Fair translation rate
Thread poster: Jessjean

Jessjean  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 22, 2011

Hello,
I'm hoping that some of you may be able to help.

I've been working as a full-time qualified translator (mainly legal, contracts, but also technical of all types) for 10 years.

I work regularly with around 5 agencies and my rates from one to the next can vary pretty significantly.

This year I'm hoping to standardise my rates. So...what I'm hoping for is some suggestions of a fair translation rate per 1,000 words and proofreading rate per hour for me to charge (bearing in mind these are agencies and not direct clients I'm billing).

If I'm honest, my rate with my most regular provider is embarrassingly low (I'd rather not specify!), and I'd like to propose a rise to them, but don't want to price myself too high. This is why I'd really appreciate any feedback from you good translators out there. The agency in question is based abroad, but I'm paid in Sterling from their office in this country. They are a pretty big outfit.

Thank you for taking the time to read icon_smile.gif


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:05
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Spanish-to-English rates Jan 22, 2011

Speaking in strictly general terms, since I also do not want to reveal specific information on a public forum about the rates I personally charge, and limiting my remarks to the Spanish-to-English language pair in which I work:

My understanding (to some extent based on personal experience) is that the market for Spanish-to-English translation services is broadly similar in the US and UK.

Ten cents per word seems to be a rate commonly offered to experienced and credentialed translators for Spanish-to-English.

Some translators are able to demand and receive a considerably higher rate (say $0.12-$15/word, and even more), especially for rush projects.

I think that most experienced (and native-speaking) translators in the Spanish-to-English pair would think of $0.08/word as sub-standard, and anything less as insulting.

In the end, per-word rates matter less than what a given project breaks down to on a per-hour basis. Thus, a job with a low per-word rate might end up making you $60/hour if it involves minimal lookups and formatting, and if you type quickly. Conversely, a job with a high per-word rate might be a real time-waster that nets you no more than $20/hour. Also to be factored in, of course, is your particular situation at the moment when you receive an offer. If you've had no work for several weeks and no prospects for future work, you may well be inclined to accept a project that you might otherwise dismiss out of hand.

As regards proofreading, this also needs to be evaluated on a per-project and per-hour basis, and not in terms of total number of words. You really need to see any text you are asked to proofread first so that you have an idea of the level of proofreading/editing/rewriting involved, which will then serve as the basis for your quote.

I hope this helps.

[Edited at 2011-01-22 17:47 GMT]


 

Jessjean  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Variables in play Jan 22, 2011

Hi Robert,

Thank you so much, that is helpful. I totally appreciate you not wanting to reveal specific information your rates, I was just after an idea of averages really.

I know there are so many variables that come into play here, as you highlighted. My rates with 4 of the 5 agencies are pretty in line with the average, but this 1 agency is well below. I've worked with them ever since starting out and appreciate them as a client as they've sent a lot of work my way over the years. Having said that, I'm a reliable translator with next to no negative feedback, and feel I am underpricing myself (which is both stupid and unsustainable!)

But, times are tough and I must propose an increase. I found the 'rates tool' on this site just after posting the thread, which has also been helpful in establishing an 'average'.

I need to raise my rates with this one agency, but will have to do so in yearly increments, starting this month!

Thanks again icon_smile.gif
Jessjean


 

xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 13:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Change of strategy? Jan 23, 2011

Jessjean wrote:

... My rates with 4 of the 5 agencies are pretty in line with the average, but this 1 agency is well below.
...

I need to raise my rates with this one agency, but will have to do so in yearly increments, starting this month!


I think you would probably find it easier, quicker, and more rewarding both financially and in terms of future expansion of your business, if instead of embarking on a difficult process of staged increases in your rates with the agency that pays too little, you were to put an equivalent amount of marketing energy into getting (at least) one new client who you can bring into your list as a top payer from day one. And when you have found that new client, drop the poor payer altogether, or take jobs from them only when business is really slack.

The other thing is to make sure that you don't neglect the task of regularly adjusting the rates you charge to the other four of your current clients. Otherwise, over the years, those rates will also fall behind your target, and you will end up wondering how you can make them 'catch up' with your newer top-payers.

It's not entirely without reason that in many areas of business tarifs are linked to some form of price index. I've heard translators say it doesn't make sense to apply a 1.7% retail price index adjustment to a per-word tarif of, say, 10 cents: you can't charge 10.017 cents, can you? Well, the answer is that yes, you most certainly can! Have a look at how the prices on petrol pumps are calculated: they are often stated to the nearest one-thousandth of a dollar when no-one has change in their pocket smaller than 5 or 10 cents. There's no reason why you cannot apply a non-integer rate tied to an appropriate price index and then round the final price for the job to the nearest dollar.

MediaMatrix


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:05
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Off topic @ Mediamatrix Apr 24, 2011

mediamatrix wrote:
you can't charge 10.017 cents, can you? Well, the answer is that yes, you most certainly can! Have a look at how the prices on petrol pumps are calculated: they are often stated to the nearest one-thousandth of a dollar when no-one has change in their pocket smaller than 5 or 10 cents.


I'm not convinced I'd want to link my rates to any index as it would (a) create some sort of additional work for me in monitoring etc and (b) I prefer to have control over things myself.

However, I've often wondered why I go along with the rather absurd idea of charging a nice round amount per single word when I would never accept anything less than about 300 words, or at least anything below 300 words would attract my minimum rate.

Why does it have to be exactly 9, 10, 11 cents for each word? Why not, as in your example, 10.017 cents? That would add just five cents to a bill for 300 words, with one-tenth of a cent left to evaporate in the ether. If we were to invoice for 3 words, no it wouldn't make any sense, but surely none of us do that. I HAVE translated 3 words before now, and billed for them, but only as part of a regular monthly invoice.

Things become even more absurd when you do the sort of QA evaluations that I do. Charging per word IS a valid way of charging for this service but the rate per word is low, perhaps one cent. Raising your rate at all means doubling it if you restrict yourself to whole cents. How many clients would accept that? Why not increase to 1.1 cents?


To return to topic, I sympathise with the problem of dealing with early clients. I had the same problem with a training company, in my role as freelance trainer. I didn't want to lose them - I owed them my start in the business, after all - but it had to happen. They went along with a couple of rate increases but then they stopped contacting me. Sad but necessary as other companies were paying substantially higher rates. I just checked my records and five years ago, when we last worked together, they were paying (very grudgingly, I must say) less than 60% of my minimum rate today.

Think business, not friends and favours.


 

Jessjean  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Successful increase Apr 24, 2011

Hello all,

I've just realised that this thread is still active, and wanted to let you know that I was successful in negotiating an increase with the agency in question.

My niggling concern was that an increase would lead to them using me less, which was partly the reason behind my hesitance in proposing the rise. I'm pleased to say that the work from them has not dropped off in the slightest, so a good result all roundicon_smile.gif

I just want to thank everyone who replied to me. It gave me the boost to get on and do something about the situation.

Best wishes
JessJean


 


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