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Charging for translation services: what is the most suitable strategy?
Home Reference & Education Language
By: Charlene Lacandazo Email Article
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Most often, new freelance translators and interpreters want to know how much they can expect to earn in the translation industry. Some translators and interpreters may be wondering whether they are earning enough for the effort they put into their businesses. However, it may be bit vague to measure how much of a living translators make out of the translation industry.

A few years ago, there were several surveys conducted about the average income of linguists working in the translation industry. Some of these agencies that conducted the survey are the American Translators Association, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, and PayScale.com; they conducted the same survey in order to examine if translators have a common monthly income. However, the results were unclear and vague.

The results of the surveys that these groups conducted was not clear and was actually confusing; there are some years that translators and interpreters are paid higher rates compared to the last 2 years. If language translation industry is in high demand, why are translators’ and interpreters’ income still not sufficient to make a living? What are the factors that affect the earning status of translators? How will the translation industry be affected if translators started billing by the hour rather than by the word?

There is a lot of demand of translators and interpreters in the world today. A translators’ income depends on the volume of work, and thus, translators and interpreter’s monthly income may vary from low numbers to really rather large amounts of money. In some cases, translators do bill by the hour, but a translation charge per word or page is still the norm.

But, what are the significant differences between charging by the word and pricing by the hour?

When charging for translation by the source word, everyone knows up front how much the translation will cost, but nobody knows how many hours a translation project will take. Per- word charging encourages translators to maintain their skills and efficiency in producing their translation product. Most likely, skilled and efficient translators can earn more by charging by the word than clients would likely pay by the hour. However, pricing by the word may have disadvantages from the translator’s side. Obviously, pricing by the word includes working for a flat and fixed rate, but actually, when it comes to translation and editing it may be a problem for translators.

On the other hand, pricing by the hour may or may not be advantageous. If you charge $80 per hour and you work ten hours, you make $ 800; and if you charge 20 cents a word and the translation source contains 900 words but the translator is capable of translating 700 words and hour, the translator is making just as good a profit out of it. However, the majority of the clients and translation agencies are still in favour of the idea of pricing translation projects by word. It is often convenient of clients to know right away about the translation price that he or she will need to pay. It is more believable that professional and efficient translators are capable of earning from translation businesses based on charging translation projects by the word than by the hour.

Charlene Lacandazo works for Rosetta translation in Kunming, a full service translation agency specialising in German translation services.

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