When I introduce my services to potential clients, some of them occasionally ask “what are your rates?”. This is a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string kind of question, a sure sign that the person does not understand how translation works and that they could easily fall into the trap of going for the cheapest – but by no means the best – provider as a result.
Translation is not a box-standard product, nor is it a matter of dropping the text on someone who throws it back at you in another language after a couple of days. Translation is a customised service because no two texts are the same: some are written in a very plain, everyday style, others are very technical and full of industry-specific terminology, while others are stylistically elaborate. Some require no formatting whatsoever, whereas others demand good type-setting skills (and time beyond the duties of actual translation). Some projects are urgent and others allow you to take on other assignments in parallel. For some clients, this is a tiny investment to access a large profitable market; for others, it is nothing but a costly bureaucratic requirement to get on with their lives (to get married, find work, etc.). And of course short documents are, proportionally speaking, the most time-consuming assignments. So how could a translator have a one-size-fit-all rate?
For that reason, when clients enquire about my rates on a general basis, I briefly explain that I quote for each project according to various factors, such as the volume of work, the deadline and the complexity of the text, and that giving them a flat rate at this stage would be misleading.
If you want to know a translator’s rates, always provide as many details as possible about your project so they can give you a meaningful answer.