What rates should I charge?
Thread poster: Seth Browner

Seth Browner
United States
Local time: 08:07
English to French
+ ...
Jun 19

Hi, everyone! My name is Seth Browner. I just graduated from college last May with a BA in History and French. I speak French fluently (speaking, reading, and writing). I have experience with translation/interpretation from research and coursework I've done at school. I've never worked professionally as a translator/interpreter, and I got an offer to do some freelance with a firm in Los Angeles, California. They asked me what are my rates, and I don't know what I should charge. What would you say is the amount I should charge for someone with my level of experience/qualifications? The firm is highly technical, so I won't be translating literature and poetry. Thanks!

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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
If only literature and poetry were 'easy' Jun 20

1. Estimate how many words you can complete in an hour (publishing quality)

2. Judge what you think your services are worth per hour

3. Do the math



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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Welcome to ProZ.com, Seth! Jun 20

Seth Browner wrote:
I just graduated from college last May with a BA in History and French. I speak French fluently (speaking, reading, and writing). I have experience with translation/interpretation from research and coursework I've done at school. I've never worked professionally as a translator/interpreter, and I got an offer to do some freelance with a firm in Los Angeles, California. They asked me what are my rates, and I don't know what I should charge. What would you say is the amount I should charge for someone with my level of experience/qualifications?

Hopefully this is in the French to English pair? It doesn't seem from your CV as though you have the background to be totally bilingual.

Beginners actually have no reason to charge less than average market rates (forgetting the bottom-feeding, edited-Google-Translate rubbish rates). Maybe a tiny bit less, but working for a very small fee does nothing but harm to everybody - except the client, I suppose. The thinking behind it is that - beginner or not - the only translation that's worth anything to an end client is an accurate, readable and polished one. Highly experienced and gifted translators may be able to produce a work of art, but then they wouldn't be charging an average rate. You will likely take a long time to produce your early texts, doing loads of research, rewriting, tweaking..., so effectively you'll be earning a lower rate per hour. If you're able to translate fast, maybe you aren't producing the quality expected of a professional freelance translator. Another way to justify charging the market rate is that you may well want to ask a more experienced peer to check your work before delivery, and of course that will need to be paid for.

It's only a very rough guide, but you could take a look at the Community Rates here on ProZ.com. They're derived statistically from our declared rates, so subject to the usual skew (and downright lies in some cases!) but they're a starting point. There's also a tool here to help you calculate what you personally need to earn, which is at least as relevant as the market.

The firm is highly technical, so I won't be translating literature and poetry.

Technical is neither easier nor more difficult than literature. What makes it doable is having the relevant skills and knowledge to tackle the job. Do you have a highly technical background? Are you familiar with the terminology, the jargon used by experts in both languages? If you aren't then at the very least you'll need to have your work checked by a translator who specialises in the field. You really can't rely on dictionaries to give you the accurate equivalent specific to the exact context in question.

I gather this is a direct client, not an agency? If so, it's a real "in at the deep end" gig. Agencies can provide an awful lot of help in terms of file handling, formatting, CAT tool advice, etc. and they normally check that your work is suitable to pass to the end client for publication. In doing so, they take some of the responsibility of your shoulders, and can even give guidance on how to invoice etc. Mind you, not all agencies do any of that!

Good luck!


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:07
English to French
+ ...
Do you feel comfortable ? Jun 20

Do you feel comfortable translating technical text? Have you any experience with that?

Are you familiar with at least one technology?

Technical stuff has nothing to do with literature, poetry, and very little with everyday language.

Seth Browner wrote:

The firm is highly technical, so I won't be translating literature and poetry. Thanks!


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
Welcome, Seth Jun 20

Seth Browner wrote:

Hi, everyone! My name is Seth Browner. I just graduated from college last May with a BA in History and French. I speak French fluently (speaking, reading, and writing). I have experience with translation/interpretation from research and coursework I've done at school. I've never worked professionally as a translator/interpreter, and I got an offer to do some freelance with a firm in Los Angeles, California. They asked me what are my rates, and I don't know what I should charge. What would you say is the amount I should charge for someone with my level of experience/qualifications? The firm is highly technical, so I won't be translating literature and poetry. Thanks!


Welcome to the flock (or fold, group, bevy of translators at Proz), Seth. I would reread what Sheila has shared with you. She's a level-headed professional who gives useful advice.

In addition, I would suggest that you offer your customer a rate range (for example, $0.09 to $0.13 per word) so that they and you have flexibility and wiggle room. Remember that you may renegotiate your rates later on as you gain more experience, learn about the textual conventions particular to your client (and to your client's clients, that is).

Kudos for creating a profile before asking questions. That shows you're serious.



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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:07
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
basically - what Sheileila said... Jun 21

In this world there are no "beginner translators" i.e. your translation will be used (perhaps after a sanity check by a local engineer), but not reviewed by another translator / proofer...

So you are creating an end product - - and unless you are somehow very technical all of a sudden , you will need to do a lot of research to get up to speed with this - a "normal" fee for HIGHLY TECHNICAL French-> English would be 0.15 USD or higher - if the client would go through an agency they would certainly be paying 0.18+...

Now there are two ways to do this: with a rate per word / a rate by hour....

If this is super high tech you would (almost) need engineer skills and that probably comes in around 60-80 USD/ hour just to understand the documents.... if you add multiple language skills.... you see where I'm going with this....
AND you will never be paid that unfortunately ... as you will be treated like a bilingual secretary most likely...

The other way is - what is it worth to the client - will they be able to sell multi million dollar machines after you fiinish one manual - - in that case a few thousand dollar is totally peanuts compared to million dollar sales...

You basically need to see what you NEED to earn to live, commute, visit your home town (if it is a long term project) and what you CAN earn ( no need to be THAT nice - companies like that have plenty of cash)

.....All provided of course you can handle the job correctly


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