Use These Stress-Free Ways to Set Your Freelance Translator Rates
Why does pricing your translation services cause so much anxiety?
Even if you know that you provide a great service, you see so many translators who charge next to nothing. You still worry that clients will see our prices and run for the hills.
But you want to eat, right? And support yourself and your family?
What is a good rate? And how do you convince your clients your rate is fair?
Often these questions leave you frozen and on edge. So when it comes to telling a prospective translation client what you charge, you often charge way below what you should be.
That’s not a way to start your freelance business.
To help you set your translation rate so that you can get business without starving, I’m going to give you some very clear information about how to decide what your translation is worth.
Let’s get started.
Find the minimum rate for your language pair
The first step is determining the minimum rates that you generally find in your country or language pair.
To get an idea, start with the average rates from large translation job boards:
However, there are a couple of problems with using these sites to set your rates:
- They only list what people say they charge, not what they actually charge for projects.
- The rates are only reported for translators who use their website and not across the industry. For example, people like myself who don’t go on ProZ and who charge a high rate won’t be included.
So use these as a starting point, not gospel.
Dive deeper into world and country rates
This information can be a bit more difficult to get, as we have to rely on reports and research from big associations, and it can take them a while to compile the data.
The most recent rate information I found dates from 2007 to 2012. While not terribly recent, these reports give you a much better idea of the economics of the translation industry as a whole.
- Canadian and Global translation rates: 2012 Translation Bureau Benchmarking and Comparative Analysis
- Quebec: 2012 Survey on Rates and Income, OTTIAQ. From personal experience, when you start out in Quebec/Canada, you may get work in the .08 to .12 cent range while you have people revising you and while you learn the ropes.
- U.S.: 2007, Summary of ATA’s Latest Translation and Interpreting Compensation Survey (Note: This summary does not provide per word rates.). Slator Language Intelligence: USD 0.21 per Word: America’s Translation Rate
- Germany: Slator Language Industry Intelligence, The Magic Number is EUR 0.15: Translator Rate Survey Released in Germany
Look at agency websites
Clients often come to me to revise the work done at agencies, so don’t think that just because you aren’t an agency you can’t charge like one.
Quality, and not size or reputation, counts for everything here.
Think you can compete with agencies?
Look them up by language pair and industry and see if they list their rates
Here are just a few examples:
- Striker Translations: .10 to .20 cents a word
- Asiatis: .16 to .19 cents a word
- GTS Translation: .09 to .17 cents a word
Talk to translators in the industry you want to work in
It’s a great idea to charge a similar rate to what other translators are charging.
I work with translators who generally charge a bit less than I do, but that’s because I tackle more complex technical documents.
Also, since I charge more, other translators don’t mind sending clients to me because they know I won’t undercut them.
So go out and ask translators in your language pair, city, country and–more importantly–your same language skill and sector.
Another option is to contact translation teachers at your university or through you local translator’s association.
Go super low.. and then go high!
Despite what many people say, you can’t always charge professional rates right out of the gate.
Your rates depend on:
- Your translation speed
- Good feedback from previous clients
- Your domain knowledge
- Your editing skills
- Your skills with translation software and project management
- Your communication skills
- Your style…
…and many other components of the translation process.
If you are new or inexperienced in some of these areas, you will have to charge at the lower end to get experience.
My advice is not to be afraid to go low or to go free — at first — to get those first few testimonials under your belt.
Once you have those and you build your skills in other areas, you can adjust your prices as high as you can.
Remember that clients who value translation want to pay high rates; the higher your rate, the higher your perceived value.
Never set your rates in a vacuum
Pricing your services should be the last thing that worries you.
And setting your rates doesn’t have to be so scary.
When you use actual data–and not assumptions!–to figure it out, you’ll find that you’ll quote a price to clients and they won’t even blink.
And that day is a sweet one indeed.