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Price per word: French to English
Thread poster: Janet Johnston Oger
Janet Johnston Oger  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:12
French to English
Jun 21, 2014

Hello everyone,

I am new to the translating business and I am going to start with the question we all ask at the beginning: how much to charge per word? I've been offered a book translation for 0.13 per word. I think this is good but I can't find concrete information as to how much to charge! I hope my question is not offensive and I would be really grateful if you could let me know what is the going rate in France (Paris) for my language pair.

Many thanks.


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
A book at 13 cents a word as a beginner?? Jun 21, 2014

Grab it.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:12
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Too good to be true? Jun 21, 2014

That's a normal to good tariff for a business translation that the company can clearly see some economic reason for buying. For a book, I'd say it's a phenomenal rate (though I must say here that I have no personal experience). They are usually poorly paid as there is no guarantee that any money at all will be made from the translation (unless the author is Dan Brown or similar), and money can well end up being lost rather than made.

I'm afraid I'm old enough and experienced enough to look at this rather cynically. Why are they offering you, a beginner hence an unknown quantity, such a lot of money? Please, ask yourself how and why they chose you: are they perhaps hoping you won't do the checks that a more experienced translator would do? How well have you done your business risk management? I urge you to check this out thoroughly before spending any time producing work.
- Firstly, there's the Scam Alert Centre: http://www.proz.com/about/translator-scam-alerts/
- Then, even if it doesn't seem to be a recognised scam, it could be a company in financial trouble or with a history of poor payment practices. Check the Wiki articles for some action points: http://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php/Category:Risk_management

Even if everything looks legit and hopeful, there are other considerations:
- Are you going to be spending 8 hours a day working on this one assignment, day in, day out? If so, you'll have to turn down all other clients, which means you're left with all your eggs in one basked and no work when the book's finished
- Will the work take long? If so, are you charging a certain percentage in advance, and receiving staged payments during the translation? If not, what will you live on until payment is received?
- Normally, sensible risk management calls for a small job to be done for a client and payment received before larger volumes are accepted. This way you can be sure that the client is legitimate and solvent (although you can never guarantee they'll stay that way, which is why you should never let any client run up too big a bill).
- I personally would advise you to only accept this job if some advance payment is received (and cleared); and then only spend a certain number of hours per day on it so that you can take on other clients during the month(s).

If it all works out for you, congratulations!


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:12
French to English
Variables, variables, variables Jun 21, 2014

My very first project as a freelancer was a book. Business/Management waffle really, but it was written by the CEO of a consultancy/service provider crew (the ones paying a pair of us to translate it) and I guess he thought it would boost his image (or ego) to have a book.

Anyhow, I was new, the bloke I was working with was new, and the client didn't know the market any more than we did.

So we asked for, and got, 0.18 per word. Which seemed reasonable. Paid for coffee and beer all over the City of Light while we cogitated terminology and semi colons and generally led what I would now understand to be an entirely atypical translator lifestyle, but seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, for the thinking involved.

Eleven years later, I'd give serious consideration to an offer of 0.13, on the understanding that for that money you'd be unlikely to get 3 hours contemplation on the banks of the Seine over whether "customer" or "client" is a better choice. That's what 0.18 would get you

Now, I usually think Sheila is unduly sunny and optimistic about things, and I refrain from posting more often on here partly so as not to constantly piss on everyone else's chips, and while I take her point entirely, it is possible you have a situation where no-one really knows what the going rate is and they have settled on something that seems reasonable, all things considered, and blissfully unaware that with 10 minutes effort online, they could have people fighting like street dogs for the privilege of doing it for a third of that rate.

So, yeah, if they seem solvent and don't want it yesterday, I'd consider it.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
It also depends on who you're working for. Jun 21, 2014

If it's for the publisher, EUR 0.13 is on the low side. If it's for a translation company, it's average to good in my opinion.

I don't agree with Sheila that books are poorly paid. In my experience with adult nonfiction and children's fiction, the rates are the same as any other area of translation.

One other caveat: do make sure it's a book you have some sympathy with. There's nothing worse than toiling away for weeks on something in which you have absolutely no interest.


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Janet Johnston Oger  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:12
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jun 22, 2014

Dear all,

Many thanks for your advice! I've just taken voluntary redundancy and am studying for the CiOL DipTrans, so this book is perfect timing!
I have another question - are the French to English rates in Community rates up-to-date? 0.08 - 0.11 cts seems very low to me! How do you decide how much to charge per word? Also, how much should I expect per word from agencies? Or do I give them my rate?

Many thanks and as they say over here: bon ap !

Janet


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Georgia Morgan  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:12
Member (2011)
Portuguese to English
How low is low? Jun 22, 2014

Janet Johnston Oger wrote:

Dear all,

Many thanks for your advice! I've just taken voluntary redundancy and am studying for the CiOL DipTrans, so this book is perfect timing!
I have another question - are the French to English rates in Community rates up-to-date? 0.08 - 0.11 cts seems very low to me! How do you decide how much to charge per word? Also, how much should I expect per word from agencies? Or do I give them my rate?

Many thanks and as they say over here: bon ap !

Janet



Many of us will and do work for less than that. I thought 0.06 Euros per source word was about average, for non-specialist texts. I do have the IoL Dip Trans, by the way, and several years experience. I would love to get the rates you are quoting!


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:12
English to German
+ ...
Your rates need to be higher Jun 22, 2014

Georgia Morgan wrote:

---
Many of us will and do work for less than that. I thought 0.06 Euros per source word was about average, for non-specialist texts. I do have the IoL Dip Trans, by the way, and several years experience. I would love to get the rates you are quoting!


Many will and do work for less - and therein lies a big problem. And 0.06 Euros is certainly not average or adequate for translation. We all need to make a living but you need to get your rates up. You are seriously undercutting professional rates.

B

[Edited at 2014-06-22 15:08 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:12
English to German
+ ...
Food for thought Jun 22, 2014

Janet Johnston Oger wrote:

Dear all,

Many thanks for your advice! I've just taken voluntary redundancy and am studying for the CiOL DipTrans, so this book is perfect timing!
I have another question - are the French to English rates in Community rates up-to-date? 0.08 - 0.11 cts seems very low to me! How do you decide how much to charge per word? Also, how much should I expect per word from agencies? Or do I give them my rate?

Many thanks and as they say over here: bon ap !

Janet



This will come in handy, Janet:
http://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php/Determining_your_rates_and_fees_as_a_translator

One important statement from the site above:
"Unfortunately, the reality is that more and more translators are acquiescing and agree too willingly to the lower rates just to get the work."

..and yes,you are the one determining the rate you charge and when you need to get paid - you are the service provider. So if an agency makes a suggestion and it's not in your range, you tell them your price/rate. Sure you can be flexible, but only to a point. After that, it becomes exploitation.



[Edited at 2014-06-22 15:25 GMT]


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Georgia Morgan  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:12
Member (2011)
Portuguese to English
A fair rate Jun 22, 2014

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Georgia Morgan wrote:

---
Many of us will and do work for less than that. I thought 0.06 Euros per source word was about average, for non-specialist texts. I do have the IoL Dip Trans, by the way, and several years experience. I would love to get the rates you are quoting!


Many will and do work for less - and therein lies a big problem. And 0.06 Euros is certainly not average or adequate for translation. We all need to make a living but you need to get your rates up. You are seriously undercutting professional rates.

B

[Edited at 2014-06-22 15:08 GMT]

I work out my rates on what I believe my time to be worth. I can comfortably do 2,000 words a day which, at 0.06 per word, earns me 120 Euros (a day). And this, in a country where the local MONTHLY minimum wage is 460 Euros. I am content with this. Having said that, I only take on jobs that interest me. But, 120 Euros to sit at home and do something interesting is fine by me.

[Edited at 2014-06-22 15:24 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:12
English to German
+ ...
Too low is too low Jun 22, 2014

Georgia Morgan wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Georgia Morgan wrote:

---
Many of us will and do work for less than that. I thought 0.06 Euros per source word was about average, for non-specialist texts. I do have the IoL Dip Trans, by the way, and several years experience. I would love to get the rates you are quoting!


Many will and do work for less - and therein lies a big problem. And 0.06 Euros is certainly not average or adequate for translation. We all need to make a living but you need to get your rates up. You are seriously undercutting professional rates.

B

[Edited at 2014-06-22 15:08 GMT]

I work out my rates on what I believe my time to be worth. I can comfortably do 2,000 words a day which, at 0.06 per word, earns me 120 Euros (a day). And this, in a country where the local MONTHLY minimum wage is 460 Euros. I am content with this. Having said that, I only take on jobs that interest me. But, 120 Euros to sit at home and do something interesting is fine by me.

[Edited at 2014-06-22 15:24 GMT]


Well, I would certainly not be content with it. The services I (and many other professional translators) provide are worth much more.
"Sit at home and do something interesting for inadequate rates" is not my definition for the career of a professional translator.

B


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Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:12
Dutch to English
+ ...
rates are are only going in one direction, down. Jun 22, 2014

Georgia, I live in Portugal too, and we both know that it's a struggle to get €0.06 a word for PT-ENG. And as you say, 120 euros a day here is a lot.
Translating is getting easier all the time with software and internet resources, and will inevitably become virtually completely automated in the future. Rates are inevitably going to drop further, and doing this sort of work and living in an expensive country in Western Europe is a luxury which the market won't subsidise for much longer.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:12
English to German
+ ...
The future can be bright Jun 22, 2014

Richard Purdom wrote:

rates are are only going in one direction, down.

Georgia, I live in Portugal too, and we both know that it's a struggle to get €0.06 a word for PT-ENG. And as you say, 120 euros a day here is a lot.
Translating is getting easier all the time with software and internet resources, and will inevitably become virtually completely automated in the future. Rates are inevitably going to drop further, and doing this sort of work and living in an expensive country in Western Europe is a luxury which the market won't subsidise for much longer.


I don't want to offend you, Richard, but this is simply not true. Using CAT tools etc, and info on the internet are helpful tools, but providing excellent translations is still something that only a good translator can do. And professional clients know that and pay adequate prices.
And a statement like "translating ...will inevitably become virtually automated in the future" is an opinion, but there are plenty of facts that suggest it won't happen. Machines don't "translate" (in the human sense of the word) now (MT is really a misnomer), and if they are used as assisting tools, they remain just that. The accuracy of a translation can only be guaranteed and thus provided by a human, not a machine.
Style and correct idiomatic use of a language aren't something a machine can handle now and there is no evidence they ever will.

My advice to newcomers is if you want to become and remain a successful translator, don't let yourself be exploited by agencies that eventually only go in one direction and end up broke. Charge adequate rates. It's not good to believe you have to work for lower and lower rates. Run your services like other professional businesses. Stay realistic but positive about what your services are worth. If you can't do that, do something else.

[Edited at 2014-06-22 16:25 GMT]


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Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:12
Dutch to English
+ ...
automated translations Jun 22, 2014

Bernhard, you are not insulting me! I just see it as inevitable. 20 years ago Google MT as it now stands was virtually unthinkable. 10 years before that, nobody imagined that a computer would ever beat a grandmaster at chess; now an easy task for a good smartphone app.

I think a lot of source texts for, in particular, legal, technical and instructional documents will start to follow templates somewhere down the line. Translation will follow. However, in the meantime, even if rates do go down, earnings can still go up. It is only my opinion!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:12
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Translation profession or industry? Jun 22, 2014

Georgia Morgan wrote:
I work out my rates on what I believe my time to be worth. I can comfortably do 2,000 words a day which, at 0.06 per word, earns me 120 Euros (a day). And this, in a country where the local MONTHLY minimum wage is 460 Euros. I am content with this. Having said that, I only take on jobs that interest me. But, 120 Euros to sit at home and do something interesting is fine by me.

But you aren't getting 120 euros, or anything like it, are you? How about social security contributions? Aren't they something like 30% in Portugal? And income tax - about the same? Then there are all the expenses you have that an employee wouldn't have; and none of those nice little perks. What's left of your 120 euros has to cover every unpaid day off during the year, days that are normally paid by an employer. In the end, are you any better off financially than those road-sweepers, loo-cleaners and hod-carriers who are on that NET minimum wage? Do they have BAs, MAs and post-graduate qualifications?

@Richard: you're right when you say that there will be more automated translation in the future. But there are an awful lot of clients out there, with an awful lot of different needs. That's why we're rapidly heading towards a real division:
- a translation industry of high volume, cloud based translations and post-editing
- a translation profession whose members provide an intellectual service, delivering very high quality translations tailored to each client's needs

It's every translator's right to decide which one he or she wishes to be associated with. I'd say that around 0.08-0.10 EUR per source word would be about as low as you could offer for a European language in Europe and still consider yourself as part of the profession rather than the industry.


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