What should you be charging for your translation services?
When starting out as a freelance translator, one of the trickiest aspects of your new career is figuring out is what you should actually be charging. Unfortunately, a “minimum wage” doesn’t really exist in the translation industry, and it is completely up to you to determine what to charge your clients. There are, of course, a few different factors which will help you along the way.
First of all, if you are just starting out, it is tempting to charge the lowest rate possible in order to guarantee you will get the job. However, many companies are actually put off by low rates as it seems that you are valuing yourself as a low-quality translator. Don’t undersell yourself and try to charge your clients a decent price for your work. They will be more than happy to pay a higher fee in order to guarantee high-quality work. As well as this, once you have a client, it can be difficult to raise your rates as the client may just look elsewhere. Therefore, by starting out on a sustainable wage, you are likely to be able to maintain relationships with your clients long-term.
Most people try to determine their rates through guesswork – what other people are charging, what are clients willing to pay, etc. A simple way of working out what you should be charging is to think of the realistic amount you want to earn. Now divide this by hours you are willing to work in a week, and then how many words you can translate per hour. Also don’t forget to take your business expenditures into account! Then, once you are more established and busier, you can start to raise your rates with new clients.
To get the big bucks, it usually helps if you work in a very specialised field or with a rare language, simply because you are in higher demand. Make sure you make clients aware of your skills and what makes you stand out – remember, you’ve worked hard to get where you are and deserve to be paid in accordance with the service you are providing.
However, even if you aren’t a translator who speaks Japanese, Wolof or has a degree in Biochemical engineering, it is still possible to make a good living from translation if you get enough work and, trust me, there are plenty of people out there who want to work with you. The “right rate” is different for everyone, but should still motivate you to work hard and at the same time give your client a fair deal. The key is to work hard and be proactive in advertising yourself. Don’t just wait for work to come along, otherwise your bank balance will stay at zero!