Researching Market Rates
While the New England Translators Association does not suggest rates or set minimum rates that its members charge, it can point you to some places to get information on current rates for translation.
The ATA surveys its members periodically and publishes its results in the Translation and Interpreting Services Survey, free to members and $45-$60 for nonmembers.
Other organizations allow members to post rates online, or post results of surveys they have conducted. These are links to external sites; NETA has no control or influence on their content and makes no representation as to their accuracy or usefulness for any purpose.
(Note: You will need to be a site member or post your rate to see rate information for some of these.)
Some other groups that post rates:
* The French translators union, Syndicat national des traducteurs professionnels, offers a free rate survey, containing vast sets of data on the profession.
* The German translator group BDU
* The UK Institute of Translation and Interpreting (on their website: About the Industry>Campaigns and Surveys)
Setting Your Rate
(The following information was taken from the website of the Carolina Association of Translators & Interpreters and provided with their kind permission. They have an informative website that is worth visiting, www.catiweb.org.)
In the United States, translations are usually billed at x cents per word in the source language (occasionally in the target language). In Europe, the charge for translations is often based on the number of lines in the target language. Interpreting is billed by the hour or by the day, if the job is for a whole day or is located out of town.
Some of the things you may want to consider in determining your rate for a translation are:
• Language (different language combinations pay different amounts, due to supply and demand).
• Difficulty of the text (is this a general or technical text, how much research time will be involved, do you have the appropriate dictionaries, how much information and help will the client provide).
• Turnaround time of job (how long is the text, is there a rush deadline, do you have to stay up all night to finish it, do you have ample time to do it correctly).
• Is this for a translation company or a direct client (a translation company will pay you less than a direct client, as they have to bear all the costs of marketing, translating, editing, desk-top publishing, etc.).
• Hardware/software (do you have the equipment necessary for the job, do you know how to use it, what is the client requiring in terms of the format of the finished product).
• Skill/experience (how well do you know the subject, is it your specialty or not, is this your 1st job or your 500th, what special skills do you bring to this job)
When setting your rate for an interpreting job, consider the following:
• Is the job for consecutive or simultaneous interpreting (do you know how to interpret simultaneously, do you have equipment for simultaneous interpretation, will you charge the client for providing this equipment, who is going to partner you, is the client getting another interpreter or should you)?
• Is the job for a business meeting, a court case, or a medical case (do you have the appropriate certifications or proof of ability and qualifications)?
• Are you familiar with the subject matter that the client needs (how much material will the client provide so you can study, how much research will you have to do on your own)?
• Is the job in town or out of town (is the client paying for your travel expenses and travel time, is a long trip worth it to you in terms of family members or pets/plants that must be looked after while you are gone)?
• Where is the job taking place (some places around the country/world are more expensive than others, can you combine this job with a holiday, do you really want to go to that city/country, is it safe to go)?
• Will all of your travel expenses be paid for by the client (airfare, hotel, meals, mileage, parking, ground transportation, travel time), as well as your daily/hourly fee?
Be aware that in some states or cities, professional fees are higher than in others, depending on the market there; i.e., rural areas typically pay less than urban areas. If you are interpreting for the courts, the state or federal court usually has assigned amounts it will pay for interpreting and/or mileage and you will have to accept those or turn down the job.
And each time you accept an interpreting job be sure and ask who is to be invoiced and how quickly you can expect payment, so you don’t get the nasty shock of finding that you have just “volunteered” because there is no budget to pay interpreters.
Dealing with Low-Ball Rates
A common ploy among translation agencies that want you to lower your rate is to say that they are set to grow exponentially because they have negotiated lower rates with new clients. In order for the agency to remain competitive, and for you to get in on this bonanza, they would like you to lower your rates, too. In return, they will prioritize you on the new accounts. Should you accept? If you are starting out in the business, you may accept a less-than-ideal rate to gain experience. But doing so makes it very hard to raise your rate later. Eventually, you will want to charge a rate you can live on and that reflects the value you bring to the agency and to the end client.
NETA member Milena Vitali has this advice:
“An approach that I have found helpful is something I learned from a marketing webinar where the main advice is to spend as little time as possible with low-ballers. The idea is to have templates ready when a client calls or emails with a low offer, so that we don’t end up wasting our time and energy getting upset. Having a standard professional reply means you spend very little
time, you get to remain professional, and you don't burn a bridge in case they
have a better budget in the future. There's no need to take this personally!”