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Minimum charge per 1,000 words - too low?
Thread poster: Jessie LN

Jessie LN
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 17, 2009

I registered with a translation agency, stating that my standard rate is £50 per 1,000 words (Spanish > English). I thought this seemed reasonable since I'm just starting out. They are now asking me if £20 per 1,000 words would be okay as my minimum charge.

This seems awfully low to me and I feel compelled to negotiate it. I don't want to set my prices too low for fear of never being able to raise them (maybe I've set myself up for that already?). Would asking to raise it to £30 or £40 seem sensible? I know this is less than half of what a professional translator would demand in many cases.

I know this is an age-old problem, but I'm very confused!

Anyone have any words of wisdom?

Thanks a lot!


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:20
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
"Minimum Charge" is not the same as "Minimum Rate" Feb 17, 2009

I think you are confusing two things here. They are asking about your minimum charge, e.g. for a job of 250 words, you would expect more than GBP12.50, so you set a minimum charge for such small jobs. For a minimum charge in this sense, I would say GBP20 is quite reasonable.

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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 12:20
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
India rates Feb 17, 2009

Assuming that you can provide a reasonably professional translation, that rate is ridiculous. To compare apples with apples, that is around 5 Eur per 250 words, whereas rates hover around 20 Eur per 250 words.

You do not negotiate on this. You wait for decent paying jobs! Remember that you can only do one job at at time. It should be worthwhile. (Opportunity cost).


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:20
French to English
Unless... Feb 17, 2009

Jack Doughty wrote:
For a minimum charge in this sense, I would say GBP20 is quite reasonable.

Unless the minimum charge applies to all jobs of 1,000 words and under.
In which case, frankly, it is extracting the micturation.

Charging extremely low rates (presumably on the basis you are rubbish, else why do it? - if your work is up to scratch, charge a proper rate) is a common beginners' mistake. Some clients, especially those who pay towards the low end, are resistant to subsequent increases. Basically, to increase rates, you have to find new clients and charge them the new higher rate while quietly dropping the old clients.

I appreciate that the SP-EN market is saturated, but I don't see how anyone in Western Europe could charge less than 50 quid per thou unless they work at the speed of light. A thousand words is about 4 hours work, once you include all the admin and re-reading and frigging about with glossaries and suchlike. So £50 per thousand could be thought of as a hundred notes a day, ish.
But twenty quid for 4 hours (1,000 words)?
You'd be better off with a McJob, no? The news yesterday said KFC were going to recruit 3,000 new staff this year. Your hair will smell of chicken, but at least you'll get free chips.

[Edited at 2009-02-17 13:07 GMT]


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Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:20
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
I agree with Jack Feb 17, 2009

I think in this case the confusion has arisen because of the way rates are quoted in the UK. They probably mean to offer you £20 as a minimum charge (i.e. if you have a 100 word job you would not get a fiver but 20 pounds) for everything under 400 words. However it would be safer to clarify this.

If you quoted £50/1000 words, then £20 minimum charge is reasonable, however I must admit that £50 is a rather low rate. Agencies in the UK normally pay reasonable rates to UK based translators even in very popular language pairs.

Good luck,
Ines


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:20
French to English
+ ...
?? Feb 17, 2009

Jessie Linardi wrote:

They are now asking me if £20 per 1,000 words would be okay as my minimum charge.


Are you absolutely sure they're asking for "£20/1000 words" or for just £20? A minimum charge is a common thing, and ensures that you are adequately recompensed for small jobs (which tend to take a fairly fixed amount of admin time even if there are only 20 words to be translated). It's quite common to have a minimum charge that is the same as your hourly rate.

It sounds to me as though you have misunderstood their email.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
To be clarified Feb 17, 2009

Yup, I agree with Angela and Charlie ("mictur*i*tion" - please spell the words I have to look up correctly!), you need to clarify exactly what this "minimum charge" will cover. At that point I dare say you will be able to make your own mind up.



----
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh... now I understand the Australian "taking the mick"!!!!


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JpBaugh  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:20
Member (2009)
Japanese to English
work at KFC? Feb 17, 2009

Many people make trite comments like yours Charlie, including my former translation tutor, but what if you actually prefer translating to working in fast-food and are struggling to get work? Working at low rates is a necessary evil whilst starting out. Any respectable company would hastily cut a reasonable initial offer of £25000 per year to £18000 on seeing the candidate had not so much experience, why should the translation industry be any different?

[Edited at 2009-02-17 14:29 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-02-17 14:39 GMT]


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Jessie LN
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's making sense now! Feb 17, 2009

Thank you all for your comments! As some of you have said, yes, my standard rate is probably not as high as it should be. However, I considered the fact that I'm new, I don't have technical ability and I'm working in a very common language pair... I had a look at some UK Esp-Eng translators' rates around the site (who didn't have a particular speciality) and they fluctuated enormously - I found anywhere from £0.03 to £0.11, with the higher rates being set by very experienced translators.

Angela Dickson wrote:

Jessie Linardi wrote:

They are now asking me if £20 per 1,000 words would be okay as my minimum charge.


Are you absolutely sure they're asking for "£20/1000 words" or for just £20? A minimum charge is a common thing, and ensures that you are adequately recompensed for small jobs (which tend to take a fairly fixed amount of admin time even if there are only 20 words to be translated). It's quite common to have a minimum charge that is the same as your hourly rate.

It sounds to me as though you have misunderstood their email.

I think you, Jack and Burrell may be right. They did not actually say "minimum charge £20 per 1,000 words", but that is how I read into it. As others have suggested, I will clarify this with the agency just to be on the safe side. Thanks for that.

So how many words would generally qualify for a 'minimum charge'? Anything under 1,000? Surely not? I suppose it would mean a very small amount of text - perhaps a slogan or something. Instead of being paid a pittance for translating a handful of words, I'd get at least £20. Slogans can be quite complex to translate, after all, and it shouldn't just be based on the number of words. I'm rambling a bit now.


[Edited at 2009-02-17 14:50 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-02-17 15:10 GMT]


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:20
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
My Minimum Charge Feb 17, 2009

is based on 300 words. In other words, 300 x rate for that particular client = minimum charge

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 10:20
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Undersell if you like, but.... Feb 17, 2009

JpBaugh wrote:
Many people make trite comments like yours Charlie, including my former translation tutor, but what if you actually prefer translating to working in fast-food and are struggling to get work?


Well, those remarks are a bit disrespectful to those working their tails off in the fast food industry, I'll agree. And those in such retail outlets could probably teach many translators some valuable lessons.


Working at low rates is a necessary evil whilst starting out.


Really? I would be careful about that general statement. Certainly, there are enough cases where those starting out (and some experienced translators) should be paying for the privilege of doing the work and being allowed to call themselves translators, and to some extent this is what goes on in the less favorable internship arrangements. Nothing wrong with that really; the lower the pay, the better - it leaves more for those willing to insist on good compensation, and to the extent that it undercuts our business and deprives us of work, it at least gives us the opportunity for a bit of R&R.

I won't harp on the old mantra "once a cheap translator, always a cheap translator", because (1) some people actually have the good sense to raise rates eventually (usually having to dump their initial clientele while doing so, because these will already have classified you as cheap labor and you are unlikely to shake that perception) and (2) it's your business what you charge, not mine. However, a good presentation of your services and an organized approach can net a beginner a lot more than some realize. I had no problem getting about 18 euro cents per word (roughly) for an English to German translator barely out of school a few years ago. The client was happy with the work and glad to pay what many would consider a high rate. What happened after I turned over the client to her directly is another matter, but I figured she had to get some CRM experience sometime.


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Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:20
Member
French to English
+ ...
Your normal rate but nothing less than £20 Feb 17, 2009

Jessie Linardi wrote:

So how many words would generally qualify for a 'minimum charge'? Anything under 1,000? Surely not? I suppose it would mean a very small amount of text - perhaps a slogan or something. Instead of being paid a pittance for translating a handful of words, I'd get at least £20. Slogans can be quite complex to translate, after all, and it shouldn't just be based on the number of words. I'm rambling a bit now.


[Edited at 2009-02-17 14:50 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-02-17 14:51 GMT]


Dear Jessie,

A minimum rate does not change your per word rate in any way. It just means that you will not invoice for anything less than £20 (for example). As such, at £0.05 per source word, whether you translate 50, 150, or 400 words, your invoice will be £20.

Best,
Jocelyne


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Anastasia Naoumi  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 12:20
English to Greek
It is extremely low Feb 17, 2009

Hello Jessie!

Isn't 20£/1000 words equivalent to charging 0.02£/word? In my view, as a novice (yet educated) freelance translator, you should not even consider accepting jobs from this agency. I haven't even got my diploma yet and my minimum rate is 0.06 Euros per word. I know that it is low but I don't have my credentials yet (many agencies ask for them) and I don't have any references from other agencies either, since I've only worked for Greek clients (not agencies).

I wouldn't really expect to hear this from a translator living in the UK, I thought such low rates were the privilege of Greek translation agencies (oh yes, they soooo exploit translators!). If you are really desperate and need this job, what can I say? Give it a try but not for too long...At least you got a reply! I've sent my CV to some agencies and only one has replied...:(


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:20
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Agree Feb 17, 2009

JpBaugh wrote:
...what if you actually prefer translating to working in fast-food and are struggling to get work? Working at low rates is a necessary evil whilst starting out.


When I started out I did some really low-paying jobs for a few private clients. It didn't hurt me later on, because these clients obviously didn't contact the people who hired me afterwards and say, "Well, she's really CHEAP, so take advantage of her!" I just gradually increased my rates as I got better as a translator and it was never, ever a problem for me.


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Jessie LN
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
'minimum charge' Feb 17, 2009

Anastasia Naoumi wrote:

Hello Jessie!

Isn't 20£/1000 words equivalent to charging 0.02£/word? In my view, as a novice (yet educated) freelance translator, you should not even consider accepting jobs from this agency. I haven't even got my diploma yet and my minimum rate is 0.06 Euros per word. I know that it is low but I don't have my credentials yet (many agencies ask for them) and I don't have any references from other agencies either, since I've only worked for Greek clients (not agencies).

I wouldn't really expect to hear this from a translator living in the UK, I thought such low rates were the privilege of Greek translation agencies (oh yes, they soooo exploit translators!). If you are really desperate and need this job, what can I say? Give it a try but not for too long...At least you got a reply! I've sent my CV to some agencies and only one has replied...:(

Hi Anastasia,

Yes, £0.02 per word is extremely low and that's what I thought the agency was asking me to agree to. However, some very helpful translators here have pointed out that a 'minimum charge' normally applies to jobs that have a relatively small amount of text, and that I'd be guaranteed at least £20 for translating only a couple hundred words, or what have you.

I empathise with you though - I've sent my CV out to many agencies and have only had a couple replies. I suppose we just have to persevere!


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