Category Guest Posts

Guest post by Zingword. (Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay)


Special announcement for TranslateCluj followers: Zingword is now public! Create your free profile using this special invitation link for TranslateCluj followers. Set your rates high and say goodbye to price dumping job boards.

As TranslateCluj readers will know, according to Inbox Translation’s survey, Eastern European translators receive lower payment for their work than in other parts of Europe. We can deduce that this goes for countries in Southeastern Europe as well — and I, as a Croatian translator, can confirm. The survey also shows that a majority of Eastern European respondents work a full-time job alongside being a translator. This, of course, is an issue, since it shows that, in many of our local markets, professional translation services don’t provide for the translator’s livelihood.

Is this an unchangeable situation? Are low-paying markets the only source of translation work in our regions? And how do you increase your rates without alienating your clients?

Global job, local issues

In Croatia, where the average monthly salary is supposed to be around 900€, translation rates can start as low as 35 kn (4.7 euros) per cartella (1800 characters with spaces or 1500 characters without spaces). This translates to about 0.007 cents per word.

If a translator working with this rate translates about 3000 words per work day, their monthly income would come to about 420 euros — i.e. less than half of the average salary. Therefore, this kind of rate cannot afford them a decent living standard, let alone one that a language professional should have considering that we’re talking about a highly skilled profession. While rates, as anywhere, do vary in Croatia, getting to a point where your rates can cover your standard requires extreme effort and negotiation. This leads many of our linguists, even the top ones, to enter a vicious cycle of extreme amounts of work for the same low rates. While some are able to charge more after their low-paying baptism by fire, many fear they will get abandoned by their clients if they try to up their rate.

It may seem to you, like it often does to Croatian translators, that such a situation doesn’t allow room for progress — but we often forget that we live in a globalized, online world that offers more opportunities than our local markets often do. Even if the language we work in has a limited amount of speakers, this does not mean that translation from or into it is not in demand enough for us to be paid our due.

Discover better opportunities

One of Zingword’s goals is precisely to connect translators with clients who are ready to prioritize quality over low payment, wherever either party may hail from. We want to help you put your best foot forward and create a profile that efficiently markets your specific services and immediately shows clients why your work is worth the money.

Our team has built an online space which:

  • helps freelance translators target the types of projects they want to do with its focus on specializations
  • lets translators set their own rates for each of their language pairs and subject matters, to provide a fair and accurate quote
  • doesn’t allow clients to sort by price; rather, the search results get ranked by quality
  • doesn’t support competing for jobs — at Zingword, it’s the clients that find you.

On the client side, Zingword makes the negotiation process quicker and easier. This would allow your existing clients to use it as well, and they’d be able to contact you much faster!

But, if your goal is to charge more, how can you up your rate for your existing clients?

Be honest about your rates

Like many Croatian translators, you may be at a loss as to how to charge more for your professional translation service. After all, you’re probably used to the “if you don’t, someone else will” narrative and aren’t well-trained at saying no to projects — according to a translator friend of mine, that’s not really something we’re taught we’re allowed to do.

However, you do need to be honest, starting with yourself. While accepting a low-paid translation project might be a necessity at times, it is probably not viable as a long-term practice, since it is not possible to grow your career without enough time and energy to branch out or work on the freelancing side of your business. There are also health risks, since this kind of standard can lead to burnout and financial anxiety.

You also need to be honest with your existing clients. As a consummate professional, you need to be aware of your worth, and you need to communicate it to your clients. A professional client will understand that, as you grow skills and the quality of your translation output, your business needs to grow as well — which might mean increasing costs for you, and that can sometimes mean increasing your rates. It is up to you to choose how, when and with which clients.

There’s plenty of fish in the sea of translation — and you deserve to be paired with the good and respectful ones. Join us in our effort to create a space where translators can be treated with the respect they deserve and, as we often say here at Zing — let’s rock the translation world! 🙂

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