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Translation rates (UK): working directly with clients, and working with agencies.
Thread poster: Dariush Robertson

Dariush Robertson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:31
Member (2012)
Chinese to English
Mar 16, 2012

Hello,

I've just started my career as a freelance translator in the UK, and have some concerns over what I should be charging. I'd just like to state that I have an MA and a Diploma in Translating Chinese into English. I know this doesn't make me brilliant or anything, but I just want to clarify that I have invested a lot of time and thought into my career as a freelancer, and hope to start as professionally as possible.

I've read that it's a good idea to put translation rates on your CV. However, I'm not sure whether I should put the rate that I'd expect if I was working directly with clients, the rate I'd expect if I was working through an agency, or both?

Please correct me if I am wrong, but when working directly with clients in the UK the normal rate per thousand words should be about 90 - 110 GBP, right? I've also heard that when working with agencies the rates tend to be lower, around about 60 - 70 GBP per 1000 words. My problem is I don't know if I should write down two different rates on my CV, one for agencies, and one for clients, or if I should do something else?

Thank you.


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Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 20:31
German to Swedish
+ ...
Custom CV:s Mar 16, 2012

Rates on a public CV sounds like a bad idea to me. If they're low, you come across as a bottom feeder. If they're high, prospects get scared off. If you give different rates to agencies and direct clients, the direct clients will want the agency rate. Anyway the rate should vary considerably depending on what type of job it is, what kind of customer relationship you have, how busy you are etc.

So keep your rates off your "public" CV. When you bid on jobs or send your CV to agencies you can easily insert that info on a case by case basis.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:31
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Perhaps not on the CV Mar 16, 2012

Hello Dariush,

Firstly, a warm welcome to ProZ.com.

I know what you mean about two sets of rates. I'm not entirely sure what everyone else does, but mine on this site are for agencies. My reason for that is this is where agencies look for translators and they compare rates or they select from the directory based on rates. There are fewer direct clients here, although there are some, and they are looking more for quality than the lowest rates. They might be a bit put out when you say "sorry, it's going to be more expensive" but in the main they will go along with it.

As far as the CV is concerned, rates don't appear on mine. The reason is that I send my CV to companies and they keep it on their computers. It gets out of date and then they aren't happy when I tell them the rates aren't correct. Also, I don't really understand what happens with uploaded CVs but I gather that old versions can hang around for ages and cause the same problems.

Hopefully, someone in the UK will able to help more, but I would have thought the higher rates you quote are for agencies rather than direct clients. But then, everyone has their own rates and I'm sure agencies will give more work to those with lower rates.

Sheila


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 21:31
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Not in CV Mar 16, 2012

Hello Dariush,

welcome!

I agree with Sheila and Joakin - stating your prices on your public CV might not be a good idea.
I have prepared a separate document stating my prices and payment terms, that I send to potential clients together with my CV at our initial contact. If your rates are within a certain range and don't change often, I find this saves time typing and is easy to modify. In fact I have several versions of the same document, some for agencies, some for direct clients.

About setting your rates - have you already checked out Proz.com Community rates and Rate calculator in the Tools section?


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Dariush Robertson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:31
Member (2012)
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
CV problem solved, but I'm still not sure if I'm asking agencies for too much Mar 16, 2012

Thank you very much Joakim, that sounds like the most sensible thing to do.

Do you have any idea what I could do about my asking rate? I've registered with about 15 agenices over the past two months, and have normally said that I charge 60 - 80 GBP per thousand words, which is to my understanding an average fee in the UK. However, I still haven't received any cases. I have had about 3 agencies (which found me through PROZ.com) emailing me with jobs, and asking what my fees are. After I quote the price above they never bothered emailing me back... I don't know if it's because they found someone else, or perhaps my fees are too steep? I think my fees are fairly resonable. I don't want to do cheap translations, but I do need to pay the bills. Do I just need to be patient, or am I doing something wrong?


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Dariush Robertson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:31
Member (2012)
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you very much, problems solved. Mar 16, 2012

Hello Sheila, and hello Niina.

Thank you very much for your advice. I think I will keep pricing off my CV, and just use a seperate document for that.

I'm fairly new to ProZ.com, so I did not know that such tools existed, I shall check them out straight away thanks.

I just thought that clients would normally pay one rate, if they pay to an agency, the agency will take its cut, and give the rest to the translator; but if they pay the translator directly, then the translator takes the full amount.

Thank you again, you have all been very helpful!


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Maja Źróbecka, MITI  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:31
English to Polish
+ ...
Hi Dariush Mar 16, 2012

Dariush wrote:
Do I just need to be patient, or am I doing something wrong?


and welcome to proz.com. You should probably know that very few translators will openly discuss their rates, so I doubt anyone here will say "yes, charge 100, as it is fair". But I can tell you that you probably have done your homework well as your estimates seem reasonable.

I do not know how you market yourself exactly, but you have to be patient when you start out. Some established translators say it takes between 6 to 18 months to build a client base, and even up to 3 years to have a steady income.

Don't lose faith in your skills, set a goal and attain in!

Good luck.
Maja


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Dariush Robertson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:31
Member (2012)
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Patience seems to be the key. Mar 16, 2012

Thank you very much Maja. I can completely understand people not wanting to discuss their exact rates, but I still appreciate you saying that my fees seem reasonable, which is very helpful. I will be more patient, and hopefully the work will come.

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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:31
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Prices on CVs Mar 16, 2012

This must be the only field on planet earth (or other class M planets) where participants include prices in CVs.

(Imagine "Dear yyyy, I would like to work for your company as pharmacist and my usual salary as a pharmacist is $xxx")

Also, agencies traditionally charge from double to triple because they have more costs than just the translation.


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:31
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
"Hiding" rates Mar 16, 2012

It's not about wanting to discuss rates or not. It's about the conveyor belt mentality of translation companies that are completely clueless (they apply the same tactics one would apply for plastic door stoppers "one size fits all").

Imagine our work like the work of another professional. Will you have the same price for 1000 words easy and boring marketing text vs. 1000 words DNA engineering?

The same price for editing a well-written document with that of a machine translation?

It's not only the "time it takes" that some inexperienced colleagues say - it's also the frustration and the difficulty associated with it. You' re not a robot, you' re a human being. You'll understand what I mean after 3-4 years, when your feet will start mysteriously hurting really bad after five minutes of walking. And that great exercise regime you planned will almost always be postponed or cancelled.

You see, people at a deli counter stay in line. Project managers do not stand in line. They all think that they are the first who got to you. There is no line with emails. They are all right in front of you with each email. You received 5 emails, guess what: each one of them does not know that there are others. Each one thinks that he/she is the first to serve.

It's also the taxes you will pay (you will be hammered, literally, for what you do), it's equipment and software, it's all the time you spend responding to emails all day (lawyers and consultants charge for that too, the best ones, separately), all other business expenses, a healthy profit, and at the end, you have to cover all your needs as a human being and put something aside.

I've been having a really bad feeling lately the way things are going, even if my volume is up. Ten years ago this job was a highly specialized job and we were considered high profile professionals. Lately it seems that due to unemployment, many are jumping in the field and they are turning it into the "desperation solution".
Most of them do not know how this job works in the long term, and after about a year of being lonely in a room working and paying 40% totally in taxes and having to work additional day and night hours even on weekends responding, invoicing, etc, they end up leaving the industry (and leaving behind a mess in the translation memories, while establishing a mentality of low rates and mediocre work overall).

I would advise the "desperate" ones to avoid this field. One year later they won't have anything good to add to their resumes, they won't be rich, and they would have lost all other opportunities in the market. If they work a lot they will have some extra money but no time to invest it, if they work a little bit they'll never have money to do something else. They'll be one year older.
The ones who believe that they can actually adjust this job to make "any amount they wish", they are like the young traders who believe that they can time the market. In my professional days in the financial industry, the rate of young people in America who bankrupted trying to time the market to their own needs, was the following: 100%.
I've seen people losing their health and their families from a bunch of actually easy texts, which wouldn't stop and they wouldn't stop taking them either. Don't underestimate what sitting on a chair in your home 12 hours per day can do to you - and how others perceive you, and how you feel yourself, when you never get off work and you meet zero people all day (you turned your home into an office and you have no home).

One has to be very serious about this job and their commitment to it. Contrary to how it looks on the outside, this is not an easy field, and it's not a revolving door either.


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Jacqueline Sieben  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:31
Dutch to English
+ ...
Focus on end-clients Mar 16, 2012

Eleftherios Kritikakis wrote:


It's not about wanting to discuss rates or not. It's about the conveyor belt mentality of translation companies that are completely clueless (they apply the same tactics one would apply for plastic door stoppers "one size fits all").

Imagine our work like the work of another professional. Will you have the same price for 1000 words easy and boring marketing text vs. 1000 words DNA engineering?

The same price for editing a well-written document with that of a machine translation?

It's not only the "time it takes" that some inexperienced colleagues say - it's also the frustration and the difficulty associated with it. You' re not a robot, you' re a human being. You'll understand what I mean after 3-4 years, when your feet will start mysteriously hurting really bad after five minutes of walking. And that great exercise regime you planned will almost always be postponed or cancelled.

You see, people at a deli counter stay in line. Project managers do not stand in line. They all think that they are the first who got to you. There is no line with emails. They are all right in front of you with each email. You received 5 emails, guess what: each one of them does not know that there are others. Each one thinks that he/she is the first to serve.

It's also the taxes you will pay (you will be hammered, literally, for what you do), it's equipment and software, it's all the time you spend responding to emails all day (lawyers and consultants charge for that too, the best ones, separately), all other business expenses, a healthy profit, and at the end, you have to cover all your needs as a human being and put something aside.

I've been having a really bad feeling lately the way things are going, even if my volume is up. Ten years ago this job was a highly specialized job and we were considered high profile professionals. Lately it seems that due to unemployment, many are jumping in the field and they are turning it into the "desperation solution".
Most of them do not know how this job works in the long term, and after about a year of being lonely in a room working and paying 40% totally in taxes and having to work additional day and night hours even on weekends responding, invoicing, etc, they end up leaving the industry (and leaving behind a mess in the translation memories, while establishing a mentality of low rates and mediocre work overall).

I would advise the "desperate" ones to avoid this field. One year later they won't have anything good to add to their resumes, they won't be rich, and they would have lost all other opportunities in the market. If they work a lot they will have some extra money but no time to invest it, if they work a little bit they'll never have money to do something else. They'll be one year older.
The ones who believe that they can actually adjust this job to make "any amount they wish", they are like the young traders who believe that they can time the market. In my professional days in the financial industry, the rate of young people in America who bankrupted trying to time the market to their own needs, was the following: 100%.
I've seen people losing their health and their families from a bunch of actually easy texts, which wouldn't stop and they wouldn't stop taking them either. Don't underestimate what sitting on a chair in your home 12 hours per day can do to you - and how others perceive you, and how you feel yourself, when you never get off work and you meet zero people all day (you turned your home into an office and you have no home).

One has to be very serious about this job and their commitment to it. Contrary to how it looks on the outside, this is not an easy field, and it's not a revolving door either.



Not altogether a very bright picture Eleftherios! But you are right to a large degree.

I would advise, as mentioned before by other members, to focus on end-clients. With an average rate of € 0.13 - € 0.16 per source word you won't have to work 10 hours a day (including weekends) and disrupt your (family) life. You will also have enough money to set aside.


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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 20:31
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Hi Mar 17, 2012

To diverge from yet another of Eleftherios' cheerful posts, please consider the following:

Quotes from,
a) your profile.
b) this thread

a) ""About me I am a highly motivated, efficient, and "detail-orientated" freelance translator, who wishes to raise the current standards of professional Chinese to English translation"

b) ".....and just use a seperate document for that."

OK. Call me whatever you like. I don't have an MA, but my clients know I can spell.

Considering that the Internet isn't actually your window on the world, but rather the contrary - it's the world's window on you, you might want to be a tad more "detail-oriented".

[Edited at 2012-03-17 03:56 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-03-17 03:58 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 03:31
Chinese to English
Welcome! Mar 17, 2012

Hi, Dariush. I'm very glad to see another native English speakers joining the industry, particularly someone who's as committed as you sound.

On rates, I'm not sure whether you're thinking in terms of source characters. I have to tell you, I've never received the rates you're suggesting for source characters from an agency. Rates in our pair are unnaturally depressed, as I'm sure you're finding. And it's very difficult to break the spiral. There haven't been enough Brit/America/Aussie translators, so clients use (cheaper) Chinese translators, and they learn to live with the lower quality, so they don't want to pay our rates, so they carry on using Chinese translators... it goes on and on. Plus, I'm sorry to say, some of our Chinese>English colleagues don't have the skills they think they have/claim to have, which sends more clients back the wrong way. And some translators have been known to claim English as a native language when it's really, really not...

So there's a litany of problems, the upshot of which is, it's hard to get decent rates. Per character, with agencies, I usually get about 10% lower than the range you quote. With direct clients, I've only very rarely got 0.10 per character - per target word, yes, but the ratio of target words:characters works out at about 1:1.5. You might be better placed to get better direct clients, if you're located in the UK.

In China, I find myself working with the agencies to drive rates up. It's an ongoing struggle, but I think we are winning, slowly.

You're very welcome to message me - I'd like to maintain a network of people working in my field.

[Edited at 2012-03-17 06:10 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
Keep it under wraps Mar 17, 2012

Joakim Braun wrote:

Rates on a public CV sounds like a bad idea to me. ...

So keep your rates off your "public" CV. When you bid on jobs or send your CV to agencies you can easily insert that info on a case by case basis.


Excellent advice!
For my part, I'm puzzled by the "rate per 1000 words", as I usually calculate my rates on a per-word basis; I work mostly in Word or plain TXT and use the MS Word count function on the source documents. As my rate is basic, so is the service I provide; I don't normally do discounts for reps or matches unless by prior agreement, although I may give spontaneous unsolicited discounts (last week I gave one direct client 10% off a 4K bill and they were both surprised and grateful).


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:31
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I have different rates for different markets Mar 18, 2012

I work mostly with agencies, but the cost of living varies considerably from country to country.

Where I can, I charge Scandinavian rates because I have to pay Scandinavian prices and taxes etc. (As you have to pay British compared with Chinese ditto...) I have to compete - and I have found that pushing my rates up to the top of the British agency market has not lost me jobs.

The best agencies are looking for quality, as it is cheapest for them in the long run to avoid complaints, hassle and re-doing jobs, so the policy is to accept that it costs more than the minimum.

I don't know your market - there will be other problems, as Phil Hand points out, and I am lucky because although there is plenty of qualified competition, basically there are not too many translators who can handle my language pairs.

But as a freelancer, you are free to negotiate the rate you can get for each job.
Don't start too low, because it is not easy to raise rates, but once you have established a relationship with clients, you CAN try the argument that now you have five years more experience, or now you are taking on more difficult jobs etc.

I have also bargained with some clients - e.g. we have compromised between the rate I aksed for and the rate they offered.

You are definitely on the right track when you think YOU should set the rates, but they are never carved in stone!

There is definitely a need for good Chinese to English translators - I am sometimes approached by desparing colleagues trying to translate Chinglish into Danish, when they want to know what I make of the source text. I do NOT envy them!

So I wish you the best of luck!


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