What is my job, and how much should I get paid?
December 4, 2013 12:17 PM   Subscribe

I am doing a freelance job where I translate, write, and design. How do I find out what my market value is? Is there a handy googleable title for what I'm doing?

I write letters, surveys, and form templates on behalf of a small business owner. They tell me what they want in Russian, I translate it to English, fill in areas they were vague about with my own writing, and make it look nice. One project might be more about translating their dictation and designing it to their specifications (for example, creating a survey postcard to send out to customers), while another might be more about writing ("I need a thank you letter to this person for that reason, mentioning these anecdotes, by Thursday.").

In case these details are relevant: I'm self-taught in all three of these skills. I've got a college degree, but I didn't major in any of these topics -- though, I did take at least one class in each, and was top of the class each time. My "business expenses" amount to the tea and soup I buy at the coffee shop I do my work in. I work slowly rather than banging these projects out, so I'm hesitant about charging per hour.

How do I find out what I should be charging?
posted by Pwoink to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you looked at translation services on Salary.com? There are also "recommended titles" that might help you with appropriate title. The GSA schedule for companies who perform these services for the government also has stuff like this, but they are loaded ie. include things like overhead and other expenses. These often go by amount of words, or something along those lines.
posted by OuttaHere at 12:25 PM on December 4, 2013

Whatever numbers you come up with, you should have multiple scales:
  • Translation of text, $X per page
  • Translation and design (mostly text), $Y per page
  • Translation and design (mostly graphic), $Z per page

posted by Etrigan at 12:44 PM on December 4, 2013

You also have to consider your market. Is your client in Russia or the US? That will impact what he sees as a fair price.
posted by COD at 1:02 PM on December 4, 2013

Response by poster: Etrigan, I get the project instructions over the phone while I take notes, so there is no text or pages to make scales regarding, really.

COD, she is in the western U.S.
posted by Pwoink at 1:11 PM on December 4, 2013

so there is no text or pages to make scales regarding, really.

Perhaps I'm stating the obvious, but you could charge based on the length of the finished project.
posted by Jahaza at 1:21 PM on December 4, 2013

Yeah, I mean pages of output, not input.
posted by Etrigan at 1:23 PM on December 4, 2013

Best answer: Unless the client asks for it, it's generally a bad idea to quote by page or by word-count.

It's better to market your services on an engagement basis, and discuss how many activities and deliverables will be accomplished as part of that engagement. You can then figure out yourself an hourly rate for what you're doing.

You also have to consider the true value of your work, whether or not it will be easy to quickly replace you with someone else, the price point the client can afford, all that stuff.

I imagine that it takes 2-3 hours max to create 2 pages of text.

So you can still quote a lump sum by engagement, broken down by specific activities and outcomes, while avoiding talking about hourly rates, which can become quite contentious.

If you're doing some simple contract copywriting with no expectations of the performance of the copywrite (ie, it's not persuasive marketing writing, or, if it is, they're not asking you to optimize it when you translate), I'd say that's worth about $30-$40 an hour.

If there is any overhead in there that you must do on behalf of the client, shoot for the upper level of the range. If you're actually playing a strategic role (or are expected to play a strategic role, that is), you can charge more.

Per word output is really only worth discussing with agencies, or with clients that have a high volume of work to be translated. They're used to it, likely your client is not.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:34 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

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