What is the translation rates debate about?

On many translators’ forums, there has been a lot of debate about translation rates, particularly the rates agencies are willing to pay. Several translators’ organisations publish reports on typical rates for certain language combinations and areas of specialisation in certain countries. However, the translation industry is largely unregulated and translators are free to charge what they feel the market will allow. As a result, some translators state that they refuse to work with agencies who will not accept their rates. These translators only work for select high-end agencies and direct clients who appreciate the quality of their work. Meanwhile, other translators find themselves struggling with agencies who dictate rates and underestimate the amount of work involved in translating a text. This has led to rates becoming a hot topic for discussion on translators’ forums.

Why is this debate a problem?

My question is how many translators are coming to believe that their work must be of inferior quality if they cannot command the same rates as some of their colleagues? Language combination and specialisation help dictate the rates a translator can demand. But many translators might wonder if they are up to the task. Is it simply a question of how they market their services since direct clients are typically willing to pay more than agencies? Is it possible for translators to take a stand on rates without declaring war on certain agencies?

It is also worth thinking about whether it is better to charge an hourly rate or per word. If you charge per word and you took into account the number of hours you spend working on a translation how would it compare to the minimum hourly wage in your country?

Let me know what you think.


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