Off topic: How much to charge for "casual" interpretation gig
Thread poster: Abril MP

Abril MP
Jul 18, 2014

I have been asked by some of my professional contacts from the Philippines to accompany a group of vacationing businessmen in Spain for one week--I live here in Spain and am not a professional interpreter, but there are very few people here who speak Spanish, English and Filipino, which I do. (i speak fluent english and filipino and advanced Spanish from living and doing graduate studies in Spain.) It's not serious interpretation work as in a conference, but casual, going around and helping the group out, almost like a tour guide. The hours are not fixed but neither will they be intensive. the businessmen are friends of my old employer. They are asking me to quote a rate for the whole seven days and i am not very sure how much to charge that would be worthwhile for me but also reasonable and friendly for them.

Direct link Reply with quote

Christophe Delaunay  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:56
Member (2011)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Don't be afraid Jul 21, 2014

I'm just back from Manila and my girlfriend works there at the moment. Through her job, she meets a lot of philippinos businessmen and I just asked her about what she thought of your question. Her general feelings is that if those guys are visiting Spain, they are well-off enough. So ok, you're not going to do "serious" interpreting but you're going to spend the whole day with them. Besides, they can split the cost. Furthermore, it's a job. They are not your friends and might never be. If you offer them a regular price, you'll never be disappointed with yourself. But if you sell yourself cheap and then have to work much more than you thought, then you won't be happy at all.
My advice is that you have a look at Proz rates and stick to them more or less.
Hope I helped you.

Direct link Reply with quote

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:56
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Agree with Christophe Jul 21, 2014

I mean how many times have you travelled to a country where you don't know the language?

Having an interpreter is a real luxury so it shouldn't come cheap. It doesn't matter how hectic or "serious" it is, you could be spending that time earning good money doing your normal work, so you mustn't sell yourself short.

They might point out that you'll be doing fun things, eating at swank restaurants and going on boat trips, but it doesn't matter what the assignment involves, it's not fun to do this sort of stuff with people who are not your friends or family.

And they might be relaxed about the time you report for duty in the morning, but then again you might find yourself having to accompany them to night clubs until goodness knows what time in the early hours. If you're supposed to be working, you shouldn't be downing the Cava with them.

You might want to specify that you'll work until a set hour - and stick to it. I personally would also specify no topless bars or places I'd feel uncomfortable working in.

Direct link Reply with quote

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:56
English to Portuguese
+ ...
You are always selling your time Jul 21, 2014

No matter what you do professionally, you'll be always selling your time, of which all of us have exactly the same amount, provided to us by Nature at a fixed rate.

However the cost of your time unit may - and usually will - vary depending on your skills. If you are skilled and qualified to fix a nuclear power station, but your client/employer needs you to replace a light bulb, it is an expensive way to get it done, but you should do it, as long as you deem it's an ethical endeavor.

If you are the only one skilled in this language pair and available, but also a neurosurgeon in high demand, you should charge as a neurosurgeon.

Keep in mind that translators charge by words only as a convenient way for the client to calculate how much a translation will cost them. Imagine if, upon ordering a steak in a restaurant, you had to start calculating from the cost of cattle grazing...

So you should charge them a week's worth of your time, whatever that is.

Also, be careful with what you include in your service package. To illustrate, while it's up to you to decide how you'll get to the place where you'll meet them, if they want to be driven everywhere, you shouldn't be taking them in your personal car.

In this case, get them to agree on renting a car. While you may mediate the transaction, don't rent it yourself, get it done on their account. They have the choice of getting crammed inside a Fiat 500, go places in style aboard a Mercedes town car, or anything in-between. You may drive it yourself or hire a driver, which you may mediate, but not hire yourself. You may also use taxicabs, if they prefer.

The point here is that if you use your own car and it breaks down, they'll be wasting precious time until you get it fixed, or another vehicle. With a rental car, a replacement supposedly will be only a phone call away. The car rental company will be liable for the time they waste, not you.

The car itself is not as important as the spirit behind this setup. You'll be going into the deal with empty pockets. While you'll help them to get their currency exchanged, you shouldn't advance any payments on their behalf, ever.

As you'll be blocking this week entirely for them, you should request at least half of your agreed payment (1-2 weeks?) in advance, to ensure you are fully available. If they cancel for any reason, you shouldn't owe any refund; that's the compensation for the lost business you'll have to decline for being unavailable on that week.

If at all possible, do get a backup for you on standby, even if it's a lame one, e.g. only speaks English, no Filipino, just in case you get sick or otherwise unavailable.

The good thing is that they are supposedly human like you. So they need to eat, sleep, bathe, etc. If you are out of your home town, they should pay for your meals. In your home town, if they don't want to pay for your food, they should release you during meal time.

If you stay overnight outside your home town, they should pay for your lodging, with adequate comfort and privacy. If they don't want you to stay at their luxury hotel, but instead at a cheaper place on the other side of town, they'll be paying for your commuting time anyway.

These are not the rules, but the spirit behind them. If you set clear and fair rules, you won't regret it, and they won't either.

Direct link Reply with quote

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:56
Member (2007)
+ ...
Set limits Jul 21, 2014

Abril MP wrote:
The hours are not fixed but neither will they be intensive. the businessmen are friends of my old employer.

If they aren't fixed then they could, at the drop of a hat, become very long; in fact the better you do at your job and the more indispensable you seem to them, the longer the hours are likely to become. So you need to set limits at the outset. They're enjoying their holidays, keeping going for a long day as it's only 7 days and they can sleep all the way on the plane home; while you're on to your next job. Not only do you not want to be working 12-hour days, you'll also need some down time every couple of hours maximum. Remember if you eat with them in a restaurant you'll probably spend the whole meal effectively working - translating menus, relaying orders to waiters, etc.

I only did that type of job once - a little more formal but not much. After three hours' work they wanted me to join them for lunch in a restaurant, which they saw as some sort of added payment, a tip, if you like. I saw it as added work and cried off. I have to say I found them three of the most exhausting hours of my entire life! And I've never accepted an interpreting job since.

[Edited at 2014-07-21 12:52 GMT]

Direct link Reply with quote

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:56
Chinese to English
More you charge, the less you do... Jul 21, 2014

There's a curious paradox in your situation. Your price sends a strong signal about what kind of a service you offer. If you charge a higher price, you signal that you are a professional, who works on professional terms. You get to set limits, as Sheila put it. If you charge a lower price, you end up being asked to do more.

I'm sure you feel like you're not in a position to charge 1000 dollars a day, and that's fine. But if you are only charging 100 dollars a day, then you're just a nobody, and you'll probably be treated like one.

You might feel that you can't find the right balance: that you can't find a price which properly reflects your good skills/low experience. In which case, don't charge, but ask for expenses. It's only seven days, so you can take use the time to get experience without bankrupting yourself, and without losing any money. At the end, you might get a tip, and you might not. But personally I don't like offering low-price services. Either I'll do something as a favour, or I get paid the full rate. I think in this case you can do the favour without losing anything, and next time you'll have the knowledge that you can provide a good service. It'll give you confidence.

Direct link Reply with quote

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:56
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
only a week??? Jul 22, 2014

what do you mean, Phil, it's only a week? that's a quarter of the month and the bank won't take three-quarters of the mortgage at the end of it, nor will my children forego eating for a week. OK she's not a professional interpreter but this is the kind of interpreting we all do on holiday, except we do it for our loved ones, not the businessmen friends of a client. So they can reasonably expect to pay at least what Abril would normally expect to earn in that time plus expenses.

Direct link Reply with quote

To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

How much to charge for "casual" interpretation gig

Advanced search

Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »
Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search