Translator's Guide

How Much to Charge as a Freelance Translator?

How much to charge for translation? This question is rather tricky and it especially puzzles the beginners in the field. Often it is hard to find the golden mean between setting a high enough price to earn decent money and making too high so that the potential clients would refuse and look for some cheaper service. However, it is possible to determine one’s rate that will both satisfy the translator and will not frighten the potential clientele. The main thing is to know the worth of one’s own work.

Determine How Much You Want to Earn

The first thing to do is to determine how much you would like to earn. Based on the desired salary one needs to choose the appropriate pricing strategy. Basically, there are two main ways in which one can make money on online freelance platforms. The first one is to set lower prices but does the fast mediocre job. By doing so one earns more on the quantity of the orders. However, this strategy is not a very good one and is not suitable for dedicated professionals who want to do their job well and enjoy their working process. This kind of translation can be compared to fast-food. It can only satisfy one’s hunger, is not useful in many respects, and having too much of it can have negative consequences. 

Another strategy is to set a higher price but to do a quality translation. Using this approach, one can attract better clients, develop professionally, and steadily increase the rate that would correspond to the level of translation. It is a way in which one can get fair compensation and be proud of their work. Moreover, on freelance platforms such as Upwork, clients often search for the needed service by setting the price range higher than the minimum in order to limit the list only to true professionals. Which of the two strategies to choose is up to every translator, but the second one seems more beneficial.

Is Freelance Platform a Good Choice?

The main issue about freelance platforms is that they are very competitive. So pricing here is a very fine topic. Setting a rather high price from the very beginning may not work well. However, the rate should proportionally grow with the number of orders completed and positive feedback. In general, apart from the price these two parameters are what the potential clients pay attention to when choosing a translator on a freelance platform. Among clients there often is a popular misconception as they view the number of orders completed as a measure of credibility of the professional. The more orders one has completed, the more trusted one is.

In reality, it is far from being true but the remote mode of cooperation dictates its terms. The same is often true about e-commerce as people are less likely to buy new products if there are no feedbacks from other buyers. It does not mean, however, that at first, one should charge too little. Setting a rate, a little lower than desired, combined with a higher speed of work will bring you the same money as the higher rate and lower speed. Apart from the availability of the orders, the decisive factor is still not the rate but the pace with which one works. For example, if you charge US$ 0.15 per word and need 8 hours to translate 2,000 words, you will earn US$ 300. However, if you will spend 6 hours for the same text length, for an 8-hour working day you will earn US$ 100 more. Maintaining good speed all the time is a challenging task but depending on how much one wants to earn, one can manipulate the number of working days, working hours, or the amount of work to do. The best thing about being a self-employed freelance translator is the ability to be flexible and determine one’s own salary depending on the skills, needs, and inner senses. 

Factors to Consider When Setting Your Rate

There are several important factors to consider when setting one’s rate:

  • Experience

What is meant here by the experience is the number of years of working in the industry. The more experienced one is, the higher should the rate be. 

  • Language pair

The demand and proposition for different languages can vary drastically. Typically, in an extremely competitive environment such as English-Spanish language pair, the rates are lower.

  • Subject/domain

Specialized translation in engineering, legal, medical or any other industry-specific field costs more than that general texts because the proposition is this domain is lower and requires extra knowledge.

  • Certification

Translators who hold a certificate such as American Translation Association Certificate typically charge considerably more and since certification ensures that they do translations of the highest quality.

  • Competitive advantage

If you would like to charge more, you need to provide your clients something beyond the usual level. It can be quality, the complexity of the original text, or speed of the translation.

  • Professionalism

Working as a freelance translator can often be suitable for students. However, they, as a rule, charge less due to being not very proficient and confident enough in their skill.

  • Rating on the platform

Those who have many orders completed have higher rates since potential clients tend to trust them more.

Every work should be accordingly rewarded financially. For a freelance translator the minimum rate to charge is not a specific number but a price that is capable of bringing enough money to satisfy one’s needs and, most importantly, promotes self-respect for the job done. Everyone has a certain minimum rate for their work and if paid less it feels like an insult. The main thing is to feel good about the job and charge enough to sustain this feeling.