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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to Raise Your Rates?

Written by Kate Miro.

Translators are generally paid by the word, with some variation in whether the word count is based on the source or target language, for a single word (most common in the U.S.) or per thousand words (most common in the U.K.), although payment is sometimes made by the line as well, with a line being comprised of a certain number of characters. For projects where charging by the word would result in a ridiculously low payment, for example translating an advertising slogan, translators are often paid by the hour. Translations of official documents such as birth certificates may be billed by the page.Many translators have a minimum charge for small projects, for example a flat fee for projects up to 250 words. It's also common for translators to add a premium for a rush project, or to offer a discount for a large project or ongoing work. The actual per-word rate depends on your language combination and also on what your clients are willing to pay. Asking "How much do experienced translators charge?" is like asking, "How big is a ball of yarn?" The variation in translation rates is enormous; you'll see an abundance of translators willing to work for just a few cents a word, while a highly specialized medical, legal or technical translator working for some clients might make mid-double digits (cents, not dollars!) per word. In addition, many translators are reluctant to publish or even discuss their rates for fear of being targeted by antitrust actions.If you work for translation agencies, there may not be much room for negotiation on rates, and "setting your rates" may be more a matter of finding agencies that are willing to pay what you would like to earn. Agencies will often ask you what your rates are, but just as often the agency already knows what it can or will pay for a typical project in your language combination, and is unlikely to give you work if you charge more than the "standard" rate. Some agencies will also tell you up front that you're welcome to specify your rates, but that the agency prefers to work with translators who charge less than a certain number of cents per word. Still, translation agencies as a group are not usually out to get translators to work for an absolute rock-bottom price, and will usually offer a fair rate for a project. Reputable agencies may even look askance at translation rates that are more than about 10% below the average or standard rate in a certain language combination.At some point in your translation career, you'll realize that your translation experience or specializations can command higher rates than what you're currently charging. Also, you might be interested in either earning more money or in working less, so you might need to charge more at some point. Unfortunately, the answer to the question, "How do I get my existing clients to pay me more money?" is almost always, "You can't." Most often, the best way to raise your rates is to look for new, higher paying clients.For example, if you've worked for a translation agency for two years, making 12 cents a word, your client might be willing to go along with a rate increase to 14 cents a word, but it's highly unlikely they'll agree to pay 25 cents a word. In some easily outsourced language pairs such as English into Spanish, there may even be pressure on translators to decrease their rates over time. On the other hand, if you land a translation agency that is used to paying 30 cents a word, your offer of 25 cents a word may strike them as the best deal they've gotten all year. You simply have to eliminate your lowest paying clients and look for higher paying ones to replace them.One of the best strategies for raising your rates is to look for clients who themselves earn a healthy income, or orient yourself toward higher-earning specializations. Not surprisingly, business sectors that are big earners in the U.S., such as law, financial services and pharmaceuticals, are correspondingly well-paying for translators who work in those areas. So, part of the key to raising your rates is to find clients who can pay what you'd like to earn, and show these clients that your services will help their businesses run faster, more effectively or more profitably.
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