About working for a translation company - how much should I ask for?
Thread poster: silks
Oct 6, 2009

I am currently in China, and I have been in contact with a guy who runs a business for translating Chinese texts into English. He is not a translator, but he interfaces with the clients and works out contracts for the jobs. He is interested in having me work for him as a translator on a contract-to-contract basis. I am able to do the work, but I'm not sure how much to ask from him. The contracts he makes with his clients will specify a price, and of course he will want a percentage of that for himself. What would be a reasonable percentage (or percentage-range) that he should offer for my services, considering that I will be translating the texts without any help? I'm new to this business, so I have no idea what is too little or too much. Any information or wisdom that you can share would be much appreciated!

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-10-07 14:18 GMT]


Irene McClure
Local time: 22:02
Member (2008)
French to English
+ ...
Welcome Oct 6, 2009

Dear silks,

Welcome to the Proz site!

Your best starting point would be to take a look at the "rates" part of the site, which you can find under the 'jobs' tab at the top of the page. There you can compare the average rates reported by professional translators working in your language pair.

As you seem to have no experience of translating for an agency I also suggest you have a look around the "Getting Established" forum to make sure that you cover all your bases from the point of view of things like purchase orders, word counts, corrections, resources, tax and so on. There is lots of useful information there and if you have any questions it is more than likely that someone else has asked them before.

I hope this helps. Good luck!



Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
Many factors Oct 7, 2009

I don't know about what percentage the company should keep, but in order to figure out your rate you have to take into account many factors. Language combination, specialization, format, etc.


nordiste  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:02
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
who makes the quotes ? Oct 7, 2009

If the agency owner is not a translator, how can he make a realistic estimate of the work to be done and charge the client accordingly ?

As a freelancer you have to decide your rates based on the work load involved in every translation - you cannot just accept a lump sum without knowing more.


Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:02
English to Russian
+ ...
Agency fee may vary Oct 7, 2009

Shipowners pay to shipbrokers an agency fee between 1.25 and 5% for their service of finding cargoes.

Some traders pay up to 10% to their agents who help them to find customers.

To my mind 30% of the total conract value is the maximum limit.
Bigger percentage simply makes no sence.

I wouldn´t afraid to pay a fixed percentage to my agent, since the more I get to my bank account the better is his/her remuneration.
Respectively my agent is interested that I could do more work for better price and does everything to increase my earnings.

Hope it helps.

[Edited at 2009-10-07 11:23 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-10-07 11:33 GMT]


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:02
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A little piece of advice for your safety Oct 7, 2009

My main advice is not about rates, but about your business relationship with this potential customer.

To me it looks like it is just one person who will sell your work to a third. You have no control on the relationship of this person with a third person, but you should make sure that you don't do a lot of work for this person in one go, and if you do, make sure you get paid for pieces not bigger than the equivalent of two/three days of work.

This way, you will be protected from payment problems and, if this person is not as reliable as you think, you will only lose a couple of days of work. I strongly advice you to do the first couple of days of work and then wait to get paid for that before you continue working. And keep it that way for at least six months. Accept no excuse. If this person is really serious, you will be paid for your work. And if this person is not serious... do you really want to do business with this person?


Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:02
English to Russian
+ ...
two business models Oct 7, 2009

There are two business models in such situation.

a. Your friend/colleague acts as you agent and gets his/her commission for finding customers for whom you translate.

It means you MUST know the customer and there is a contract between you and the customer.
Your colleague is entitled (in general) to his/her commission only when you are paid. Respectively you must collect money from the customer first, and only after that pay your colleague his/her commission.

Conditions may vary, you may authorise the person to collect funds on your behalf and pay them to your friends or relatives... However it´s a next stage of your relationship with your agent and it doesn´t change the initial legal position of the parties to your agreement.

b. Your friend/colleague acts as your customer. As simple as that he/she is your customer.
You don´t need to know any third party involved. Your colleague orders your service and pays you.
It´s up to you to decide what will be the price in dollars or euro or ...
No percentage here.

And NO poor excuses MUST be accepted from your colleague for nonpayment for the reason that he/she has no money, the final customer hasn´t paid yet, his/her grandma is ill and he / she cannot concentrate on business right now... etc.

[Edited at 2009-10-07 11:50 GMT]


Thank you all for your generous advice! Oct 8, 2009

Savtrad, Penelope, and nordiste: Thank you for your helpful tips and for pointing me in the right direction.

Tomás: Your suggestion is very reasonable. I'll try out that method to keep him honest.

Sergei: You nailed it on the head, and I am completely reassured now. I'll do some research about standard rates for my language pair, in the event that he and I agree upon model B. Anyway, model B seems like the safer route for my situation, since this translation job will be part-time work--I'm a full-time English teacher--and I may not have much time to personally meet and make contracts with every client.

This has all been a tremendous help!


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