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Is 0.04$p/w even too low for my first job (it's an agency?)
Thread poster: ncforman
ncforman  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:13
English to Spanish
+ ...
Oct 20

I quoted 0.10 because from what I've read the general consensus is that beginners or pros can charge whatever they like, as long as the job is done to a high quality. I do think 0.10 is steep for a novice.

I got an email through from what I believe is an agency. They asked for very basic details and my cv and asked if my rate was negotiable, and if it was they'd like me on the team. I said my rate is flexible depending on the text given and time allocated, he then suggested 0.04! I deal in £ so that just seems crazy to me. I said 0.06 was my minimum and he increased to 0.045.

Am I just aiming too high? Is this what beginners are really earning? Is it also fair to suggest the price depends on the type of text?

I feel a bit lost, so any advice is welcome. I'd also just like to add my language and translation proficiency is excellent, I just don't have specialised topics and have never charged for translations before.


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:13
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Don't fall for it Oct 23

While I can't speak to what you should be charging since I've not seen what sort of quality you can produce, in any case the price the client is offering is too low, even for a beginner.

That said, for your language pair (Spanish-English is quite a saturated market) I would say realistically GBP 0.10 is pretty steep, especially for a beginner with no experience and no specific translation degree. Or did you mean you quoted USD 0.10? If that is the case, that is a much more normal price (although you will probably still find that a lot of agencies based in Spain can't really afford you or won't accept that price because they can find others who produce what they would consider mostly acceptable work for cheaper).

And obviously the price depends on the text. The more difficult or time-consuming a text is, the more expensive it should be to translate, in theory. BUT if the text is actually not that complicated and it's just time-consuming for you because you lack experience, then... well I'm sure others might disagree with me on this, but I think it's unfair to punish the client for that. It is probably better for all involved if you find an acceptable rate and then just focus on translating texts you can do at that rate until you gain enough experience and speed to expand your repertoire -- at that point you'll be able to judge the difficulty of a text more easily, and you'll be able to judge the market more easily, so you can recognise a user and abuser like this agency and not even waste your time with them.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:13
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
0.045 $ Oct 23

That is too low in any currency. The actual rate you might end up receive also depends on how they intend to pay you, e. g. PayPal, check, bank transfer.

Also, please keep in mind that, once you've accepted such a low rate, your client will expect you to stick to it, thus making it very difficult to increase your rate in the future.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:13
Member (2008)
Italian to English
It doesn't matter Oct 23

Whether this is your first job or your millionth job, it doesn't matter; the translation must be of supremely good quality.

There is no such thing as charging less for a bad translation. No translation should ever be bad.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@NC Oct 23

ncforman wrote:
I quoted 0.10 because from what I've read the general consensus is that beginners or pros can charge whatever they like, as long as the job is done to a high quality.


That is true, but if you want to get work, you have to charge a rate that your intended clients are willing to pay. This can mean charging different rates to different types of clients (e.g. individuals vs agencies, location of the client, etc.).

I do think 0.10 is steep for a novice.


It's tempting to believe that novices should charge less, but from a business perspective, you should start by charging the average or higher than the average.

Don't think "I"ll raise my rates later" or "I'll start low to get a foot in the door", because your aim should be to get regular clients, and regular clients want to pay the same rate throughout their relationship with you. So if you start low, you'll end up with too many low-paying clients who aren't willing to follow you as you increase your rate. Then, when you do increase your rate, you'll lose so many clients that you'll basically have to start building a client base from scratch.

He then suggested 0.04! I deal in £ so that just seems crazy to me. I said 0.06 was my minimum and he increased to 0.045.


This is simply a low-paying client. If you're desperate for work, you can accept his rate, but don't lower your usual rate just because of a few low-paying clients.

During negotiations, you dropped your rate from 0.10 to 0.06, after an offer of 0.4. You met the client's offer more than halfway. Why did you do that?

Is it also fair to suggest the price depends on the type of text?


Only indirectly. The rate should pay for the time and effort you spend on the job, and some types of text take more time and require more effort to translate. But it's not easy (or reliable) to try to classify text types for the purpose of determining a rate.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:13
Member
English to French
How much is your time worth? Oct 23

You would earn 45.00 translating 1000 words/hour, and 13.50 translating 300 words/hour. Whatever your word rate, your hourly rate must be sustainable.

If you want to compare hourly earnings as self-employed with hourly earnings as a full-time employee, divide by two to account for business expenses, taxes, pension, contributions, sick leave, paid holidays, etc. and everything you fund yourself instead of your boss/company. So if you earn EUR/GBP/USD20.00 (gross) per hour of your work, in effect you compare to the earnings of a unqualified full-time employee in Europe.

Moreover, if you advertise 0.10 only to lower it by 40% as soon as a prospect tells you you're expensive, it doesn't sound very serious. Negociate and try not to lower your rates without anything in return (payment terms, bank expenses, min fee, urgency fee, discount grid, specific content...)

The general consensus in this business (like any other for-profit organisation) is to charge as much as you can while being able to find a steady flow of customers who pay what you expect. I assume Harcourt can charge more than other photographers because they can.

A bit of trial and error is needed, but don't draw conclusions on one sample only. In my language pair, most agencies tell me that 0.08 is the going rate. It may mean that half of the business is below 0.08 and the other half above. I aim at the half above.

Philippe


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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:13
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
How about their Blueboard entries? Oct 23

ncforman wrote:

I got an email through from what I believe is an agency.


Did you check their Blueboard entries? They may not only pay peanuts, but also late or not at all.
Almost any outsourcer with a score less than 5 is questionable.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
No Oct 23

When you start, any work is useful experience, and not much money is better than no money.

Don't listen to those who say it'll then be next to impossible to put your prices up; it's not true.

Bear in mind that pretty much everyone active on this forum (including me) is a relatively high-end translator, so it's all too easy for us to be a bit pious about low rates.

That said, you should probably make sure you are up to average rates by the end of your first year.

IMHO.


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:13
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
Plus date of payment, "discounts", etc. Oct 23

Thayenga wrote:

That is too low in any currency. The actual rate you might end up receive also depends on how they intend to pay you, e. g. PayPal, check, bank transfer.


In addition to the rate itself and expenses to receive your payment, also take into consideration things such as the date of payment and the "discounts" for fuzzy matches they are likely going to apply (together with the CAT tool you should be using), and even the terms of the agreement(s) they'll have you sign, as some nasty surprises might be hidden in there as well...

Also, just for reference, there are crowdsourced translation portals around that pay $.09 per word...


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:13
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
"Good" translation comes in all forms Oct 23

Tom in London wrote:

Whether this is your first job or your millionth job, it doesn't matter; the translation must be of supremely good quality.

There is no such thing as charging less for a bad translation. No translation should ever be bad.


No one is suggesting charging for a bad translation. You would agree, though, that since a good translation often comes down to style, and every translator's style is different, and every client's needs are different, that two translators can create translations that are of good quality, and yet one might be better than the other? Either better because the client likes it more, or better because the style is more closely aligned with the client's ultimate end goal, or just better because one translator was more "in the zone" that week and wrote a more eloquent rendition, etc. etc. etc.

I've seen lots of good translations over the years. All were definitely good, totally fine translations of professional standard, but some of those were better than others. Usually that came down to the experience of the translator, the translator's level of knowledge about the subject at hand, the translator's individual writing style, or some other factor like that.

What a client considers "supremely good quality" may differ drastically from your own personal assessment of the translations. Some clients -- I'm not talking about bottom-feeders here -- don't need a beautiful translation, they just need a functional translation. Or they have specific requests that ultimately hinder the "perfect" translation, and they don't care because they want what they want. If they want specific terminology even though it's slightly less idiomatic, does that make the translator a poor-quality translator when they deliver exactly what the client wants and receive great feedback from the client about it? It seems that many translators want to think that they create "always perfect" translations of impeccable quality, but the reality is that we all have clients with different demands and we all have varying levels of skill and experience and that will all affect our final product -- so there will always be someone who can do it better and someone who can't do it better than you, but can still produce a good translation.

Well those are my views anyway. Bring on the onslaught of indignant "artistes".


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:13
French to English
Low starting rates? Oct 23

It is no doubt helpful for you to see that opinions diverge. There is truth in all of those opinions depending on a whole host of factors.

When I started out in 1994, I set my own rates with direct clients and accepted the rate offered by the couple of agent clients that I worked with. I soon dropped the agents. Agents have to cover their costs, but if you can have direct clients, you can cut out the middle man. That means you accept full responsibility for your work. It is also a good idea to have it proofread, certainly in the early days, to make sure that your texts reads well. That's a cost you need to cover also.

You cannot and should not work at a loss. It is likely that whatever type of set-up you have, almost one half of what you receive will cover compulsory contributions and other costs/expenses. If you are not charging enough, half of not enough is commercial suicide. You need to ask yourself if you can survive on USD0.02/word net. I suspect you know the answer already.

It might be a way to gain a source of work initially, and you might be able to have that rate increased after a year or so. A rates review deadline should be included in your agreement with the agent. It will not be sufficient to survive on as a regular rate with all clients. You will to have a number of other clients who pay something close to the usual market rate.

In my experience, if a client has your services at USD0.04/word, why should he accept to start paying at least double that one year later? His easy solution is to drop you and simply find another translator who acepts that rate. In fact, the chances are that once you have found other clients ready to pay a decent rate, you will be the one to drop that first client who is not prepared to pay a normal rate.


[Edited at 2017-10-23 10:51 GMT]


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Gloria Teixeira
Brazil
Local time: 19:13
French to Portuguese
+ ...
The rates Oct 23

My first translation was in 2010, I didn't know anything about the translation market and much less about the agencies. Many people take advantage of the translators without experience because they know they are desperate for First job.
In my case was no different, a customer offered me USD 0.02/Word, it was a price far below the table they were offering, at the time had bills to pay and the value did not cover my debts, I informed the client that I could not accept this value and offered a new USD 0.04 /Word, it was still down. The customer reviewed and accepted the proposal from USD 0.04/Word. It was a low price, but I gained experience and reference.
Today I speak to a translator without experience, which should be valued and caution, because the customer will charge an inexperienced translator who is subject to low value in the same proportion that he charges an experienced translator who works according to the paid table

[Editada em 2017-10-23 20:14 GMT]

[Editada em 2017-10-23 20:18 GMT]


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:13
German to English
A contrarian view Oct 23

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

It might be a way to gain a source of work initially, and you might be able to have that rate increased after a year or so. A rates review deadline should be included in your agreement with the agent. It will not be sufficient to survive on as a regular rate with all clients. You will to have a number of other clients who pay something close to the usual market rate.


A client paying .04/word has little reasonable expectation of high quality. I might suggest working for such agencies for a while until you actually learn how to translate. Even if you have a natural talent for this kind of work, it takes a while to master the craft of translation. At four cents/word, there should be plenty of work available, as long as you don't expect to support yourself translating right away (for many translators, even those getting a decent rate, it takes months, even a year to make a living wage).

Another piece of advice: never take a rush job from a new client, as you will forever find yourself in rush job hell with that client, as many Proz members have experienced to their regret.


[Edited at 2017-10-23 19:03 GMT]


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:13
French to English
Not necessarily Oct 23

On another thread on this forum, a translator submitted a translation he'd done for 0.04€/word. The agent complained that the translation was not of good quality and actually had the cheek to ask the freelancer to accept half the agreed rate. That was quite unreasonable of course. Apparently, the translation was done by a freelancer translating from his mother tongue, something the aggency was aware of. That is a little 'hors sujet' but it illustrates a point.

The point I'm wishing to make is that even when an agency pays low rates, they sometimes expect good quality work, even when the conditions agreed would be clear to most professionals that there is a risk that will not be the case. And some agencies just have low rates period.

As Kevin points out, some work can be better than no work, but don't expect to make a living from under-par rates.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:13
Member (2008)
French to English
Price per word vs price per hour Oct 23

ncforman wrote:

I do think 0.10 is steep for a novice.


No, you have it back to front. When you say 0.10, you're talking price per word, not per hour. A novice will have to spend much more time doing the job, but still has to produce the same quality. More time will be needed for research and cleaning up the final product, so you might end up with half the hourly rate, or less, than an experienced translator. But the per-word rate should remain the same! As you gain experience you will speed up, and that's how you will be able to increase your income.

The other thing to understand is that raising or lowering your price does not necessarily bring in more or less work. Rather it attracts a different kind of client. High-end clients expect a perfect job, often of a specialty, and they are willing to pay for it. The same principle applies, however, that a less-experienced translator will need to spend more time researching and working on the text to get it right, so their hourly rate will be lower, but that doesn't mean the per-word rate should be lower.

[Edited at 2017-10-23 17:38 GMT]


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