Well, this issue has cropped up a few times this week as I’ve been meeting with lots of new and potential clients.
Blast from the past.
I had an email clear out on Monday and found an email from a decade ago. A translation agency had contacted me when I was a student, told me how great my profile looked, and asked me what I charged for translation. My rate didn’t go down well with them. How ludicrous of me for wanting to charge double what they were paying freelancers! I was easy prey, as an unexperienced translator. I did wonder, on balance, whether being paid dirt cheap rates was the easiest way to get that translation experience that most reputable agencies ask for. This is the main reason why I went in another direction and got a job as a Project Manager, because I couldn’t afford to work for next to nothing.
Since going freelance at the end of last year, it’s happened again, but I’m tougher now. My bills are higher, and I need to pay them. This week, I was in contact with someone who wanted to pay me the equivalent of £10 per hour for translation. To be fair to them, it’s above the National Minimum wage. Unfortunately for me it doesn’t include Income Tax and National Insurance contributions, cost of equipment and software, allowances for heating and powering my place of work, pension contributions, professional indemnity insurance, and membership to associations, so no, I don’t feel guilty in any way about charging more.
If someone tells me I’m too expensive, I move on. I know I’m not too expensive, they just don’t want to pay me.
Hold your nerve.
If it’s not worth your time, honestly you’re better off without them. Better payers do exist, and they want you. There are plenty of agencies that can afford the going rate and make a healthy markup (which I’m 100% here for by the way, those Project Managers work hard for the money). From a Project Manager’s perspective: yes, some translators did charge more than I could afford to pay them, but these people were probably more used to dealing with direct clients, and to be honest, didn’t really need work from me.
Nope, I’m not going to tell you what to charge.
Lots of people will tell you to work out your rates based on what you want to earn in relation to your productivity, remembering that you won’t be getting work all of the time. This is good advice. Bear in mind though that there will be a price range that others in your language combination charge, and you really need to sit within that range. Too low = not sustainable, and unhelpful as it contributes to driving down industry rates altogether, which is not good for anyone. Too high = go for it, but you might find that your work comes from direct clients rather than agencies, so you have to do extra work to get then and maintain them as a result, so it’s fair that you charge more.
You’ll find it hard to find translator’s rate on the internet, if that’s what you’re looking for. It really depends on the language combination, and the country they live in.
If you’re here to find out how much I charge, I’ve got no problem telling you in an email or DM. It’s not a dirty little secret. I just don’t want to profess it publicly and have it come back to bite me later when someone comes to me with an incredibly complex translation that requires extra research and time. I reserve the right to charge a bit extra for that.
So in summary, this is your business, and it’s your decision to charge whatever you want for your services. Don’t let people take advantage of you, there are some good agencies out there that will pay you properly. You’re worth it.