Rates, Specializations, and other Newbie Questions
Thread poster: Samuel Hatcliff

Samuel Hatcliff
미국
Local time: 17:24
Spanish to English
Jul 19

Hello all, I am an aspiring freelancing translator trying to get my feet wet through taking advantage of the features on this site, with hopes to be able to use freelance translation as my primary source of income after at least a couple years of experience.

A bit about myself and my goals: I have a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages with a focus in Spanish Language. I have studied abroad in 3 spanish-speaking countries. My language pair is Spanish to English. (Yes, I am aware
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Hello all, I am an aspiring freelancing translator trying to get my feet wet through taking advantage of the features on this site, with hopes to be able to use freelance translation as my primary source of income after at least a couple years of experience.

A bit about myself and my goals: I have a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages with a focus in Spanish Language. I have studied abroad in 3 spanish-speaking countries. My language pair is Spanish to English. (Yes, I am aware of how overly saturated the market is with this particular language pair-- more on this later). I would like to be able to eventually specialize in translating news articles regarding global politics/current events. Although I don’t have any formal experience in this field, I have spent the better part of the last few years reading such articles in Spanish, devoting a large portion of my free-time to reading up on global politics --especially within Latin America--, and have spent time living and studying several of the countries that I regularly read up on. Although I am fresh out of undergrad and admittedly have very little experience in the translating industry itself, I personally am confident enough in my linguistic abilities and work-ethic to believe that after a few months of using the proz paid membership resources listed in the education tab, attending free webinars, and familiarizing myself with the business component of the profession, I could be capable of producing quality work for agencies and clients.

However, I’ve gleaned from my time researching the industry and looking through posts on this forum over the past couple of weeks that producing quality work isn’t enough to be a successful, thriving translator. I have some pretty big concerns regarding the actual opportunities available to a new translator with my particular language pair and desired specialization. I want to emphasize that I don’t expect well-paying work in my particular niche right away. I would be perfectly fine with taking jobs translating general articles in tourism, wellness, psychology, etc and getting paid less than what I would ideally like to be making if I continue to pursue freelance translation, in say, 5-10 years. I currently have a fairly comfortable financial situation and safety-net that affords me the luxury of paying for a proz membership and spending heaps of time learning the basics of the profession. Of course, I would like to be able to have some sort of an idea of whether or not it’s realistically worth it to make this sort of investment given the current state of the market and my lack of professional experience. I don’t dream of lucrative living, hell, I’d be content making an annual salary of somewhere between $35,000-40,000 doing this sort of thing. I’d primarily like to know whether or not it’d be possible for someone like me to actually land gigs in my field (As previously mentioned, I’d be okay with more general articles initially), and secondarily, whether or not it’d be possible to reach the above-mentioned annual income after several years of hard, diligent work and self-marketing. Moreover, I have several specific questions regarding the best way to getting my feet wet in this industry that I was hoping you all could shed some light on:

-I looked up the average rates for my language pair, and it gives $.08 wd and 25.84$. Given the fact that I’m not in dire need of money right now and don’t have much experience as a translator, I would be open to initially taking jobs below this minimum rate. However, it seems that this bottom-bidding is overall harmful to translators, and frowned upon by many of you. I wouldn’t want to contribute to damaging the industry and average pay of people more qualified than myself; a set of professionals of whom I’d like to be amongst in a few years. So, my question is, to what extent would I be doing a disservice to myself and other translators by starting off with offering less than the minimum rate? ($.05-$.07 wd) I also read a post on this forum where someone mentioned that agencies will typically not go for a mark-up and will tend to stick with the originally agreed upon rate. The member was saying that because of this he’d advise new translators not to shoot too low when making a pitch. Would you guys tend to agree with this advice? If so, and this is a truly problematic strategy, how could I get around my lack of experience to ensure that I’ll be able to acquire a sizable amount of initial work without offering rate that's too low?

-Do any of you have experience with the mentorship program offered through this website, and would you recommend it to someone in my position?

-Should I complete webinars, training, etc before applying to any agencies through the site’s blue board? (I want my profile to be attractive to agencies, and I won’t be able to in good faith include such skills, such as using a CAT tool, on my profile until I’ve had the actual practice and experience.)

-I’ve uploaded my resume in English. Would you recommend that I upload one in Spanish as well?

-As mentioned earlier, I’d be willing to take jobs translating general articles in tourism, self-help, psychology, etc. Is this something that I should advertise on my profile? Or should I stick to advertising my desired niche of news/political pieces?


I apologize for the excess of questions-- Despite spending a lot of time this past week reading the forums, I have a lot of trepidation and uncertainty about the realistic prospects of me being able to succeed in this industry, which is only worsened by this global pandemic and economic crisis. Every bit of advice will be much appreciated.

Sam


[Edited at 2020-07-19 21:21 GMT]
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
영국
Local time: 22:24
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
What is driving your interest? Jul 20

Samuel Hatcliff wrote:
Given the fact that I’m not in dire need of money right now and don’t have much experience as a translator, I would be open to initially taking jobs below this minimum rate. However, it seems that this bottom-bidding is overall harmful to translators, and frowned upon by many of you. I wouldn’t want to contribute to damaging the industry and average pay of people more qualified than myself; a set of professionals of whom I’d like to be amongst in a few years. So, my question is, to what extent would I be doing a disservice to myself and other translators by starting off with offering less than the minimum rate?

Good morning Sam. With regard to your question, nobody can stop you from acting as you wish to act, given that this is an unregulated market. However, I think you already know the answer: participation in an already crowded language pair by individuals who describe themselves as "comfortable" and having a "safety-net" is, at the margin, going to make life harder for those who rely on the business for their survival. Effectively you would be using your other source of income to subsidise translation work. Whether you consider that acceptable or not is a personal choice, but let's be clear what that choice entails.

Given that you don't appear to have a "ready-made" specialisation, and that the areas you mention are not obviously lucrative (have you perhaps noticed a few problems with the global tourism industry recently?), and that freelance translation can be quite a precarious living, I'm mildly surprised by your apparent enthusiasm for the profession.

If you read the section of Common Sense Advisory's recent report that deals with income, you will see that they estimate that 49% earn less than $20,000 a year. What do you have that will lift you out of that 49%? I'm not sure that an interest in philosophy or psychology or wellness is going to be enough. Are clients prepared to pay top-dollar for that kind of text?

Of course, the exciting thing about the translation market is that there is plenty of potential for ambitious people who get on the front foot and actively seek clients in specific niches where they can add value beyond simple translation. How many freelancers / linguists belong to that group? Do you?

Regulars will groan at me for repeating my standard advice - brace yourselves, everybody - but here it is: go and use those linguistic skills in some other industry somewhere, and come back to translation in ten years when you know something valuable about a subject outside academia. And I'd add that you should probably immerse yourself in a Spanish-speaking country for a few years as well. That makes a big difference to both ability and credibility.

Regards,
Dan


Teresa Borges
Sheila Wilson
Rachel Waddington
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Jorge Payan
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
네델란드
Local time: 23:24
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Samuel Jul 20

Samuel Hatcliff wrote:
I don’t dream of lucrative living, hell, I’d be content making an annual salary of somewhere between $35,000-40,000 doing this sort of thing.


If you check salaries on various web sites, you may get the impression that $40 000 would be a fairly standard salary for a translator, but surveys like the one linked to by Dan tell a different story, namely that $40 000 would put you in the top 20% of earners.

I’d primarily like to know whether or not it’d be possible for someone like me to actually land gigs in my field, and secondarily, whether or not it’d be possible to reach the above-mentioned annual income after several years of hard, diligent work and self-marketing.


You may be able to get jobs. The best way to find out, is to start marketing yourself aggressively to translation agencies. Visit the Blue Board and contact as many agencies as you can. Don't wait.

It seems that this bottom-bidding is overall harmful to translators, and frowned upon by many of you.


When I was at translators' college, we were fed this myth, too.

To what extent would I be doing a disservice to myself and other translators by starting off with offering less than the minimum rate?


Don't look too closely at this elusive thing called a "minimum" or "average" rate. Start by quoting a realistic rate, and then accept the client's low counter-offer (unless it's too low). If you're new, you won't know what a realistic rate for a particular market is, so just quote the ProZ.com "average" rate to begin with.

Should I complete webinars, training, etc. before applying...


No, do it at the same time.

I’ve uploaded my resume in English. Would you recommend that I upload one in Spanish as well?


Yes, but first: rewrite your résumé so that it targets translation clients. From the information given in your current résumé, I believe you should be able to trim it down to a single page. Don't mention non-translation work experience.

As mentioned earlier, I’d be willing to take jobs translating general articles... Or should I stick to advertising my desired niche


Cast your net wide.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
스페인
Local time: 22:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
As I'm sure you expected, we all think slightly differently Jul 20

I've tried to group various extracts from your post. Forgive me if I've taken things a little out of context.

About subject specialisation:

Samuel Hatcliff wrote:
I would like to be able to eventually specialize in translating news articles regarding global politics/current events.


I would be perfectly fine with taking jobs translating general articles in tourism, wellness, psychology, etc and getting paid less than what I would ideally like to be making if I continue to pursue freelance translation, in say, 5-10 years.


Is this something that I should advertise on my profile? Or should I stick to advertising my desired niche of news/political pieces?

Nobody becomes the goto person in a niche market overnight. Anyway, how consistently "nichy" is a niche? If I were to stick just to tourist guides, which is something I've done a lot of, would I be translating the same stuff every day? No, some locations will want to promote the outstanding local architecture, others will be all about their winter sports facilities, or maybe the region's flora and fauna. The same can certainly be said for current events: Covid-19 may dominate the news today but hopefully that won't always be the case.

A beginner should always be ready and willing to translate everything they feel they could do well. Getting a little out of your comfort zone is never a bad thing. But a freelancer's promotional materials are all about giving the potential client a 100% clear and consistent message, so always bear that in mind.


About rates:

I looked up the average rates for my language pair, and it gives $.08 wd and 25.84$.


my question is, to what extent would I be doing a disservice to myself and other translators by starting off with offering less than the minimum rate? ($.05-$.07 wd)


I’d be content making an annual salary of somewhere between $35,000-40,000 doing this sort of thing.

I don't think offering to work for USD 0.06-0.07 would be too disastrous for a beginner, although USD 0.04 would, IMO. You can never compete with the "hobby" translators on price, so don't venture into their part of the market. The problem is that few clients will be prepared to offer you USD 0.08 once they've got used to paying you 0.06, so you'd probably have to replace them with new clients.

I'm wondering if you have any idea of what's involved in actually doing a translation as a professional. You're quoting all sorts of numbers, but do you have any idea how USD 0.05 per source word could turn into an annual income of USD 40k? That's what you need to find out, and soon. It's easy enough to do: take a Spanish news article of the type you're interested in translating. Note down the number of source words and the current time, and get stuck in. Work until you've produced a deliverable: an English text that's been researched, translated, proofread at least once, spell-checked, formatted correctly... Then calculate how many source words you processed per hour. Rinse and repeat, several times. From those statistics, you can calculate how many words on average you might be able to process in a full day, week, month, etc., and what your gross income would be. Bear in mind though that a freelancer can't just translate all day, every day as an in-house translator might do. Marketing, client emails, negotiation, invoicing, payment chasing and book-keeping all have to be done too. And sickness, holidays and training will all take some of your time. One calculation you need to do -- the most important, in fact -- is the one that gives your target rate per hour. We only have 24 in total per day, however many we'd like.


About other things:

Do any of you have experience with the mentorship program offered through this website, and would you recommend it to someone in my position?

No, I don't. But yes, I would recommend it if you can find a good match.

Should I complete webinars, training, etc before applying to any agencies through the site’s blue board? (I want my profile to be attractive to agencies, and I won’t be able to in good faith include such skills, such as using a CAT tool, on my profile until I’ve had the actual practice and experience.)

You don't necessarily have to wait, but you should give all of those things priority. The basic "Meeting Clients at ProZ.com" webinar is free to registered users, and PLUS members can then attend a more personalised one. And CAT tools are something you absolutely have to be able to speak knowledgeably about, even if you decide not to use one. I would advise you to start by quoting for posted jobs rather than applying to loads of agencies. If one accepts your quote, then go for it. Leave the bulk of the applications until you're really happy with your quote text, your profile, your CV etc. On that point, someone needs to draw your attention to the slips and inconsistencies both in your post and in the sample uploaded to your profile. We all make little mistakes in forum posts (probably a few in this one ) but I'd have thought your post above (your first ProZ.com one, AFAIK) and the sample would both have been worth checking very carefully.

I'm also wondering if you need some training in how to run a business. It sounds as though you're going into this straight from education. That isn't great, IMHO. As Dan implies, it's always best to get some experience of the world of work before setting up in business. If you can't argue the toss with hard-nosed agency PMs, you're going to be negotiating from a very weak base. You're also more likely to be scammed (check out the Scam Centre here, BTW).

I’ve uploaded my resume in English. Would you recommend that I upload one in Spanish as well?

As Samuel says, you first have to get your English one to do you justice. Do you realise that it tells potential clients virtually nothing relevant? See the site's Wiki article on the subject for some ideas on rewriting it from scratch. (Disclosure: I wrote it .) Once you have a perfect English CV, get it translated by a native Spanish speaker, or DIY and then get it proofread by one.


 

WS McCallum
뉴질랜드
Local time: 11:24
French to English
Rates etc. Jul 21

Hello Sam. Things are tough all over at the moment, so there are not many sectors where starting up is going to be easy in 2020. Don’t be put off by the “common language pair” stuff. You will always encounter someone prepared to argue about common versus rare languages and how it is harder to get work with the former. I do both and can say that, after 30 years in the business, working with a “common” language tends to bring in more work over time.

Regarding your preferred
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Hello Sam. Things are tough all over at the moment, so there are not many sectors where starting up is going to be easy in 2020. Don’t be put off by the “common language pair” stuff. You will always encounter someone prepared to argue about common versus rare languages and how it is harder to get work with the former. I do both and can say that, after 30 years in the business, working with a “common” language tends to bring in more work over time.

Regarding your preferred field of work, having done translation of news articles on a regular basis, it is as much who you know as what you know. It is possible to land work in that field, but even translation agencies find that work hard to keep as publishing houses can be just as fickle as companies in other sectors when it comes to renewing contracts, so be prepared to translate in other areas. As a beginner too, it is best to try out different fields: you may, hypothetically speaking, discover that you love translating legal contracts; not only because they tend to be high-volume work, but also because you find them relatively easy.

I am not going to deliver a sermon on pricing: adopt what pricing you feel is necessary and/or appropriate for your situation. The lectures on the subject you got in university were probably from academics who are sheltered from market realities. You will soon know if your rates are too high: you won’t get any work. Don’t aim too low though: as you mentioned, agencies seldom raise their rates: “Wow - you have been doing such a good job that we are going to give you a raise” are words freelancers are unlikely to hear from a translation agency.

Target your potential clients by country: there are parts of Latin America where the rates are so low that you would be shooting yourself in the foot if you attempted to gain clients there. However, if you can find well-paying clients there, good on you. Your being a native English speaker may also give you an edge in foreign markets saturated with non-native translators who only think they know English.

“Should I complete webinars, training, etc?” You should just get on with marketing yourself. By all means follow up on whatever training options you feel you need, but do not let that stand in the way. As for CAT tools, different companies use different tools and the technology is subject to ongoing change, so it’s a bit of a lottery even if you have that software.
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