Translation services: A price guide for hourly billing

Translation services: A price guide for hourly billing

Getting the cost of a translation job right can be tricky. Whether you desperately need a qualified translator to get your English business plan ready for a potential French investor, or if you are a translator with experience in the linguistics arts, you need to know how to price.

That way you can spot a scam, ovoid someone who is overpriced, make sure your business model is effective, and get paid what you should be earning.

In this piece we will try to give you some tips on how to price your services if you are a translator. We will also help you to get an idea of how translators work, if you need to hire a qualified translator.

Why translation costs money

When you first start to think about hiring a translator it can be difficult to judge if they are pricing their work fairly. Just as getting your first translation job can be an art, because you need to price right for your skillset.

Another question is why you should pay (or get paid) to translate when technology has become so efficient at replacing a word in one language for another (like Google translate for example).

While a machine with really sophisticated algorithms and programming can translate something so you can at least understand it, it will not measure up to the ability of a professional translator.

A professional translator usually has qualifications in language, can speak the languages they translate to and from fluently and can pick up on errors in context and metaphor that no computer can.

If you have an important sales pitch or business policy that needs to be translated, a wrong word in a crucial sentence can cost you dearly in the long run. That is why a trained translator with experience in the type of translation you need will really be worth the investment.

As a translator, you can save a business money, convey the essence of a great novel, or help other professionals avoid unnecessary mistakes. That is why you should also know your skill level, and what your focus is. Translating law documents is very different than translating short advertisements.

Hourly rates

There are different ways of pricing translation services. Some translators charge per word or page, but an hourly rate can be very effective.

Although per word pricing seems to be the easiest way, hourly rates can actually be very easy to use, and can help you earn in line with the complexity of the job and your experience.

When you are used to rates that work on the amount of words, it can be challenging to get used to hourly rates, but it is a major trend in the market. It will also be a valuable asset to any freelancer to able to price competitively using different ways of doing so.

Per hour rates are also really great for clients, especially if they work with you as translator regularly.

How to determine an hourly rate as a translator

The main thing to consider with an hourly rate is that you can still largely base it on a word count, but productivity, difficulty and your way of working comes into play.

Setting up an hourly rate is easier if you know how you typically work on a certain amounts of words with a certain complexity. The more projects you do of a similar nature the easier it will be to price them using an hourly rate. It does become more of a challenge when you take on jobs that you have not really done before.

Another trick is to use an app or desktop add on that tracks the time you spend working on a certain job. It will help you to get a clear idea of how long you work on something and that will help you charge accurately for future projects.

You could also set yourself a test job by translating something you like and see how much effort and time it requires. If you have just started as a translator you will need to build a basic sense of what you are capable of.

Experienced translators can do anything from 500 to a 1000 words per hour, but can charge more because they can handle more complexity or have the experience so they don’t need to do additional research for specific jobs.

The best thing we can really say is that you should charge what you are worth. A good translator has studied language, worked hard to gain the necessary skills and have the experience to prove it. So you should be paid in line with that professional skill set.

Last words of advice for translators

Depending on your type of client, the way you price may need to adjust. Some clients prefer the big picture, so a quote on the entire cost of the project will make sense to them. Others like details and would perhaps still prefer a quote based on a word count.

Other clients (say lawyers) will be able to gauge a project using hourly rates very easily. So know who you work with and how they prefer to see their information. You can also check out Real Translator Jobs website for an idea of what others charge.

It is also good practice to include a line or two in your quote where you explain that the final cost of the project may vary due to time pressures, or added complexity. Keep your client informed and the project will run that much smoother.

Some advice for the clients

As a client looking for a translator, keep in mind that you often get what you pay for. A professional translator will carefully translate a text to a high standard. Especially when it is sensitive information this is crucial.

The more information about your project you can give a translator the easier it will be for them to price accurately for the type of service you need. Keep in mind that getting a translation for some languages can be more expensive than others, because there may not be many translators who specialize in what you need.

Still at a loss?

If you are still at a loss of what to charge, it might be time to contact a friend who knows a little about economics or spreadsheets to help you find the right fee scale. You can also try community pages where other translators hang out and discuss these issues.

Another way is to check out Real Translator Jobs and check what the other experts are doing.

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