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Earnings per hour
Thread poster: Anil Gidwani

Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:29
German to English
+ ...
Sep 22, 2008

The concept of earnings per hour is a fairly useful and standardized measure of income that cuts across industries, and is used in many areas, notably consulting. I think it would be a good metric for translators as well.

I'm not talking about rates per hour here, such as the rates we have for proof-reading in the industry. The earnings per hour would depend on a number of factors, of course, including translation rates, familiarity with the subject domain, efficiency in use of CAT tools, use of VR tools etc. Anything that helps turn around a translation faster helps improve the earnings per hour, by definition.

I've been doing some basic calculations from the time I started, simply by taking the earnings from a job and dividing it by the time I took to finish it. Over the years, I've found my earnings per hour go up from EUR 10/hr to somewhere between EUR 25-30 per hour of translation today, as a function of the above factors, and thanks in good part to increased productivity.

Is EUR 25-30 good enough? What are the limits a translator can push? What are the maximum earnings per hour a translator can shoot for? [For purposes of comparison, other professions (software engineering comes to mind) do pull in USD/EUR 100/hour]





[Edited at 2008-09-22 12:16]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:59
Flemish to English
+ ...
I.T.-translation: A comparison Sep 22, 2008

Depends on the cost of living. In Europe it €25 /h is about the salary of somebody in a clerical function. As a freelancer it is a pittance.
In I.T.: One of my acquaintances earns 500 euro on a daily basis as a freelance .net programmer.


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 15:59
Italian to English
+ ...
Depends where you live, how much customers pay Sep 22, 2008


Is EUR 25-30 good enough? What are the limits a translator can push? What are the maximum earnings per hour a translator can shoot for? [For purposes of comparison, other professions (software engineering comes to mind) do pull in USD/EUR 100/hour]





[Edited at 2008-09-22 12:16]


Whether EUR 25-30 per hour is good depends on the cost of living where you live.

To be sure, as an individual, you will reach a maximum number of words per day, though it will be higher for some and lower for others, it depends on the individual's productivity. At that point, it depends on how much your customers pay.

It is possible to do 5000 words in a 10 hour day. Let's assume a rate of EUR 0.15 per word, perhaps very difficult to achieve a portfolio of customers at that level and maintain that pace of work, but not impossible. That would mean EUR 75 per hour. At the current exchange rate, that is in the USD 100 an hour range.

I'm not sure, but there may be employee translators in institutional settings, such as the EU or the IMF, that earn that sort of hourly rate (maybe more if you consider benefits).

Probably more realistically achievable for a freelancer is around EUR 50/USD 75 per hour, without benefits, but, again, I would not exclude cases above that level.


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Piotr Wargan  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:59
English to Polish
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25 EUR Sep 22, 2008

Williamson wrote:

Depends on the cost of living. In Europe it €25 /h is about the salary of somebody in a clerical function. As a freelancer it is a pittance.
In I.T.: One of my acquaintances earns 500 euro on a daily basis as a freelance .net programmer.


Examples of salaries offered to engineers in the UK for example are to be found here: http://www.icerecruit.com/building/jobs.asp

If a working month is 160 hours then 160 x 25 EUR = 4000 EUR a month and x 12 = 48 000 EUR a year. Now, please look who is offered the 48 k + salaries and if much lower ones (eg. around 35k / year which makes about 18 EUR) are common or not.


Best,
Piotr


[Edited at 2008-09-22 14:22]


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Marie-Céline GEORG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:59
English to French
+ ...
Compare net earning / hour rate Sep 22, 2008

If you take the amount you invoice and divide it by the time necessary for that job to obtain 25€ / hour, that's your gross earnings.
You have to deduct your charges - social charges, office charges, etc. Then your net earnings, your "salary" will be lower. It also depends on where you live. In France, as a freelance translator you can take about 50 % of the amount paid by your customer as your net earning.

If you want to compare your gross earnings with a salary, take the net amount + all charges (paid by employee AND by boss - also depends on country).


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:59
English to German
+ ...
Sensible metric for your own performance Sep 22, 2008

Hi Anil,

The concept of earnings per hour is a fairly useful and standardized measure of income that cuts across industries, and is used in many areas, notably consulting. I think it would be a good metric for translators as well.

In my view, it's the only sensible measure for your own performance.

Is EUR 25-30 good enough?

At the end of the day, you're the only one who is really in a position to answer that.
It does depend on your cost base (do not forget to factor in depreciation/amortisation of
equipment, software, etc., plus contributions to social security cover and pension provisions).

What are the limits a translator can push?

I'm not aware of any.

What are the maximum earnings per hour a translator can shoot for? [For purposes of comparison, other professions (software engineering comes to mind) do pull in USD/EUR 100/hour]

Which I consider reasonable for an experienced, specialised translator.
If you're working for end clients, this need not be the limit. Whether or not it is achievable depends not only on your linguistic skills, but just as much on your business and marketing skills.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:59
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not unusual ... Sep 22, 2008

Williamson wrote:

One of my acquaintances earns 500 euro on a daily basis as a freelance .net programmer.


... for a specialist freelance translator either. I know of quite a few who specialise in legal or financial, for instance, and achieve this quite comfortably.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not unusual???? Sep 22, 2008

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Williamson wrote:

One of my acquaintances earns 500 euro on a daily basis as a freelance .net programmer.


... for a specialist freelance translator either. I know of quite a few who specialise in legal or financial, for instance, and achieve this quite comfortably.




Surely you mean "rather" or "somewhat" unusual? You seem to be implying that "specialist freelancers/editors" in your acquaintance are earning this. Don't you specialise in legal translation (as indicated by your tag)? If YOU aren't earning that per hour, why not? It would be interesting to understand why/how a rate per hour could range from 25 to 500 euros per hours, for two human beings who aren't necessarily or logically going to be one 20 times better than the other one; obviously location, cost of living, etc may play a part.




[Edited at 2008-09-22 23:09]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:59
Dutch to English
+ ...
No, not unusual at all Sep 23, 2008

Lia Fail wrote:

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Williamson wrote:

One of my acquaintances earns 500 euro on a daily basis as a freelance .net programmer.


... for a specialist freelance translator either. I know of quite a few who specialise in legal or financial, for instance, and achieve this quite comfortably.


Surely you mean "rather" or "somewhat" unusual? You seem to be implying that "specialist freelancers/editors" in your acquaintance are earning this. Don't you specialise in legal translation (as indicated by your tag)? If YOU aren't earning that per hour, why not? It would be interesting to understand why/how a rate per hour could range from 25 to 500 euros per hours, for two human beings who aren't necessarily or logically going to be one 20 times better than the other one; obviously location, cost of living, etc may play a part.




[Edited at 2008-09-22 23:09]


Williamson's post and my response referred to earning 500 euros per day, not per hour.


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:29
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Gross earnings independent of location of residence Sep 23, 2008

Folks,

I had meant gross earnings per hour. As many suggested above, calculating net earnings per hour is location dependent, since local taxes and costs have to be factored in.

I also believe that as freelancer translators, we enjoy one of the world's truly "mobile" professions, and should strive to achieve compensation levels that are irrespective of location. You never know where you might want to relocate, and would you want your compensation levels to change? That's why I want to set my rates based not on where I live, but on what I perceive is the value a translation brings to an organization, wherever it may be.

From the replies so far, it does appear that EUR 25-30/hour (gross) is low. EUR 60-100/hr looks more like the target to shoot for. But this translates into minimum rates of EUR .19/word with an output capacity of 2500 words/8 hour day.

Tough goals, especially in the face of the offers and bids we see on ProZ, but worth aiming for! Thanks for the motivation, guys!!






[Edited at 2008-09-23 10:11]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:59
Flemish to English
+ ...
You wanted a norm? Sep 25, 2008

IT:
Yesterday, I was at my acquaintances' house and saw a proposal addressed to an end-client for a weeks programming: 2500 euro excluding all extra costs (calculated at 70 euro per extra hour) in other words, 10000 euros per month for writing custom made computer programs for end clients.
Working hours : 5 days a week nine to five.
During the weekends he usually works for another client.
Add to that computer room rental and renting 7 appartments earned with being a freelance IT-person since 1995. Next step: Outsourcing IT himself with a margin of 2500 euros per IT-person per month.
The lucky ones among the translators may have earned the same, but not at 0.04 or 0.05 eurocents p.w.

Somehow, you have to set a minimum standard. No, rates offered on this site are no reference, but somehow some "love" translation so much that they (20 bidders) jump on rates of 0.04 p.w. English to German, base of outsourcer : Germany.

The starting salary for a translator at the E.U. is about €48000 per annum for 11 months of work (about 35 days vacation Legal Holidays included). So you have to devide 48000/12/20 working days of 8 hours on an average, perks excluded.
Somebody with a couple of years' experience who climbed the LA-career- ladder a bit earns about €7000 euros per month which translates to about 75 euros per hour.

You wanted a norm. Here is one.
In Western-Europe, to live well your rates should be in between €50-€75 per hour. Rates on this site are no reference at all. Go to have your car serviced and how much do you pay, go to a doctor, dentist, lawyer, plumber or any other professional and how much do you pay? Exactly, starting from 50 euros per hour for a consultation to 75 euro and more. Once and a while, I treat myself to a wellness program. Even the professional masseuse (no not in the erotic sense) earns about €50/hour.












[Edited at 2008-09-25 12:45]


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:29
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Freelancers who bid low need to wake up Sep 25, 2008

I worked as a software engineer earlier, and in my experience, it's far more hard work being a translator than a software engineer. Translation is a very intense knowledge-based profession!

EUR 25/hour is very much on the low side compared to other professions that need equivalent (or less) brain power, and I think we should move towards achieving our true place in a global economy where demand for translation services is increasing at a good clip.

Ergo, we need to learn to bid better. That is, if we feel we deserve to be paid better.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:59
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I don't agree at all! Sep 25, 2008

Anil Gidwani wrote:
The concept of earnings per hour is a fairly useful and standardized measure of income that cuts across industries, and is used in many areas, notably consulting. I think it would be a good metric for translators as well.


Simply because it would be assumed that we all translate at the same speed, and speed varies greatly based on your experience and familiarity with the matter at hand.

Let's assume we have to translate 5.000 words and that it is estimated that a translator does 2.500 words in 8 hours. At a hourly price of 20 euros and a word rate of 10 cents (I am only making these up), the result would be:

- Paid per hour: 16 hours @ 20 Eur = 320 Eur
- Paid per word: 5000 words @ 10 cents = 500 Eur

If you translate 5000 words in one day (because you know the topic well and you are fast typer), you are losing a big chunk of your income.

Paying by the word is the only fair way to go in my opinión.

(Edited to add a quote from Anil's initial posting)

[Edited at 2008-09-25 14:19]


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:29
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Charging by hour not meant Sep 25, 2008

Tomás Cano Binder wrote:

Paying by the word is the only fair way to go in my opinión.



Hi Tomás,

I did not mean that we should charge per hour. We should continue to charge per word/line or other method, but at the end of the day, we should calculate what our resultant EARNINGS per hour work out to be, to be able to compare ourselves to other professions.

And when we do, we realize how low freelancer rates are heading today! And why should they, when translation is as demanding, if not more so, and as important as other professions.


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 15:59
French to Dutch
+ ...
I think it is the contrary Sep 25, 2008

Anil Gidwani wrote:
I did not mean that we should charge per hour. We should continue to charge per word/line or other method, but at the end of the day, we should calculate what our resultant EARNINGS per hour work out to be, to be able to compare ourselves to other professions.


I think that every translator should know how much he should attain in one working day, and because our work is irregular, in one month. If you know that your costs & salary are € 300 euros a working day (I am just stating a figure), than you should strive to earn € 300 a working day, and if this is not possible in the short term you should take measures immeiately, and if you cannot attain this in the medium term, then you should stop doing this job. But always have a target in your head, and be aware of your costs.

Of course it is more grateful to translate 2000 words for 0.15 than 3000 words for 0.10, but this has everything to do with specialties, and not everbody has this choice.

By the way, the € 500/day translators are not looking for jobs on proz.com.


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