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14438_ITI_Career_Bulletin_2017_v2 (5)

The pricing puzzle When

The pricing puzzle When you’re starting your own business, one of the first questions is what to charge for your services. Kari Koonin takes a look at how to go about pricing your work Kari Koonin has worked with languages all her working life, starting off as an in-house translator at an Austrian industrial company for 5 years, and then in various bilingual positions in the Netherlands, South Africa and the UK. She turned freelance 25 years ago after the birth of her daughter. She translates German, Dutch and Afrikaans to English, specialising in marketing, websites, agriculture/ horticulture and food. Kari is the chair ot the ITI Professional Development Committee and has also taught German-English Institutional Translation at the University of Westminster. There are two main markets in freelance translation: the translation agency market and the direct client market, where you are working with corporate or institutional clients directly. How you charge for your work in each of these differs because of the nature of the market. When you’re starting out as a freelance translator, the easiest way to find work is to register with translation agencies. After all, they want what you are offering so there is no hard sell involved. They can also offer you a regular flow of work. But they are the middlemen between the end client and you, the supplier, so naturally the rate you will be paid is lower than if you were to work directly for the end client. So the gold standard for many freelance translators is the direct client market. Without the middleman taking their cut, you can charge a higher rate for your services. Direct clients are harder to find, however: if you don’t already have contacts yourself, it is tricky to market your services to companies and winning clients can be a slow process. But the rewards are great: not only will you earn more, but the working relationship can be a lot more creative and satisfying. Rates and Salaries Survey When you approach a new client for the first time, how do you know what to charge? Competition law in the UK prohibits organisations such as ITI from recommending rates, but rates and salaries surveys are published every few years. The most recent one, from 2011, is available to ITI members on the ITI website and provides maximum, minimum and average rates for a range of language pairs, client types, services and so on. Rates have not changed much since then, so this is a very useful starting point. Let’s take a look at the pricing structures for these two markets individually, as they differ quite considerably. ‘When starting out, it’s important not to undervalue yourself by charging a very low rate just to attract business’ 14 ITI BULLETIN CAREERS SPECIAL www.iti.org.uk

pricing The translation agency market In this market there is a bandwidth of prices which translation agencies are prepared to pay, with little flexibility to negotiate. When starting out, it’s important not to undervalue yourself by charging a very low rate just to attract business. Once you set a rate for your services, it is very hard to raise it: negotiating a rate increase with translation agencies is tricky. A very low rate also sends out low quality signals. Likewise, it can be tempting to accept work that is offered to you at very low rates simply to gain the experience or a foothold in the market. Beware of accepting this work: such emails may turn out to be scams or from unreliable sources. Never take on work from an agency you don’t know without checking them out on a resource such as the Proz.com Blue Board (www.proz. com/blueboard). Rates for UK translation agencies are generally quoted per 1000 words of the source word count (the text being translated). Units in other countries may differ: in Germany, rates are often quoted per line of 55 characters, and elsewhere it may be by the page. Agencies will often ask you to agree to a scaled discount for translations done in a CAT (Computer Aided Translation) tool to reflect any repeated text or matches in a www.iti.org.uk translation memory: a repetitious text is faster to translate with a CAT tool. Direct clients Charging for your services in the direct client market is the same as it is for any professional service provider. You decide what you want to charge and negotiate your fee with the client. Your rate per 1000 words will be irrelevant to the direct client: they will want a fixed price for the translation, or an hourly rate for your services, just as they would expect from, say, an accountant or a copywriter. Highly specialised translators will command higher fees, reflecting the investment they have made in their training and specialist knowledge. Working out your hourly rate This is based roughly on how many words you can translate in an hour. The more experienced you become, the more words you will translate per hour. Bear in mind that your hourly rate or target earnings should take account of other factors such as your cost base, holidays etc. There are tools available on the internet to help you work out how much to charge based on a range of factors. Use these in conjunction with the rates surveys and feel free to ask for guidance on translator forums such as the ITI subject and language groups: while translators tend to be secretive about their own rates they are always happy to provide ball-park advice. ITI BULLETIN CAREERS SPECIAL 15

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