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How much is my Japanese translation worth? Rate setting for freelance translators – Part 1 bY Translation Agency Japan

Continuing on from previous articles where I have attempted to give useful advice for budding new freelance translators or salaried Japanese translators wishing to take the plunge into the freelance world, in the first part of this article, I would like to discuss issues related to the setting of translation rates.

Japanese Translation Agencies

In the second part, I will look at possible approaches for dealing with this.

In my experience, it is very rare that you will be negotiating a rate with a Japanese translation agency when you first start working for them. Usually, they will offer a rate and you will decide whether you want to do the work or not. Therefore, setting a minimum rate for your services normally equates to deciding which clients/translation agencies you are prepared to work with.

As a freelance translator, I have had the experience of working for two different agencies on the same day, one of which is offering a rate five times that of the other. So, if you have clients offering a good rate, why would you work for peanuts? The reason for this is the wild swings in supply and demand in the translation market.

As discussed in previous articles, jobs seem to come in huge waves and after that wave is over, you can be twiddling your thumbs for weeks. As time goes on without better paid work coming in, your anxiety may grow causing you to accept lower paid work if available. On first consideration, this is not such a problem. You may think that you can just take higher paid jobs when available and lower paid English Japanese translation projects when the market is slow.

The issue with this is that you generally find that if you say “no” to a agency several times, they will just start working with someone else. Translators may turn down lower-paid work when they are busy, only to wish they had the work when things slow down again. Another approach is to just accept everything even when you are busy. However, time is limited, and trying to do everything may cause health problems and/or quality issues. You may also face the extremely annoying situation of agreeing to do lower paid work and then needing to refuse a higher paid job that comes in after this, as you have already committed to the lower paid work. In the second part of this article, I will look at possible approaches to this dilemma.

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

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