Rates for specialist/medical translations
Thread poster: Dr. Bettina Meissner

Dr. Bettina Meissner
Germany
Local time: 03:38
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
May 15, 2011

Hi,

I'd like to know which rate I should suggest to a company when offering my services as a medical translator. So far I've been paid 0.08 eurocents/sourceword for general texts but also medical/life science material. Since I've only started working freelance, I thought that's ok for the beginning.
As I'm now intending to send my application to a number of new companies, I thought I should raise my rate, as it might be more difficult to raise it later (when I once asked for a better rate, as the translation was really pharmaceutical, they complained a little bit and gave me 0.085/sw then).

I've seen forum posts mentioning 0.10 eurocents/sw as a standard rate - does this already include specialist translations?

Would it be wise to suggest a rate like 0.12 eurocents/sw or would most companies "close the doors" right away?

What are your experiences/recommendations?

Thanks in advance!


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:38
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
A good translation is worth the same, no matter who does it. May 15, 2011

You are right to set your rates realistically from the start, because it is NOT easy to raise them.

A good translation by a beginner is worth just as much to the client as a good translation by anyone with experience. This assumes the beginner HAS learnt enough about the language and the subject to do it well, of course. But do not charge low 'beginner's rates'.

It is very hard to say what a standard rate is - there is in fact no such thing. When you mention companies, are you talking about direct clients or agencies? You can charge direct clients considerably more, because you have to do all the work youself. An agency is supposed to do some of it, and the good ones do.

The language makes a difference. Word counts vary enormously from language to language for the same text.

I believe the BDÜ does surveys on rates. As you work with German, maybe you could find some useful guidance there, but I do not know the details.
Look under 'Tools' on this site at Community Rates and the Rate Calculator. (In the row of tabs at the top of the page, towards the right hand corner.)

http://search.proz.com/employers/rates
http://www.proz.com/translator-rates-calculator/

I know the difference in word counts is about 20-25% between Scandinavian languages and English, partly depending which way you are counting, and partly on the type of text and the translator's style. I belive the difference is even bigger with German and English, but am not sure.

If you are counting English words, your fee for a particular job will end up quite a lot higher than if you count Danish or German words (Because 1000 Danish words translate to 1200 English words, or 1200 English words translate to 1000 in Danish, etc.)

Many agencies have a standard fee for a particular language pair, and reckon that you take on a range of texts, some easy, some less easy. (However you define easy ...) They assume that over time it will even out to a reasonable rate. But fees differ from agency to agency...

Even in medical texts, some will be more routine, like correspondance granting marketing authorisations, for instance, while others will be much more difficult.

Set your asking rate high, and then you can reduce it a little, but decide in advance on a lower limit!

If you can, ask a few colleagues in person about their rates. You can then discuss things that you might not want to reveal to everyone in the forums.

Best of luck!


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Dr. Bettina Meissner
Germany
Local time: 03:38
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! May 15, 2011

Thank you Christine, for this very helpful comment and the links!

I was talking about translation agencies, not direct clients. So far, I haven't dared to raise my rates, as I'm only having a few years of translation experience, but I agree that it's the quality of the translation that matters (or should matter).


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 03:38
English to Russian
+ ...
My rates are more or less fixed May 15, 2011

Personally, I charge the same rate regardless of the nature of translation. My reasoning behind it is simple: if I know the topic well, a specialized text isn't any more difficult to translate than a general one. Conversely, if I need to do a lot of research to translate a text, this is my own problem, and furthermore, this research is an investment into my own future.
About the only exceptions when I may charge a higher rate is with marketing and corporate communications: marketing texts often require significant cultural adaptation, and corporate documents are often written in an almost untranslatable business jargon, so the translation in both cases may actually be a transcreation in disguise.


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Dr. Bettina Meissner
Germany
Local time: 03:38
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Invested time... May 15, 2011

Thanks, Anton. I understand your reasoning - once you know a topic well, it's no longer taking too much of your time to do the translation, BUT: Shouldn't all your invested time into a subject also pay back? As a specialist translation usually requires more knowledge, I think this should also be reflected in rates (in a reasonable way).
Of course, it might be handier to have a fixed price - saves time, as you don't have to discuss too much with agencies...


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texjax DDS PhD  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:38
Member (2006)
English to Italian
+ ...
Briefly May 15, 2011

Bettina Meissner wrote:

What are your experiences/recommendations?

Thanks in advance!


You are most definitely a specialist, an MD translating medical documents as stated in your profile, I would suggest you to raise your rates.

All the best!


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
Variable May 15, 2011

Some medical or pharma texts are more complicated and time-consuming than others. I have a sliding scale and charge according to a series of factors, one of them being complexity. However, it can be hard to get agency clients to understand this...
You could always ask for 12 and settle for 10 if they haggle...


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:38
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
0,08 for medical is cheap May 15, 2011

In vieuw of the risks and required expertise for medical 0,08 is cheap, no matter if you are a beginner - most agencies will forward your translation directly to the client, so if you are unsure about the quality, medical is probabaly not for you.

I do see the medical translation world is under pressure from low rates, with agencies offering low rates and then finding ever cheaper translators. By offering low rates and good quality you are killing your own market (which probably used to be around 0,14!, possibly even higher). So now you have to work nearly twice as hard....


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:38
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Raise your rates May 16, 2011

I agree with Edward and Neilmac. With your medical background, you should definitely raise your rate to at least 1½ times what you have charged so far.

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Dr. Bettina Meissner
Germany
Local time: 03:38
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! May 16, 2011

Thanks Neilmac, Edward, texjax and Tina! That's quite encouraging.
I'm aware though that being a Medical Doctor does not yet guarantee a good medical translation...but it definitely helps a lot.


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Dr. Bettina Meissner
Germany
Local time: 03:38
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hi again... Oct 26, 2011

Just wanted to give a short feedback on my current situation:

Still working for 0.08 euros/word. A few translation agencies have contacted me and offered collaboration, so I used the opportunity to raise my rates. Encouraged by the forum posts, I went a little bit over the standard rates I found on proz.com for the same language pairs and fields (and so I was also asking some more for Dutch than for English).

Since then I haven't heard from them anymore - some confirmed they have received my application form, the last agency didn't even give a comment (although I wrote they should let me know, in case of questions or if my rates are not feasible).

I get the feeling that there's almost no chance to get regular work for a normal rate (0.10/word would already make me happy).

Beginning of next year I'll work 100% freelance and without steady income. And now I'm not sure whether I should just give it a try and tell the agencies I work for mostly (Belgium and the Netherlands) that I have to raise my rates from 0.08 to 0.09/word. However, that could just as well kill my business, as it's better to receive "low budget jobs" than no jobs at all.

I really love my work and would like to make it as a translator, but it seems sooooo difficult!

Any suggestions?


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