Fees or Rates? A Discussion on Translation Prices

This post is a summary of a discussion on fees and rates during a hosted Group Translation Chats (GTC) session It was moderated by Robin Humphrey who kindly gave me his notes to use a basis for this post.

Many newcomers to the profession can find it hard to know what to charge, especially as MA courses often don’t pay much attention to business aspects. Hopefully this post will bring some clarity to the fees and rates discussion and help translators feel confident when speaking about the cost of their work.

Broadly speaking, fee is used to describe an individual service, and rate the price or cost of something per piece (per character, word, 1000 words, page, hour, for example).

The difference between fees and rates matters because we’re running businesses. Some think translation is not a “real business”, that it’s not “real work” and anyone can do it, especially if they have access to the internet. But this is a wrong assumption and although our job requires skill, training and time, we’re not generally overpriced. We offer a professional service and should charge accordingly.

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Purchase Orders – 2021 Update

Just over a year ago, I revisited the purchase order I first shared with you in 2015 because I’d divided it into four to cover the four different services I currently provide: translation; revision; editing; and localisation.

I’m now back again with another update.

After talking to colleagues recently about pricing, negotiating and deadlines, I realised I needed to add a couple of lines to my purchase orders.

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Results of the Translation Qualifications Survey (Part 3)

This is the third and penultimate part of the results of the translation qualifications survey, which focused on the DipTrans, MA/MSc, MITI exam and ATA certification.

In Part 1, we looked at the graphs and pie charts resulting from the survey. However, as I decided to reopen the survey to gain more responses, you’ll find all the definitive graphs and pie charts in Part 2 and in this post.

In Part 2, we examined the results of the first survey questions in more detail as well as some of the comments made to explain respondents’ choices.

In this Part 3, we’ll look at the comments for the last three questions: Which of the four qualifications surveyed are more highly regarded by translators (1), by agencies (2) and by direct clients (3).

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Purchase Orders Revisited

Way back in 2015, I asked my blog readers whether the purchase order I’d produced was merely a pipe dream or a document I could actually use with my clients. The general consensus was that my overly long PO would prove daunting for direct clients and unnecessary for agencies. After tweaking it a bit based on the many suggestions I received, I instead came up with a purchase order checklist. The idea was to fill it in ourselves using the information we gleaned in negotiations with clients and for it to be a handy reminder of what questions we should be asking.

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What I learned in May 2016

Unfortunately, I learned in May, and not for the first time either, that some clients show no respect for me at all. After chasing payment from a direct client for three months and listening patiently to their promises and excuses, I decided to send them another invoice detailing the late interest* now due. This is the second time I’ve had to reissue an invoice and demonstrate to a direct client that I mean business. But it’s also the second time that interest has not been paid.

Although in both cases the new invoice met with an immediate response (agreed new payment date one week later that was met, and same-day payment), I’m rather dismayed that the interest I added (which, let’s face it, is a paltry sum) was totally ignored. Besides complete non-payment and ignoring reminder emails, nothing else feels like such a slap in the face.

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What I learned in April 2016

April was completely overshadowed by my female greyhound, Lara, being ill from start to finish. We noticed she was limping badly and had a swollen back leg with a strange lump on her foot over the Easter weekend. The vet thought she had an abscess, so she lanced it, but instead it turned out to be a strange case of blood vessels that had somehow clumped together and risen to the surface. As it wouldn’t stop bleeding (she’d cut an artery), we had to take her to the Queen Mother Hospital in north London where she stayed for a couple of days.

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Purchase Order Checklist

Purchase order checklistMay 2021 update: The purchase order has been updated. Please see this post for 4 new versions of it (for translation, revision, editing and localisation), which you can also download here.

Towards the end of September 2015, I blogged about my ideal purchase order and asked readers for your opinion. I was worried that the form might ask clients to fill in too much information. And most of your comments reinforced that view. You agreed that many would baulk at the idea of providing so many details, even though doing so could save a lot of hassle and misunderstandings later on.

Busy direct clients with little understanding of the translation process are probably better served with a phone call or a few back-and-forth emails to make sure everything is clear. This type of exchange also helps to build a relationship that could lead to future projects. Agency clients, on the other hand, although they are more used to filling in forms, might not know the answers to all the questions and feel reluctant about bothering their end client with them. They also have their own processes in place and wouldn’t appreciate pandering to one of their service providers.

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My ideal purchase order: pipe dream or reality?

PO

May 2021 update: The purchase order has been updated. Please see this post for 4 new versions of it (for translation, revision, editing and localisation), which you can also download here.

For a while now I’ve been working on the type of purchase order I’d like to give to both my agency and direct clients (especially new ones) so that we all know where we stand and are clear about the price and what it does and does not include. Today I’ve been inspired by reading Two to Tango: Tips for Project Managers from a Freelance Translator (parts 1 and 2) by Igor Vesler on Lingua Greca’s blog to finally finish my first draft. I’m posting it here so I can get your feedback and comments, because I’m a little concerned that it might be overly long and put some clients off.

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Client Circles

‘Don’t undersell yourself.’

‘If the rate is too low, then don’t accept it.’

‘Stop working for the bulk market and look for direct premium clients.’

I expect you’ve heard the above in some shape or form quite a lot in your translation career. If you attend conferences, or see the tweets generated at them, and regularly read blog posts, then rates and translation markets will definitely be on the agenda. You’ve no doubt felt yourself stirring to the rallying cry of seizing the moment and steeling yourself to boldly tread where you have not dared venture before now (in other words at the very least not letting others walk all over you).

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