How much am I worth as a translator?
April 4, 2016 5:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a tough time working out what would be an appropriate and fair rate for a translation, given my qualifications. In the past, I've done occasional work for online translation agencies as well as some more large-scale translations (everything from memoirs to legal documents). In those cases, it was either the agency or client which suggested a rate under project specific circumstances (time-sensitive, for a non-profit with limited budget, etc.). Could any of you give me some guidelines or suggestions?

An acquaintance of my parents found out that I've worked as a freelance translator in the past and forwarded this project on to me. It's a legal contract of about 3000 words. It seems to me that .10 per word may be lowballing it and I'm leaning more towards .12. Seeing as I am not a professional translator nor a legal professional, it also seems to me that it may be wise to have a third-party proofread my translation.
posted by csjc to Work & Money (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As a professional translator specializing in the legal field, I agree that your rate is too low. There are loads of resources at sites like and that should help you figure out how to position yourself in the marketplace. Also agree that you should hire a reviser if you do not have experience in the topic to which the contract relates.
posted by delphic at 5:17 PM on April 4, 2016

How many hours would it take a professional translator to translate 3000 words? How much would a professional translator charge (based on hours; consider the fact that most professional translators are making at least $75/hr).

What's the language pair? How uncommon is your language pair? Why are they choosing you and not someone else? Why would someone choose a cheaper translator for a legal contract?

If the answer to this last question is "because you're cheaper" I wouldn't do the translation. You're only making things harder for other translators and you're shooting yourself in the foot.

If you want to get more experience, continue to work for agencies until you are confident you can charge more at a professional rate.

If you are unsure that you can provide value when translating a legal contract, or if they want an el-cheapo job, then what exactly is the point?

Freelancers are often taught to say "fuck you, pay me" but typically the number-one reason why freelancers do not get paid is because they either take on work they are unqualified to do, or take on work and are *willing* to get underpaid to do.
posted by My Dad at 5:21 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think even the most experienced professional translators generally have their work proof-read. As far as I know, it's standard industry practice. So yes someone should proof read your translations.
posted by OCDan at 10:40 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

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