at an acceptable speed, but at that time he had to agree that the main difference between him and me was experience.

Just like you say, an experienced translator just starts typing. And has solutions for terms/phrases that are difficult to find in a dictionary. He looks at a text in a different way than a newbie, he types faster, he knows how and where to research terms and has solutions for difficult situations.

So my recommandation to a newbie would be: Don't charge less per word because you have no experience. But know that you won't be as fast as a professional and be aware of the fact that because of this your "hourly rate" is already a lot lower than that of an experienced translator.


 
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