Freelancing and the problem of charging the right fees

Dear readers and followers,

For a while I thought I was not going to write about this subject because it has been tackled so many times from every point of view and in countless websites. Why then I am doing it now? Because I had the most unreal conversation with a colleague and that simply made me mad. Without really quoting everything he said, I will try and give a sense of his ideas.

In his own words, he doesn’t master his first working language and would like to be as fluent in it as I am in English. Apart from the fact that my level of English is nothing extraordinary, as I explained to him, after graduating I was still struggling with it, and I reached this level by living in English speaking countries during several years and through several life events that forced me to improve a language for which I had a hearty and complete refusal. For all these reasons, he could not weigh his situation according to mine, because the two had nothing in common. That said, he admitted that he didn’t feel comfortable enough with his knowledge and that he knew that “they always say that we should not accept lower fees, but sometimes one can’t refuse or someone else will take the job.” One of the reasons he used to justify his charging a low fee was that, not being sure of his level of the foreign language, he could not always charge the regular fee.

There are many do’s and dont’s  when we talk about fees, and some are not as strict and compulsory as we often say, but the famous “Don’t lower your fees” should be the rule we live by. Charging less because we are not confident of our level of language and of the quality of our job is wrong from several points of view. Forgetting for a moment the aspect of setting the right fee, we need to remember that, if we cannot deliver a product that respects the quality standards, we should not accept the job in the first place; would you like your engineer to say to you: “I am not sure your house will be safe if I draw the project, therefore I will charge you less?” No, we expect our house to stand and last, and we hire a professional exactly for that reason. The mastering of languages is not a plus, it is our working tool; if the tool is not sharp enough, we simply are not ready, and that language cannot be one of our working languages, there is not changing that!

Enough recriminating now, let’s talk about fees more in details; that doesn’t mean that I am going to list mine here, although they are not a secret. Far from being set rules, what I will give here are some tips on how to set your fees. First of all, they are not your brand, you don’t have to choose them and stick to them forever, they are sort of a guideline for you, but then each customer is different and, without going nuts, we can adapt. Your minimum fee is the minimum you accept to charge but it is always within the umbrella of what is acceptable. It is usually not less than two pence lower than your regular fee (talking about translations charged per source word;) in my case, due to my working languages and the type of translations I do, there is no variation according to languages, but you may want to take that into account when setting your fees, because there is quite a huge difference depending on the family of languages of the source and the target. Extra charges and discounts are subjects that may be controversial: We usually all agree on the fact that we need to charge extra for urgency (20-30% seems a reasonable increase,) but we often say that there are several ways of offering a discount without actually reducing the price, as in adding additional services. Of course, that depends on the documents and it is not always possible, therefore I think we may be more flexible on this point, always respecting the market and the standards.

When setting fees, we should not forget that they correspond to time and knowledge: Time that we spend to actually produce the final result, and that we cannot spend in any other way; time that we invested in our studies to be able to perform up to standards; time that we constantly invest in research and CPD. These last two are directly translated into knowledge that goes into the final result of each translation job. Interpreting is the same, although the travel and dietary expenses need to be counted if they are not separately covered by the client. Of course, to all that we need to add all the business-related expenses that are not so immediately obvious but that cannot be overlooked (devices and subscriptions, dictionaries and software, insurances, dry cleaning, etc.)

One thing that is important to remember is that we are a very nice sector in which to work, therefore no one should doubt about asking some colleagues about their fees, that is the probably the best way to learn and to be sure that the charge is fair. Also, to have an idea and maybe present our colleague with an idea to discuss, you may want to have a look at some pages that can be visited online.

ProZ.com is one of the main online translating communities and offers a huge list that can be browsed according to our combinations. Those prices seem fair enough, while some conversation threads are just questionable and you do not want to end up being confused and discouraged by them. Here is their search engine for fees:

http://search.proz.com/employers/rates

The Society of Authors also offers some guidelines that are similar to the rest, and it includes some useful links as well. Here is their page:

http://www.societyofauthors.org/rates-and-guidelines

I found this article quite interesting to read the other day. It is not about translation, but some aspects are shared by all freelancers, and I believe this article gives an idea of how we should be flexible but also how about how the process of setting our fees can be a journey of self-discovery and a way to reach awareness when we enter the market. Have a look:

https://www.freelancersunion.org/blog/2015/10/26/calculating-rates-hourly-vs-project-based/

Also, always keep in mind that you have webinars and talks to which you can attend and that may enlighten you on this aspect. I have recently attended to some presentations about this subject, and they are always good to have new hints. Talking about online training, the ITI’s Starting Up as a Freelance Translator course immediately comes to mind because I found out yesterday that a very good colleague has just joined the team of trainers. Not only he is a great professional, but the ITI one of the main professional associations for translators and interpreters and therefore a guarantee of quality. You can browse the SUFT here:

http://www.iti.org.uk/professional-development-events/iti-online-courses/176-suft/577-setting-up-as-a-freelance-translator

I have talked here as if this idea were only a problem for young translators and interpreters that are just starting, but of course there may be several reason that push us to have to set our fees. An experienced translator may have worked in-house for a long time and can after decide to start freelancing instead, although I believe he would know how to set fees without struggling in the process, and he would know enough colleagues to be able to have some advice from them. Sometimes, the freelance may need to move and completely change the market in which he works; in this case, one would usually keep the old clients, but there is always the chance of expanding the portfolio, and it would not make any sense to keep the same rate in the UK, for example, and in Peru, because the market is completely different. This, of course, takes us to another aspect that we haven’t considered but that is important: Our fees have to be adapted to the market, which doesn’t mean that they have to be lowered, but that what is acceptable vary according to the economy of the countries, and our prices need to take that into account.

There is so much to tell about this subject, but at least this introduction wanted to give some hints on how to move in the market. The most important thing to remember, though, is that lowering your fees damages yourself, your colleagues, and the whole market. If you accept underpaid jobs, you are disrespecting yourself and your time, but also all the other translators who fought to build a name and a portfolio of clients and have a respectable situation. It doesn’t matter the reason, you should never downgrade yourself and us so much as to charge unacceptable fees.

Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will, but not on the invoices!!!

Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – plural of nouns part 2

Dear readers and followers,

After the break to give space to the Language Show Live and the interview by One Sec, our lessons are back. We are still talking about some special cases regarding the plural of nouns, have a look at the video.

 

One Sec interviews Knotty Translations, part 2

Dear readers and followers,

Here for you the link to the second part of my chat with OneSec Translations. You will discover more about my private self and you will find out about my passions. Click on the picture to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with Chiara and yours truly.

OneSec

Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

One Sec interviews Knotty Translations, part 1

Dear readers and followers,

If you want to know more about Knotty, have a look at the coffee break chat with the lovely One Sec. Click on the picture for the link to the first half, while the second one will be published on Thursday:

OneSec

Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Language Show Live 2015

Open

Dear readers and followers,

It is Sunday night already, and the Language Show Live has just closed its doors, but the worst thing is that my beloved MPR went back to Bristol. In order to keep the mood high and not think too much of that, let‘s try and take stock of this edition, which actually corresponds to a milestone in my personal and professional life.

As some of you may know, this event has a deep personal significance for me; for those who don’t, I will say that five years ago, when I first moved to the UK, I actually changed my original plan of coming in November in order to attend to the Language Show. Since then, I only missed one edition, the one in 2012. This years has been my fifth show, but I can easily say that there has not been an edition similar to the other. As a matter of fact, also my approach to the show and my expectancies from it have been totally different from one year to the other.

For those who don’t know about the Language Show, it is one of the main language events in London and also in Europe. Hosted in Olympia since some years now, it has two main components: The exhibitors and the learning section. In my opinion, the exhibitors’ part is extensively focused on language learning and teaching, while the classes and the seminars are evenly shared between the different activities related to languages, including many interesting events dedicated to translation and interpreting.

This year I have had the chance to attend to the whole show and to make the most of the seminars. If you have been following our tweets on #LSLive, you know what I am talking about, but if you haven’t, here is a little sum up of the tweets, a summary that is not a best of and could not be so, because the information was so much and of such a good quality that it would be almost impossible to rank it that way.

Tweets from Language Show Live 2015

I want to take the chance to also thank the speakers for very useful presentations, but also to applaud the audience for three days of interaction that made each talk even more productive. It was  great catching up with friends and meeting new colleagues, save the date for next year:

Fine

Also, don’t forget to keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – Plurale part 1

Dear readers and followers, a short post on how to form some plural nouns in Italian. Enjoy and share it!!!

Learning Italian vocabulary with KT – La particella “ne”

Your favourite Italian lessons are back, and we will catch up with some subjects that have been mentioned in the first round of videos. Today, we talk about “ne,” a very useful and versatile particle in the Italian language. Watch the video, share your thoughts in the comments, and share the content on your profiles!!!

International Translation Day 2015

ITD2015

Dear readers and followers,

Today is Saint Jerome, the patron saint of translators, and that is why every year International Translation Day is celebrated on this date. Born in Dalmatia, this Catholic priest is recognised as a saint and a Doctor of the Church. He knew Greek and a little Hebrew, but he moved to Jerusalem to complete his commentary of the Bible.

Why is he the patron saint of translators?

He started working on a translation of the Bible from the Septuagint (the Greek translations), as was always done until then; unsatisfied with that version, that included mistranslated and heretical elements, he started his own translation directly from Hebrew. This new translation is widely known as the Vulgata.

If you are interested in more data on Saint Jerome, Wikipedia is always there for us, and there you can find several wonderful paintings of the saint. Happy International Translation Day to us!

Don’t forget to keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

IAPTI in Bordeaux: Been there, done all that!

Dear readers and followers,

Knotty is back from holidays and has not abandoned you! As you surely know, because Twitter has been overloaded with it, IAPTI’s international conference was celebrated in Bordeaux two weeks ago, and we have been there, and so have many of you. For those who were not there, and could manage escaping our constant tweets from the talks and pictures of the food, here is a short sum up of what has happened and what caught our attention.

Even if it was my first time at IAPTI, it has been a chance to meet old and new friends and to catch up with them, but also to make new connections. Apart from that, the talks have been very interesting and have given us some new ideas to organise ourselves and make the most of our time and our resources. Many talks were very useful, and it would feel incomplete to quote some rather than others. We have talked about branding and promoting our company and our services, about how to maximise our results and reducing our use of resources, how to set our fees and not to surrender to the request of the market for low fees and excessive work, what new technologies can do for us, what new apps and devices can make our work easier and give us choices, etc.

I could write pages and pages about any of the talks I attended to, or I could simply say that if you did not attend you missed a chance, but I prefer to make something more eye‑catching and entertaining by adding here some of the tweets from those days, so you can catch up with them without having to scroll down dozens of profiles again. At the end, you will also have some shots from the event to feel a little jealous. All that together, I hope, will make you reconsider the fact that you should apply for IAPTI’s membership if you have not done that yet and will give you a little desire of joining us next time!

Tweets

download

IAPTI’s official video

My slideshow of random pictures with friends but also from the meals and the talks

Don’t forget to keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – Word 21 is Zio

This week’s video of Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations closes the alphabet and is dedicated to the family members. I am attaching a PDF document with the full list taught in the video

Famiglia

and a link to a survey about how you would like me to keep doing these lessons. Please, send your answers here.

Enjoy it and share it!