Percentage of rate that actually goes to the translator
Thread poster: David Jessop

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 9, 2004

Hello Colleagues,

When working with a translation agency as a freelance translator, what is the typical percentage of the rate charged to the end client that actually ends up in the pockets of the translator doing the translation work? I know that there is no set formula on this and that it can vary per agency, country, and other factors. However, I don´t even have a ballpark to work with here: 20%, 50%, 80%, etc?

Thanks for your ideas around this issue.




Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends Aug 9, 2004

It all depends on the agency. I've received documents from agencies that have mistakenly included their bid forms to their end clients and to my surprise I've seen that they charge 3 or 4 times the amount they offered me.

Others, charge 50% above what they pay me. So it all depends on the agency.

As far as I'm concerned, I make sure that I'm getting what I think is a fair rate for my work, and try not to think how much the agency is charging. After all, they have to do the marketing, find the client, collect, etc.


[Edited at 2004-08-09 22:57]


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends on the service offered Aug 9, 2004

and the value added over the translation in the production chain.

Or at least it should. (I.e., what is paid for is not intermediation but added value).

An agency that offers three levels of editing/proofreading over the project management + the DTP may charge considerably more than the translator. I am unable to give a percentage on this service, but it exists (I'm doing it now...)

I'm not interested in doing many of those functions, so I don't interfere here. I give my idea of a fair rate, per word and per hour, and it's accepted, period.

Maybe what you want to know is a "finder's fee". That's what would vary from one place to another. In Europe, for instance, the type of amount involved may be so small in proportion to the administrative and accounting work it generates that many of us prefer to refer the client to the kind of service he wants, lock, stock and barrel.


Jörgen Slet  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:20
English to Estonian
+ ...
I've heard 33% and 45% mentioned Aug 9, 2004

On the two occasions that the percentage was mentioned or became known to me, the numbers were 33% and 45% respectively. The latter, reached after a long negotiation, was pointed out as "rather high", considering that there were two or three middlemen. I have no way of verifying these numbers of course.

With direct clients, the numbers are much better, of courseicon_smile.gif


Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:50
English to Tamil
+ ...
40% was noticed in one case Aug 10, 2004

It was an interpreting assignment. I was paid Rs.1200 per day (it was in the year 1994). The end client wanted to know how much I charged the agency. I demurred at first saying that it was not ethical to ask that. But he insisted. I asked him first how much he paid and he said that it was Rs.2000. I was staggered for a moment and then told him I charged Rs.1400. For the moment that was that. Then for the next assignment he contacted me directly and we agreed on a rate of Rs.1600 per day. I was after all a freelancer and had not signed any inhibiting clause with the agency.

Fact is, such heavy percentage is OK for translation, where the agency has to do proof-reading, control the quality etc. But interpreting was something different. Another agency told me that they charged Rs.1500, they would pay me 90% of that and was I interested? I was. It is worth mentioning here that the agency owner herself was an interpreter and she was just offloading some work on me. She was refreshingly frank in saying "pas d'heures supplementaires" and accepting that I countered "pas de demi-journee non plus". And she cheerfully laughed and agreed.



Dinny  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:20
Italian to Danish
+ ...
Big piece of the cake... Aug 10, 2004

I work in an international company (freelancing in my spare time) and often happen to see the offers from various translation agencies. It appears that they generally triple my rate for the Italian/Danish language pair, while for English/Danish double up seems to be the trend.

I charge what I consider to be a fair rate, so I don't mind how much the agencies are adding, especially with the true professional agencies that do their part of the job.


xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:20
German to English
+ ...
Percentage of rate that actually goes to the translator Aug 10, 2004

Ricardo Martinez de la Torre wrote:

I make sure that I'm getting what I think is a fair rate for my work, and try not to think how much the agency is charging. After all, they have to do the marketing, find the client, collect, etc.




Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Between the lines Aug 10, 2004

Revising this topic and the answers you might hope to get from it (which can be pretty variable, as may be seen so far) the important point seems to be what the intermediation service is worth.

Basically, I agree with Marc and Ricardo. However, circumstances do arise in which there might be reason to suspect multiple intermediation that may not be all that necessary.

I am loth to pronounce on such practices, but common sense would indicate that if a file has to circulate unnecessarily three times around the globe, cutting down on production time and efficiency and increasing the risk of non-compliance (and justifiable non-payment), it may be time to cop out of a deal... especially if what trickles down to one hits the zero-point-zero-fractional level. (And there you can't complain if you accept).

That's probably the bottom line. So if you are thinking of using this information as a basis for pricing, just remember there is such a thing as defensive pricing. One may be in a so-called "competitive" part of the world, but that's no reason to queue up where there are already 4 or 5 production stages ahead of one, some of them useless and probably just skimming the waters for defenseless small fry.

Applying defensive pricing strategies, one's conscience is clear, whether his prospective clients are Rwandan refugees or G7 ambassadors. If there's anything more unpleasant to deal with than unjust discrimination, it's a "professional" who has to cavil about the principle of equality among clients. Working in the UN, for instance, you get all kinds (and yes, they are considered "clients") -- so this kind of thinking can get you booted out: with doubts like that, what were you doing there in the first place?

The open market may be more permissive, but the principle remains the same. If we are professional, we have no excuses when it comes to this question.

2 birdseeds on the matter.



Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:20
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
20 - 40 percent Aug 11, 2004

When outsourcing I see to it, that one fifth at least goes to myself. I would never offer rates to fellow translators that are much lower than what I am ready to except.

Very often I see job offers with word rates of 5 cents (USD) or less getting lots of biddings on this site.
When I recently offered 16 eurocent per word for a German to English translation I hardly got any response. Had to go to Translator's Cafe in order to find a translator. I wonder why? Did they think it was a joke, 16 eurocent?


Local time: 01:20
Polish to Italian
+ ...
In Poland it's possible to have 66%... Aug 18, 2004

My rate for polish agency are nearly 2/3 the price they
offer to the client. so i can say i have 2/3 and they
have 1/3.

But i'm sure they do NOTHING apart collect orders and
divide between translators.. editing, proofreading?
ha ha ha.. simply funny.

by the way i know it's a polish agency with want
to pay 20zl and sell for 57zl! so they "eat" 2/3!

but i symply tried to write something better then "F*****"
when i received this proposal...

I think that in Poland 66% for translator is OK.
the lower may be 50%.


xxxNicolette Ri
Local time: 01:20
French to Dutch
+ ...
Agree with this Aug 20, 2004

Italiano wrote:

My rate for polish agency are nearly 2/3 the price they
offer to the client. so i can say i have 2/3 and they
have 1/3.

I worked some years in a translation agency, which counted 30% margin between the sales price of the translation and the translator's rate. (Only for handling translations, everything else -DTP, printing, etc.- was invoiced separately). These 30% (some agencies want to have 40%) have to pay their overhead (offices, employees, advertising, etc.) and their benefits. Knowing that all translations agencies are companies and therefore want to make benefits, you will understand that they ALWAYS will try to have their translations as cheap as possible and to sell them as high as possible in a given market. And they know that lots of translators don't even have the slightest idea of the real cost of their own translations.

There is only one solution: have your own reasonable price rates, taking into account what you can do on one day and in a year, and what is your cost of living. After all we're independent service providers, not someone's employees.

[Edited at 2004-08-20 15:20]


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