How Much is Your Work Worth?

A small art publisher recently asked for my rate while warning me that they didn’t have the budget of a large company. Such a query can be translated as: “we’d love to have our books translated but can’t afford it”.

While translators may show some flexibility with regards to rates or other terms, it goes without saying that we can only lower our rates to a point – and below a certain point, clients should worry about the quality that will be provided and the impact a flawed translation could have on the project. After spending weeks or months developing a book or a marketing campaign, surely your work deserves better than a cheap, quick and dirty translation.

Any sensible freelancer will have done the math and knows what to charge for their business to be sustainable. Any sensible client will understand that and respect the translator’s rate. If you think translation doesn’t deserve a good fee, or if you cannot afford a professional service, it may be safer not to consider translation for now. The value you give to translation reflects the value you give to your own work.

Of the few small businesses I have followed over a period of years (whether as a translator or as a sales person in a different field many years ago), only those who prioritise value over price have grown or at least remained healthy. My experience tells me that the small publisher referred to above is not one of those and may not stay long in business.

Thinking in terms of value rather than absolute figures is a safer way to look at translation and will make you efforts and investment go much further.

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