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Am I wrong? (hourly rate discussion)
Thread poster: Margarida Batista

Margarida Batista
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Jan 14

Hello everyone,

I am giving freelance translation another shot after a few years since I have last done it. In the past I have had trouble understanding how fair some situations may be and I have once again found myself in an uncomfortable position. I feel that I need help and advice from more experienced professionals, which is why I thought of starting by resorting to these forums, hoping that’s ok.

A few years ago I did an unpaid internship for a literary agency, t
... See more
Hello everyone,

I am giving freelance translation another shot after a few years since I have last done it. In the past I have had trouble understanding how fair some situations may be and I have once again found myself in an uncomfortable position. I feel that I need help and advice from more experienced professionals, which is why I thought of starting by resorting to these forums, hoping that’s ok.

A few years ago I did an unpaid internship for a literary agency, translating and writing synopses and pitches for some of the publishers they represent. They are based in the US while I am based in Portugal. A few weeks ago, I decided to reach out to them and ask if they would be interested in having me work for them once again. They responded, asking about my expectations in terms of hourly rates. I stated in my response that I would expect a standard hourly rate of $30-$35 for translations and we could discuss the matter further in terms of writing pitches/synopses, depending on the lenght and complexity of the content they would be looking for.

They response to this was that their current collaborators have master’s degrees in publishing and are paid $11 (10€) an hour, and that the rates I presented made no sense to them.

I am a little baffled. Did I drop the ball on this one? Are the hourly rates I presented really unreasonable? Am I wrong in thinking that $11 is far too low?

Thank you for your attention, in advance. Any input will be appreciated.

P.S.: I have a degree in English and Portuguese studies, which are the languages I translate to and from. I have only some experience as a freelance translator, but nearly 3 years of experience translating and creating written content for my current full-time employer.
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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:21
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
SITE LOCALIZER
@Margarida Jan 14

Margarida Batista wrote:
They response to this was that their current collaborators have master’s degrees in publishing and are paid $11 (10€) an hour, and that the rates I presented made no sense to them.


No, what they're saying is rubbish. I suppose there are US agencies that do pay such rates, and there are translators who work for them and actually accept such rates, but it makes no sense to work for such a rate. Perhaps these collaborators are academics who do the work in their spare time and do not realise that a professional hourly rate is $20, $30, $50, $80 etc.

Even if we assume that these other editors are full-time salaried staff and not freelancers, the math doesn't fly:
$11 x 7.5 hours x 5 days x 4 weeks x 12 months = roughly $25-35 000 gross per year
And freelancers need to earn more per year than salaried staff to make the same ends meet.

Are the hourly rates I presented really unreasonable?


No, your hourly rates are actually on the low side.


[Edited at 2020-01-14 18:33 GMT]


Noilin
Laura Kingdon
Sheila Wilson
Melanie Meyer
Katya Kesten
Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
Vera Schoen
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Know the market and your absolute minimum Jan 14

Margarida, a common sense and a short research of 'averages' reveal that a high-qualified specialist should earn more than a McDonald's freshmen (as they offered you), especially in a developed country.

REMEMBER: You offer not a PEMT or mere wordcount, but a turnkey solution--a worthy and valuable service.

Perhaps, they just check whether you are very needy or biz aware enough, trying to put you under businesswise. However, I'd rather say goodbye and find bette
... See more
Margarida, a common sense and a short research of 'averages' reveal that a high-qualified specialist should earn more than a McDonald's freshmen (as they offered you), especially in a developed country.

REMEMBER: You offer not a PEMT or mere wordcount, but a turnkey solution--a worthy and valuable service.

Perhaps, they just check whether you are very needy or biz aware enough, trying to put you under businesswise. However, I'd rather say goodbye and find better clients)

Even if you don't have a real (not linguistic) specialty, you still can consider rewriting, transcreation, copywriting, mentoring, or consulting as diversification.
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Katya Kesten
Philippe Etienne
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
@Margarida Jan 14

Traditionally, publishers pay very little and as I’ve never done literary translation I must say that I have no idea what the usual rate is. I was even under the impression that they pay per word and not per hour.

 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 13:21
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
You can't work with everyone Jan 14

Your rate doesn't work for them, and theirs doesn't work for you. End of story. Happens all the time in every industry. As long as you're not struggling to find work, that's all the justification you need. You might even benefit from it someday, if you ever decide to publish a book.

[Edited at 2020-01-14 11:45 GMT]


Wout Van den Broeck
Sheila Wilson
Teresa Borges
Dan Lucas
ahartje
Hedwig Spitzer Cáceres
Michele Fauble
 

Margarida Batista
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Teresa Jan 14

Hi Teresa, thank you for your input.

Teresa Borges wrote:
I was even under the impression that they pay per word and not per hour.


I am indeed more experienced in working with per word rates rather than per hour - one of the main reasons why I came here to seek advice. I came up with the rate I presented by doing some calculations + online research + considering my own experience, and I was afraid that I may have completely missed the mark.


 

Margarida Batista
Portugal
Local time: 05:21
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Lincoln Jan 14

Hi Lincoln, thank you for your input.

Lincoln Hui wrote:

Your rate doesn't work for them, and theirs doesn't work for you. End of story. Happens all the time in every industry.


I understand that there is a high chance that I will disagree with some potential clients' proposed rates and vice-versa. My concerns weren't so much related to the reason why there is a disagreement, but more so as to whether I was in the wrong for my rate proposal in this context, as there was such a discrepancy between mine and their expectations and my experience as a freelance translator has been based on per word rates rather than per hour.

In the end, I am seeking to learn from this. I really appreciate everyone's clarification so far.


Machteld Sohier
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:21
Member (2018)
French to English
. Jan 14

Margarida, the rates they are paying in the US is the reason why so many Americans work two or three jobs just to pay their bills...

Jean Lachaud
Jan Truper
 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:21
Member (2008)
French to English
+ ...
US rates for employed translators Jan 14

Here are some rates for employed (not freelance) translators in the US:

https://www.indeed.com/salaries/translator-Salaries

Freelance rates are higher, since freelancers have to cover their own benefits and often do not have a full schedule.

Bear in mind these are average salaries, as the chart shows, they can be much higher.

$11 an hour is b
... See more
Here are some rates for employed (not freelance) translators in the US:

https://www.indeed.com/salaries/translator-Salaries

Freelance rates are higher, since freelancers have to cover their own benefits and often do not have a full schedule.

Bear in mind these are average salaries, as the chart shows, they can be much higher.

$11 an hour is below minimum wage in some states, so this is not a typical wage for an academic. It is the client that doesn't make sense, not you.

[Edited at 2020-01-14 20:18 GMT]
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Laura Kingdon
Wout Van den Broeck
Machteld Sohier
 

Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:21
English to French
+ ...
low salaries Jan 14

@53-something k$/year, NYC Dept of Education translators surely don't live in the city.


John Fossey wrote:

Here are some rates for employed (not freelance) translators in the US:

https://www.indeed.com/salaries/translator-Salaries

Freelance rates are higher, since freelancers have to cover their own benefits and often do not have a full schedule.

Bear in mind these are average salaries, as the chart shows, they can be much higher.

$11 an hour is below minimum wage in some states, so this is not a typical wage for an academic. It is the client that doesn't make sense, not you.

[Edited at 2020-01-14 20:18 GMT]


 

Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
How much does a cleaning lady earn in your country? Jan 14

Margarida Batista wrote:

They response to this was that their current collaborators have master’s degrees in publishing and are paid $11 (10€) an hour, and that the rates I presented made no sense to them.



In addition she will have at least social security contributions and paid holidays and her professional expenses are near zero. Also, she will be paid if she falls ill.

10 € an hour is pure nonsense for a freelancer.


 

Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:21
English to French
+ ...
You don't know anything about the labor situation in the USA, do you? Jan 14

Christel Zipfel wrote:




Yolanda Broad
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
RE> You don't know anything about the labor situation in the USA Jan 15

Jean, your average rate makes from $38 ($0.11-$0.15/word × approx. 350 words a page/hour) to $60, so if it's not just a condescending remark, could you elaborate on this?

Thank you


Anhilgen
 

Laurent Mercky
France
Local time: 06:21
Member (2019)
Chinese to French
+ ...
Nothing wrong Jan 16

Margarida Batista wrote:

Hello everyone,

A few years ago I did an unpaid internship for a literary agency, translating and writing synopses and pitches for some of the publishers they represent. They are based in the US while I am based in Portugal. A few weeks ago, I decided to reach out to them and ask if they would be interested in having me work for them once again. They responded, asking about my expectations in terms of hourly rates. I stated in my response that I would expect a standard hourly rate of $30-$35 for translations and we could discuss the matter further in terms of writing pitches/synopses, depending on the lenght and complexity of the content they would be looking for.

They response to this was that their current collaborators have master’s degrees in publishing and are paid $11 (10€) an hour, and that the rates I presented made no sense to them.

I am a little baffled. Did I drop the ball on this one? Are the hourly rates I presented really unreasonable? Am I wrong in thinking that $11 is far too low?

Thank you for your attention, in advance. Any input will be appreciated.

P.S.: I have a degree in English and Portuguese studies, which are the languages I translate to and from. I have only some experience as a freelance translator, but nearly 3 years of experience translating and creating written content for my current full-time employer.


Hi
You did nothing wrong. Specially for hourly rates.
So, if you refuse, it would be absolutely logical and you can look for other contracts with other agencies.
Or maybe you could just try to negotiate, telling them you are highly specialized and competent and lowering a little bit (like 25$/h).
But anyway, to hire you or to get hired is not a legal obligation for any side.


 

Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Jordan
Arabic to English
+ ...
Re: Situation in the US Jan 16

I don't want to speak on behalf of Jean, but I think she meant that none of the following is a reality for cleaning ladies in the US:

"In addition she will have at least social security contributions and paid holidays and her professional expenses are near zero. Also, she will be paid if she falls ill."


Yolanda Broad
 
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