A few thoughts on setting prices

Pricing is a difficult subject because it’s very personal. When starting out translators tend to ask around to find out what their colleagues are charging and set their rates based on this information after deducting a certain amount to account for their lack of experience. Others simply let translations agencies dictate their rates. Here are a few thoughts on setting your rates, what to bear in mind and the potential consequences of your pricing decisions.

1) Once you’ve set your rate for a customer or an agency it will be difficult to increase that rate towards that particular customer or agency. It is easier to quote higher rates to new customers than to existing customers. Always be on the lookout for higher-paying work and offer higher rates to new customers. If the higher rate isn’t accepted, you can still negotiate and you may just be surprised at how often a higher rate is in fact accepted.

2) There will always be someone out there willing to do the translation for less. If you are a serious translator, competing on price alone is a bad idea. Play to your strengths and to your experience. Chances are you will find something in your skill set which will more than justify a higher rate and for which the end client will be more than willing to pay.

3) Charging low rates because you are “just a part-time translator” or “just a stay at home parent looking for something to do” and don’t have to live on what you earn is not helpful for the industry or others trying to make a living as a freelance translator. It is not in your best interest either since it is unlikely that you will always be in this position and will at some point want or need to make a decent living from translation.  

4) Believe in your skills and ability and make sure you produce work which measures up and charge rates which reflect your skills. Make sure you know the lowest you are prepared to go so that you don’t agree to something unfeasible when under pressure. It’s ok not to get every assignment and some customers simply have to learn the hard way. Low prices often mean low quality and a once-burned customer makes for a faithful future customer.

5) At lower rates you will obviously need to work more hours to earn the same amount as if you were charging higher rates. Don’t get lost in word rates and line rates, make sure you keep your eye on how much you are making per hour. If you work out that you need to work more than 24 hours a day at the rates you are charging to earn the amount you need to live on, then you have a problem…

Vicious circle

If you accept too much low-paying work just to make ends meet, you will most probably not have the time to accept higher-paying work when it does come your way. Leave yourself some room to manoeuvre so that you can move onwards and upwards and make your business successful.


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