Appropriate fee for doing some freelance research?
May 31, 2016 4:18 PM   Subscribe

A colleague of mine has some photographs of archival documents in French (a language which he does not read, but which I do), namely 166 pages' worth. He wants me to go through them and see to what extent they address certain topics/events. What do you think an appropriate fee for this would be? (If I were to do actual translating, I have a per-word fee that I have used in the past.) I have a PhD in European History but am currently "between jobs" at the moment.
posted by dhens to Work & Money (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd think of what your output needs to be. So like if the answer is "No, they do not address those topics/events" that's an easy one but if the answer is "Yes, they involve those topics/events" then do you need to... Write something? Translate them? Do something else?

I've charged between $60-120/hour (plus expenses) for research depending a little bit on what I am doing and how rigorous they need the output to be (i.e. a formatted footnoted document costs more than an email with specifics). If you're totally fluent in French and read quickly and the scans are decent quality, this should be an hour or two of work assuming you can skim. Whatever you do, put it all in writing so there aren't weird add-ons after the fact. Nothing wrong with working for colleagues as long as you are both on the same page about the scope of work.
posted by jessamyn at 4:42 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've paid $50/hour for freelance research work. I think you could charge a bit above that for the foreign language complexity of the work.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:47 PM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would charge for your time per hour to review the material and to write up a short synopsis in your common tongue. You might provide an hourly rate and then let him tell you how exhaustive he'd like you to be in your research (for example, in X hours you could certainly skim the material, but likely tell him virtually nothing of substance, a more substantial analysis could take X hours, etc.). In terms of a rate? It sounds like this project requires two skills - language and also skill as an academic to be able to selectively evaluate and identify what your colleague is looking for. This wouldn't simply be a translation gig.

Additionally, they're just paying your time - no benefits included. I would start at no lower than $70 per hour (I'm using the same "base rate" that Mr. Arnicae uses for contracting as his friends and family rate) and inform them you have a two to three hour minimum (Mr. Arnicae, who works in a musical creative field but also is highly educated has a half day minimum).

The project may disappear into the ether once your colleague discovers your rate isn't "lunch and a big thank you".
posted by arnicae at 4:56 PM on May 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

No less than $50/hour.
posted by LarryC at 6:45 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

In NYC I would charge $75/hr. for a quick run-through with minimal personal strain. Actual thinking is $150/hr. (You are a trained professional!) I was a sometime freelance editor. My ex sometimes does the work you describe with Yiddish materials.
posted by 8603 at 10:06 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would also find out whether your friend is paying you cash or whether you are going to have to do a 1099 with their university and get paid that way. I did some freelance work last year (<$1000), and honestly dealing with taxes made doing the small amount of freelance really not worth it. Consider what your hourly rate should be AFTER you pay taxes (at a much higher percentage) + the amount of time you're going to end up dealing with having weird taxes. In my case, what was originally a very reasonable hourly rate became pathetically low after accounting for all of that. On the other hand, if your friend is just going to write you a check under the table, this is all less of a concern.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:45 AM on June 1, 2016

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