How do I set my rates? Should I charge by the word or by the hour? These are two questions most anyone new to the language translation profession would ask themselves.
Generally speaking, language translators are paid by the word, but there are some cases where you might choose instead to bill by the hour.
One advantage of charging by the hour instead of by the word is that there’s little risk of losing money. Here’s an example Corinne McKay gives in one of her blogs: Say you charge $50 an hour and spend ten hours translating a document, you’ll earn $500. However, if you charge 20 cents a word, estimating that you’ll be able to translate 600 words an hour, but find that you can actually only translate 250 words an hour, ouch…you’re going to lose money.
If you’re new to the translation profession and still trying to figure out whether to charge by the hour or the word, the easiest way to remove the anxiety from this decision is to gather some objective data. To help you do this, stop by Freelance Switch, an hourly rate calculator. It’s simple to use and should only take five to ten minutes to complete.
Freelance Switch takes into account real-life factors—office rent, hardware and software costs, legal fees, daily expenses, vacation time, travel expenses, etc.—to help you determine your ideal hourly rate and your break-even hourly rate. Of course the app can only provide you with a loose approximation since it cannot factor in such things as your skill or experience level, demand and industry standards.
Also worth keeping in mind when trying to figure out how much to charge for a translation is that it is best to think about the whole, as opposed to the parts of a translation. If a translation job has complex structure and obscure vocabulary the translator needs to factor in the time it will take to research words and expressions, how much time it will take to produce a quality product as opposed to how fast words can be put together.
If you’re a freelance translator and looking for tips on how to brand yourself or better manage your time, check out two of our blogs, 5 Do's and Don'ts When Branding Yourself for a Translation Agency and 5 Time Management Secrets Everyone in the Translation Profession Should Know.