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

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 14:01
SITE STAFF
Oct 4, 2015

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

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:01
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
No and yes Oct 4, 2015

I hesitated before I answered, because in some ways it's unfair. I don't think the concept should apply to interpreters because they perform the same task regardless of their experience.

With translators, on the other hand, most beginners simply aren't bringing the same skill set to the table. I recently finished a translation on the economic aspects of the minimum wage. It's a well recognized concept in business that fist-time employees and/or young people (under 20) do not qualify for the same pay. I think it would be highly unusual for a beginning translator to produce as good a product as a seasoned translator.

Certainly in an in-house setting the veteran would be more productive and would have better command of the lingo/terminology.

[Edited at 2015-10-04 08:31 GMT]


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 22:01
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No Oct 4, 2015

They should charge the same rate if they are able to deliver the same quality of work as an "experienced" translator. Otherwise, they should find a mentor or hire a proofreader…

[Edited at 2015-10-04 09:29 GMT]


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
Experience takes years, not rates Oct 4, 2015

Teresa Borges wrote:

They should charge the same rate if they are able to deliver the same quality of work as an "experienced" translator. Otherwise, they should find a mentor or hire a proofreader…

[Edited at 2015-10-04 09:29 GMT]


How do we determine if a beginning or entry-level translator writes as well as a seasoned one? Finding a mentor or hiring a proofreader is neither as effective nor efficient as it sounds. I once was approached by my client's PM to mentor a physician (who was working for the client, a hospital). This physician was bilingual and wanted to translate.

Reviewing and proofreading her translations was an exercise in futility, since this physician had bad writing habits deeply ingrained in her that would take a more formal and lengthier approach to correct.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:01
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
No, but they should stay within their limits and expand them Oct 4, 2015

I do not know about interpreters, but I would say no. An interpreter who is successfully doing a very demanding job should be paid in full. An interpreter who is not capable of carrying out the assignments should not be there in the first place.

Qualifed beginners can deliver excellent work, and their service has the same value for the client as work produced by anyone else.

If a translator takes on a job at all, then he/she must deliver a full-quality professional job, which should be paid for at full price. Either the translation is fit for purpose, or it is not. Otherwise beginners only press rates down - clients will find a good beginner instead of paying a viable rate that a professional can live on in the long term.

Beginners do need to know their limitations, but don't we all?
Sixteen years of experience have taught me which areas I can handle and which subjects I do NOT mess with, but if anything, I am more cautious than when I started out! Now, however, I simply do not take on work I do not like, because I always have enough. In the early years I would have done my best in other fields, and it was in fact good enough - clients sent repeat orders and even paid me compliments. But I found some jobs far more interesting than others.
I am also more confident in the areas I do work in - I work faster in some, and can take higher rates for specialist work that I would not have touched as a beginner.

That is how experienced translators earn more.

It may take beginners longer to do a specific translation, because they need to look up and check things that experienced colleagues know. Beginners will have to take on the boring jobs and work in fields that they can manage, but are not particularly interested in, simply to earn enough to make a living.

On the other hand, younger colleagues straight from college may be more up to date on some things than the old hands! Their knowledge of life and general background is as important as translation experience in some fields.

Everyone should charge less for the easier, more routine jobs than for specialist work, and beginners will end up with most routine work while they gather experience. It may be 'cheaper' work in that sense, but the client should still pay the full rate for it.



[Edited at 2015-10-04 09:44 GMT]


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
Rates and beginners Oct 4, 2015

It's not a question of should but would or could. Most entry-level translators, regardless of prior experience, would try to test the waters with entry-level rates. That's what I did.

Rates or fees for any occupation or profession depend on market conditions and experience is a secondary consideration. A poorly trained and unproductive electrician here in Cleveland would still charge $55 an hour, as long as he is bonded and properly certified.

A slightly different topic is the testing of translators. I would say that 90% of translation companies on the planet keep using a very unimaginative and inefficient approach: the translation test, which can be easily manipulated and unfairly evaluated, yet the customer (who is mostly monolingual in America) is unable to check for herself. An added disadvantage: translation tests are based on a bilingual, not writing, model, and that's the main reason for their inefficacy.


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
A man's easy task is another man's hard job Oct 4, 2015

Christine Andersen wrote:

Everyone should charge less for the easier, more routine jobs than for specialist work, and beginners will end up with most routine work while they gather experience. It may be 'cheaper' work in that sense, but the client should still pay the full rate for it.



[Edited at 2015-10-04 09:44 GMT]


I don't see it that way. Most technical translations, to give an example, have easier and routine aspects to them, such as knowing the industry lingo or expressing a concept with a very readable style —which comes with extensive reading and writing, not just the passing of time. That acquired wisdom has a cost which translates into a higher price.

And speed is awfully overrated and misapplied in translation. Dime novelists could crank up pocket novellas and make a living. That didn't mean their writing was that good. And not just pocket books. Remember E L James' series of pseudoerotic books, 50 shades of this and that? A very qualified translator tweeted how awful the writing was as she was reading it. Sure, E L James sold millions of copies, but that doesn't necessarily make her a good writer.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:01
French to English
No, but... Oct 4, 2015

From a skills point of view.
Some translators who are just starting out are excellent and already in possession of top quality skills. It will depend on what they have done before setting up as a translator. Other factors also come into play, such as field knowledge, ability, humility and professionalism. At the other end of the scale, we all know there are some pretty poor translators who have been translating professionally for years.

From a business point of view.
When starting out, one is generally much slower. That is "penalty" enough! As it generally takes a beginner longer to complete a job, the volume of work they are able to turnover will penalize them enough as it is. If they are doing a good job, if they allow enough time to get the job done to the deadline, from the cusotmer's point of view, the job is worth every bit as muchas that turned in by an experienced translator.

Another business problem is that if you start with significantly lower rates, a client will get used to those and you can be handing him the stick to beat you with. Five years after starting out, I was charging significantly lower rates to those early clients who had stayed with me. Looking back, of course my texts then were not sufficiently distant from the original, a bit like the first night drive, where you tend to stick to the tail lights of the guy in front. When I finally gained the confidence to get my nose off the translation windscreen, I also felt confident enough to drop the clients who were not prepared to follow my gradual rate increase to bring them more or less up to speed. One early piece of good advice from a colleague who had been in the busienss for a while : if you know what you are doing, if you know what you are worth, then you know you can also justify a professional market rate. It comes down to the classic idea that do you really wish to say to your client : I'm not that good, so I'll charge a lower rate? 30% less on the price = 30% less in terms of quality?

But...
In the begining, one of the standard problems is sticking too close to the original text. Final texts will often lack the flow and natural feel of a more experienced translator. When starting out, when branching out into a new field, or when returning to an area, or a new aspect of a familiar one, a responsable translator (a beginner or an experienced one) will make sure that somewhere in the process, the text is proofread.



[Edited at 2015-10-04 10:14 GMT]


 

Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 00:01
English to Russian
+ ...
Yes Oct 4, 2015

And the "ending" ones tooicon_smile.gif)

 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 16:01
German to English
+ ...
No - thoughts behind that answer Oct 4, 2015

A translation must always be "good enough" - reach a certain quality - because a customer is using that translation for a purpose. If it is a poor translation, then it is useless. For a beginner to reach the required level in his or her translation, that translator will have to spend much more time than a seasoned competent translator (someone can be seasoned but spend 10 years churning out garbage - hence the distinction of "competent). If that translator spends 4 hours, and a seasoned translator spends 1 hour, then even if both of them charge the same per-word fee, the novice is earning 25% of what the other is earning, in terms of hourly wages.

A novice may even have to hire a proofreader more often in order to reach those standards. S/he can't pass that extra cost on to the customer, but by charging standard rates, the novice can cover those costs a bit better.

All this assumes minimal translation skills. If those skills are not there, then the person should not be translating yet.


 

Leon Ivanihin  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:01
Member (2011)
English to Russian
Yes, and that is why Oct 4, 2015

Just let me transform this question a bit and you will see it also.
As translator, you intend to rise your rates from time to time, right? That is natural. You are more experienced, your hour costs more that before, so you may rise your rates if only you are demanded on the market. That is evident.
OK, now let's look retrospectively. You were younger, had less experience and skills, your time was not so effective, as now. That is also natural, that you had lower rates.
So no question at all. Opposite opinion would bring us to the world of 'forever-frozen' constant rates.
The other side is that those beginners _already_ could be more skilled, than so experienced youicon_smile.gif But this is the question of competition, not age or experience...


 

Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:01
Member (2006)
German to English
Other Oct 4, 2015

Who is saying that these translators are not experienced in their fields?

If they have not gathered the experience in the field then it is probably a good idea to charge les, but everyone for themselves


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:01
French to English
Quite Oct 4, 2015

Michael Harris wrote:

Who is saying that these translators are not experienced in their fields?

If they have not gathered the experience in the field then it is probably a good idea to charge les, but everyone for themselves


This is in line with my first point. Some hit the market up and running with well honed skills and highly competent.


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not exactly natural Oct 4, 2015

Leon Ivanihin wrote:

Just let me transform this question a bit and you will see it also.
As translator, you intend to rise your rates from time to time, right? That is natural. You are more experienced, your hour costs more that before, so you may rise your rates if only you are demanded on the market. That is evident.
OK, now let's look retrospectively. You were younger, had less experience and skills, your time was not so effective, as now. That is also natural, that you had lower rates.
So no question at all. Opposite opinion would bring us to the world of 'forever-frozen' constant rates.
The other side is that those beginners _already_ could be more skilled, than so experienced youicon_smile.gif But this is the question of competition, not age or experience...


There's nothing natural about setting rates at a certain level for a seasoned translator or a novice one.

Perhaps you meant to say customary?

Increasing one's fees or rates is not a function of the passing of time or cost of living, but of market forces here, in Germany, Russia or Kenya.


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:01
English to Spanish
+ ...
Experience, skills and competence Oct 4, 2015

I'm surprised at the way concepts such as experience, competence and skills are bandied about like they are almost the same. Obviously, they are not.

At the risk of sounding a bit condescending, I am also surprised that no one thought of indicating writing or reading as required skills for translating, separate from experience in a given field (accounting, nuclear engineering, biopharma, etc.). It is as if good writing skills come to you naturally as you start translating.

I don't like to see healthy skills in reading and writing as requirements for translation taken for granted to that dismal degree.


 
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