Raising your rates..?
Thread poster: Melina Kajander
Melina Kajander
Finland
English to Finnish
Sep 18, 2006

Hi everyone, I'm new to this subforum, though I've been subtitling for a couple of years now. (Here, by 'subtitling' I mean subtitle translation only, no time-cuing etc. involved.) I'd just like to know if it's even possible to update your rates in the subtitling world - has anyone succeeded in this? It's just so different from 'normal' translation world, where the rate is usually negotiated by project, and you can just notify your clients that you've raised your rates (that's how I understand from other posts in these boards, at least). In subtitling, the big companies use set rates, which you have to accept before you start working with them. So how would it be possible to raise them? It's just that when I started subtitling, I had no subtitling experience and was clueless about the rates (so different from usual per word rates in other types of translation). And now I've recently signed up with a new company, which uses a different kind of rate (by minute) & in different currency than what I was used to, and after reading some posts here I see the rate I accepted is not that good either... (Rather discouraging.) So I was wondering if anyone has successfully raised their rate with a major subtitling company, or would it be a faux pas even to ask for it...

Or maybe I should just give up and admit that I'll never be rich by doing subtitling (or even make a good living), and try to specialize in something else... A pity though, since I really like subtitling, IMHO it's far more interesting & exciting than any other field of translation!

[Edited at 2006-09-18 12:30]

[Edited at 2006-09-18 13:07]


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 09:28
French to Spanish
+ ...
Big faux pas in a big -or small- company. Sep 18, 2006

Hi, there.

Sorry to hear about that, but you're giving yourself the answer.

There is no way, in a big, or smaller company, to raise your rates, period.

Sometimes, when all translators protest, maybe in a few months they'll do it but I would'nt count too much on that.

About your fears in "having no chance to be rich or even make a good living", my two cents:

-you'll never be rich, that's for shure.

-you can make a good living, though, yes. You must be good, of course, and work a lot because, as you say, rates are differente in one way and low, low, always, because translation for subtitling is not considered a "serious translation matter": you translate motion pictures, documentaries... "That's funny, you don't even need to go to the cinema, huh?" And, in a way, there is a certain truth: translation for subtitling is not technical, is not legal, never very, very complicated, is it not?

Good luck to you.


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theangel  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:28
Swedish to Italian
+ ...
well Sep 18, 2006

I wouldn't say that subtitling is not complicated. First, you can get any kind of file and you have to adjust the language to it, you can't use the same language register in an old cowboy series as you use for mtv, for example. Some programs might be very specialized, think about the medical series such ER, you can't expect getting smooth without searching for the right terminology.
And, most of all, you have the constraint of time that can make the best possible translation impossible, so you have to work it out so it gets perfect and short at the same time...Especially for us translating into latin languages, where we already have an average of 20% more words, having to shorten up a language that is already shorter than ours is quite a nice challenge.
And so on...

I think that it can even entail more difficulties than technical translation. If you specialize in a field, even very technical texts can go fast and smooth.

Unless you were just being ironical


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Brasiversum  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:28
German to Portuguese
+ ...
sad... Sep 18, 2006

but true!

It an awfull reality!
I agree with almost everithing ...


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 09:28
French to Spanish
+ ...
ER? Sep 18, 2006

You're absolutely right... I'll never translate such thing for the same rates! It's terribly difficult and they don't stop speaking!

Silent movie are much, much more easy to translate!


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Melina Kajander
Finland
English to Finnish
TOPIC STARTER
Well... Sep 18, 2006

Thanks for your replies, even though Juan's wasn't exactly encouraging... I would like to think there's at least some hope! But then, you wrote "I'll never translate such thing for the same rates", so how can you do it as the subtitling companies rates are always the same (you can't ask for more for certain types of jobs)?

Would love to hear more views & opinions.

Truly agree with theangel:
theangel wrote:
I wouldn't say that subtitling is not complicated. First, you can get any kind of file and you have to adjust the language to it, you can't use the same language register in an old cowboy series as you use for mtv, for example. Some programs might be very specialized, think about the medical series such ER, you can't expect getting smooth without searching for the right terminology.


I know, having translated a hospital series... (My one and only KudoZ question so far was prompted by such a one!) On the other hand, the variety of the programs really makes this work even more interesting. I myself have had such an interesting variety I can't begin to describe.

A subtitler (subtitle translator) really has to be a "jack of all trades" - that's the one area of translation where it pays to know a little bit of everything...

And, most of all, you have the constraint of time that can make the best possible translation impossible, so you have to work it out so it gets perfect and short at the same time...Especially for us translating into latin languages, where we already have an average of 20% more words, having to shorten up a language that is already shorter than ours is quite a nice challenge.


Tell me about it - Finnish doesn't use more words than English, but the words are so much longer! Subtitling has really developed my skills at making a sentence/expression as concise as possible...


[Edited at 2006-09-18 20:35]


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:28
English to Hungarian
+ ...
it is sad Sep 24, 2006

but the fact is, that those companies dealing mainly with subtitling, therefore able to supply you with a constant flow of work have actually reduced their rates from what they were three-four years ago.

Also, they don't work with individual rates, they have their set rates for different types of work, like DVD, cinema, broadcast, timecueing, transcription, quality control, etc, and within these there are likely to have sub-divisions for first language, subsequent language, documentary, non-documentary, etc.

So your chances of raising your rates are negligible. Of course, you should make sure that you are getting at least the same rate as the others.

I understand your predicament, because I was doing a lot of subtitling in the past, and much less now, precisely because of the rates. I also enjoy doing it immensely.

To add another aspect of difficulty: the biggest problem for those not living in the source language country is the expressions, the slang used to such an extent, that you would only find it on the street and perhaps when transating some books. With the latter the difference is, that you may have a few weeks to translate a book, but a film translation may have to be done in 2 to 5 days, and you can't afford to waste a lot of time on research, especially not for the fee you are paid.

As I translate into Hungarian, I know exactly what problems space and time restriction can cause. One of my favourite examples to show the problem of length (no offence meant to the countries mentioned, this was from an historic film) is:
Russia attacks Poland
Oroszország megtámadja Lengyelországot

It is not possible to shorten these words. The sentence and this subtitle didn't end there, but it was virtually impossible to split the subtitle, and it caused a major headache.

My advice is to try to combine subtitling with some better paying specialisation.
Good luck with your work.

[Edited at 2006-09-24 11:51]


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