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How much is my Japanese translation worth? Rate setting for freelance translators – Part 2 bY Japanese Translation Agency

In the first part of this article, we looked at the issue of at what level you should set translation rates and noted that due to the wild swings in translation demand, Japanese translators often find themselves taking much lower paid work than they are comfortable with when things are quiet.

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This means that when the market is busy again they are forced to continue with low paid work or reject the work and risk that work not being available again during the quiet times.

Working at extremely low translation rates, aside from being very dispiriting, can be energy sapping and trying to maintain such customers during the busy times can lead to “burn out” and poor-quality work (including for the higher paid work that you desperately need to hang on to).

As mentioned before, the time when you find yourself needing these “bottom feeder” agencies are usually when there is no other work around, so what can you do to be less reliant on such work?

One good thing to do is to try to build up clients that have regular work and will give you a retainer (a fixed monthly fee) for services. Even if this is just a small part of your overall work volume, this can be invaluable when other work is hard to find. Similarly, if you can find other non-translation regular work that will guarantee you a limited income every month this will lessen the need for you to work for very low rates.

Another piece of advice would be to save the times when you are really “burning the midnight oil” for when there is plenty of highly paid work available. This will allow you to build up a financial buffer that you can use during the quiet times. As mentioned in previous articles, financial planning that covers for periods of both high and low demand is essential for a freelance translator.

When you are first starting out in your translation career, it may be good to do low paid work to get experience, but as time goes on you should attempt to get better paid work and then reduce the percentage of lower paid work. Setting the rate that you are comfortable with, working efficiently to build a buffer during the busy times, factoring in a percentage of regular income work, and living within your means as averaged over a longer period are the keys to success as a professional freelance translator.

About the Author
Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of the Japanese Translation Agency Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Japanese Translation Service

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