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How to Set Your Rate as a Freelance Translator

Freelance Translator

It’s the most common question I hear when talking with translators and interpreters: How much should I charge? The question comes from everywhere in the industry, from the recent graduate just starting out in a career in translation and interpreting to the seasoned professional who needs to renegotiate his or her rates with a client.

Because this question of what to charge is so pervasive (and sometimes controversial) among translators and interpreters, the Translation Journal will be dedicating several posts to this issue. Do you have an article to share on this topic? If so, please send it to Karen. We will post your article along with your biography and links to your websites.

We also welcome you to share your comments in the comment box below or post in the Forum or post your comments on the Translation Journal Facebook Page.

Identify Your Target Income

One approach to setting your rate is to first identify your target income. Before quoting a rate for any kind of freelance work, consider the following questions:

  • How many hours per week are you willing and able to work?
  • How many words can you translate per hour, on average?
  • Do you want to take vacations? If so, how many and for how long?
  • What type of client base are you working for, and how much are they used to paying?

By answering some of these questions, you will gain a better idea of what you need to earn each hour, day, and week to cover your expenses and make the kind of income you desire. Additionally, having a clear understanding of what you need to earn makes it easier to turn away work that pays less than you need, and helps to ensure that your chosen projects deliver your required hourly rate.

Decide How to Charge

Freelance translators use different methods to work out their rates. Some charge by the word, character, or line depending on what languages are being translated. Another method is to charge by the page, with a “page” being defined as a specific number of words. Charging by the hour or on a per-project basis can also be done if you feel that other methods don’t offer adequate compensation.

How you choose to set your rates also depends on the types of projects and clients you’re working with. Some languages present more of a challenge than others, and differences in layout may also necessitate a different type of rate. You should also consider whether or not you want to have a minimum fee. Having a set amount ensures that you won’t get stuck with too many small projects.

Cover Your Expenses

In order to accurately set your rates, first work out your total expenses for each month, including household expenses and bills, vehicle and transportation fees, and other recurring monthly payments. Add in a buffer for unexpected expenses such as car and home repairs, and then look at the total. This is the minimum amount that you must bring in each month in order to break even.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

It’s important to take experience into account when deciding how much to charge for freelance translation. Your rates should reflect how long you’ve been working and the skill set that you have. Being able to translate between multiple languages means that you can offer clients a great deal of versatility. Use these factors to determine the amount of markup to add to your minimum salary requirement. It helps to research what others with similar experience and skills are charging, as well as the “going rate“ in your target market.

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