Translation rates

no peanuts

A translation agency would have me believe that they were “struggling to make any profit” and sent me the following email:

I notice your rates are higher than we would normally pay. I have been tasked with looking for French translators to work with on a regular basis who will accept rates between £0.035-0.045. At the moment we are struggling to make any profit given the fact that the amount clients are willing to pay for translation is on the decline whereas translators’ prices are rising.

Dear Agency, I wish to submit you some calculations to consider.

My minimum yearly earnings to cover for a minimum wage, my expenses and taxes, should be £25,747.

To reach this figure, working on “a regular basis” as translator for the kind of rates you propose, I should be translating 735,628 words a year, excluding repetitions of course.

Pretty impressive, but anyway, that’s about 14,712 words a week, assuming that I take only 2 weeks holiday a year.

Let’s assume that I work 48 hours a week – 8 hours a day and 6 days a week, every single week.

Let’s reserve 30% that time for admin work: accountancy (at £25,747.00 a year, I can’t really afford to pay a secretary, right?), marketing (you won’t provide me with continuous workflow, will you?).

Let’s forget about networking, CPD, and the likes. I am a gifted translator. I don’t need these, right?

Now, let’s reserve 30% of the time left for editing, proofing, polishing, etc. – as your website says, your company is committed to deliver high quality translations, so I wouldn’t dare giving you a first draft.

That leaves us with 24 hours a week at roughly 600 words per hour.

I know what you are going to say – am I not so lucky that these translations all fall within my area of expertise? Otherwise I surely would have to drop those profitable rates that you are proposing.

Just a question though – if you pay peanuts, you know you’ll get monkeys, right?

7 Responses to “Translation rates”
  1. Excellent post Pierre. That’s a ridiculous rate by any standards.

  2. Pierre says:

    Thanks Alison and Kim.

    And thanks for mentioning the typos!

  3. Ridiculously low, let’s hope this trend isn’t confirmed industry-wide!

  4. FrenchNad says:

    Thanks for an article resounding with truth, in a fun way… Of course we laugh at the comical aspect of clients offering peanuts for top-notch high-quality translation, but then I also want to cry when I realize I have to compete with the monkeys. Hail to globalization… there is the good, the bad and the ugly. Cheers!

  5. Pierre says:

    Thank you Nadia and Images En Clair!

    I’m not sure why but this post seems to be particularly successful. Could it be because of the basic maths displayed?

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