Price is a translation taboo. Over more than 10 years working in the industry, I find that this is a topic no translator wants to talk about. It’s hidden away and if you are starting your career you won’t find much about how you should price yourself.
Is it due to a huge lack of transparency?
Not necessarily. A lot of translators prefer to price their services per project. That means, that they have an initial consultation with the client and they provide their quote based on the complexity, time spent etc. For that reason, they prefer not to publish a price list.
Some may think that showing their prices will disadvantage them over their competitors. They can see what they charge and charge a bit less.
Does a price list get you more clients?
Not really. It all depends on the clients and the type of service you provide. Very specialised translators may work on a per-project basis and have plenty of clients. Their level of specialisation and the small size of their niche may allow them to work without a published price list.
A reference mechanism
When you start your career, you need references. You need to know how to price your services. You must be fair to your clients, but you must also be fair to yourself. Sometimes, having other colleagues or a market mechanism as a reference can help a young translator set up their prices.
Some Associations like AUSIT, have pricing statistics available for their members. This is very helpful as it shows what is the average charge in our country. Translators’ forums such as PROZ also provide statistics about pricing, these can also be used as a reference.
Lack of reference leads to exploitation
Unfortunately, there are not many references like this and that may lead to exploitation. It is a fact that we tend to undervalue ourselves when we start our careers. I always tell my young colleagues to never devalue themselves or their skills. They may have less experience but they certainly have the skills. But, sadly, a lot of them have no references and end up working for clients or agencies that exploit them. The infamous bottom feeders. By doing that, they unintentionally devalue the entire sector and pull the prices down.
Associations should play a big role in solving this issue, and in more than one way. First of all, having an annual pricing survey, where all their members could set their rates and language pair, could be a great way to evaluate the market and establish an average. These surveys are anonymous, so, there are no issues with confidentiality.
Secondly, and in my view, most importantly, they could be involved with training. Associations like AUSIT have great mentoring programs. These are designed to help new colleagues establish themselves as translators, pricing is part of that training. If every new translator is well trained and has all the tools they need to have a fulfilling career, it will be positive not just for that translator, but for the entire industry. There’s always going to be bottom feeders, but if we are trained to value ourselves and our work and price ourselves fairly, we will eventually make them a thing of the past.