Does translation really pay?
Thread poster: yuliyal

United States
Local time: 10:23
English to Russian
+ ...
Nov 15, 2002

Hi everybody,

I am new here and I\'ve never done any translation for money (only for free for non-profit organizations). My education is in computer science, but I got tired of it icon_smile.gif and am looking for something more creative. I am currently home raising a family, so I thought that doing some freelance translation may be a good way to do something creative and intellectually challenging and also make some money.

So I looked at some of the Russian translators\' profiles, since Russian is my native language, and what really shocked me was how little they get paid. OK, so with a computer science background I am used to much higher rates. But I mean, I\'ve always thought that a $20/hour job you can get with a high school diploma. Even highly experienced translators have rates of only $40/hour. And you people are highly educated, and some of you also have technical backgrounds. So I guess my question is: for those of you who have technical backgrounds, why did you leave those high-paying areas and go into translation? And for everybody else: does translation really pay?

I\'d appreciate any advice.

Thanks so much!



Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
It all depends where you are Nov 15, 2002

In my country (Poland) an average salary throughout all industries is $500 per month (not per hour) and $40 per hour job is considered very well paid. And translators make probably the same as IT specialists, less than lawyers and doctors, much more than teachers. It is all different in different countries, however I do not think that salaries in Russia are that higher than in Poland.

Hope this answers your question.


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-11-15 22:05 ]


JCEC  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:23
English to French
No more bosses ! Nov 15, 2002

It may take you a year or more getting fully-established but soon enough you will be refusing translation jobs because there is far more translation out there than translators.

The income may only be half of what you could expect working for a large corporation but the quality of life is significantly higher: no commuting, working your own hours, reduced spending, time for your family and friends, no stressfull bosses with their own hidden agendas, etc.

If you are of the gregarious type, you will have to make up for the loneliness of the job one way or another. Stay informed. ProZ is a good start, so are professional associations.

See you around ProZ,



Paul Roige (X)
Local time: 19:23
English to Spanish
+ ...
The one trillion kopek question Nov 15, 2002

It all depends on how you go about it, where you are, who you know, what you do and how much patience you have.

Personally, translation takes me off the streets, that\'s something... icon_smile.gif
But you gotta like it, main thing.

Good luck icon_smile.gif Paul


United States
Local time: 10:23
English to Russian
+ ...
I live in United States -- sorry forgot to mention (n/t) Nov 15, 2002



Jennie Sherrick, MA
United States
Local time: 13:23
German to English
+ ...
Translation pays in many ways Nov 15, 2002

Hi Yuliya,

I think that $40 per hour for translators in the US is also high. Pay varies for each project you get too and who your clients are (large/small businesses, agencies, one person, etc.). For the most part I think translators are paid per word though, and this even varies depending on the type of document, size of document, amount of time to complete it, etc.

As for the reason I left my job for translation, that itself has to do with your question as to whether translation really does pay. It can and it does in many ways, more than just monetarily. Money-wise, expect to struggle somewhat the first year of going to full-time translating. Stability as far as money comes with getting steady clients. Does translation pay other than that? Well, as a freelancer you can be your own boss, work your own hours (although you can expect to work weekends and long nights once you get busy to meet deadlines), and work from home (always nice, especially if you have a family). There can be much freedom in this career, as well as variety (you never know what your next project will be about), which keeps it interesting and stimulating. But when you do have freetime, it is spent in marketing yourself, trying to contact new clients, searching for jobs, and of course researching with regards to keeping up-to-date on terminology. But all in all and in my personal experience, although it takes patience and time, translation does pay as it\'s quite a fulfilling career, as long as you enjoy it! icon_smile.gif


XX789 (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
English to Dutch
+ ...
It really depends on your skills Nov 15, 2002

Translators earn everything between 25.000 USD and 100.000 USD per year. I currently make 75.000 USD and think I\'ve reached my limit. I want to have a life too.

I reached this salary after 6 years of very hard work (since last year). The first year I made 3000 USD. Just to give you an idea. The beginning is really tough.

During the 7 years I\'ve been working as a translator, I\'ve experienced many things. Currently I live in a great house, have a great car and a fantastic wife and kid (the most important thing)! But 4 years ago, I was almost bankrupt. I could hardly afford food - and I\'m not kidding here.

During your career, a lot will happen. Whether you succeed depends on whether you are willing to adapt to changing environments and situations, or stay stubborn and just want to do \"your thing\". It will also depend on how well you know your own limits.

It all depends on your skills, how established you are, your specialization, how you deal with clients, etcetera.

This is a great link to find out more about your career:

It\'s a great site and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Roger Chriss knows what he\'s talking about.

And you don\'t have to adapt your rates to the lowest rates you\'ve seen on this site. You may, but you don\'t have to.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-11-15 22:56 ]


Local time: 19:23
Afrikaans to Spanish
+ ...
YES... Nov 15, 2002

if you like to translate...and you translate what you like...the money is not the compass...the pleasure of translating texts that help another people...that\'s the key...and I have discovered it after 35 years of work...


kbamert  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
French to German
+ ...
no Nov 16, 2002


And for everybody else: does translation really pay?

If I convert the money I get to an hourly rate (without social deduction, tax deduction, office costs) I earn between US$ 3.44 and 8.26 per hour.

In comparison: Toyota pays a car factory worker in the North of France (Valenciennes) US$ 12.-- (I think some social benefits included) [week of 35 hours]

Best regards


[Edited at 2004-03-11 18:50]


Steffen Pollex (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
English to German
+ ...
Aren't you a bit far from reality?! Nov 16, 2002


Yuliya wrote: \"Even highly experienced translators have rates of ONLY $40/hour.\"

Do you really think this isn\'t good money? Try to earn this in other areas (ok, except programming, computer and all this \"New-Economy\" stuff.) Hardly will you manage to do so. And: a diploma in IT does not mean you automatically are a first-class translator. I guess it will take a year or two before ÿou can \"ñâåñòè êîíöû ñ êîíöàìè\" relying only on translation jobs. Your \"ðóññêèé ìàêñèìàëèçì\" seems a bit misplaced to me. Who the heck would notice you, especially at the start, especially in the US where, as to my knowledge, there is a hell of a lot of Russians who consider themselves \"translators\" just because they finally made it to the States and managed to get a more or less decent command of English?

Be patient, realistic, work hard, that\'s all (I am sure you can).



[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-11-16 07:55 ]


Jeffrey McGuire
Local time: 19:23
German to English
+ ...
Hourly Rates? Nov 17, 2002

In my three years in the field I have learned NEVER to quote prices to corporate clients based on how long I take to do a job. This only penalizes you as you get better and faster! I have a formula based on the length, complexity and urgency of the translation (and perhaps on my knowledge of the source of the work) - the more urgent it is, the more expensive I am, for example. I am able to judge, from my experience, how long I need to write and correct a project and I base my quote on my own idea of what my \'hourly\' rate should be.


United States
Local time: 10:23
English to Russian
+ ...
Thanks a lot! Nov 19, 2002

Dear everybody,

Thank you so much for your answers, and especially for the references. You\'ve certainly given me a lot to think about. I am still thinking.



David Sirett
Local time: 19:23
French to English
+ ...
It depends on how much you need Nov 19, 2002

$40/hour working full time (no evenings or weekends) will probably get you about $70,000-$75,000 a year (gross). That\'s in a fairly high percentile of US incomes. Not too bad, for the work we do, in my opinion.

Who wants to be a lawyer, anyway!!


United Kingdom
Local time: 18:23
English to German
+ ...
I don't think so... Nov 21, 2002

$40 per hour on average seems quite a lot.

I could only imagine that if you had a constant workflow and you didn\'t have to do any administrative work and all your jobs were very easy, not involving much research.

The real world is different.

My experience so far is that when I am very busy I get offered a lot of jobs I have to turn down, when business is slow noone calls and you can\'t do anything about that. I use that time for hunting new clients, unpaid work, bookkeeping, unpaid work, catching up with my reading and new technologies etc., unpaid work...

Then you have to invest a lot, you need a work space, new dictionaries, new software, every so often a new computer...

But to be honest, I enjoy slow periods because I have time for myself, and when business is good I earn far more than most in-house translators. I am more productive at home than I would be in an office, I am my own boss and I can work when ever I want.

I live in London where many people spend two hours a day or more commuting. When I go out in the early evening I see them in their cars stuck in a traffic jam or running to catch a bus. I don\'t have to that. Lucky me.


Cidália Martins (X)
+ ...
$20 an hour after high school? Dec 1, 2002

Actually, I was quite surprised by that comment. Most of the people I know finished high school but not one of them is making $20 an hour or more. I think $40 an hour, steady, is an excellent income.


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