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What should fair translation rates be for professional translators
Thread poster: LilianNekipelov

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:31
Russian to English
+ ...
Jun 28, 2012

I have been wondering what, in your opinion, fair minimum rates should be for professional translators, with years of academic training and experience. The trend which many companies exhibit is to pay as little as possible, which is not fair to highly qualified professionals with years of experience and study -- many with Phds, even. Sometimes the rates offered call for laughter. It also presents the companies which offer such rates in very bad shade. It used to be shameful to try to take advantage of other people, but in our current market, it more and more becomes the rule of conducting business. What should translators do to prevent being taken advantage of? What rates do you consider fair?

 

Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 07:31
German to Swedish
+ ...
Just say no Jun 28, 2012

If translators work for bad rates, the bad rates persist.

Supply and demand is that simple. Even for academics.


 

Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 07:31
German to Swedish
+ ...
The long run Jun 28, 2012

In the long run, there's no reason why rates - in the big languages, at least - shouldn't bottom out at a Chinese subsistence level.

No, really. Think about it. It isn't far-fetched at all in a globalised services economy.

Not for all types of jobs, of course, but for a lot of them - certainly most of the CAT-heavy jobs.


 

Alexander Onishko  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:31
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
*** Jun 28, 2012

LilianBoland wrote:

I have been wondering what, in your opinion, fair minimum rates should be for professional translators, with years of academic training and experience. The trend which many companies exhibit is to pay as little as possible, which is not fair to highly qualified professionals with years of experience and study -- many with Phds, even.


With all due respect, please let me state that exactly PHD is not something indispensable to produce good translations. In my humble opinion a PHD is simply overqualified for this job.

[Edited at 2012-06-28 20:00 GMT]


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:31
Member (2004)
English to Polish
How long is the string Jun 28, 2012

Yes, translators should be paid more. Come to think of it, everyone should be paid more... And translators even more than that!

Also, I believe the subject of rates has been discussed several times before. You can find the discussions quite easily - just look for the horse carcasses.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:31
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What Job? Jun 28, 2012

Hi, Alexander. What job did you have in mind? Specialized translation? It might be for somebody translating Birth Certificates, but it is definitely not any kind of excessive education for a person translating linguistic material, pharmaceutical, medical, quantum physics and other scientific materials. Machine translation is really not the future of translation, and it might even be a drawback in certain types of translation, such as literary translation, where it can never really be used, unless for text organization, or something like that. These would be then just some CAT tools, but not really machine translation. I did not have in mind machine translation system operators, but real translators, when I started the thread. What the lowest fair rates should be, in your opinion? I have come across some offers for editing close to $0.008, which might not be that low for regular editing of a text, where a few commas and a few words have to be edited. The text would have to be redone, almost from scratch, because it was such a bad machine translation in the business field. It was not on this site. The tendency of some companies is to present the machine translated text as a text for editing only, and pay the lowest editing rates for something that has to be almost redone. Some companies don't even care, if the text makes any sense -- as long as it was translated before, machine translated, they only have to pay for editing. Have you ever been offered anything like that?

 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:31
Member (2008)
French to English
It's a market, not a job Jun 29, 2012

The fair rate is whatever the market will allow the translator. And that depends on how well the translator knows, and fits into, the market. Translators who know nothing about marketing and don't make the effort to learn, will find their "fair" rate lower (much lower) than those who do. Translators who perfect their skills, learn to market themselves and learn who their market is, will find their "fair" rate is higher (much higher) than otherwise.

 

James_xia  Identity Verified
China
Member
English to Chinese
+ ...
Marketing counts Jun 29, 2012

John Fossey wrote:

The fair rate is whatever the market will allow the translator. And that depends on how well the translator knows, and fits into, the market. Translators who know nothing about marketing and don't make the effort to learn, will find their "fair" rate lower (much lower) than those who do. Translators who perfect their skills, learn to market themselves and learn who their market is, will find their "fair" rate is higher (much higher) than otherwise.


Absolutely right! A freelancer that comes along with merely professtional skills, yet so lack in the marketing sense, can hardly be included as part of the really competitive pros.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:31
English to German
+ ...
Marketing Jun 29, 2012

doesn't require fancy brochures and websites.

Marketing starts as soon as a translator will erase and replace the following phrases and thoughts from his / her memory:

- "they pay..." (instead of: "I charge...")

- "the employer..." (instead of "client" or "customer")

- "the industry standard for discounts" (there is no such thing)

- "without Trados I am not a professional translator" (hahahaha!)

- "standard rates" (no such thing)

- "the customer is always right"

and the worst of all:

"I AM ONLY A TRANSLATOR"


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:31
Chinese to English
marketing is a state of mind Jun 29, 2012

As Nicole says. Weird and new-agey, but true.

I don't think Lillian's asking a silly question, though it does depend on your own feelings about money. I had a great education and am pretty smart. If I wasn't making 50,000 gbp, I'd think something was very wrong. (I make more, I'm saying that's a psychological threshold for me.)

What I'm wrestling with now is that someone making what I make in other industries might have a career ahead of them which would see their salary go up by perhaps 5 times. That's not really possible for a freelancer. So you need to think not just about the now, but about the future as well.


 

Enrico C - ECLC  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 13:31
Member (2011)
English to Italian
+ ...
Considerations Jun 29, 2012

After 14 years of doing this job i think i have my 2 cents to invest on this.

Considering the increasing responsibilities the agencies put on translators, (before we needed WORD and had just to translate, proofread and deliver and some level of error was tolerated and all words were paid in full. Now we need one or more CAT software as many companies require for different CATs, with some asking for even different versions of the same CAT, which implies multiple licenses and huge costs), the level of professionalism it requires, the unique blend of language and IT skills, the never-ending learning process it forces us to, the deadlines, etc. the job is widely, widely, widely UNDERPAID. Not only, but as market is today, some companies basically monopolize the bigger customers, although proposing prices that are 3 or 4 times as higher as those end customers would get from the most expensive translator. Substantially, The translator does the core job, and grants the core quality, but his job is used to pay marketing, sales, etc. (This is a complex idea that would deserve more time to be expressed in full but can be summed up with "A translator can be a project manager a salesman and, to an extent, also a marketeer while all these people can't be a translator). However, since companies have taken control of the market, prices are led by them. And these companies, are setting the rules. Like many others i have been offered ridiculous prices for complex jobs, ridiculous rates for team leading tasks. I have always blamed the lack of a clear professional qualification for translators, not like Translator Associations scattered into small groups but rather EU or Worldwide recognized entities and set rates that shouldn't go below a certain amount. Many translators oppose this but this is de facto the main issue. Since there isn't any organism or organization forcing companies to behave ethically towards translators, most of them behave unethically, using their monopoly to drive rates down and down, with some companies not ashamed of offering 40 euros per 1000 words to the translator (Essentially the person providing the core service), while asking the end customer as much as 100 or more euros for 1000 new source words. There are solutions of course, to remove the costly middleman. It's true big companies provide services single translators can't provide. It's also true that the cooperation of many translators and other profiles can widely overcome this gap, while reducing costs for the end customer and increasing rates for translators.
The issue is not fair rates. The issue is the companies we deal with will not pay any fair rates till they are either forced by law or forced by the market to increase their rates.

[Edited at 2012-06-29 05:13 GMT]


 

Enrico C - ECLC  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 13:31
Member (2011)
English to Italian
+ ...
That is very true.... Jun 29, 2012

Alexander Onishko wrote:

LilianBoland wrote:

I have been wondering what, in your opinion, fair minimum rates should be for professional translators, with years of academic training and experience. The trend which many companies exhibit is to pay as little as possible, which is not fair to highly qualified professionals with years of experience and study -- many with Phds, even.


With all due respect, please let me state that exactly PHD is not something indispensable to produce good translations. In my humble opinion a PHD is simply overqualified for this job.

[Edited at 2012-06-28 20:00 GMT]



....especially considering there are many universities providing ad hoc degrees that teach your all required basic skills in 3 years, while someone with multiple non related PHDs may take years to learn those small tricks and the other things that a specialized translator knows since day 1 in his career because he has been educated by other translators/interpreters. A PHD for this job, even if in Translation, puts you on another level, that's purely academic. At that level you can be a researcher but it's definitely overqualified for a translator, especially considering the fact the time spent to get a PHD has been wasted not working directly on the field often. So it happens that people with multiple PHDs performs like a good translator with a mere BA or even like some old generation translators without any degree AT ALL (Still many around in their 60s and 70s, who do an excellent job without CATs).

[Edited at 2012-06-29 05:23 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:31
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not quite Jun 29, 2012

LilianBoland wrote:
It used to be shameful to try to take advantage of other people, but in our current market, it more and more becomes the rule of conducting business.

Let's be honest: people who ask for a service have always (and I mean ever since mankind exists) tried to receive the service at the lowest possible rate. It is not out current market, it is the way each and every market has worked along history.

In our market, the problem lies in the fact that we are generally too weak and have been taught to live in a permanent state of panic about the future, which results in accepting conditions we would not accept if we had some degree of certainty about ourselves and our quality.

If someone offers a rate that is simply too low, it is as easy as rejecting the job and/or trying to educate the customer about the difference of hiring you and not another person. This is exactly the kind of skills we need in our profession, and exactly what is not taught at university.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:31
English to German
+ ...
Weird is good. Jun 29, 2012

Being weird is important.
As soon as you become mainstream, you are nothing but average and replaceable and you have to eat what is fed to you.

Phil Hand wrote:

As Nicole says. Weird and new-agey, but true.

I don't think Lillian's asking a silly question, though it does depend on your own feelings about money. I had a great education and am pretty smart. If I wasn't making 50,000 gbp, I'd think something was very wrong. (I make more, I'm saying that's a psychological threshold for me.)

What I'm wrestling with now is that someone making what I make in other industries might have a career ahead of them which would see their salary go up by perhaps 5 times. That's not really possible for a freelancer. So you need to think not just about the now, but about the future as well.


Lillian is indeed asking an excellent question because I believe that 90% of all "problems" are homemade.

What is marketing about, anyway? To make a brand stand out from the crowd. As a freelance translator, you are your own brand which is highly defined by your personality. You will for example not achieve any personal profile or brand recognition by sending standardized emails or being too chicken-livered to develop your own letterhead, as horrific as it may turn out.

Phil, not sure why you call this approach new-agey. Marketing has been my profession for a quarter of a century. I have turned translator because I moved to a country where I wouldn't be able to continue my profession without magically turning into a native speaker of a foreign language. The approach and the psychology remain the same, no matter if you sell air planes, technologies, pharmaceutical products - or your own expertise.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
Parity Jun 29, 2012

I want to earn the same as the tradesmen I have to pay for my services. I want at least the same hourly rate as my dentist, mechanic, plumber, electrician etc. And my per-word rate should be equal to that. If I manage to actually earn more than that rough guideline, then whoopee!

 
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