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How much do you make?
Thread poster: Vytautas Kacerauskis
Vytautas Kacerauskis
Local time: 06:57
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
May 29, 2010

Hi, everyone

I know there has been a lot of talk about rates on this website, but haven't found people sharing about their overall incomes as translators. A few weeks ago I read a troubling survey done by some EU stats agency, which showed just how miserably poor European translators are. I was really surprised. In some countries, the survey said, many translators are living in poverty or near-poverty, despite actually working (not unemployed). I have an idea about how much an average translator makes in my country, Lithuania, but I am interested in other countries, since we are a global market after all.
I know many people are unwilling to talk about their incomes. Although I do not always see why. Please, at least state what an average translator you know makes a year/month/weak.
I'll start from myself. I make 2000 eur per month after taxes, which is about 4 times the average monthly salary of EUR 500 in Lithuania. Bearing in mind that living costs here are still below those of West Europe and probably the US, it's a decent pay. Though I often sense dissapointment and compassion in people's voice and eyes when they learn that I am "just" or "still" a translator (it's like, oh my God, you're in your thirties and haven't found anything serious to do yet..), the fact is that I make more than most of my friends lawyers and doctors, let alone those in public service.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and info. As I said, you don't have to mention exactly how much you earn. You can simply talk about the averages and trends in your market, but talk about ACTUAL INCOME, not rates.

Regards,
Vytautas


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:57
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
4 times average in the EU May 29, 2010

Hi Vytautas,

Making 4 times the average monthly salary as is not just "decent", it's fantastic.

Cheers,
Gerard


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imatahan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:57
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Earnings May 29, 2010

Well, even I work for other sites and companies in Brazil, even for these my visibility, contacts and contracts had a real leverage given by ProZ subscription and activities.

I don't live of translations. And I think, even having more regular work now, after a year and a half here in ProZ, that I couldn't do it a living yet. I'm retiring, so I have my sallary and translations are a complement.

It's not a constant market. Some months I have 2,000 USD earnings, some 300 USD... I'd say that now I have an average of 700 USD/month. And that's not really bad. Minimum salary in Brazil is around 280 USD.


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Vytautas Kacerauskis
Local time: 06:57
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's all relative May 29, 2010

Hi, Garard,
Hardly fantastic, since it's just a moderate salary by EU-wide standards right? If an average person in the poorest country in Africa gets 20 euro per month (just a wild guess), would an 80 euro salary be fantastic? Maybe in relative terms, but not in the global picture. Still, I'm not complaining, since 2000 eur per month can indeed mean a decent living, especially in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see the European perspective, especially reading that EU survey which pains such a grim picture.

Vytautas


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Evonymus (Ewa Kazmierczak)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:57
Member (2010)
English to Polish
+ ...
:) May 29, 2010

vytautask wrote:
but talk about ACTUAL INCOME, not rates.
Regards,
Vytautas


what a bold question, I would say


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Veronica Lupascu  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:57
Dutch to Romanian
+ ...
indeed May 29, 2010

Evonymus (Ewa Kazmierczak) wrote:

vytautask wrote:
but talk about ACTUAL INCOME, not rates.
Regards,
Vytautas


what a bold question, I would say




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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
South Africa May 29, 2010

vytautask wrote:
I know there has been a lot of talk about rates on this website, but haven't found people sharing about their overall incomes as translators.


Since about two years ago, the local (South African) translators' association's rates survey included a section an actual annual income. I haven't seen any results yet (perhaps they're storing the information for a few years before publishing it).

Edited: 22 responses and I'm the only one telling. I don't think so...

[Edited at 2010-05-30 09:25 GMT]


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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:57
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I have to disagree May 29, 2010

Gerard de Noord wrote:

Hi Vytautas,

Making 4 times the average monthly salary as is not just "decent", it's fantastic.

Cheers,
Gerard


I'm not prepared to tell people about my income, since I find that slightly intrusive. All I can say is that so far I've been making just a little bit less than I did as a proper employee in a big company.

But I think saying that is fantastic is also far from the truth. First, you gotta remember that specially in struggling countries, getting the proper education/knowledge to become a translator can be much harder than in other places.

Secondly, this average monthly pay he's referring to is the minimum wage, no? So that generally applies to unqualified people, who did not have to spend a substantial amount of money in education and have no education debts to pay.

And then we gotta remember that being a freelance translator is a business, so it has costs. Equipment, software, promotion, subscriptions, training & education, taxes, electricity, maintenance, etc.

So I wouldn't say 4 times minimum wage is fantastic, it is unfair really.


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Vytautas Kacerauskis
Local time: 06:57
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
freelance better than in-house May 29, 2010

Thanks, Samuel,

I guess working in-house isn't the best idea for a translator in any market. At least once you are strong enough to get your own clients and orders. In Lithuania the worst idea is to work in-house for a translation agency, with maybe some individual exceptions (yet I don't know any).
From your comparisons with colleagues at the newspaper I gather that translators are at least a bit undervalued in your market. I also used to work for a publisher of periodicals, and I was earning at least the same as graphic designers and even journalists (although it depended on the actual output). How about a comparison to the national average pay of all workers in your country? And what about the overall prestige of the profession in your country? Is it closer to lawyers and doctors or to secretaries?

V.


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Vytautas Kacerauskis
Local time: 06:57
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
intrusive May 29, 2010

Paula,
By EUR 500 I referred to the average (not minimum) monthly salary. It is 500 in Lithuania. But I agree, 2000 EUR its far from fantastic, no matter what your national average is. The national average is just one of the components how you measure the worth of your income. Of course, its good when its above those around you. But there's also a global measure, which isn't that relative. For instance, a new BMW costs pretty much the same around the world and while one earning 4 times the average salary in France probably could afford it I can't (because in my case its just 2000 EUR per month).

As for intrusiveness of my question, maybe the title of my post sounds to straightforward, but I hink I mentioned that it's OK to speak in very general terms. I'm not asking you to post your pay check. YOu could refer to statistics (if any) on the incomes of translators in your country, or just give a general idea of how much qualified translators you know make, or just a general feeling of how much a translator can make in your country.
As for myself, I might have a problem with disclosing my income to some people I know, but I don't think any of them will be on this forum:)

The bottom line is that I wanted to hear actual income figures (and perhaps comparisons to other professionals), not talk about rates per word, as these really tell you very little - for many reasons. My hope is to get a view of the financial standing of translators in the society in other countries.

V


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Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:57
English to Polish
+ ...
not minimum May 29, 2010

Paula Borges wrote:

Secondly, this average monthly pay he's referring to is the minimum wage, no? So that generally applies to unqualified people, who did not have to spend a substantial amount of money in education and have no education debts to pay.

And then we gotta remember that being a freelance translator is a business, so it has costs. Equipment, software, promotion, subscriptions, training & education, taxes, electricity, maintenance, etc.

So I wouldn't say 4 times minimum wage is fantastic, it is unfair really.


I don't know what your idea of European earnings are. They vary hugely across the continent and across the European Union, too. I'm pretty sure he was talking about the average (net) salary.

In Poland, the average net salary is about EUR 550 (gross: EUR 750; total cost to employer: EUR 900). The country's overall wealh level is similar to Lithuania's.

Nevertheless, I agree that the average salary earner is less qualified than the average translator. The "new" (poorer) EU countries tend to have greater income discrepancies between different groups, so if you're qualified, you're bound to have a much greater "advantage" over the proverbial supermarket cashier than if you lived in Germany.

[Edited at 2010-05-29 16:38 GMT]


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polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
skewed picture May 29, 2010

However many people reply to you, you are almost certain to get a skewed picture of the situation.
Almost all the translators I know personally do not come to sites like this for work and are therefore well outside the average rate bands typical of such sites. Many of them have worked for international organisations, UN, EU, NATO, etc. before going freelance and have kept some business from their former employers.
As you are probably aware, staffer jobs in such organisations are VERY WELL paid (often tax-free). You also have the benefit of health insurance, pension schemes, etc. I am talking from personal experience.

None of the people to whom I am referring make, to my knowledge, less now they are freelancing than as staffers. They can command high rates because they have expert skills and - often - experience in particular highly specialist fields.

However, they are not going to tell you what they earn - any more than I am - simply because they often only work part time, only take assignments that interest them, do not work outside their fields and have direct clients (rarely, if ever, agencies) and pocket all the cash, not the bit the agency deigns to hand on. After that, it's a question of quality of life, tax bills and choosing the best balance. These people enjoy good reputations. They also usually have strong qualifications.

Having shown you the other side of the coin, now how to you intend to reconcile this with inexperienced beginner rates for people fresh out of school? Impossible. Beginners often feel forced to accept peanuts. Those with specialities do not. If offered peanut prices, they politely direct the client towards the monkey house at the nearest zoo.

My basic conclusion from all this is that, at the top end of the market, translation is a respected profession. At the lower end, it is not. Period.


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Evonymus (Ewa Kazmierczak)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:57
Member (2010)
English to Polish
+ ...
@polyglot45 May 29, 2010

excellent point!

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Rebekka Groß  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:57
English to German
My first thought on reading the post title: None of your business! May 29, 2010

So I have no intention to disclose my income or turnover in a forum that's publicly accessible on the web!

Also, to me it sounds that your net income is very good compared to the average income in your country. But it's all relative and dependent on the individual's life style, expenses, commitments, expectations.

I am a member of this site because it gives me the opportunity for an internet presence without having to have my own website.

For many years, I never got work through the site and I didn't mind as I had plenty of work. Occasionally, these days, potential clients contact me because they think my profile fits with their expectations. One or two of them have become clients. Mostly, however, I rely on my contacts I've made over the years, yes some through this site but not all. Nowadays, I know a reasonable number of freelancers working with the same language combination and in the same field who I consider colleagues as we pass each other's names on to trusted clients without worrying that they'll suddenly take over what used to be "our" share of the work. In this instance, I freely discuss word rates to avoid under- or overcharging.

However, I've no idea how much other people make. And it's really not important. We all have to try and achieve and maintain a standard of living we're ultimately happy with. Wether that means working 24/7 or just 3 days a week and dedicating the rest of our time to other things, e.g. hobbies, family, further education etc.

Someone else said it earlier, there is no way you'll be able to get a true picture of what's going on. Translators at the top of their game always seem to have more work than they can cope with and as a consequence can make a very good living indeed.

[Edited at 2010-05-29 17:36 GMT]


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Translating in Spain May 29, 2010

I am a freelance Spanish to English translator living in Spain with over ten years of experience. For the past four years my gross income has been around 30.000 euros a year.

I could certainly earn more, but I like to spend a lot of time with my family.

I believe this is a fairly low income for professional work in Spain.

However, if I worked more for Spanish translation agencies then my income would be much lower.







[Edited at 2010-05-29 18:44 GMT]


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