Low rates: where did rates stand ten years ago and earlier?
Thread poster: Miguel Llorens

Miguel Llorens  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
Aug 15, 2003

In view of the frequency with which I see complaints on ProZ forums about ridiculously low-paying jobs, I’d like some feedback from experienced translators regarding rates per translated word before the nineties. Correct me if I’m wrong and provide some details about how your rates have evolved, but I remember a professional translator in the early nineties telling me that the going rate in the U.S. back then was 0.25 USD per word (yes, a quarter for each ENG-SPA word). If that is truly the case, then those who feel insulted by a 0.02/0.03 EUR per word job posting because their standard rates are 0.10/0.15 EUR rates are simply missing the point. It’s the equivalent of complaining about the lack of sunlight and good garbage dumps to rummage through a couple of weeks after a thermonuclear holocaust. In other words, it’s not even a losing battle… it was lost a long time ago. If you factor in compounded inflation over the nineties and the early zeroes (or is it naughties?), then current rates per word should be hovering around 0.35 USD per word. Please send in comments. I’m particularly interested in anecdotal evidence about a general plummeting of rates and whether the Internet, e-mail and fax have played a role in the process.

Miguel Llorens
Financial Translator

Edificio la Trinidad, PH
Calle La Joya cr/c Av. Francisco de Miranda
Distrito Federal
Venezuela 1060-055

[Edited at 2006-01-25 04:09]

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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
if only you were mistaken... Sep 22, 2003

Oh how I wish I could state that you are mistaken...but the sad reality is that the situation is exactly as you describe it. Here in the U.S., a rate of US$0.25 in the early nineties would have corresponded to jobs for direct clients. Agency rates would have been about half that, in a range of US$0.08 to US$0.12 for English to Spanish translations, depending on experience. These are the same agency rates we are fighting tooth and nail to apply today, a decade later! Did you say "inflation"

Your thermonuclear disaster image is spot on. I have no brilliant solutions to offer, but I am hoping this posting will lead to a constructive discussion.

Thanks for posting this

Susana Galilea
Accredited Translator, EUTI

[Edited at 2003-11-27 21:01]

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Marion Schimmelpfennig  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:50
Member (2003)
English to German
self-made dumping prices lead to self-made suicide Nov 27, 2003

Having been a Platinum member for only a few days and having browsed both forums and profiles of my translator colleages, I am devastated to see what is going on in terms of rates. Many of them are so low even my cleaning lady gets more. But what's even more horrible is the fact that many colleagues don't seem interested in this issue (see lack of replies to such postings). On the one hand, many translators would probably complain about low rates, but on the other hand, not only do they bid for jobs with insultingly low rate offers, they even post such rates on their profile! No wonder agencies believe they can get translations for dumping prices. One colleage, featured the other day, has a tagline that says something like "high-quality, low prices". Since when is high quality cheap? And why should it be? Believe me, low rates are absolutely self-made. When I started out as a freelance copywriter, I was tempted several times to accept low rates in order to get a job. But I thought it over: If I accept a low rate now, the client knows he can haggle with me every time he wants to, and also, why should he agree to higher rates in the future? So I stuck my rate and you know what? Those clients eventually came back, having realized that cheap prices often result in poor quality. My policy also told them that I am self-confident and professional, and I now have a high standing with them.

Now that I got that off my chest and assuming that only few replies will come in, how about contacting those dumping price translators individually and inviting them to join this discussion?

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