How much do translators charge per word?
Thread poster: Markus Heinr (X)

Markus Heinr (X)
German to English
Jun 5, 2011

I am a student currently working on becoming a translator. I have done professional translations but not a many. I was wondering how much translators charge per word? I know it depends on the country, the subject matter and nature of the text, how qualified you are and how much experience you have etc. What I would like is a general idea, so a rough from-to estimate. What is a low rate, and what is a high rate ?

Thank you...
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I am a student currently working on becoming a translator. I have done professional translations but not a many. I was wondering how much translators charge per word? I know it depends on the country, the subject matter and nature of the text, how qualified you are and how much experience you have etc. What I would like is a general idea, so a rough from-to estimate. What is a low rate, and what is a high rate ?

Thank you
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Welcome, Xirod Jun 7, 2011

Basically, you've answered your own question:

Xirod wrote:
I know it depends on the country, the subject matter and nature of the text, how qualified you are and how much experience you have etc.


Couldn't have said it better myself!

What I would like is a general idea, so a rough from-to estimate. What is a low rate, and what is a high rate ?


The best you can do is to consult the "community rates" under Tools on ProZ.com and/or similar listings on translators' association websites (e.g. the ATA). Some (but not all) of the translators here on ProZ.com make their own minimum and average rates available for everyone to see in their profiles. That should give a more regional slant on things, although there's so much difference between the rates translators charge, and of course nobody verifies whether they actually manage to receive those rates!

Sheila


 

Markus Heinr (X)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Sheila Jun 7, 2011

I will do that, thanks for the tip

I was under the impression ( and have charged the same ) that going rates are somewhere between 5 and 14 cents per word. 5 cents being on the lower end, and 14 being extremely high. I have even seen 20 cent for very difficult translations, and for very specialised texts.

I assumed therefore that the average would be maybe 6-12 cent per word. I have charged 8-10 before. N
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I will do that, thanks for the tip

I was under the impression ( and have charged the same ) that going rates are somewhere between 5 and 14 cents per word. 5 cents being on the lower end, and 14 being extremely high. I have even seen 20 cent for very difficult translations, and for very specialised texts.

I assumed therefore that the average would be maybe 6-12 cent per word. I have charged 8-10 before. Now, with the global recession, I would assume that the days of 12 cents per word are happy memories, and what would be realistic to expect these days would be maybe...6- 8 cents?

However, on some website I recently saw the average of 0.3 cents ( US) per word. Surely a third of one cent cannot be correct??

In my case, still being a student, even when I start out, I would not dream of charging what " proper" translators charge. I would think that would be quite insulting, and I would not be at the standard yet to be able to charge that anyway. I would like to find out the average, and to start out, charge half to two thirds of that. I think that would be fair. Once I have improved with experience I could then adjust my rates accordingly.
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LegalTranslatr2  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:24
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Charge per word? Jun 7, 2011

There are agencies in the U.S. who regularly bill clients up to .40 a word (which would currently be around .27 euro cents) though most are in the .30 range. Therefore, I think the range is more from the bottom rate of .18 (freelancers working with agencies) all the way up to .40 (working with direct clients) or (currently .12 - .27 euros).

 

Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 17:24
English to Czech
+ ...
Some thoughts on this Jun 8, 2011

Xirod wrote:
I assumed therefore that the average would be maybe 6-12 cent per word.

If you assume, you make an ASS of U and ME. Nah, just kidding.

I have charged 8-10 before. Now, with the global recession, I would assume that the days of 12 cents per word are happy memories, and what would be realistic to expect these days would be maybe...6- 8 cents?

It depends on what you imagine under the word "realistic". For me, 8 cents per source word makes very good living in my country (Czech Rep.), but will it be enough to pay your bills in Ireland if you don't want to work 15 hours a day once you have finished your studies?

In my case, still being a student, even when I start out, I would not dream of charging what " proper" translators charge. I would think that would be quite insulting, and I would not be at the standard yet to be able to charge that anyway. I would like to find out the average, and to start out, charge half to two thirds of that. I think that would be fair. Once I have improved with experience I could then adjust my rates accordingly.

I can see perfectly what you mean, but don't be too humble:
- First of all, rates that are too low may (and often do) discourage good clients; in that case, you will one day find yourself enslaved, working 15 hours a day for bottom feeders.
- When you start out with "rate A" and your clients get used to it, it will be difficult for you to raise your rate to "rate A + 30%" after 1.5 years. If you do this and your clients don't accept it, you may lose them easily and you will be standing at the starting line again. 1.5 years passed and no progress, perhaps except for some new items in your CV.
I would probably find a few agencies, tell them who you are, that you are willing to work for the "industry average rate minus 20%" in exchange for regular feedback and that you will raise your rate back to the "industry average" after one year. I don't know if that could work in your country, though.

[Upraveno: 2011-06-08 00:55 GMT]


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:24
French to English
+ ...
Raw nerve... Jun 8, 2011

Xirod wrote:
I was under the impression ( and have charged the same ) that going rates are somewhere between 5 and 14 cents per word. 5 cents being on the lower end, and 14 being extremely high.


As I'm sure you'll see in posts to come on this thread, you've touched upon a slightly raw nerve among the translation community.

There is an ongoing problem of a fairly large discrepancy between what clients and "the public at large" think is a reasonable rate for translation and what in practice translators feel they need to charge to make a decent living whilst still delivering decent quality.

Just by way of a vague indicator-- and I don't pretend for a minute that my survey was hugely scientific-- I polled some ProZ translators and some potential clients (by my web site-- no guarantee as to the quality/seriousness of them or their results) on what the two groups felt would be a reasonable average rate for translation per page. The exact wording was actually something like "how much would you expect to pay". Translators actually tend to charge per word, but many clients tend to think in "pages" (even though that's ambiguous if not meaningless as a metric). So have a look at the results:

http://french-linguistics-dev.blogspot.com/2011/05/translation-survey-results.html

As you can see, the majority of clients expected to pay $10 per page or less for translation. But notice that ZERO of the 42 translators polled said they would expect to be paid this price. Notice too that as you go up the price scale, there are increasing numbers of translators expecting to charge towards the higher range, whereas increasingly few clients expect to pay this much. As I say, my survey isn't rigorous and scientific, but I think the graph nontheless speaks for itself...

If you're thinking of going into translation for the money, then you need to bear in mind that this is the climate that you're up against. It's probably not going to get any easier...

[Edited at 2011-06-08 02:07 GMT]


Carla Oikawa
 

Markus Heinr (X)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to everyone taking part ! :) Jun 8, 2011

I read every post, so if I do not respond to it specifically, that does not mean I have not read it or do not appreciate it. I am beginning to get a picture of the situation.

One thing I will address specifically, and that is Jeff's .12 cents per word. I worked it out. A typed A4 page contains around 500 words. At .12 cents, that would be about 50 cents per page. In order to earn minimum wage, I would have to translate 14 A4 pages per hour. That cannot be right. Why am I trying to
... See more
I read every post, so if I do not respond to it specifically, that does not mean I have not read it or do not appreciate it. I am beginning to get a picture of the situation.

One thing I will address specifically, and that is Jeff's .12 cents per word. I worked it out. A typed A4 page contains around 500 words. At .12 cents, that would be about 50 cents per page. In order to earn minimum wage, I would have to translate 14 A4 pages per hour. That cannot be right. Why am I trying to learn the implications of the perfect and imperfect tense in translation when I could work in Mcdonalds for that money and consider it relaxing.

I am not planning to get rich translating, but I would like to earn above minimum wage one day.

How about we all write to the " leadership" of Proz.com, and ask them to introduce a contract for all members and prospective members? A certain minumum charge ( tailored to the region, language etc)? Surely if this site has so many members, if they combine, that is a lot of power. Some basic minum rate that all members agree to would end the discussion. Nothing greedy, just what's fair? If individuals want more than that, they can then negotiate with clients on their own accord, but at least it would bring a basic minimum from which one can live.

If I maybe start a new forum, just for signatures. Everyone goes there and just writes their name. When a certain number of signatures has been reached, I can send it to Proz.com headquarters. Viva la revolution!
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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 17:24
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Surreal Jun 8, 2011

Xirod wrote:
One thing I will address specifically, and that is Jeff's .12 cents per word. I worked it out. A typed A4 page contains around 500 words. At .12 cents, that would be about 50 cents per page. (...) That cannot be right.


Xirod,

Judging by your last post in its entirety (and irrespective of the fact that we obviously live on different planets - and yours is "fabulous"), might I suggest we revisit the old mental arithmetic we were taught at school?

5 x 12 - add a few noughts...


 

Joy Phillips
Netherlands
Local time: 17:24
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
Not .12 cents, but .12 euros Jun 9, 2011

I think that was a typo; I believe Jeff meant EUR 0.12 or 12 eurocents, which is within what I would consider a not completely unrealistic price range.

 

Markus Heinr (X)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
That occurred to me aswell Jun 9, 2011

In hindsight. But .27 cents was very close to the .30 cents I read about with such disgust, which was the reason why I started this topic to begin with. Often being plagued by typos myself I sympathise with Jeff. I'm glad I am not the only one.

Incidentally, I have been told that "Price-fixing" among professionals is illegal. So just in case someone is going to take issue with my petition idea I will nip it in the bud right now. I was not aware.

Thank you all.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
There is no "going rate" Jun 9, 2011

When you reach a point in which you consider yourself a seasoned professional, you will see that the rate is something you decide. You try to push it higher all the time, and your customers try to push it down. Just like any other industry in the world.

I understand that being in line with the industry's rates is something new translators really worry about. When I started in translation, we did not have forums like this where you could receive open advice, so I basically decided wh
... See more
When you reach a point in which you consider yourself a seasoned professional, you will see that the rate is something you decide. You try to push it higher all the time, and your customers try to push it down. Just like any other industry in the world.

I understand that being in line with the industry's rates is something new translators really worry about. When I started in translation, we did not have forums like this where you could receive open advice, so I basically decided what a fair rate would be for me considering all the associated expenses, my long-term wishes about buying a home, etc. etc.

One important thing to remember is that it is really hard to increase rates when you are already working for a customer, so you better start at a reasonable, sustainable level. Your customers will try to force you to stay at that rate level forever. Increasing the rate from the agreed level, even years later, puts you at risk of losing the customer to a competitor.
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LegalTranslatr2  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:24
Portuguese to English
+ ...
How much do translators charge per word? Jun 9, 2011

No, 0.12 x 500 words = EUR 60.00 per page (or around U.S. $90.00).

But that is the bottom rate that you would probably not want to go below if you want to stay in business, not necessarily a target rate for all projects. Every project is different and requires a different rate.


Xirod wrote:

I read every post, so if I do not respond to it specifically, that does not mean I have not read it or do not appreciate it. I am beginning to get a picture of the situation.

One thing I will address specifically, and that is Jeff's .12 cents per word. I worked it out. A typed A4 page contains around 500 words. At .12 cents, that would be about 50 cents per page. In order to earn minimum wage, I would have to translate 14 A4 pages per hour. That cannot be right. Why am I trying to learn the implications of the perfect and imperfect tense in translation when I could work in Mcdonalds for that money and consider it relaxing.

I am not planning to get rich translating, but I would like to earn above minimum wage one day.

How about we all write to the " leadership" of Proz.com, and ask them to introduce a contract for all members and prospective members? A certain minumum charge ( tailored to the region, language etc)? Surely if this site has so many members, if they combine, that is a lot of power. Some basic minum rate that all members agree to would end the discussion. Nothing greedy, just what's fair? If individuals want more than that, they can then negotiate with clients on their own accord, but at least it would bring a basic minimum from which one can live.

If I maybe start a new forum, just for signatures. Everyone goes there and just writes their name. When a certain number of signatures has been reached, I can send it to Proz.com headquarters. Viva la revolution!




[Edited at 2011-06-09 14:01 GMT]


 

Angela Dickson (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:24
French to English
+ ...
Out by factor of 100 Jun 9, 2011

Xirod wrote:

One thing I will address specifically, and that is Jeff's .12 cents per word. I worked it out. A typed A4 page contains around 500 words. At .12 cents, that would be about 50 cents per page.


I'm sure Jeff meant 0.12 dollars, not 0.12 cents, and I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong.


 

LegalTranslatr2  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:24
Portuguese to English
+ ...
How much do translators charge per word? Jun 9, 2011

Yes, I meant 0.12 eurocents or 0.18 dollars.

With regard to the U.S. rate of .18 to .40 dollars, your rate will depend on your goals. For example, if you charge less than U.S. .08 dollars (.08 U.S. cents) per word and you are legally living in the U.S., you are better off financially to just sleep and watch TV all day and collect welfare from the government. Other countries may not have these kinds of social welfare programs and so lower rates may seem attractive. But if they can
... See more
Yes, I meant 0.12 eurocents or 0.18 dollars.

With regard to the U.S. rate of .18 to .40 dollars, your rate will depend on your goals. For example, if you charge less than U.S. .08 dollars (.08 U.S. cents) per word and you are legally living in the U.S., you are better off financially to just sleep and watch TV all day and collect welfare from the government. Other countries may not have these kinds of social welfare programs and so lower rates may seem attractive. But if they can get work at .14-.20 dollars from a U.S. agency or .12 - .18 eurocents from a European agency, why do some people work for companies in their own country for .03 - .06?? I don't know. If companies in the U.S. paid .03 a word and companies in India paid .15 a word, I would work exclusively for companies in India.



[Edited at 2011-06-09 16:33 GMT]
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Carla Oikawa
 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:24
Italian to English
In memoriam
Quite Jun 9, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

One important thing to remember is that it is really hard to increase rates when you are already working for a customer, so you better start at a reasonable, sustainable level. Your customers will try to force you to stay at that rate level forever. Increasing the rate from the agreed level, even years later, puts you at risk of losing the customer to a competitor.



In other words, once you are working at full capacity, you will generally need to acquire new customers at a higher rate before you can afford to drop (or pass on to a colleague) the ones whose ingrained expectations no longer match your rising aspirations.

By then, though, new clients should be coming to you because they have seen your work, or had a word-of-mouth recommendation, and you will be in a much better position to dictate rates. Specialising encourages this process.


Carla Oikawa
 


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