Why You Should Never Offer a “Free Quote” On Your Website (Or Elsewhere)

This post was originally published on Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional translator or a newbie who’s just getting your feet wet, your website should be the place where clients go to find out more about your services and to find out how they can work with you. Not only that, but it should make them want to work with you. There are a lot of ways to convince a client to reach out for an inquiry about your services. But one way that I recommend you never utilize on your website (or anywhere else for that matter) is by mentioning a “free quote”. Some people use mentions of free quotes as a button to click, or a tab at the top of the web page in the navigation bar, or on a form that clients can fill out and submit. Wait a minute. Doesn’t everyone do that these days? Well, not everyone. But a very large number of people do. Want to know a little secret? I did the same thing! Then why in the world am I suggesting you not do this?

Here are my top five reasons to never mention requests for a free quote on your website (or elsewhere).

1. When you offer a free quote, you are bringing attention to pricing. Front and center. You are inevitably going to attract price shoppers. Are they your ideal clients? Do you want to be discussing pricing over quality? I’m guessing you don’t. Then remove the “free quote” bit as a way to draw people in. You do not want to devalue anything that you do, so avoid the word “free” all together.

If you choose to remove mentions of free quotes from your website, I am willing to bet that you will start attracting fewer price shoppers and more serious clients. Give it a try! Remember, everything in business is an experiment.

2. You are stating the obvious. Of course the quotes you send clients are probably free. I say this because I don’t know of any translators who charge for to provide quotes to clients. So, they’re likely expected to be free anyway. When you change the verbiage on your site from offering a “free quote” to something like “contact us”, “contact me”, “send John an email”, “request a consultation” or something like that, you remove any thought you might have instilled with the word “free”. Price shoppers will be less likely to contact you, and you will be more likely to receive requests with serious inquiries.

3. By avoiding any mentions of free quotes, you allow site visitors to focus on what’s more important than the price: the value you bring to them and to their business or organization. When you focus on defining your value proposition for your ideal client and making that as clear as possible, people will want to work with you. The quote itself will be merely a formality.

4. You get to choose the direction the conversation goes. When you avoid discussing free quotes on your website, you also attract fewer of those “I need this yesterday!” clients. If your site gives off more of a “let’s have a conversation” vibe, those pesky clients who want something done for nothing, or who have an unreasonable timeline, will look elsewhere. Who wants to work with clients like that anyway?

If you plan to work with direct clients, you should be setting most of the parameters. When do you have an opening to work on a new project? How long will it take? What will it cost the client? You are not an order taker. So, have a real conversation with your client and talk pricing last, after you’ve had a chance to “wow” them.

5. By not leading people to ask for a price right off the bat, you allow yourself to customize your service sales. While you may charge the same price to all of your technical English to German translation clients, you have the opportunity to actually price your work based on the value you bring to the table. This means that you do not have to set prices from price sheets you have on file. Instead, you can factor in the value you bring to each project as part of the background information you need in order to provide the quote in the first place. The “value factor” should be considered just as much as other factors you consider when providing a quote (number of words or hours a project will take, technicality of the language used, delivery time, etc.). If this is a concept that interests you, then check out Blair Enns’ YouTube video on the differences between customized and productized services and how they impact your business approach, pricing and profit margins.

Now, remember that I told you that we found we were sending the wrong message by including the “free quote” verbiage on my business’ website? Well, in the process of pivoting that message, we also came up with some great ways to deal with price shoppers when they do contact us. I’ve turned those ways to deal into a list of tips.

Tips for dealing with price shoppers when you prefer to market your services based on value.

○ When a lead starts off the conversation asking about the cost, say, “Is price the only factor in your decision to hire a professional?” Then pause. Allow the person to respond, and if it seems that price is their deal breaker, you can choose to take them on as a client or direct them somewhere else accordingly.

○ If you direct them somewhere else, warn them that you cannot vouch for the quality of the service they will receive. Sometimes they will see that you were right and will come back to you.

○ Let them know that you’re not the only one promoting high quality over cheap translations. Here is a great article to share with those clients who are clearly making decisions based on price, written by my late dear friend and colleague, Stephanie Tramdack Cash: “The High Cost of Cheap Translation“.

○ Let them know that you already have paying clients who you work with at your current prices who see the value in the quality of your work. This shows them that others are willing to pay for your services and it lets them know you don’t depend on their job or project for your survival. You are a professional. Portray yourself as one. Don’t back down on your prices just because someone says you’re too expensive for their budget. That’s actually a good thing, as it tells you that this person or business is not your ideal client.

○ Lastly, explain to him or her the processes you have in place to produce a professional and valuable translation. Some clients price shop because they are simply unaware of what it takes to be a professional translator and what systems and workflows, training and education are needed to perform a professional job. Take a moment to educate these people and move on with your day.

While educating clients on hiring professionals for their translation and interpreting needs can be frustrating at times, there are ways to attract your ideal clients and avoid those who are less than ideal. Adjusting your messaging on your website, and any other marketing materials or profiles you have, is a great place to start.

Author bio

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions (ATS), a boutique translation company based in Southern California. She is also a Spanish and Portuguese to English translator, specializing in medicine and life sciences. Madalena’s interest in online marketing and copywriting has led her to write and teach about the benefits of using informational content online to attract and retain clients. After seeing the advantages of intentional and strategic marketing in her own business, Madalena now teaches those same skills to other freelance language professionals. She blogs and teaches courses on topics related to marketing your freelance translation business by deliberately building and shaping your online presence. For more information, visit www.madalenazampaulo.com.

More is Not Better When It Comes to Your T&I Client List

This post was originally published on Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Everyone wants to grow their client list. After all, who wouldn’t, right? It’s part of being a business owner, no matter if you are a freelancer or if you manage several people who work for you. It’s good to always have more clients coming in the door… but quantity over quality is often not a good idea, and that includes in business. When you have high quality clients (i.e., ideal clients), then you don’t necessarily have to have an ever-growing client list. Once you have consistent work coming in from those ideal clients, you can shift your focus more to maintaining those client relationships by refining the client experience, and then a slower incoming trickle of new clients won’t seem so much of a make-or-break issue.

To read more about finding that sweet spot with quality clients, check out How to Determine and Attract Your Ideal Client.

Just like most things in life, when you focus on quantity (i.e. how many new clients you can gain or how many clients you currently have), losing sight of quality can easily create more issues for you. If you are constantly striving for more, you will find yourself always wishing you had more. And frankly, you cannot possibly focus on sustainable growth or nurture client relationships with your best clients if the focus is always on when that next project will be coming down the pipeline.

By choosing to focus on attracting and maintaining lasting relationships with quality clients, you will find that you have more time to work on the things you want to within your business. You can take a vacation (and leave that laptop at home!), and you can take more time for yourself and the things and people you love outside of your business. With some care and time, you can grow your business into something that sustains the lifestyle you want, rather than working to sustain your business and income until that next payment arrives.

Rather than trying to convert every lead that comes your way, or take on every project that is offered to you, be more selective. Make some non-negotiables when it comes to the work and clients you take on. Do you want to avoid working after a certain hour of the day and on weekends? Quality clients mean that you can achieve this. Do you want to drop projects that you find absolutely tedious and draining? Seeking clients (and maintaining an ongoing, positive relationship with them) whose work you value in terms of content will allow you to do this.

Don’t get stuck in the “But what if next month is slow?” cycle or way of thinking. Decide to make an effort to attract those clients that will make you feel satisfied with your work, because the quality of the client and the quality of the service(s) that you can provide to them match up. After all, if you’re always taking on quantity (volume), then the quality of what you produce will suffer as a result. It is impossible to keep up with quality if you are accepting every project that crosses your desk. It’s okay to say “No.”

When trying to determine whether a client is “high quality” or not, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you like to hear from them whenever they come knocking, or would their projects feel like tedious tasks that make you less than excited about sitting down at your computer to complete their projects?
  • Do you like to work with them because of the type of work you can do for them (subject matter, their mission lining up with your own values, etc.)? This may even be the case if the client doesn’t have the budget to pay your higher translation or interpreting rate. As long as you feel good about the working relationship and the value you provide (as well as the value the projects provide to you as a professional), you may very well think of them as a high quality client.
  • Does the work you receive from the client allow you to be open to new opportunities later? For example, is the subject matter is something that will help you to pick up new (and high quality!) clients because of the experience you’re gaining by working on their projects?

Be sure to reassess your client list from time to time. If there is a client you’d rather not work with in the long term, put your energy toward gaining more of those you do want to work with, and set a goal to let go of those that are less than ideal.

By focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to your client list, you will see that you are happier with the work you do and the value you provide. This satisfaction will carry over to other areas of your life. You will produce better content and output as a result. You will be able to spend more time on the things that you want to work on after you’ve met the deadlines set by these quality clients. And last, but definitely not least, you will simultaneously be refining your craft with the work you get from these clients. This alone is enough reason to take a hard look at how your clients shape up when it comes to quality vs. quantity.

Author bio

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions (ATS), a boutique translation company based in Southern California. She is also a Spanish and Portuguese to English translator, specializing in medicine and life sciences. Madalena’s interest in online marketing and copywriting has led her to write and teach about the benefits of using informational content online to attract and retain clients. After seeing the advantages of intentional and strategic marketing in her own business, Madalena now teaches those same skills to other freelance language professionals. She blogs and teaches courses on topics related to marketing your freelance translation business by deliberately building and shaping your online presence. For more information, visit www.madalenazampaulo.com.

What freelancers can learn from entrepreneurs

This post was originally published on the Freelancers Union blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Get paid for doing what I love, doing it wherever I want, whenever I want, and however I want. No more bosses demanding unconvincing protocols or mandatory smiles (I’ll never forget those six years at a burger joint where “smiles were a part of my uniform”), and no more needing to be at a specific place at a specific time.

That was the dream I was sold. But then I found myself staring blankly at the computer. Not quite looking at it — my eyes crossed just enough to see the particles of dust floating in front of it.

I had just delivered a month-long project to a regular client. It was a grueling month. The deadline bordered unreasonable and in order to deliver on time I had to work late into the nights. It was August and, despite the respite I found with the air-conditioned interior, I still longed to go out there.

The project finished. Boom. Delivered. It was done. Was that the best work I’ve done? I don’t think so. Did it fill me with joy and a sense of fulfilment? Definitely not. Had I become a freelancer, moved to Europe, and found my “freedom” just to be locked inside an office all summer? Was this supposed to be my calling? Why did I feel so empty?

By that point, the work grind I had invested so much of myself in resulted in a burn out. That night, after I hit the little blue send button with all the deliverables packed cozily in a zipped package, I couldn’t even read an email.

I had to leave. From the next month, anybody trying to get a hold of me would only get an automatic away message. I stuffed a backpack and got the first ticket I could find to a Greek island. I didn’t care which. I had no paid vacation, and I needed to work. But I couldn’t.

For the first time since I’d begun freelancing, I wasn’t excited to get back to work. I didn’t understand why this hustle and grind had left me feeling so depleted. That month of August, I made the most money I have ever made in my career as a freelance translator and writer. But was that sustainable?

All I understood was that there was something that wasn’t clicking about my approach to work. The secret, it turns out, was creating systems.

A new approach

When I reluctantly came back to work, having spent all my money, I spent weeks thinking about how I could rearrange my professional life. I binge-listened to podcasts, blogs, and began my habit of reading three books a month. I would find the solution.

And the message began to manifest itself to me: I had to learn to work like entrepreneurs and corporations do. Focus management, not time management, was the answer. And I had to prioritize what was most important. I wanted to spend more time in my genius zone and less time in everything else. I would find ways to automate, diversify, and scale my income.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial approach to freelancing: I understood it was a business, that I needed to consider marketing, organization, and customer service in my approach. I created content to help people around me. I needed to be reachable, pleasant to work with, and deliver fantastic work on time.

But there had to be a better way than just increasing rates or getting more gigs. Freelancing is a fantastic way to find freedom, follow your life’s calling, and make great money. Which is a viable and perfect business model for many. But there was something limiting me, and I knew that spending all my time on billable hours was not the way to grow.

Bigger and scalable

As Seth Godin put it: “Your labor is finite. It doesn’t scale. If it’s a job only you can do, you’re not building a system, you’re just hiring yourself (and probably not paying enough either).”

So I decided to shift into an entrepreneur mindset. You don’t need to become an entrepreneur, but take an entrepreneurial approach. You don’t need to give up freelancing in lieu of being an entrepreneur, per se.

Entrepreneurs work to take themselves out of the equation; they use ideas to build well-oiled systems to run their businesses. Freelancers do something they’re good at in exchange for money. There are similarities between the approaches. For example, both entrepreneurs and freelancers can have a personal brand, and neither of them have a boss.

I love to write and translate and would like to continue doing it. But we can take examples from entrepreneurs and apply it to our freelance businesses. The most useful thing freelancers can take from entrepreneurs is to create systems for their businesses.

Create a system for your work and stick to it

Entrepreneurs are masters at building systems. That’s the premise of their whole business plan. Build a system, implement it, and turn it into a cash machine. Freelancers can create systems to increase productivity and performance:

  • Email templates
  • A customer management system
  • An onboarding sequence (pre-call questionnaire, a brief created to make the most of your client call, and follow-up)
  • A feedback system (creating a client questionnaire asking for feedback on specific stages of your service – outreach, onboarding, customer service, deliverables, and the actual work itself)
  • An automated social media plan
  • Outsource what you do not want to do yourself: accounting, bookkeeping, social media, etc.
  • A specific quality assurance system that you follow for every job
  • Terms and conditions designed to save back-and-forth and hassle
  • Defined objectives and steps to reach them
  • A set schedule that includes non-billable work (marketing, growth and development) PLANNED in. Your work as a freelancer is not only your client work. Plan for it. Plan time to plan. Build your business continuously. There will never be a moment when you have “free time”.

The list goes on.

Creating these systems builds your personal brand as a professional, increases leads, sales, and makes happier customers. You’ll become better at attracting the right clients and repelling the ones that are not aligned with you. Ultimately you’ll better respond to their needs because you’ll have a system for understanding what they are.

Now, tell me, do you have systems for your business?

Image source: Pixabay

Maeva Cifuentes is a digital nomad, blogger, content strategist, writer and translator. She helps entrepreneurs grow their brands and find freedom.

El encargo de traducción: ¿qué preguntar antes de aceptar?

This post was originally published on the En la luna de Babel blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Últimamente he trabajado con varios clientes nuevos (empresas, agencias y particulares) y buscando en la red cómo enfocaban este asunto otros compañeros, di con un listado de Tomedes, que reproduzco aquí con su permiso y amplio con algunos apuntes de mi cosecha:

PREGUNTAS PARA EL CLIENTE

Empecemos por lo básico: las preguntas que debes hacer al cliente que necesita la traducción.

  1. ¿Cuántas palabras tiene el documento?
  2. ¿Cuál es el plazo?
  3. ¿Cuál es el tema? ¿Es muy especializado o técnico?
  4. ¿Es documento escrito o es un archivo de audio? En este último caso, ¿se nos pide también transcripción?
  5. ¿En qué formato está? ¿Es un Word, un PDF, un fax escaneado (sí, aún existen)?

Esta información es impepinable, si queremos verlo así. Es importante saber qué vamos a traducir y por cuánto. Y en cuanto a las palabras, cuando nos envíen el documento para traducir (o para verlo solo si estamos en proceso de elaboración de presupuesto), cerciorémonos de que la cantidad de palabras es correcta. A todos se nos puede pasar, incluso al gestor de proyectos o al cliente directo, así que es importante comprobar que todo esté bien desde un principio.

Tampoco está de más preguntar:

6. En el caso de una traducción de marketing o una web: ¿requieren localización o solamente traducción? Si es un texto publicitario, ¿necesitan transcreación?

7. ¿El proyecto va a necesitar una edición o maquetación posterior (desktop publishing  o dtp)?

Cuanto más sepamos del encargo desde un principio, mejor informados estaremos del trabajo que nos espera y lo que vamos a tardar en hacerlo. El tiempo es dinero. No es lo mismo un texto plano sin más, que tener que controlar aspectos de diseño que van a requerir más tiempo una vez terminada la traducción.

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ASPECTOS ECONÓMICOS

Hay que ser muy claros con los elementos económicos del proyecto también antes de empezar. Se debe acordar un honorario o tarifa, además del método de pago y el plazo de cobro. En cuanto al honorario, que quede claro si es por texto origen o texto meta. También podemos plantearnos lo siguiente:

  1. ¿Es un trabajo urgente?
  2. ¿Es una traducción jurada o va a requerir un certificado de algún tipo?

En ambos casos hay que cobrar algo más, sobre todo por las horas extras en el caso de los encargos urgentes. Por eso la comunicación es esencial y todo debe quedar atado antes de ponerse a traducir. Hay que explicarle al cliente si va a haber cargos extra para que este dé el visto bueno antes de empezar.

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NUESTRO PAN, NUESTRO HORARIO

Como no somos maquinitas sino personas, no está de más plantearse lo siguiente:

  1. ¿La tarifa es aceptable para nosotros? Tal vez este cliente “imponga” un precio. De ser así, preguntémonos si de verdad es justo para nosotros. Recalco para nosotros, porque aunque hay que ser conscientes de los precios de mercado para no perjudicar al sector y a nosotros mismos, cada uno tiene sus circunstancias. Hay quien considera que 0,05 para un folleto general es poco y no baja nunca de 0,07, pero para otro puede ser una tarifa más que aceptable por el trabajo que va a conllevar.
  2. ¿Podemos cumplir el plazo y aun así tener tiempo para comer, dormir y tener vida social?
  3. ¿Con este encargo podemos conseguir más trabajo de este cliente?

Esto último puede ser importante. Tal vez por necesidades del cliente, este proyecto nos haga trabajar hasta tarde un par o tres de días, pero si a la larga puede darnos más trabajo, encargos regulares, tal vez el sacrificio valga la pena. O no. Quizá pensemos que ceder a ciertos plazos poco realistas puede sentar un precedente peligroso y decidamos explicárselo al cliente (de lo que hablamos cuando hablamos de “educar”) o bien no aceptar el trabajo. Una vez más, debemos ser claros con nosotros mismos para ver si podemos encajar este encargo en nuestra planificación y poder equilibrarlo con lo demás, ya sean otros proyectos o, sobre todo, con nuestra vida.

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OTRAS CONSIDERACIONES

Hay más cosas que debemos tener en cuenta, dependiendo de la carga de trabajo… y el estado de nuestras cuentas.

¿Me interesa el tema de la traducción o me voy a aburrir como una ostra? Aunque nos aburra, tal vez nos interese aceptar el encargo porque vamos descargados de trabajo, porque nos interesa mantener al cliente o porque lo necesitamos económicamente. Pero en ese caso, seamos conscientes de lo que nos va a suponer.

Cuando se puede escoger –y ahora hablo a título personal–, prefiero una novela a unos presupuestos anuales o un manual técnico. Si por lo que sea, necesito el encargo, me armo de valor y me lo tomo con filosofía. Por desgracia no siempre podemos escoger, pero sí es un factor que debemos plantearnos. ¿Acaso no trabajamos más motivados cuando algo nos gusta?

También hay que pensar en quién es el cliente y si está recomendado. Puede que esto no tenga tanto peso a la hora de aceptar el encargo, pero contribuye al nivel de confianza y seguridad al trabajar.

En este tema que nos ocupa hoy, vale la pena también prestar especial atención a estos diez consejos de Tess Whitty:

  1. No aceptes un proyecto que sepas que no vas a poder hacer. No tengas miedo a rechazar algo que sabes objetivamente que no puedes cumplir o que no puedes hacer sin que se resienta la calidad. Si aún quieres aceptarlo, puedes buscar a algún compañero que te lo revise o puedes encontrarle un sustituto al cliente y facilitarle así la gestión. Seguro que te lo agradecerá.
  2. No aceptes trabajos con plazos imposibles. No lo dudes y negocia. A veces con un recargo por urgencia se descubre que la traducción no era tan urgente. Como con todo, la comunicación es clave.
  3. No dudes en preguntar. Seamos sinceros, no lo sabemos todo. Pregunta al cliente cualquier cosa que no tengas clara o pídele textos paralelos o antiguas traducciones (si el cliente es una agencia, por ejemplo). Preguntar no es demostrar ignorancia sino profesionalidad. No dejes las dudas para el final o para el mismo correo de entrega, cuando no haya margen para solventarlas.
  4. No aceptes un trabajo sin haber visto el texto antes. Puede que no siempre sea posible (me ha pasado con alguna novela), pero lo mejor es ver el documento antes de aceptar para calcular mejor el tiempo, para comprobar que es de una temática que controlamos y, en definitiva, para ver si es factible.
  5. No aceptes un trabajo sin saber quién es el cliente. En el caso de clientes directos es más difícil (que no imposible), pero si es una agencia que no conoces, lo mejor es buscar su página web o mirar en algunos foros (BlueBoard de ProZ, algunos grupos de facebook). Y aunque el correo sirve como confirmación de un trabajo de traducción, es aconsejable tener siempre una orden de compra o PO (purchase order) en la que consten las tres P básicas del proyecto: palabras, precio y plazo.
  6. No empieces a trabajar hasta que no hayas acordado un precio. A nadie le gustan las sorpresas en la factura, así que sé muy claro con lo que vas a cobrar, haya extras o no. Y trata de barrer para casa, claro. Para este proyecto tan pequeño, ¿no es mejor aplicar una tarifa mínima? Para esta revisión, ¿por qué no cobras por hora?
  7. Piensa en lo que escribes antes de enviarlo al ciberespacio. Hay muchos foros y páginas ahora en las que un traductor puede desahogarse, pero seamos sensatos. Un mensaje airado en las redes sociales puede terminar en manos del cliente. Piensa bien antes de escribir, deja pasar un rato y verás que, en frío, no es todo tan grave como parecía. Y lo mismo al hablar directamente con los clientes: respiremos y luego escribamos… más tranquilos. Con amabilidad se va a todos lados. En serio.
  8. Véndete bien. No te centres en lo que no sabes o en la poca experiencia que tienes. Céntrate en tus puntos fuertes, en lo que has traducido ya, en lo bueno que puedes aportar. Y eso también se aplica a la tarifa. Cobra lo justo. Un precio bajo también significa menor rentabilidad para ti.
  9. Guarda toda la información y correspondencia. Es importante guardar los correos, contratos y otros documentos de cada cliente, sobre todo para tenerlos de referencia. Para esto va muy bien un disco duro externo que pueda almacenar esa información que no usamos en el día a día.
  10. Lee todas las cláusulas antes de firmar un contrato. Básico para no llevarnos sorpresas luego. A veces son contratos estándar cuyas disposiciones no se aplican, pero, una vez más, en caso de duda, consúltalo con el cliente.

Hasta aquí los consejillos de hoy. ¿Hay algo que consideréis esencial al aceptar un encargo? Estaré encantada de leeros.

Header image source: Pixabay

How to set a budget for your freelance business

This post was originally published on the Thoughts On Translation blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Setting a budget for your freelance business is important, because:

-Many freelancers have no idea how much they need to earn in order to achieve the same level of financial security as someone with a traditional job.
-As a freelancer, you probably need to earn more than you think in order to reach your financial goals.
-You need to know how many billable hours per week you need in order to reach your target income.
-If your rates right now are too low, you need to at least acknowledge that and make a plan to do better in the future (rather than working, working, and working, and then wondering why your bank account empties so fast).

In my online courses, I use a worksheet called “deciding what to charge.” John Milan and I also used this worksheet in our session at the 2018 ATA conference (which got very positive reviews, so hopefully we’ll present it again!). Here, I’ll give you a simplified version of how to do the calculations on that sheet.

Start with: the amount of money you want in your bank account every month, to pay your non-business living expenses such as rent or mortgage, utilities, food, entertainment, and so on. That’s your desired/required net monthly salary.

Next: to that, add every expense that you incur for your business. If the expense is not paid monthly (i.e. professional association dues), divide it into a monthly amount and enter that. Your expenses may include some or all of the following, plus anything else that you pay that is not listed here:

-Taxes: (20-50%, depending on your tax bracket and your country)
-Retirement account contribution
-Paid vacation/sick time allocation (money that you put into a business savings account so that you can pay yourself when you take time off)
-Professional association dues
-Professional development (conferences, webinars, classes, individual coaching, etc.)
-Subscription-based web services (cloud backups, PDF conversion service, LinkedIn Premium, etc.)
-Office rent
-Computer hardware and software (new purchases and/or upgrades)
-Work-related child care (if applicable; and don’t forget in that in the US, you may be able to deduct summer day camp for kids under 13)
-Work-related travel
-Communications (internet, cell phone, Skype minutes, etc.)

Add it all up, and that’s your required or desired monthly gross income. Warning: as discussed above, this will be a big number. Perhaps bigger than you want to admit; but the first step is to get a grand total. If you’re feeling energetic, do this for three income levels: the minimum you can live off, the amount that gives you the similar level of financial security to someone with a traditional job, and something in between.

Next (not done yet!), multiply that number/those numbers by 12, to get your required or desired yearly gross income. Write that down.

Now we’ll convert that to your required hourly rate.

Take 52 weeks, and subtract the number of weeks you think you will not work (vacation, sick time, time off to take care of family members, etc). Divide your yearly gross income as calculated above, by your number of working weeks. That gives you your required income per week. For example if your required/desired gross income is $90,000 and you’re going to work 48 weeks per year, your required income per week is $1,875 per week.

Next, determine how many hours per week you realistically think you can/want to bill. Non-billable time is a big variable. For beginners, non-billable time often involves time that you would like to be working, but you don’t have paying work. For experienced translators, it’s more likely to involve non-billable but necessary tasks such as accounting, marketing, professional development, research, client communications, etc. As a side note, when other freelancers ask me, “How do you find the time to work on marketing or other non-translation tasks?” my answer is “By not having to bill 40 hours a week.”

I’d advise doing this calculation for perhaps 25, 30, and 35 billable hours per week: take your required weekly income (your equivalent of the $1,875 listed above), and divide that by your number of billable hours, to determine your required hourly rate. For example at 25 billable hours per week, our $90,000 translator would need to earn $75 per billable hour to generate $1,875 in a week.

The fun continues because most translators aren’t paid by the hour. If you are, great: you’re done, other than asking whether your existing clients will pay your required hourly rate. If you get paid by the word or the project, then you need to further calculate how fast (or slowly) you translate. For example to generate $75 an hour, you could translate 500 words at 15 cents, or 250 words at 30 cents, or 800 words at 9.3 cents (these are not recommended rates or translation speeds, just examples). Translation speed is a huge factor in your income, and one that a lot of translators overlook: if you are someone who translates 250 words an hour, you need to charge a lot more than someone who translates 600 words an hour.

At the end of all this, you should at least have a better sense of whether the numbers for your freelance business add up the way you want them to; and if you’re not making enough money, why you’re not.

  • Perhaps you have tons of work, but it’s pervasively low-paying.
  • Perhaps your rates are fine, but you need more work.
  • Perhaps you translate very slowly.
  • Either way, these calculations should help you base your pricing decisions on objective data, rather than on fear and vague speculation about “what the market will bear.”

In closing, a huge thank you to Jonathan Hine, who presented the pricing presentation at the ATA conference for many years before passing the baton to me and John, and whose booklet “I Am Worth It!” goes into greater depth on the calculation methods I’ve mentioned here!

Image source: Pixabay