If we scroll down different translator forums or professional associations websites, one of the most common questions among translators is how to price their services. Setting rates can be a daunting task not only for recent graduates or new freelancers but also for the experienced ones.
Therefore, we had several reasons why we wanted to write this post: lots of people do not know how to adequately price their services and many of those are also too afraid to ask!
Here are some simple steps you can follow setting your rates:
Don't be afraid to ask your colleagues how much they charge. If they have more experience than you, they will certainly have a better understanding of the market, the language pairs and the demand.
Research the market and find average prices per country and per language combination — you can usually find them on ProZ or from the professional translator’s association in your country. If you happen to have a more ‘special’ combination you will be able to price higher, but (hey!) that does not mean you need to ask for a very low rate if you have other combinations where there is more competence.
If you want to go even further, you can also request quotes from agencies to get an idea of end client pricing and margins. This way, you will know the difference between translating for an agency and for a direct client and how much is the difference that an agency can afford to pay you.
Decide your metric
Translation can be billed in multiple forms: by source word, by target word, per character, per line, per document, per page, by hour…
The most common way is per source word or character but sometimes and depending on the source language, format of the document or if there is any additional requirement other than translation in the task, the client might ask you for another type of billing. Therefore, you have to be prepared and have an idea for each of the other metrics.
It is also recommendable to have a minimum fee in the case of small projects. This way, you will ensure that your time is still compensated.
Take advantage of currency fluctuations
Translators normally set their rates in the currency of the country they live in. However, being a global business has its advantages and one of them is the possibility to work in multiple currencies. For example, if the EUR is strong, bill in EUR for some time and then convert to your preferred currency.
Also, if a determined currency lets you bill more precisely, do not hesitate to use it.
Do not be afraid to change your rates
The market changes, your experience changes, the conditions change and so do rates. There can be many reasons why a translator might want to change his or her rates and revising your rates once a year if you have long-term collaborations or for a specific project is a good idea.
For example, it is important to take experience into account when deciding how much to charge. Your rates should reflect how long you have been working, the skills that you have and whether you are specialized or not. It takes time and money to develop a specialization, so if you have proven ability in a specific knowledge domain, you can charge more (and especially for some fields where the knowledge has to be very specific!).
Another tip: having negotiated a rate with an agency does not mean that it is permanent and irreversible. You can ask them to modify the price for rush orders, weekend orders, texts that are more difficult, etc. If you feel that you are undervalued, asking for a rise might result in a good surprise if you are a good asset for the company.
Have a good pipeline of projects
The first tip everyone would give to a freelancer is to choose clients wisely. Dealing with bad clients can be an energy drainer and you might end up spending a lot of time chasing payments, resolving feedbacks or arguing on terms. Before accepting new projects —especially if they are large or on-going projects—do some research on the client and if it is a translation agency have a look at what other translators are saying about them (ProZ Blue Board is perfect for this).
Learn to calculate and assess profitability given your skills. Some projects may take you only a few hours and pay a high rate, but others can be very easy with a lower rate but huge volume, so in the end, it can be more profitable. Always prioritize the most profitable projects.
Ideally, you should be able to balance regular and large volume jobs with other small jobs in between.
Diversify your client pipeline, both agencies and direct clients, and you will be able to choose who you want to work with. If you happen to have a client who sends you regular volumes, keep working with them but do not get comfortable and be sure that other clients have you in their database.
Decide how much you want to earn
Last but not least, let’s talk about the basic question. Decide how much you want to earn each month, or which is the minimum income you need to earn to live each month.
A good way to calculate your earnings is to work backwards from how much you need to earn per month to cover your total expenses, then ask yourself how many hours per week are you willing and able to work and how many words you can translate per hour on average.