Japanese->English fee per character?
Thread poster: gyoliver

Local time: 11:08
Japanese to English
Jan 15, 2009

Hi, I apologize if this is a repeat question. I wasn't able to find an answer after multiple searches.

I recently started doing some Japanese-to-English translation work,
and just to get some experience, I signed up with an outsourcer.
I get paid ¥2.5/character, which translates to about ¥1500/hour on average, it seems.
Initially that doesn't seem too bad, given what full-time translation jobs pay hourly in Tokyo.
However, having done web searches for hourly fees, it seems very low--am I severely
short-changing myself, or is this sort of low fee common for outsourcers?
I don't have to do anything to get new work--they just send new texts.

The other thing is that I have no written contract, although I have been paid.
Seems shady, but perhaps it's common?

Anyway, any insight you can provide would be most helpful!

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KathyT  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:08
Japanese to English
Way too low! Jan 16, 2009

Hello gyoliver,

Yes, I would say that you are probably charging less than half the 'average' rate...
I'm not surprised they keep sending new texts for that amount, especially if you are turning out reasonable quality!
Also, I would highly recommend that you have some kind of written agreement or Purchase Order noting exactly how and when you will be paid - what documentary evidence of your arrangements would you be able to produce if things went sour?
You could also try posting in the Japanese forum if you want to direct this kind of Q to a more targeted audience...
Good luck!

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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:08
Japanese to English
Please stop doing that now. Jan 16, 2009

You'll put everyone out of business if you keep up with that.

Also, what is your language pair? What is your native language? That should have some bearing on how much you get paid.

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Kurt Hammond  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:08
Japanese to English
2.5yen is a good rate for machine-quality translations. Jan 26, 2009

Ok, so that explains where all my business went to

I would probably not even respond to a client request if they proposed that rate. I would consider that to be a "intern" rate designed to give you experience to start out your career, and with a limited time duration. After your "internship" is over, you should charge regular rates. Unless you are translating at lightning speeds and working overtime every day, I wonder if you will be able to keep a roof over your head.

Once you gain some comfort, I suggest dropping this client (it seems unlikely that they would agree to more than doubling their original low rate!) and signing up some new clients that will pay at least 5 yen per character.

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Local time: 11:08
Japanese to English
¥5/character (J->E) sounds reasonable for a newcomer with some experience? Jan 30, 2009

Thank you all for the replies. Sounds like I should be raising my rate. Any suggestions for how much I should be charging given the following (my language pair is Japanese->English, English my native language):

- passed JLPT Level 1 in Dec 2007
- graduated from the highest level of a university Japanese language program
- 1-month experience translating (~15-20/week), plus a total of 100hrs volunteer experience (NGO newsletters, documentary subtitles)

Given my lack of translation experience, I would assume I'd start on the lower end. KathyT said I'm charging less than half the average rate, so at least doubling my per character fee seems not unreasonable (although that might mean finding a new agency). Naturally, rates depend on the kind of document to be translated and quality requested...

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