Today’s 5 minute focus is about something exciting that I’d really like to get translators involved in….(as usual, you can watch the video or just read the post – it’s up to you!) Update! You can register for the live chat by clicking this link.

Be honest. You’ve thought about it. Maybe more than once. No, not about that. About what your colleagues charge! As I’ve mentioned on, ahem, more than one occasion (like here and here), I hate the secrecy translator rates are shrouded in. I know, I know. There are many variables. You’ve got to consider…

Language pair

Country of residence (of the translator, that is)

Country of residence of the client

Subject matter


These items are, in my experience, pretty standard considerations for many translators. Some colleagues might also add to this list….

Volume of work

Document format

How close they are to hitting their income targets for the month…

Let’s talk about rates, baby

Should we add “what colleagues charge” to this list of considerations? It can be difficult to find out what other professionals charge. Everyone’s circumstances are just that: their circumstances. You have no idea of others’ financial commitments, personal wealth (or otherwise), the service they offer, their priorities in life. At the end of the day we should all be focusing on our own business – other people’s business is, after all, not our business (in many ways.)

So I agree, there are a lot of variables, but this doesn’t have to mean MI5-level secrecy. Information is awesome, and when it’s used correctly (and honestly), it can open doors and light the way. Understanding the reasons behind what others charge, and how they arrived at their figures, can help new translators immensely. Perhaps you’re exploring a new document type, or specialism – picking an arbitrary figure out of thin air is not likely to fill you with confidence.

So what do I propose?

An open discussion. I want to get a group of translators together, for a live discussion on rates. I’ll be asking the following questions:

How has your rate evolved over the years?

Do you charge differently for different projects?

How do you charge? (per word/hour/day/project)

What services do you add in to your proposals?

Do you have a rate you ask for, but keep a lower rate in mind, in case of negotiations?

Do you always produce proposals or just respond to queries with a figure?

Do you publish your rates on your website?

The discussion is open to anyone, it will obviously be completely free, and there will also be take-home resources (like rates calculators and worksheets) to continue the good work after the discussion is done. I hope, if I can charm enough people, that there might be a few giveaways too…but this obviously depends on my powers of persuasion (and yours, if you’re helping convince someone to participate!)

The aim of the session is to provide information on a range of topics relating to rates. Actual figures may be discussed (it’s up to participants of course!), along with information on topics like proposals, upping rates, negotiation, perceived value of services and tips for figuring out how to charge. But the overriding point of the session is the manner in which these topics will be discussed. We’ve all read “discussions” about rates that are thinly veiled put-downs, or, that quickly descend into mud slinging. That’s not the idea here; we’re opening minds and eyes to different ways of doing things. That’s it.

What I need from you…..

I need you to tell me what you want! What are your burning questions about rate setting? If you could be a fly on a translator’s wall (or a friendly bug in their computer), what would you want to see and hear about? Would you like to see their proposals? Maybe hear about their negotiations with clients? There are two ways you can let me know what you want to know….

Comment below

Email me at 

I also need volunteers! I’m looking for 5-6 translators, interpreters or copywriters (but I’m happy to consider more) who are willing to talk openly about the way they charge (both now and how their pricing has evolved over the years.) If that’s you, or you’d like to nominate anyone, get in touch (same methods as above…comments and email.)

How’s it going to work?

Update! The live chat is scheduled for Wednesday 5th October at 20:00 BST.

Click here to register.

If you’d like to get involved, either to share your experiences or just to listen in and absorb all the wisdom (no pressure, volunteers!) then sign up here for updates as I’ll be communicating everything to subscribers via email, so you’ll get the date, time, expected discussion points and registration info.

So get commenting, get sharing and get involved! Connect on Twitter – here. Or on Facebook – here

Let's talk rates! Wednesday 5th October.

Let’s talk rates! Wednesday 5th October.

This is about everyone, I want as many people as possible to benefit from an open discussion about something that affects our lives, livelihoods and happiness levels so much. As I said in the video, it’s not about thinking of other translators as competitors; it’s about learning from each other and realising that there are plenty of clients to go around.

Celebrate success – everyone’s.

Secrets are cool, but sharing's cooler.
Spread the word!

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Jennie says:

    Hi Jo,
    Thanks so much for this! As a new translator it is so difficult to know what to charge when you’re starting out. Should I just accept whatever the client’s rate is so that I don’t miss out on a job? Could I be charging more? What specialisms can afford to charge the highest rates? Really looking forward to the discussion and hearing everyone’s thoughts! Jennie xo

  • Steven says:

    I would love to participate! I have set my rates after quite a bit of thought and consideration. Quite often, I get what I ask for. But now and again, one of two things happens: a client feels I’m way too expensive, or a colleague thinks I’m much too cheap. If I follow my clients, I’ll be out of money. But if I follow my colleagues, I feel I will also be out of work. And in the end, my rates would work out great IF I could also have a full agenda…

    Lots of stuff to talk about, for sure. Count me in!

  • Martina says:

    Fantastic idea, Jo!

    I stared out knowing 0 about rates and the industry in general, and I thought that 10 € per hour was a lot of money (having been an employee from 16 to 22, where 4-6 € / hour was standard). I have done a LOT of research, tried and failed, ended up without work because I didn’t want to settle for too little and fell into the trap twice – boy, did I regret it.

    Nowadays my fees go from 50 € to 90 € per hour, 0.10 € to 0.25 € per word… this might be a lot to someone and little to others, but it feels good to me right now. And I think once you get over that feeling of guilt and fear, and realize how much your time and skills are worth, the higher you’ll set the bar. I know colleagues who charge 0.3, 0.35, 0.4 € / word and upwards, or 125, 150 € per hour, and I don’t see why I (or you) couldn’t be one of those. (provided we offer top quality service, of course!)


  • Sanni says:

    I think this is an excellent idea. Am not sure if I’ll be able to participate, yet. I’ve been working as freelancer for nearly 5 years now and am still on the same rates I earned when I first started, some are even lower and I don’t know how to break out of this cycle. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve rejected the offers from a regular client because I think there rates are simply too low for the type of project and what’s involved – but it has left me without work.

  • Tiphaine says:

    Hi Jo,
    Looking forward to this discussion!
    Will we also discuss how to approach the agencies’ fuzzy grids? Negotiate or not?

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