Are these rates for French -> English commercial translation reasonable?
Thread poster: westwork
westwork
Local time: 11:10
French to English
+ ...
Sep 2, 2011

Hello all:

I'm brand new to ProZ, and very glad to be here -- I feel I should have joined ages ago!

I'm sure my question is quite common, but I am hoping you can help me with it, since no one seems more likely than the community here to be able to offer good advice. Here is the background to my question:

- I am not a full-time professional translator, but have been doing part-time translation, mostly for the same client, on and off for about 8 years now. This client is a large French-Belgian publisher of comic books; I worked as a summer intern for them in Paris back in 2003, and since then they have periodically contacted me by e-mail to ask me to do small-ish translation jobs. These jobs usually entail translating the descriptions of upcoming release from French into English for enclosing in advertising materials, usually ahead of major European trade fairs.

- About me: I am not a full-time translator, but am a writer by vocation and full-time teacher of EFL as a profession (I taught for several years in France, and am currently teaching in Japan). I have a bachelor's and a master's degree in literature- and communications-related fields from highly respected U.S. universities, and have a certificate in TEFL, but I do not have an official diploma in translation or in a specific language field. I have a broad education in language, literature, and linguistics and have traveled widely, and have competence to varying levels in French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, and Japanese, not counting English, which is my native language.

- When I first began doing translation for this company, they offered me a rate of .01 Euro per character. At that time, I had nothing to compare it against, and I have not really revisited the issue since then. As I find my time more in demand recently, however, it has occurred to me that I should really find out whether I am being paid at an appropriate rate.

- I was contacted earlier this week about a new batch of translations, to be completed by Sept. 22 (that is, about three weeks from now). These are, as usual, a set of summaries/descriptions of upcoming series to be translated from French to English. I just ran the numbers, and this latest batch contains 6350 words, or 38276 characters.

At a payment rate of .01 Euro per character, that will come out to 382.76 Euros for the job, which translates to approximately $546.05 USD. (Dear me, is the USD really that low? -- I hadn't realized! Oh, well...)

My questions to you are:
- Does this seems like an appropriate rate of payment, given current standards and given my background and experience?
- Is this a good way to be calculating my price at all?
- Would you suggest that I try reevaluating this price, if only based on the fact that I haven't re-thought it in 8 years?

Thank you for any help and advice you may have! (The last thing I should mention, perhaps, is that I really do love translation, I greatly enjoy doing this work, and I would like to continue working with this company. I just want to make sure I'm not being taken advantage of.)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:10
French to English
+ ...
Horses, courses... Sep 2, 2011

westwork wrote:
I just ran the numbers, and this latest batch contains 6350 words, or 38276 characters.

At a payment rate of .01 Euro per character, that will come out to 382.76 Euros for the job, which translates to approximately $546.05 USD.


So as I understand, that comes out at around $80 / 1000 words. For a direct client, that's possibly a bit "on the low side of average", but certainly not the most terrible offer you'll ever see around here for. It's all horses for courses and it depends on how YOU feel: can you get through the material at a rate that your client is happy with and that works for you and allows you to earn a decent living/offers you a satisfactory lifestyle compared to other options available to you? Even if you know that some clients will potentially offer a higher rate per word, is that more important to you than the satisfaction that you gain from working on this particular material for this particular client? And based on your experience, do you have a degree of specialism that allows you to advertise your services to other, better-paying clients?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:10
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Underpaid Sep 2, 2011

Dear Westwork,
I think the rate you're getting for this work is rather low, although it's a very personal matter. For 6,350 words I'd expect to get *at least* € 500 and I don't think my rate is particularly high.
It's a delicate matter but, as you've been working for this client for 8 years and they obviously value your work, perhaps it's time to negotiate for a higher rate.
You could also try to find new clients with whom you'd start at a higher rate.
Best wishes,
Jenny


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:10
German to English
Agree: Underpaid Sep 2, 2011

Dear Westwork,
Six cents per word (382,76 EUR/6350 words) would be an extremely low price for a decent agency for press/publicity texts.

This price is outrageously low for a direct client = less than half of what I would expect.

However, a comic book publisher may be used to the (low) rates of literary translators and they may also genuinely have a very tight budget. This is also an area where a lot of people are likely to work for low rates, because it is part-time work that they enjoy.

Does it really matter to you that you are underpaid? If you could double (!) your rates, would it have a significant effect on your annual income?

If not, I wouldn't worry about it too much unless you decide to expand or no longer really enjoy the work. If this is the case, you ought to sit down and crunch some numbers to see what makes sense and what doesn't.

You are certainly underpaid, but that does not mean that you will be able to get more money from this client.

Sincerely,
Michael


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Welcome to ProZ.com! Sep 2, 2011

westwork wrote:
I'm brand new to ProZ, and very glad to be here -- I feel I should have joined ages ago!


You definitely should have, Westwork, but at least you're here now. There are plenty of part-time translators here, and plenty of EFL teachers, too (I'm both of them)

So, you're still working for the same company who gave you your first break in 2003? That proves you produce quality work, with or without a translation certificate. I understand that you don't want to lose this client and you perhaps feel a little indebted to them for their faith in you. However, they are now on the limits of exploiting you. You are working for about 0.06 € per source word (sorry, I can't calculate in characters and I didn't know anyone ever did for the French to English pair). That was perhaps OK back in 2003, for someone who was just starting out. But in 2011, it's definitely on the low side of acceptable, although not quite in the "bottom-feeder" category.

As I see it, the most important thing to calculate is your hourly rate - with only 24 hours in a day, it's your hourly rate which really determines whether you are making enough money to live on. You can also compare that with your teaching work (adjusted to include unpaid travelling time, homework checking, lesson planning, etc).

If you are translating at a rate of 200 words per hour (lowish speed), then you are earning 12.00 € per hour. That would be a disastrously low figure in France, bearing in mind that the government will take almost 50%, but I don't know how Japan compares. On the other hand, you have been translating similar material for years now and you may well be able to bash out 500wph or more, particularly if the text lends itself well to CAT tool use. That would equate to a much more "normal" hourly rate.

For your client, the most important thing is getting the job done reliably and affordably. Would they be able to find someone reliable to do it for 6ct per word? Doubtful. They would likely have to pay 8-10ct and still would have the uncertaintity of the result this first year. I'm sure they know this and I'm (relatively) sure they would choose to keep you, even if you raise your tariff slightly. A jump to 10ct might not be feasible (although it would be a perfectly fair rate), but do you really think they would look elsewhere to try to save 60€ (1ct hike) or even 125€ (for a 2ct increase)? I'm reasonably sure they wouldn't this year. If you don't hear from them in the future, then they really didn't value your services enough and didn't deserve to keep you.

That's just my 2 cents' worth. Whatever you decide to do, hold on to that self-respect.

Sheila


Direct link Reply with quote
 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not risible Sep 2, 2011

[quote]Neil Coffey wrote:

westwork wrote:
For a direct client, that's possibly a bit "on the low side of average", but certainly not the most terrible offer you'll ever see around here for.


I work in Spain and the rate you quote seems to be (off the top of my head, I hate math) roughly 5 cents a word, which isn't ideal, in fact it's about 50% of what most translators I know claim/would like to get, but if you are happy with the field and enjoy it and the workflow is steady, in reasonable volumes, then I wouldn't reject it out of hand. Especially if it doesn't prevent you taking more lucrative offers if they come up.
Some people don't agree with charging lower rates for large volumes of work, but my view is that if you also want the job because of personal interest or experience, then money is not always the be all and end all.
It also depends where you are based; in France the rates tend to be higher than in Spain (or at least my French colleagues always seem to charge about 20-40% more than I do).
Another factor I take into account when charging is exactly what they expect you to do. I provide a stripped-down service and see translating as only the actual language transformation, the words, and all the peripheral, fiddly, time-consuming stuff like formatting, layouts, etc as a different task. Some colleagues charge twice my rates but seem to do much more (such as reformatting scanned PDFs) for their fee.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Gieven your experience Sep 2, 2011

westwork wrote:



My questions to you are:
- Does this seems like an appropriate rate of payment, given current standards and given my background and experience?
- Is this a good way to be calculating my price at all?
- Would you suggest that I try reevaluating this price, if only based on the fact that I haven't re-thought it in 8 years?


- Given your background and experience, no, but it's a cut-throat market with a lot of newcomers trying to break in, so if you like the work...
- I prefer per-word calculations, the rest is all Greek to me;
- You might try rejigging your rate, but I find that the longer I am with a direct client, the more they resist, playing on your loyalty etc. Be prepared to be rebuffed and have to wrangle...


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:10
Member
English to French
Reasons I can think of for low rates Sep 2, 2011

- Ample deadlines
- secondary stream of income for pocket money
- Tax-free work

Not sure about the publishing business, but doubling or tripling your current rate (~0.06euro/word FR>EN, thank you Sheila for the math) to an end-client may be more realistic.

When you live from this job and your lifestyle entirely depends on it, rates are central. Working for 15 or 25 euros/hour gross (~10-18? euros/hour in your pocket after deducting tax/expenses and time spent working on non-earning chores like admin, marketing, training, etc.) is simply not an option, unless you value your work as much as a 9-5 secretarial job.
And with your background, I think you could expect a bit more.

But I am aware that there many factors where people have to or like to work for hourly rates that are just above the minimum wage.

In any case, I believe the publisher is having a jolly good deal.

Philippe


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Yolanda Broad  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:10
Member (2000)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Maybe you'd like to think about how to increase your rates? Sep 2, 2011

Welcome to ProZ!

I, too, have a first client for whom I still work. I have raised my prices several times over the years for this client. The approach I take is to notify the client before the beginning of the year that I will be raising my base per word price by one cent in the new year.

For an overview of how other translators have approached this issue, you might want to take a look at another section of ProZ, the ProZ.com Translation Article Knowledgebase. See http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/ There are articles in a number of categories. At the moment, you'll probably find the articles in the Getting Established section (under Business of Translation and Interpreting) especially helpful.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
westwork
Local time: 11:10
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Excellent advice! Sep 5, 2011

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful and well-reasoned suggestions! I really appreciate them.

I have decided that I'll finish this job for the usual rate, as they've already asked me, time is getting on, and I don't want to appear to be putting time or deadline pressure on. But for the next time -- either the next time they contact me with work; at the start of the next year (and thank you again for that suggestion, Yolanda!); or after I send them this batch -- I will let them know ever so politely that I am raising my rates. I've still got to think over what would be appropriate (and whether by-the-character still makes sense, or by-the-word would be simpler.)

Thank you again!


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Are these rates for French -> English commercial translation reasonable?

Advanced search







BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2017
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search