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Poll: Should beginning translators/interpreters charge lower rates?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

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Aug 14, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Should beginning translators/interpreters charge lower rates?".

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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:06
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
Good question Aug 14, 2012

But it's not really about what you should charge; what matters is what you can charge. Rookies may find it harder to find work at premium rates, even if experience doesn't always determine ability.

 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:06
French to English
I voted No Aug 14, 2012

Equal pay for work of equal value.

When you start out, you are generally slower. Obviously, your work is likely to be less fluid than that of an experienced colleague. The big problem is when you get "up to speed" and quality, how do you suddenly say that you are increasing your rates? If you ask a lower rate, does that indicate that you are expecting your client to expect work of a lower quality?

It is hard to build up your reputation, to obtain and maintain a steady flow of work. Selling yourself short is not the right way to go about it. Chances are you are going to take longer to churn decent work out and that is penalty enough.

Increased quality and speed will be rewarded by increased work. That's the theory at least!

I can't imagine saying to a client : hey, I'm not sure of my work here, so I'll charge you a lower rate. Half the rate, half the quality, twice the possibility of ending up in court? No way! Take your time, do the best job you can. You'll be rewarded sooner or later.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Aug 14, 2012

It all depends on how you define "should" ... and how desperate you are to find work.

This is a toughie. In general, I am usually prepared to lower my own rates slightly if I really want to get a particular job , for example if I am interested in the subject matter or the client in question, so I don't see why a beginner shouldn't also be able to offer introductory rates (some colleagues, I'm sure, will strongly disagree).

If you are really anxious to start up, then you may be prepared to accept fees that more seasoned translators would pooh-pooh, but the danger is that once you are working for low rates it will probably be hard to get the client/s to accept a raise at a later date.


 

Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 17:06
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Other Aug 14, 2012

Remuneration basically depends on the level of quality of the finished product.

If the beginner translator comes from a specialist background or has researched the subject thoroughly, has understood the source text well AND can write well, then he/she should receive payment commensurate with his/her abilities.
Alternatively, if he/she delivers a sub-par job, then lower rates should be applied.

As Simon quite righly points out, experience and quality do not always go hand in hand. It's quality that dictates rates in the long run -- at least I would like to think so. icon_smile.gif


 

dasein_wm  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 10:06
Italian to English
+ ...
Other Aug 14, 2012

Depends on the level of preparation that the 'new' translator is bringing with them.
That preparation may include experience in a given field of expertise, scholarly achievements, in-depth research into the translation industry, training, or, simply, good business sense, among other things.

Just because a person is new to the field of translation doesn't imply that he or she is unfamiliar with the concepts/materials presented for translation. Actually, it should almost never be that way.

I imagine most people starting out in translation have questions about what rates are acceptable/standard to charge for services. Should they charge lower rates? That seems like an obligation to do so which is incompatible with the whole concept of freelancing.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:06
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Absolutely not Aug 14, 2012

A translation is worth the same to the client, no matter who does it.

Some jobs call for less specialisation than others, and presumably many beginners will start with those while they gather experience and build up specialist knowledge. Those jobs are naturally not among the highest paid as a rule.

However, some beginners do have specialist knowledge, and even then may need to work with a mentor or terminology consultant, or at least spend more time checking their work.

All that is of no concern to the client, as long as the result is fit for its purpose.

Delivering substandard work is unprofessional if not unethical. Taking on work at a lower price only leads clients to expect they can get it at a low rate another time. If they are content with cheap and dirty, then let them use MT.

Of course, in the real world there are different markets and less clear-cut situations, and many other shades of grey.

But in principle you jump in at the deep end, and you have to swim from the start like everyone else. No boss comes along after a couple of years and tells a freelancer: ‘You’re doing fine, so we’ll give you a pay rise.’ Your clients will say: ‘You were happy enough last year – what do you want to put your rates up for? We have expenses too…’

The rates you charge as a beginner are likely to be the rates you have to live with for a long time. So you have to charge the full rate like everyone else and not let clients think there is a cheap way to quality.

Happy translating!


[Edited at 2012-08-14 09:50 GMT]


 

Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:06
German to English
+ ...
No Aug 14, 2012

Assuming that "beginning translators" (I cannot speak for interpreters, since I have no experience in that area) have successfully completed a university bachelor course in translation, and have accreditation from a recognised translators' association, then they are qualified and trained to do the job.

Beginning translators do need to take more time to do the job, though, and take extra care to check their work thoroughly at least three times before delivery. This means not accepting "urgent" work.

Translators just starting out should not be afraid to ask questions in fora such this one.
Experienced translators, by the same token, need to help them, by, for example, not biting their heads off when they ask "simple questions" on KudoZ.


 

Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:06
Member (2006)
German to English
No Aug 14, 2012

Allison Wright wrote:

Assuming that "beginning translators" (I cannot speak for interpreters, since I have no experience in that area) have successfully completed a university bachelor course in translation, and have accreditation from a recognised translators' association, then they are qualified and trained to do the job.




I have said no, but only if they are able to deliver the same quality of work as an "experienced" translator / interpreter.

And Alison, completely disagree with you there about the university qualifications. I have dealt with translators that have a university degree and are highly qualified, but I had to have the translation re-translated as they had no idea about the real world - and this has happened a couple of times.


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 10:06
English to Russian
+ ...
Rates depend on knowledge of special topics Aug 14, 2012

Assuming that "beginning translators" (I cannot speak for interpreters, since I have no experience in that area) have successfully completed a university bachelor course in translation, and have accreditation from a recognised translators' association, then they are qualified and trained to do the job.

I beg to differ. They may be qualified and trained to do simple assignments, which will fetch them a moderate rate. Give them a premium-rate job like a clinical study protocol, or an aircraft flight manual, or a seismic survey report, and they will fail miserably unless they have a relevant professional background. That's exaclty where the rate difference comes from.


 

Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:06
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Agree with Julian Aug 14, 2012

Julian Holmes wrote:

Remuneration basically depends on the level of quality of the finished product.



Exactly!


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:06
French to English
Experience = quality? Not necessarily! Aug 14, 2012

I've seen some pretty experienced translators turn out some pretty bad quality work. I still do! Some with little experience write well and produce good quality work.
Ultimately, it comes down to the difficulty of a few factors combined, including knowing what work to accept and decline, so that your learning curve enables you to gain experience and improve without using the clients as guinea pigs. One of the great features of translation is how you learn all the time but your client is not to suffer your learning curve, you are!

Experience and common sense, together with specialist knowledge not to mention sheer ability, come together in being able to produce a professional result. In translation, as with anything else, the danger arises when you do not recognize that you are way off target. Working a little out of your comfort zone makes you progress. Working permanently within in it can make you stagnate and overlook certain things. Striking a balance is the trick to it all.

I mean, we all learn all the time, don't we? The title of the question is an example for my British English. I did not know you could say" beginning translator" as in the UK, we would say "beginner translator". Beginning is something to do, a beginner is something you are. This morning I learnt that in the US, you can be a beginning! Drum roll!!!

[Edited at 2012-08-14 11:29 GMT] In fact, we'd probably say it quite differently altogether : a fledgling translator, a novice translator, a new translator, whatever. Even "beginner translator" sounds odd to my odd GB ears.

[Edited at 2012-08-14 11:30 GMT]


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:06
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Exactly! Aug 14, 2012

Emma Goldsmith wrote:

Julian Holmes wrote:

Remuneration basically depends on the level of quality of the finished product.



Exactly!


icon_smile.gif


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:06
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
A word (rate) is a word (rate) Aug 14, 2012

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

I've seen some pretty experienced translators turn out some pretty bad quality work. I still do! Some with little experience write well and produce good quality work.
Ultimately, it comes down to the difficulty of a few factors combined, including knowing what work to accept and decline, so that your learning curve enables you to gain experience and improve without using the clients as guinea pigs. One of the great features of translation is how you learn all the time but your client is not to suffer your learning curve, you are!



Just because someone is a "freshman/woman"icon_smile.gif in the business doesn't automatically imply that their knowledge of how to translate accurately is "poorer" than that of their colleagues with an X-number of years of experience.

In fact, those who have just earned their degree in translation still have the "you-must-do-it-right" mentality instilled from their exams. This is a plus, as is the perhaps existing uncertainty, which causes beginners to look up words more frequently than long-standing translators.

In any case, being new to a profession doesn't justify lower rates.... although many beginners believe that they should offer lower rates to establish themselves in the community of translators, or, which can become a genuine problem, for fear of not getting any work.


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:06
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Beginning translators Aug 14, 2012

I think a good strategy for beginning translators would be to charge a normal rate, but to not charge a minimum fee. They would get a ton of nice small jobs to gain experience because agencies will save money; they would not anger experienced translators who generally don't like these kinds of projects anyway; eventually a few of these agencies will offer them larger projects (at normal rate) and they can slowly introduce a minimum charge.

[Edited at 2012-08-14 12:06 GMT]


 
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