What percentage of the earnings do translation agencies normally take?
Thread poster: Isabelle Knudsen

Isabelle Knudsen
United States
Local time: 21:23
Member (Jul 2017)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Sep 9, 2016

Usually when you are in contact with a translation agency you offer them your rate. But they must have a maximum rate they can hire translators for since they have to earn money on the project themselves.

What percentage do translation agencies generally take without our knowledge of it? I know sites like Fiverr.com takes 20% of all earnings. I've worked a little with "Type 2 Translate" and they take 30%. What is the average minimum and maximum percentage that agencies usually take?

[Edited at 2016-09-10 06:57 GMT]


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Gregory Flanders  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:23
French to English
+ ...
Typically about 50% Sep 12, 2016

Isabelle Knudsen wrote:

What percentage do translation agencies generally take without our knowledge of it? I know sites like Fiverr.com takes 20% of all earnings. I've worked a little with "Type 2 Translate" and they take 30%. What is the average minimum and maximum percentage that agencies usually take?

[Edited at 2016-09-10 06:57 GMT]


In my experience the percentage is closer to 50%. I used to think that was bordering on outrageous until I became a regular outsourcer myself: taxes, office space, staff, marketing, etc., it adds up quickly.

But there are many threads about this here, you can find them by searching.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:23
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Agree with Gregory Sep 12, 2016

Gregory Flanders wrote:
In my experience the percentage is closer to 50%.


I have no actual experience, but from past discussions I recall that anything from 60% to 20% is pretty normal and perfectly fair.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 23:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Take? I see it from another angle. Sep 12, 2016

A sustainable translation agency will add value, charge for it, and have a profit.

I'll refrain from delving into exactly how a translation agency adds value to what they deliver. I've covered some key differences - from the clients' stance - in the form of advice on whether one should hire an agency or a freelance translator, on this page.

A healthy translation agency will have fixed costs on any individual job, which must be covered, as well as a variable profit that is usually a percentage of the costs, which may be internal and external. External costs include the hired translator(s) fees.

A friend/fellow translator/client once set up an excellent translation agency. Everyone - both clients and translators - loved it. However she underestimated some internal costs, among them taxes and redoing herself substandard and/or late work, and eventually had to shut down.

On the other end we have what I call file-pushers. They are mere middlemen who push unopened files back-and-forth between one link in the translation supply chain and the next one.

Once I exchanged a few e-mails with an extremely pleasant gentleman in India - in spite of his horrible use of the English language - who did this. He was merely the connection between some agencies and others, as they successively reoutsourced translation jobs. He said he made USD 0.005 (half cent) on each word, and the sheer volume enabled him to afford a quite ritzy lifestyle in his country.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 03:23
English to Croatian
+ ...
Honestly I don't care, nor do I think about it. Sep 12, 2016

I only take care about my own rate and that it makes sense for me to spend my time, energy and expertise on the project (in relation to the rate).

It creates an unnecessary pressure:

how much does dairy company make between the milk farmer and me as retail buyer?
how much does beauty product company make between me and ...

you get the picture.

I only care that this milk tastes good and other products are beneficial when reflecting their price.


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Isabelle Knudsen
United States
Local time: 21:23
Member (Jul 2017)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I forgot to give a general context of the situation Sep 12, 2016

Hi everyone,

Thank you for all your valuable responses. I think I made a mistake on my part when creating this discussion as I did not fully elaborate why I was asking the question. I'm not asking because I want to know how much an agency usually "takes" from me; how much they earn while I translate. Much like previous comments, I could care less. My rates are my rates, and they're based on my needs. If an agency takes 95% is none of my business, because I earned what I expected to earn.

I am actually in the process of setting up my own translation agency, although slightly different from several other agencies. I was simply asking the question to get an idea of how most translation agencies earn profit from what they do. Considering that most agencies have employees and other important fees, in addition to hiring freelance translators. I didn't want to come into this end of the business by charging clients ridiculous prices so my company can profit 95%. I was only wondering whether 15% is a fair percentage or 50% I am still unsure how I want the percentage to go, so this discussion was started so I could have a better idea of it all.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:23
German to English
Markup is not profit Sep 12, 2016

As has been pointed out several times here, the difference between what an agency pays for a translation and what it charges its customer is not pure profit. Without knowing the specific details of an agency's overhead costs, it's impossible to know how much the owner pockets after all other expenses are paid.
As Ms. Lingua 5B has pointed out, it doesn't matter what the markup is if you are getting paid fairly.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:23
Member (2014)
English to German
Why are you interested? Sep 12, 2016

I don't know and I don't think agencies would share that with me. However, some agencies advertise their prices to clients on their website which gives can give you an idea.

Also, it will probably depend on the agency, some are very helpful, prepare files and give advice and provide proofreading, whereas others appear to just pass files from clients to translators and back.


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