Ideas for raising your translator rates

I’ve seen a ton of advice on the internet, and I haven’t read it all yet. There seem to be two general approaches: a) translators should look at costs or b) translators should look at what they are doing.

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Tip #1 – calculate what you can earn

I’ve seen a ton of advice on the internet, and I haven’t read it all yet. There seem to be two general approaches: a) translators should look at costs or b) translators should look at what they are doing.

An example of the cost-based approach is the ATA rates calculator page. They write, “You have to find out how much money you need to earn, and then figure out how much work it takes to earn it.” This is a fine approach, but it’s not really complete because it doesn’t take into consideration what business adjustments you need to make to achieve those earnings.

I would recommend looking at what you are doing to calculate how much you can earn doing what you’re doing. Focus on what you like to do, what you want to do, and what are your maximum translation rates, and how much money you can make. Then make adjustments.

  1. Come up with four or five subjects you’d like to translate in.
  2. Search the internet to determine the top rates for that subject.
  3. Rate your skills in each category on a scale of 6-10.
  4. Adjust your real desired rate against what you think are the top rates.
  5. Is that higher than what you earn right now? If it is, try to earn that!
  6. Drop any subjects that are less than an 8 if you can.

Personally, I would put this in the “living deliberately” camp. What do you want to do professionally? What do you want to do personally? How can they match?

Tip #2 – consider your customers

You might have a feel for the customer. If you are in-the-middle financially, you might feel some apprehension about raising rates. This is well-founded: you may lose work.

  1. Take customers you think can pay up to your real desired rate all the way up.
  2. Take customers you think can pay more but not that much up as much as you think you can.
  3. How much more money are you making? Drop your lowest paying customers until you are earning what you earned before the rate hike (working less, earning more).
  4. Look for new customers.

Tip #3 – consider the value of the content you currently translate

If the content you translate has little value, either as it is produced or as it is consumed, then you will have a difficult time raising your rates. Content that is expensive to produce and has a high value to the customer as a translation is usually the best paid.

If you are in a situation where you are afraid to lose customers when you raise your rates, the best course is to target customers whose content is very valuable and try raising your rates there.

Valuable content Inexpensive content
Packaging for good products

Anything done for really expensive products

Special domains like legal, pharma, medical, some technical

Financial reports, etc. where precision is required

Marketing texts for important pages on a website

Marketing texts for print media or important presentations/media

Any content where precision matters

E-commerce product descriptions

Blog posts

Any content that expires quickly

Marketing content, like presentations, that are not critical

Anything that is produced relating to cheap or poor quality end-products or services

Content where precision matters little

Tip #4 – Save up some money

If you save up some money, you can bargain from a position of strength. Removing customers from your portfolio will be A LOT easier to do.

This may require a plan. According to our studies, most translators are Myers-Briggs personality types with a J for judgment, meaning rules, planning, organization, and order, so this shouldn’t be too hard to save.

How much do you need to live for one year? Put together an 18 month plan to save that amount and watch your bargaining power improve.