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How to Price Yourself as a Freelance Translator

28 August 2023

How to Price Yourself as a Freelance Translator

Entering the world of freelance translation is an exciting journey. With the allure of flexibility, the potential for lucrative income, and the joy of doing what you love, it’s no wonder many are drawn to this profession. However, one of the most challenging aspects new translators face is determining how to price their services. Charging too little undermines your value and overcharging might deter potential clients. So, how do you strike the right balance? Let’s dive in.

1. Understand the Market

Before you set your prices, it’s crucial to have a grasp of what the market looks like. Research is your best ally here:

— Local vs. Global: Where are your clients based? Rates can vary dramatically between countries.
— Specialization: Niche fields such as medical, legal, or technical translation often command higher fees.
— Supply and Demand: Are translators for your language pair in high demand?

2. Calculate Your Desired Annual Income

A helpful strategy is to begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself:

— How much do you need annually to cover all your expenses (both personal and business)?
— How much do you want to save or invest?

Once you have a number, divide it by your estimated billable hours (taking into account days off, administrative tasks, etc.). This will give you an hourly rate.

3. Cost Plus Pricing vs. Value-Based Pricing

Two common pricing models are:

— Cost Plus Pricing: This involves calculating all your costs, adding a margin, and then setting your price. For example, if you spend $30/hour on expenses and wish to make $20/hour profit, you’d charge $50/hour.
— Value-Based Pricing: This strategy considers the value you provide to your client. If your translation will help a business make an extra $100,000, they may be willing to pay more for your services than the actual time you spent.

Consider which model aligns best with your services and clientele.

4. Per Word, Per Hour, or Per Project?

There are three main ways to price your translation services:

— Per Word: This is the most common method. It’s transparent and straightforward for both you and the client.
— Per Hour: Ideal for tasks that don’t involve straight translation, like editing or proofreading.
— Per Project: This might be suitable for large projects with a defined scope.

Evaluate which method or combination of methods works best for your niche and workflow.

5. Factor in Your Experience and Qualifications

Naturally, as you gain experience and further qualifications, your rate should reflect that. If you’re certified by a recognized translation organization or you’ve accumulated significant experience in a specialized field, don’t hesitate to charge accordingly.

6. Don’t Forget the Extras

There might be additional costs tied to a project:

— Urgency Fees: For projects that need a quick turnaround.
— Specialized Software: Some projects might require specific software which comes with its own costs.
— Research Time: For highly specialized fields, you might need to spend extra time on research.

7. Be Transparent and Flexible

Always be clear about your rates. Clients appreciate transparency. However, be prepared for negotiations. Some long-term or large volume projects might warrant a discount, but ensure it doesn’t compromise your value.

8. Regularly Review Your Rates

The translation industry, like all industries, evolves. Regularly review and adjust your rates based on your experience, changes in the market, and inflation.


Pricing is more than just numbers. It’s a reflection of your value, your expertise, and the market demand. While the above guidelines offer a structured approach, it’s also essential to trust your instincts and be open to feedback. With time, you’ll find the sweet spot that not only reflects your worth but also fosters a thriving freelance translation career.

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