What is the max per word rate agencies will pay translators? PT>EN
Thread poster: MMarcus

MMarcus
Australia
Local time: 17:24
Portuguese to English
Dec 29, 2017

I've been working part-time for a translation agency during the past 3 years while I desperately rushed to graduate with a degree in biotech and commerce. Long story short, I've finally managed to graduate this past October and I'm now trying to make this my full-time job.

I translate mainly scientific manuscripts (life sciences - with a focus on agriculture, biology, biotechnology and biochemistry) that are going to be published in international journals. Current per word rate is 0.04 cents (I know, I know, I'm doing a disservice to the industry but hear me out before you put me on blast).

I'm in the process of sending my CV out to other agencies though I'm not sure what is the max per word rate translation agencies would be willing to pay their translators. I'm aware it caps at some per word rate and in order to charge more I'd have to get my own clients....but at which per word rate does it cap? What is a realistic per word rate that is better than 0.04 cents that I should be asking?


To make this viable I'd need to make at least U$2.500 per month to cover my living expenses. I thought about 0.07-0.08 cents per word could work for me depending on the amount of work I get and how much it deviates from my area of expertise.

But I guess now, to my question, what is the likelihood any agency will pay this much (0.07-0.08) for a translator with 3 years of experience translating in the life sciences?

thoughts?


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:24
French to English
Rates Dec 30, 2017

Rates depend on so many factors : rarity of the language pair, knowledege, experience and ability.

You have specialist knowledge and experience, perhaps not tons of experience. However, in your specialist field, you are a much better bet than someone without precise field knowledge. To do a good job, you have to understand what you are translating and know what choices to make in your native tongue translation. Those skills are ones you possess and they have value.

As you have accepted 0,04€ with one client, they have no reason to pay you more. It is less than half what you ought to be invoicing. You might continue with them for the time being on the basis that some income is better than none, but be wary of working yourself into a low-rates trap that you cannot get out of. Pitch your price at something that is at least twice that with new agencies. You might not have 20 years' experience either, but you are likeely to be slower than someone who has. That is penalising enough. So pitch your rates at a professional level.

As for direct clients, you probably already know a few names that might be interested. Contact them directly and pitch your price at least three times what you are invoicing now to the agent.

Agencies provide work and they have to make a profit too. However, you have good qualifications, you have experience and that has a price, a price higher than the one you are currently accecpting. There comes a time when you have to take a stand and if you are to live from translation - although it depends where you live, the type pf work you do and whether you use CAT tools or not - there is a strong chance you will not go very far on 0,04€ per word.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:24
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
To start with Dec 30, 2017

Always start with a higher rate, e. g. 0.12 - 0.15 USD. If an agency is interested in working with you, they will state the rate they're willing or able to pay, and you can start negotiating from there until you reach an agreement that serves both of you.icon_wink.gif

Starting out with a rate of 0.07/0.08 USD leaves no room for negotiations. You know what you need to earn net in order to make a decent living. Keep in mind that once you agree to a low rate, it will be very difficult to raise it later on.

Much success in 2018!


 

MMarcus
Australia
Local time: 17:24
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Nikki Dec 31, 2017

As you have accepted 0,04€ with one client, they have no reason to pay you more.


Agree, I’ve come to this rather sad realisation after speaking to a senior translator that had been with the same agency for 6 years and they flat out refused to increase his base rate.

Pitch your price at something that is at least twice that with new agencies. You might not have 20 years' experience either, but you are likeely to be slower than someone who has. That is penalising enough. So pitch your rates at a professional level.


This is a problem for me. I can do, on average, 1300 words/day on a good day if I get work in my area. However, more often than not I’ve been given work outside of my area of expertise (which I mostly refuse). But, It took me 5 days to translate a 4K words math-heavy financial market paper and I gotta say It’s just not worth the time. I’ve also been sent law related material which I flat out refuse to take. It’s also mind blowing that they’d send law related material to someone that is not a specialist in this area.


There comes a time when you have to take a stand and if you are to live from translation - although it depends where you live, the type pf work you do and whether you use CAT tools or not - there is a strong chance you will not go very far on 0,04€ per word.


Amen to that.

[Edited at 2017-12-31 02:40 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-12-31 05:52 GMT]


 

MMarcus
Australia
Local time: 17:24
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thayenga Dec 31, 2017

Thayenga wrote:

Always start with a higher rate, e. g. 0.12 - 0.15 USD. If an agency is interested in working with you, they will state the rate they're willing or able to pay, and you can start negotiating from there until you reach an agreement that serves both of you.icon_wink.gif

Starting out with a rate of 0.07/0.08 USD leaves no room for negotiations. You know what you need to earn net in order to make a decent living. Keep in mind that once you agree to a low rate, it will be very difficult to raise it later on.

Much success in 2018!


Most agencies have some sort of registration where you're required to specify your rates right of the bat. I'm wary of asking for 0.15, for instance, before they even contact me as I'm ensure they would even look at my application based on that. Anyways, I think you're right though, I'll try this out and see how it goes but rest assured I won't be accepting anything less than 0.08U$.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:24
French to English
Registration processes Dec 31, 2017

I have seen this trend too. A number of agencies require registration online and clearly state that if you pitch a price above a certain level, you will not be contacted. Others simply set their system with a specific maximum rate above which it is impossible to enter anything other than an extremely low rate. I have seen this with a maximum set so low that no self-respecting translator would complete registration. Shame on the agencies that work this way, insisting on a masters degree and at least 5 years' translation experience. I simply hope they get what they deserve.

 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:24
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Yes, they do Dec 31, 2017

MMarcus wrote:

Most agencies have some sort of registration where you're required to specify your rates right of the bat. I'm wary of asking for 0.15, for instance, before they even contact me as I'm ensure they would even look at my application based on that. Anyways, I think you're right though, I'll try this out and see how it goes but rest assured I won't be accepting anything less than 0.08U$.


Unfortunately, many agencies require the translator to register and state the rate before anything happens. I've come across these, and simply decided not to register with them. Instead I sent them emails stating my rate range - yes, I do give them this optionicon_wink.gif - and asked them to contact me as soon as a suitable project becomes available. Once in a while I receive a reply and a specific project and then, and only then, did I register on their site.

One of the reasons why I never sign up without a project at hand is because I don't want to be a "little fish" in their huge pool of translators. Most probably most of them are never getting any work from them.

@ Nikki
They most probably will get what they're asking for.icon_biggrin.gif

Happy New Year to you and much success and... well paying clients.icon_wink.gif


 

Juliano Martins  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:24
Member (2008)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Over 0.06 USD is possible Dec 31, 2017

I think you could start working in other fields as well. This way, you would have more client options. And increasing your number of clients would help increasing your rates in the long run.

I earned over 5K USD per month on average in 2017.

I have a channel on YouTube where I give translation tips. It’s called “Viver de Tradução”.


 

MMarcus
Australia
Local time: 17:24
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
@Nikki, Thayenga, Juliano Jan 1

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote

... insisting on a masters degree and at least 5 years' translation experience...


I came across similar ludicrous requirements and was just like..Ok, Bye Felicia

Thayenga wrote:

...I've come across these, and simply decided not to register with them. Instead I sent them emails stating my rate range - yes, I do give them this option - and asked them to contact me as soon as a suitable project becomes available...


Interesting, I'll try this out and see how it goes.

Juliano Martins wrote:

I think you could start working in other fields as well. This way, you would have more client options. And increasing your number of clients would help increasing your rates in the long run.

I earned over 5K USD per month on average in 2017.

I have a channel on YouTube where I give translation tips. It’s called “Viver de Tradução”.


I agree with you but I'd have to take some training courses to get familiar with the vocabulary in other fields. The few jobs I've accepted outside my area, while the final work turned out just fine, weren't worth my time. I appreciate you telling me you average income for 2017. It's great to have an idea of what is an isn't possible. I'll check out your channel!


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:24
German to English
Why agencies? Jan 3

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

As for direct clients, you probably already know a few names that might be interested. Contact them directly and pitch your price at least three times what you are invoicing now to the agent.



You might be able to eke a subsistence livelihood out of working for agencies, but I doubt it. At 1300 words/day on a good day - you would be fantastically lucky to average 1000 words/weekday over the course of a year if you work on an even remotely normal and sustainable schedule. Even if you only only take weekends and 10 days of vacation/holidays/sick days off per year and have an extremely steady workload, you'd have to earn 0.12/ word just to come arrive at pre-tax, pre-expenses sales of 30.000/ year.

On the other hand, you can charge clients from your field more than they would be willing to pay any generalist agency, and you won't have to share it with anyone. Anyone smart enough to get a PhD in biochemistry should not be dumb enough to go to a generalist agency to get their paper translated for an international journal or conference. Any company capable of making billions in the field of biotech should not be incompetent enough to fail to invest a few hundred extra euros in getting competent translations. Obviously, a lot of individuals and companies do manage this feat, but I'm sure there is a giant sellers' market out there for what you are offering.

In the short term, you should make sure that everyone you know from your studies, internships, etc. knows that you are now translating. You should also reach out to agencies specialized specifically in your fields or in closely related fields, and you should also reach out to colleagues, particularly EN>PT colleagues specializing in your field, so that they know you are out there. In the medium term you should probably focus on finding your own direct clients. It's hard to get started, but if you're good and dedicated, things will take care of themselves within a few years.

As far as price goes, it's fine to start low (and I would say USD 0.12 is already suspiciously low for quality-conscious direct clients with pretty specific needs) and then build your way up as you get to know your market.
I think the into-English market is also generally easier, because there are fewer specialists able to produce convincing results and they are competing within a much higher-volume market. (Most Portuguese-speaking biochemists probably have excellent English comprehension skills [particularly in their field], the job market is still fairly desperate in Portugal [and presumably Brazil] and how often do biochemistry papers get translated from English into Portuguese [as opposed to your direction]?)


 


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