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Rates - a controversial subject

fmkellerman
Ace Contributor
Fanny K Member Since: Dec 10, 2016
1 of 31

So.... I want to talk about rates. I know it's uncomfortable (trade secrets and all), but what harm can it really do?

 

I see some ridiculously low budgets on Upwork (5$ for every 500 words of English to Swedish, anyone?) and "professional" translators working for 10$/hour.

 

I also talk to translators who say I don't charge enough per word (0,04$ for general texts) and to clients who think I'm outrageously expensive. Now I've been on here for a few months, I can afford to tell those clients I'm in no mood to translate their projects, despite their very generous offer of 0,02$ per word (which, they remind me, is more than they pay their other translators and I am very lucky).

 

So who's got it right? The translators who charge more? The clients who get angry when I won't work for 5 bucks? Or am I right where I need to be, price-wise?

 

I should add something clients tend to forget. I'm a full-time freelancer. I pay taxes. I also live in Sweden, so that's about 50% in VAT + taxes (but with free health care and all the herring you can eat!). So a very generous offer of 5$ ("it's only a short text, why are you being difficult?") earns me:

 

5$ - Upwork fees = 4$

4$ - VAT = 3.20$

3.20$ - taxes = 1.60$ which means I can buy TWO WHOLE STAMPS (oh, no, wait, 2$ withdrawal fee! No stamps for me!)

bcondez
Active Member
Bruno C Member Since: Feb 14, 2017
2 of 31

Yeah, Upwork is getting famous for "quick and cheap work".

It's outrageous that a perfectly normal rate outside Upwork, is considered very expensive in this platform. With those reactions, it's easy to understand what clients want. A professional job, for the lowest budget possible.

 

I had clients asking me for my rate for a job, let's say 1000$, and they wanted to pay only 300$. I reject all this proposals, as well as the job posts looking for "entry level" with all kinds of demands.

 

However, someone will do that kind of job. Good or bad, it will be done.

 

It's sad to see so many client caring much more for how much they will pay, than the quality of the work done. It is an investment, and they should face it like one. The outcome of the project will be their image. An amateur job, will most likely scare off lots of potential revenue for that client.

 

It's their loss, but I refuse to work for pennies.

fmkellerman
Ace Contributor
Fanny K Member Since: Dec 10, 2016
3 of 31

I've had a few of those. I say "my best rate is 1000$" and get a response saying "but our budget is 200$". So I just tell them good luck finding someone else. Quite often, they do. But then they want me to review the work and I have to tell them it's nowhere near legible so it needs to be done from scratch. So it ends up costing them even more money in the end.

versailles
Community Guru
Rene K Member Since: Jul 10, 2014
4 of 31

There are clients that pay good rates (up to 8-10 cents a word) for translation. I'm not sure, however, if you can find enough of those to live full time on Upwork. Diversification is the key.

 

I pity translators who work for 2-3 cents or less. 6-7 is a strict minimum to me, except maybe for long term relations with trusted people and a huge volume projects. Then, discounts may be given up to some point.

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"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless
fmkellerman
Ace Contributor
Fanny K Member Since: Dec 10, 2016
5 of 31

That's a good point. I do complete smaller projects for long-term clients and can give them a better deal. I think I probably need to find a better, set scale for per-word pricing. As in, general/technical/html etc.

blancanieve
Ace Contributor
Nadine D Member Since: Jan 23, 2016
6 of 31

Hi Fanny,

 

yes, rates are indeed quite controversial. I charge a bit more than you - at least 0.06 per word, for demanding texts even more. And yes, it is difficult to find well-paid translation jobs here on Upwork, and you have a lot of "translators" who obviously don't have a clue or they just want to make a quick buck. Some of them are not even native speakers of their target language. But their per word rates of 0.02 correspond to the quality of their work and sadly, a lot of clients do not verify the translations they get. 

 

A few days ago I was even asked to translate a 100000 words file for $200. So at least 1.5 months of work for $200 - this is pretty outrageous and a new low, even for Upwork. And this is the problem with a lot of clients here: They want a high quality translation done by a real professional, but they want to pay peanuts for it. Sometimes I am not sure whether they don't know how long it takes to deliver a quality translation or whether they are just shameless… Sure, this issue is not unique to Upwork, but I have the feeling Upwork takes lowballing to a whole new level.

 

But anyways, try not to lower your rates, they are pretty much at the bottom for your language combination. Instead try diversifying the places where you look for work. There are plenty of portals where the chances of encountering better paid jobs (especially for translators) are considerably higher than on Upwork.

fmkellerman
Ace Contributor
Fanny K Member Since: Dec 10, 2016
7 of 31

Thanks, that's a really good answer. I think I will keep my rate the same for the simplest translations, but find a slightly higher one for technical or very specific texts. I have been doing quite a lot of more demanding translations lately, and with research they end up being too time-consuming for my regular rate.

fmkellerman
Ace Contributor
Fanny K Member Since: Dec 10, 2016
8 of 31

I like the Upwork platform because the contract system and the possibility to choose when I get paid makes bookeeping easier. But diversity is always good. What other sites do you use?

versailles
Community Guru
Rene K Member Since: Jul 10, 2014
9 of 31

@Nadine D wrote:

 

A few days ago I was even asked to translate a 100000 words file for $200.


This is actually not an issue since nobody will do it for this price. At the end, this client may pay way more and yet not enough to receive any kind of quality.

 

Those are nice anecdotes to share but don't represent the real world market.

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"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless
blancanieve
Ace Contributor
Nadine D Member Since: Jan 23, 2016
10 of 31

Rene,

 

believe it or not - this file is to be translated into several languages, and there actually are several freelancers doing this translation. For that price. So no, this is not just a nice anecdote. Of course, this is an extreme example and not reflecting the majority of postings, you are right about that. But still, I noticed a growing amount of postings with a complete disproportion between the word count and price.

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