The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (both UK associations) worked together in preparing the 2011 Rates and Salaries Survey for Translators and Interpreters. The online survey went live in August 2011 and received more than 1750 responses until the closing date of October 2011. The survey contains lots of data about rates and it makes for very interesting reading. Unfortunately, due to copyright reasons, I can’t mention any of the statistics in this post, just the few comments below.
If you’re not a CIOL or ITI member, consider buying the master report. Non-members can obtain a copy of the survey for a fee (£20 for a 56-page document). For details, please contact the CIOL office at email@example.com.
The median output per year for translators was under 250,000 words. That sounds way too low! Let’s assume a translator works for 15 days/month (without holidays, days off, sick days etc. I know it’s usually way more but bear with me). 15 x 12 months = 180 days/year x 2,000 words/day (many translators manage way more than that per day) = 360,000 words/year.
As for the rates concerning Greek, I only work as a translator and exclusively with translation agencies at the moment, so I can’t comment on the rates for direct clients. The English-Greek agency rates reported were a bit higher than the ones I offer my clients, but the rates I’ve been offered by some UK translation agencies were around £50. When I said that’s too low, you can guess their reply: ‘Plenty of other Greek translators out there who accept these rates’.
Well, those translators are obviously not members of either CIOL or ITI (I’m not sure they can afford to be members of any association with the rates they work for anyway…).
Just the facts: real rates and earnings of real translator
Thanks for this article, Catherine!
It’s so sad to see these low translation rates (from my point of view, they’re low)… The situation will only change when translators stop accepting peanuts and start charging what their work is worth. Unfortunately there will always be bottom-feeders to keep dragging prices down, but it’s up to each one of us to stand up for fair pay. We’d be doing a huge favor to ourselves AND the whole industry, little by little…
I’ve been doing my part for a while and I can say I’m very happy with the results. I keep my rates up and I’ve been getting more and more clients who are willing to pay.
Two days ago, for instance, a direct client asked for a quote and then replied (in a somewhat rude tone) that he “knows the market prices, and they’re around US$0.06-0.08 per word,” that my rate was inadmissibly high, and that he wouldn’t accept that.
I replied that “market price” is a relative concept and that the professionals I know and whose work I trust (and who spend money on tools and dictionaries, continuing education, etc. — my list was huge!) charge around my rate. I ended the email saying something like “if you decide to hire my service at this time, I’ll be glad to assist you; but if you don’t, I’m sorry I cannot refer any colleagues because I don’t know a single good translator who works for these rates.”
Guess what? He accepted my rate because the deadline was too short for him to look for someone else.
Then, the following day, a colleague sent me a ProZ.com posting from the same client looking for translation. Then I thought to myself… “Oh, that’s why he thinks US$0.06-0.08 are ‘market prices.'” It’s a shame, isn’t it?
Hi Bianca! You’re 100% right and good for you for doing your part. I don’t have any experience with direct clients, but agency rates are getting worse by the day (especially in Greece with our financial troubles; that’s no excuse for the ridiculously low rates they offer though). It depends on all of us to keep the rates at a reasonable level at least, if not high. We talk about client education, but I think the translators should be educated first about good business practices…
I couldn’t agree more, Catherine! 🙂
I have been in the translation industry for about twenty years, and you do get what you pay for!
More importantly, since we’re talking about translator rates, you get what you ask. If we don’t start asking for what we want, we’ll never get it.
You’ve presented interesting information, as always Catherine!
I know it might be a fine distinction, but Bianca demonstrates a problem that has really bothered me lately: Do we deserve higher pay out of some sense of labor “fairness” or is it our responsibility to “educate” the customer as to why we are worth more pay?
So many blogs seem to assert that “someone” needs to enforce higher pay for us (the government? a labor union?). I for one do not want a government or a labor union setting a wage limit on my work (because “limit” will be the end result).
I like the way Bianca dealt with her customer: Educating them with Reality; firmly yet fairly.
I agree with you Natalya. Each translator has to ask and negotiate the prices they want and think they deserve. No one can do it for us and since it’s a free market, having a union or whatever set prices will create many other problems.
thank you for providing some food for thought.
Well, someone will say that if a combination of Google Translate and eager revisor results in a usable translation what the hell? However, this combination usually fails. Unless the agencies spend less on the translator just to have the revisor re-translate. It will be a loss for the agency paying twice for the same job. If they continue to do it (which they surely do to warrant our complaints), it takes no magic to see they could be satisfied.
The truth is that there are many young and hungry trainees out there, more eager to acquire experience than make money for now. If they accept such a job, it must be helpful to them. We must not forget that lowering prices is an entry strategy for beginners.
Established translators confident of their skill and worth simply ignore such offers because they have a steady well paying client or two with whom business is guaranteed (and they can make transfer earnings i.e. enough money to justify staying in the profession).
Now, in my opinion(which has changed over the past two years because I used to be very angry with colleagues accepting ultra-low rates), there is precious little danger to industry prices in general if high end translators maintain their prices and these low end translations are left to beginners. In this case, no one will complain about the other. If translators keep complaining about their colleagues’ pricing, we do not expect the outside world to have greater appreciation or respect for our profession. It gives the impression that some people want to conspire to cheat clients by imposing non-market prices (prices not determined by demand-supply interaction).
Unfortunately, these complaints get noticed faster than the quality high end translators get to offer. Result: the client knows (or thinks) that there is a place where they can get their translations done cheaply and the expensive translators are just unhappy about it. Effect: more clients seek out those notoriously cheap outsourcing destinations.
This scenario seems even more likely because we do not hear many clients complaining about any bad quality from the very cheap translators (they simply hush unsuccessful transactions and get their documents retranslated). The net is awash with complaints about low prices paid to translators but not about low quality delivered by these translators. A novice client relying on the net to find a translator will simply conclude as hypothesized above and more work will go to the low end site.
Like one commenter to this post on LinkedIn said, may be one should just focus on improving their skills and other translation quality descriptors and the kind of money we desire and deserve will likely follow. The downward pressure on pricing also benefits the industry in stimulating creativity (vendors think of novel ways of outshining rivals, translators think of better ways of using technology and saving effort, etc,). No good news maybe, except for people who like to innovate and take on new challenges. Translators should all be this way.
You’re so right Frederick, I agree with you especially on these two things:
1. …there is precious little danger to industry prices in general if high end translators maintain their prices and these low end translations are left to beginners.
2. …one should just focus on improving their skills and other translation quality descriptors and the kind of money we desire and deserve will likely follow.
There’s work for everybody out there and each translator is free to offer the prices they want and think they deserve.
In response to a complaint about outsourcing English-Greek translations to India and low pricing.
I think I read that somewhere, but can’t remember where, can you pls. tell me where it is so I can have another look?
I tried to return myself to this article to quote it in vain. I can’t quite remember. I shall keep searching and update you ASAP. Sorry for my late reply.
No worries Frederick, it’s no rush 🙂
@Frederick Found it, it’s this blog post http://sciword.blogspot.gr/2012/10/the-absurdity-of-outsourcing-greek.html
Or they are members of those associations, but they don’t respect the rates suggested by them.
It’s a real pity that this happens since we, translators, are the only ones who are destroying the market. Translation agencies can translate huge amounts of words because they have the resources (translators) who do the job for the peanuts they offer. Unfortunately, translation agencies get richer and richer, and translators… Well, you know the rest of the story.
Thank you, Catherine, for this blog post and for bringing up this topic!
Well yes it happens andwe can’t do anything about that becuse when it comes to business these things are expected to happen.