How to Establish Rates


This was one of the topics I already had in mind for one of my weekly posts. I decided to talk about it today after I wrote my contribution to the The Bright Side e-book, a lovely initiative by Nicole Adams and Andrew Morris that celebrates everything that is right in freelance translation, with stories of real successful translators.

This is a quite controversial topic in freelance translation because there are clients offering extremely low rates and translators who accept working for peanuts. More experienced translators, however, despise this kind of translators and think they are a disgrace for our profession.

I disagree.

I, myself, have started working as a freelance translator for an agency for R$ 0.03. Please note that the price is in Brazilian reais, not in dollars, which is even worse, taking into account that US$ 1 is approximately R$ 2.3 nowadays.

You know what? When I was offered that, I was bubbling with happiness. After all, I was able to work as a freelance translator the way I had always dreamed of and would earn some good money. I had just finished my MA and returned to Brazil; had been looking for a job for two months. That was my very first job as a translator.

After one month of “experience” (yeah, right, I was a freelancer and I had to go through an experience period; go figure!), my rate was raised a bit. After one year, it was raised a tiny bit again. However, after this period, I was beginning to be aware of the market. I read blogs, followed experienced translators on social media, talked to translator friends. I started looking for other clients and establishing my own rate.

I believe that our profession is just like any other. Nobody starts earning the same as a senior employee, right? Why should we be different? Besides, there is no such a thing as the right rate. There is, of course, a basis, such as the table of reference values suggested by Sintra (Brazilian translators’ union). Each translator should be able to establish their own rate based on this table, on their educational and professional background, on their experience, on the market, on their specialization, on the language pair, etc. We many have different rates for different clients, but we must have a minimum rate and not settle for less.

My suggestion is that you take all the above points into account when defining your rate. If you’re a newbie and/or has absolutely no idea of the price you should charge, do some research. Ask some translator friends/colleagues who are pretty much in the same level as you are, or a bit more experienced, if they would mind telling you how much they charge.

Do you have a similar or different experience with rates you would like to share with us? What’s your take on this issue?