Translator's Guide

Average Translation Rates What it Means and How to Improve Them

Being self-employed requires one to understand all the aspects of their work, analyze one’s own performance, and make future projections. In the work of a translator, it is not possible to achieve it without measuring one’s average translation rate which is one of the most important parameters that determines one’s productivity. The salary of a translator most often depends on how fast one works and it is the factor that can be manipulated purely by the effort of a translator him/herself. So if you would like to increase your earnings, the first thing to do is to measure your average translation rate.

What is the Average Translations Rate?

If you know approximately how much time you need to finish a project worth $2,000, it still does not mean you know your average translation rate. Many also confuse this measure with the average number of words translated per hour (which is actually used to estimate the time needed for a certain project’s price). In the context of translators’ salaries, the average translation rate can refer to the mean cost per word for translation across the industry and a specific language pair. However, this is a number characteristic for all translators, while our topic of interest here is the individual average translation rate. What should be understood by the average translation rate in this context, is the number of words translated daily (given that you work the same hours). So if you, for example, translate about 2,000 words every day, your average translation rate is 2000 words. 

Is 2,000 words a good result? Well, it is not bad. It is commonly agreed in the translators’ community that the average individual daily translation rate is between 2,000 and 3,000 words. However, this is not the number to aim for. If you are totally satisfied with your earnings, then you don’t need any measures to achieve. But if you would like to earn more than average you need to do your best to achieve 4,000 words per day and more. And more than that, the key is to increase the individual average translation rate without increasing the working hours (because otherwise this parameter will remain the same).

Importance of Average Translation Rate

As mentioned earlier, the salary of a freelance translator primarily depends on the average translation rate, given the decent quality of work. And so, it less important how much you charge but what amount you can finish within the given period of time. As such, with a lower price per word but a faster pace one can earn the same money or even more than the other who charges more but translates slowly. For example, if you charge $0.20 per word and can translate 150 words per hour, your hourly rate is $30. But if you manage to be twice as fact, your earnings per hour increase to $60. And if you work 8 hours a day, your daily wage will be $240 in the first case, and $480 is the second. The difference is pretty considerable, isn’t it?

With the increased average translation rate one can also get a competitive advantage and become more flexible in terms of pricing. In an environment with extremely high competition, the one who translates faster can decrease his/her per word rate and attract more clients while not sacrificing the earnings at the expense of the greater availability of work. By making the rate-per-word a little lower one can also build clientele and reputation and then gradually increase the price for their service which would maximize the salary. Improving one’s average translation rate one can also decrease the working hours and then spend the saved time for hobbies, further education, family, etc.

Tips to Increase One’s Average Translation Rate

While the benefits are immense, not every translator increases his/her average translation rate. Often it is because it is not an easy task. For beginners it may be extremely challenging to achieve even the mainstream range of 2,000-3,000 words per day. So here are some tips to help one increase their average translation rate:

  • Find the source of slowing down and eliminate it

If you are an experienced translator but you still struggle to work faster, there might be some specific reason why your translation rate is slow. Noisy neighbors? Bad lighting? Creaking chair? Find what disturbs you and neutralize it. For example, if you are uncomfortable working at home, you can go to a library or a coworking space.

  • Practice translating faster

Set specific goals and try to achieve them. Use the alarms to help you keep a sense of time. Gradually decrease the time for a specific amount of words while maintaining the same level of quality. 

  • Improve knowledge of the foreign language you translate

Sometimes the reason for a slow average rate is the lack of the language command. With increased language proficiency, the translation rate will improve. 

  • Get rid of distractors

Put away your phone, do not check messages or new posts on social media while working, and stay away from the kitchen. By saving the time you spent on switching between activities you can use it to work faster.

  • Have enough sleep and care for your health

If you feel unwell, it is not likely you will work effectively. With enough care for your mental and bodily wellbeing you will be able to stay focused on the task and have enough energy.

  • Choose the most convenient means

If your computer is slow, you cannot work fast. Make sure your wi-fi, laptop, and any other means you use function correctly and facilitate your working process.