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Rates going down
Thread poster: Hannele Marttila

Hannele Marttila  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:48
Member (2011)
Finnish to English
+ ...
Nov 13, 2011

Has anybody else found that the rates offered seem to be less than ever, at a time when most countries have a high inflation rate and when we really should be putting rates up?

I've been offered work from 0.05 EUR, this for work which is specialist medical translation, many more examples, but the bottom line is that the hourly rate offered at the moment is around 12 Euros per hour. As a cleaner in the UK would earn around 9-10 euros per hour, this seems a bit low to say the least. I certainly charge more than 0.11 euros per word.

Any views?


Sandra B.
Local time: 21:48
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
... Nov 13, 2011

Unfortunately there are people willing to work for those ridiculous rates, that’s why companies are offering them. I had a similar offer this week, 0,06 for medical translations, which I refused. I always wonder how people who accept such low rates pay their taxes, social security, utilities, etc., especially in a time where all of those items are going up. Unless they are doing their “business” illegally, so no taxes or social security to pay.


ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:48
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Cheap Labor Nov 13, 2011

I agree with Sandra, that "there are people willing to work for those ridiculous rates" and that is the reason the rates are so low. Since we cannot force people to increase their rates (everybody is free to offer any rate that they deem appropriate), we have to live with this reality.

Personally, I do not change my rates, never did it, never will. I have been offered a large number of times work at such low rates, I had to reiterate my rates to the client. As long as most people are decent enough to offer decent rates, we do not need to worry. As for the people who work at ridiculously low rates, it is their CHEAP LABOR not ours. If I had the power to change this scene, I would be a politician now.


Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:48
German to English
Supply and demand Nov 13, 2011

There is, quite simply an oversupply of agencies in addition to a surfeit of translators. Before the Internet, there were relatively few agencies in operation; they competed on the basis of location (proximity to various industries), specialty, services provided, and finally price. Translators were considered knowledge workers.

The PC revolution and subsequently the Internet brought an explosion of information to be translated. But the quality of this information did not necessarily improve. Documents were "generated," not carefully written as in earlier times, as creating multiple drafts of a document took little effort. Few companies wanted to pay $500 each for translations of several versions of a proposal that finally was discarded. This had a throttling effect on prices. With the rise of the Internet, almost anyone vaguely familiar with another language, a computer and an Internet connection could become a translator (no subject matter knowledge or reference material required, if the Kudoz questions are any indication).

In the meantime, enterprising translators have set up shop as agencies. This is not to say there aren't new agencies that offer high-quality products and services to their clients, but by all appearances, there are a lot of companies nowadays that compete on price alone, with no value added apart from acting as a middleman between end client and translator. Since they are not full-service agencies, they can easily offer their clients half the rate of a full-service agency while making a nice profit by paying even lower rates to their translators.

As many people wiser than I have pointed out, there is more than one translation market. Unfortunately the bottom segment appears to be the fastest-growing.


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:48
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Translators and agencies Nov 13, 2011

Just recently an agency offered me an on-going project which sounded quite promising until I checked out the actual scope of work involved in this "translation" as outlined in their contract they wanted me to sign. These requirements went far beyond just translating. The work scope for every translation included extensive research and formatting, listing both the source and the target languages' terms on a separate Excel sheet with explanations why these were being used or why they didn't work with the appropriate justification, etc.

Based on these additional requirements my hourly rate would have been around 3.15 Euros. The present minimum wage for unskilled workers in my country is 5.50 Euros an hour (to be raised in the near future). Needless to say that I turned the job down with reference to the minimum wage which seemed to have left the agency "speechless".icon_eek.gif

The problem is that there are many translators located in countries with a low per capita income. In fact, I know of one agency which seeks native German speakers exclusively in the Russian Federation because there USD 0.06 make a decent income.

As Robert stated, supply and demand are the key words in any business, especially in the translation industry.

From the agency's viewpoint, why should they pay EUR 0.12 - 0.15 per source word when they can get the job done for USD 0.06 (at today's conversion rate EUR 0.04231) or less?


wonita (X)
Local time: 18:48
Fast-growing or not, Nov 13, 2011

Kevin Fulton wrote:
As many people wiser than I have pointed out, there is more than one translation market. Unfortunately the bottom segment appears to be the fastest-growing.

this segment ist always busy outsourcing, contacting new translators...


Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 22:48
English to Czech
+ ...
Never-ending story Nov 13, 2011

This is a never-ending story. Personally, I write to translation agencies offering these rates politely but firmly, that with rates under a certain amount I'd be working for the same money as any local plumber. Although plumber is a nice profession requiring certain knowledge and skills, translation does require higher qualifications and continuous education. Therefore, I am not willing to work at plumber's rates.

[Upraveno: 2011-11-13 19:01 GMT]


Garazi Alberdi (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:48
English to Spanish
+ ...
the same here... Nov 13, 2011

I was asked my rates from Spanish to Basque and when they recieved my e-mail, the company replied immediately telling me that they couldn't accept my budget ( I was asking for 0,08EUR per word). Surprisingly, the person who was telling me that I was kind of crazy had nothing to do with translation, he is a businessman and doesn't know anything about the time and effort that requires a good translation.

I am quite new in the business and I am willing to have big projects and work as a professional translator, but I would never accept low rates (the company was offering me 0,04EUR per word) because I have to pay my bills and our work must be appreciated.

Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Deleted at poster's request

Local time: 03:18
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Plumber rates are not low Nov 13, 2011

Plumbing jobs have a certain reasonable rate, I haven't seen ridiculous plumbing rates nor ridiculous electrician's rates, but translation rates are often ridculous, specially when you sit in a canape with the good, the bad , the ugly and the ridiculous sitting together. They say 'anybody can translate' but any Tom, Dick and Harry can't attempt plumbing. I hope I have not offended anyone.


Teymur Suleymanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:48
Russian to English
+ ...
Then let them have the job butchered by someone else Nov 13, 2011

telefpro wrote:

Plumbing jobs have a certain reasonable rate, I haven't seen ridiculous plumbing rates nor ridiculous electrician's rates, but translation rates are often ridculous, specially when you sit in a canape with the good, the bad , the ugly and the ridiculous sitting together. They say 'anybody can translate' but any Tom, Dick and Harry can't attempt plumbing. I hope I have not offended anyone.

I remember a few years back I was invited for an interview with a potential client who needed a conference interpreter. When asked for a daily/hourly rate, I provided the figures to them. And by the way, they were nowhere near the rates that I have now, actually it was about half the current amount.
The client tried to act in the following manner: "(laugh) - Son, are you kidding me? This is ridiculous. Who is going to accept rates like this?"
To which I happily informed them that I have been working for over 10 years within which my rates have been accepted by clients who ACTUALLY DO HAVE THE MONEY (NO OFFENCE) AND ARE READY FOR THE EVENT.
I said that if they are not ready for the event, i.e. don't have the necessary budget set aside, or think they can find any other interpreters who will do the job for lower amount - they should reconsider having the conference, or be ready to suffer the repercussions in terms of event disruption or poor interpretation quality.
They came back to me in 2 days and kindly asked me to do the job, accepting the given rates.

Now, I understand that the situation with document translation is entirely different. But even then, whenever I hear clients say that "anyone can translate", I just shrug them off by saying that the fact we are still having this conversation is a proof to the contrary. However, if "anyone can do my job", then I just don't have time for discussions of this sort. I just say "go ahead and find your "anyone", while I will engage in some real business with some actually reasonable clients who hopefully are not as impaired intelligently (with all due respect)." Period.


mari pet  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:48
Member (2012)
Spanish to Slovak
+ ...
Low budget market Nov 13, 2011

The other day I have been seeing the profiles and rates of persons which have been awarded with jobs on another translation portal (just discovered that they sometimes mention the awarded translator). And understood why I have never received job from there. In my language combination it was around 7 EUR per standard page, in other combinations I saw rates bellow 6 EUR per page.
No comment.


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:48
Chinese to English
Competition is there, and the clients don't get it Nov 14, 2011

I interpret for a big client, and just recently made a bid for their translation business as well. We've been working together for a while, so they were kind enough to share their market research with me: they found translators who would offer 0.10 USD and 0.08 USD per English word (you generally get 100 English words to 150 Chinese characters). I was planning to outsource this job at 0.10 USD per Chinese character, and have a proofreader fee for myself, so at this point I just threw in the towel. I've had too many conversations with them, and they're not listening. So I'll just go on with the interpreting work.

What frustrates me is that it's not like they can't see the quality difference. The people I've been undercut by are not translating into their native languages. We've had documents from translators doing this before, and they're unreadable. And even when we've had a law firm producing expert, high-quality translations (at a price I dare not even guess), those translations turn out to be highly inappropriate, couched in such abstruse legalese that the guys who are receiving the documents literally cannot understand them.

But pay the translator on the ground a living wage, and get good results first time? No. We'd rather waste our time doing fancy cost-control exercises, get rubbish results and then spend more fixing it.

This is why I hate the arguments about what the "market" wants. The market doesn't know what's good for it. Unfortunately, it's also got the temperament of a four year old, so it won't listen to those who do know, either.


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:48
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The same in translation! Nov 14, 2011

Teymur Suleymanov wrote:
They came back to me in 2 days and kindly asked me to do the job, accepting the given rates.

Now, I understand that the situation with document translation is entirely different.

Not at all different: most customers do know the difference between a good and a bad translation, but try their best to make you feel bad about charging your usual rates.

When a customer says that my rates are much higher than the rates of other people and that they cannot pay that amount, I politely wish them good luck and offer my services for other projects with a higher rate. I have been doing this for a decade with excellent results: I get rid of bad payers and I attract sensible customers who understand the difference.


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'm a plumber too... Nov 14, 2011

Plumbing the depths of the translation world, every day, trying to make ends meet. No, but seriously, as long as I earn the same rates as my plumber, mechanic, electrician etc, then I am content. It's easier to find a translator around here than a competent plumber! In fact, many arts or philosophy graduates in the UK, tired of pub work, are taking courses and recycling themselves as plumbers or sparks because they can make a better living as tradesmen nowadays thanks to this demand.

In translation, rates are being forced down mainly due the growing number of opportunist intermediaries, the over-promotion of tecnological "solutions" and the misconception that just about anyone who can understand and burble back a few sentences of a language variant is fit to be a translator. Etc etc et-effing-cetera.

Demand for revision/correction/proofing of the semi-aborted results has increased exponentially in consequence and I only recently realised that taking up these offers is helping to strangle my translation baby at birth. I rarely accept this kind of jobs now.

[Edited at 2011-11-14 10:11 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-11-14 10:11 GMT]

NB: 2 typos corrected.

[Edited at 2011-11-14 10:12 GMT]

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