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I'm starting out. How much can I charge?
Thread poster: Tiago Moita (X)

Tiago Moita (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:25
English to Portuguese
+ ...
May 20, 2013

Hello fellow translators / proofreaders,

I'm Portuguese and perfectly fluent in English. Despite considering myself to be qualified enough to do translations for this pair of languages, I have no language credentials (I'm a designer by profession) and although I actually had some experience in the field, it was all voluntary work.

Now that I want to get into paid jobs, I have no idea how much I can afford to charge, considering my lack of formal language training might scare off potential clients. I really need to get some work as soon as possible; that is my priority at the moment. I reckon that when I start making a reputation for myself, I'll be able to raise my rates, but until then, my goals are to charge as little as I can to assure I get some work to get started, while not undercutting other translators with ridiculously low fees.

Can you help me out?

P.S: In case I made a mistake, I do have my own proofreader!

Thanks in advance, and hope to hear from someone soon,
Tiago Moita


ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:25
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Translator Rates May 20, 2013

I recommend that you check out Community Rates or Translator Rates first. This is under the Tools menu. You will have an opportunity to see the normal distribution curve corresponding to the rates in your language pair. Then, what I would do is to pick a rate somewhere on the left side of the curve. That means your rate will be less than the average rate for that language pair. If anything is not clear, please let us know.


Tiago Moita (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:25
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Still a bit vague May 20, 2013

Thanks, Kayhan, that was somewhat helpful, but still a bit vague: that could range between $0.02 and $0.10 cents p/word and between $7 and $34 p/hour...


Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:25
English to German
+ ...
The problem May 20, 2013

The problem is probably to get jobs, and not how much you can charge. I found, that agencies and direct clients will tell you, how much they are willing to pay. It is then up to you, to accept or not an the basis of the other recommendations given in this forum.

Best luck

[Bearbeitet am 2013-05-20 18:58 GMT]

[Bearbeitet am 2013-05-20 19:05 GMT]


ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:25
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Rates Calculations May 20, 2013

I agree that is quite a range. For example, $0.02 is probably way too low whereas $0.10 is somewhat high. You can try the midpoint, i.e. (0.02 + 0.10)/2 = $0.06 sounds like a reasonable low rate if you ask me.

It may take some experimenting to find the best rate for you. In any case, Community Rates is the best place to start. Mathematically, at least. You can take $0.06 as your starting rate. As for the hourly rate, you can do the same calculation.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:25
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
How much do you need? May 20, 2013

Never, ever go below average is my motto.

Don't imagine you can start low and raise your rates later. That does not work in a freelance setup. Every job you take on is a separate contract, and in principle every job is worth the same to the client, no matter whether it was done by a beginner, or someone at the peak of their career.

It depends on your language pair and subject area, because some languages are simply 'wordier' than others, and the difference can easily be up to 30% if you set a rate for 1000 words. You can - and should - charge more for specialised work.

Your design expertise counts too, remember.

Once you have found clients, it can be difficult to set your rate up if you establish a long-term relationship, and satisfied clients who come back are an advantage as long as they pay!

Calculate roughly how many words you can translate in an hour. (I reckon 250 in Danish, but of course it varies and becomes more like 300 in English.)
Then allow for adminstration time, invoicing, mailing the client etc. and my advice would be to double the amount you work out! It always takes longer than you expect.

There is some help here:

Also in the discussion after it!

Ultimately, you can charge as much as you can get clients to pay. Just don't tell them you are a beginner.

Concentrate on delivering what the client needs. Good clients respect you if you tell them their text is way outside your specialist area, or whatever diplomatic way you put it... It is far better than delivering a poor translation which does not serve the client' purpose.

You will get faster with experience, and be able to earn more (you hope) that way.

Best of luck!

[Edited at 2013-05-21 08:15 GMT]


Mahdieh Kandoei  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:55
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
same problem May 20, 2013

I have the same problem. I checked my colleague profiles and compare their experience and the other factors to myself, then I decide on my rates. Regardless to the pair, I think 0.06 is the best price to start. But it's on you. You, as a freelancer, decide.
Please see:


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:25
Member (2007)
+ ...
No mistakes, Tiago :) May 20, 2013

Formal translator training, normally in the form of an MA, is certainly very useful for any newbie, and practically essential nowadays for a young person wishing to make translation a first career. But there are alternative entry paths to the industry, and one is to emphasise your other skills and experience. I'm not entirely clear what you mean by "design" (doesn't it cover many things?), but you will no doubt know the terminology associated with it and so be in a better position to convince clients of your capability in this sector.

Nevertheless, I think you would be well advised to do some form of training in the various techniques. Being bilingual isn't everything - you also need to know how to handle acronyms, proper nouns, untranslatable text... and those rules differ from sector to sector e.g. legal and advertising texts need to be handled differently, not just in terms of register. There are several courses around, including the one I took (see my profile).

As for rates, Atil's advice is good; combine that with Christine's common-sense advice, and the fact that the cost of living in Portugal is somewhat more expensive, I believe, than that of some other Portuguese-speaking countries, and you should arrive at a ballpark figure. You can always encourage agency clients to show their hand before you show your ignorance - many are only too willing to quote THEIR rates for my liking. But always bear in mind that you'll be working for low rates to start with anyway. At least, I did: looking up every second word just for reassurance, researching everything, proofreading time and time again... and then spending half an hour preparing the invoice...


Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:25
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
You have to charge as much as a professional translator May 20, 2013

if you want to be a professional translator.

By charging less (and getting only jobs because you are cheap), will not be a sustainable way to make a living.

In other words: you need to find a reason why clients should select you, based on your skills.... not on price alone....

Right now 0,06 is just on the first step of the race to the bottom for any language combination... and you'll be working for the category botton feeders....


[Edited at 2013-05-20 20:56 GMT]


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:25
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Time is money... May 20, 2013

The fact is that as a beginner you spend longer on your translations. Even if your knowledge of both languages is good, you don't necessarily have the right connections, between them. With experience, you can speed up considerably, that's how you manage to earn more as a translator. So given that you'll be spending longer, you can't really afford to earn too little.

As Sheila says, your professional experience counts: you can start looking for work from companies you previously worked with, you know their business, their mindset, so you know what will appeal to them in terms of writing style. And given that everything gets designed, obviously you can branch out into everything.

The other point I wanted to raise is that you mustn't expect to start earning quickly. If at all possible it's better to have at least a part-time job while you build up a clientele. I see you need to get work as quickly as possible, but it doesn't always work out like that: beginners can take two or three years to start earning enough to live off translation alone.


Sarai Pahla (MD) MBChB
Local time: 03:25
Member (2012)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Differences between agency rates and client rates May 21, 2013

An important distinction to mention which may already have been alluded to is the difference between quoting for agencies and direct clients. Agencies do take over some of the administration and job hunting work for you, as well as bringing you into contact with clients to put their reputation on the line, and may provide proofreaders etc.

Generally speaking, the rates that you ask of agencies will be lower than the rates which you will quote direct clients - perhaps looking at between 0.07 USD and 0.12 USD for agencies and about double to triple that for direct clients, depending on your services and requirements.

Be prepared to negotiate in all situations and aim high - but also remember that you are not tied to companies - if you start working for them to gain experience and are earning less, but find better paying options along the way, move onwards and upwards. This is a very dynamic field, but things like experience and language credentials are highly valued, so you can grow your career.


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:25
Chinese to English
Reputation comes with contacts, not with experience May 21, 2013

Once you've been doing this for a while, you will find that there are people out there working at every rate you can imagine. There are people translating for 0.01 USD per word. You can't compete with them! There are also people getting 0.20 USD per word. And you can get that too. Your professional experience is a plus, not a minus.

The only problem is that the well-paid jobs are harder to find than the poorly paid ones. If you need the income, you can take some lower paid jobs, but keep looking for the good jobs, the high quality jobs. Keep bidding high, keep presenting yourself as a high quality professional, and keep networking (get to know other translators; talk to people on Proz; go to conferences). Eventually the good clients will find you.

[Edited at 2013-05-21 05:01 GMT]


Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:25
Russian to English
+ ...
Here is a link to a video May 21, 2013

Here is a link to a video (not mine of course) which provides an answer to your exact question.

I hope this helps!


Marta Stelmaszak (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:25
Polish to English
+ ...
Thanks for posting my video! May 21, 2013

Sarah McDowell wrote:

Here is a link to a video (not mine of course) which provides an answer to your exact question.

I hope this helps!

Thanks Sarah for posting my video! Seems very relevant, doesn't it?


XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:25
Portuguese to English
+ ...
The other way round May 21, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

As for rates, Atil's advice is good; combine that with Christine's common-sense advice, and the fact that the cost of living in Portugal is somewhat more expensive, I believe, than that of some other Portuguese-speaking countries

I can't speak for the rest of the country, but the cost of living in Rio these days is not far behind London's and in many ways is more expensive. The last time I was in Maputo, prices were pretty eye-watering and Luanda was recently rated the world's most expensive city:

[Edited at 2013-05-21 08:54 GMT]

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