The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2022 - 20

translators can perhaps
learn the skills required to
generate higher earnings
and be just as successful.
We certainly shouldn't
begrudge these high earners
of the translation world.
Clearly, they're doing
quite a few things right.
While we should welcome
insight into their working
methods to hopefully raise
the pay bar for everyone,
we should also not poo-poo
the realities, and sometimes
hardships, of working in an
oversubscribed profession
with a common language
pair. The attitude of " You
just must not be marketing
or working as hard as me "
isn't helping. Furthermore,
coming out of the woodwork
can be hard, particularly for
a person who is extremely
shy and/or introverted,
shuns much of social media,
and for whom networking
or attending conferences is
about as attractive as cutting
toenails! Therefore, might
more reclusive translators
benefit if there was more
talk from less reclusive
translators about what they
are charging?
As mentioned previously,
what we charge depends
on many factors. However,
it's astounding the number
of times that questions
concerning how much to
charge crop up on translator
forums. This indicates that,
as translators, we often not
only don't know what others
are charging for roughly
the same type of work, but
we don't even know the
potential amount we could be
charging! Many a translator's
jaw has dropped when they
learn what they could have
been charging all along!
Therefore, by encouraging
If you don't want to talk about what
you charge, it doesn't mean you're
not a team player or letting your
colleagues down.
more open discussion
about rates at conferences,
translator meetups, and
professional seminars, we
could more easily discover
what people are charging and
then seek to re-evaluate our
own rates. This would give
us more bargaining power in
the negotiation process, not
only with direct clients but
particularly with agencies,
where we're often squeezed
the hardest.
Resistance to
Talking about Rates
There will be resistance to
encouraging discussions
about rates, with some
arguing that there's no such
thing as a " going rate " in
the translation profession
(certainly for freelancers),
and that rates are not
comparable anyway (e.g.,
perhaps a novice wouldn't
have the confidence or ability
to charge the same as an
experienced translator).
Also, some will say that
freelancers should be able to
charge what the heck they
want. There could also be
accusations of price fixing. I
don't dispute or refute any
of this, but I would argue
that there's such a thing as a
bottom fee for the profession,
beyond which translators are
selling themselves short and
bringing the profession and
their own unique language
skills and training into
disrepute, irrespective of
being able to charge lower
fees because they live in
20 The ATA Chronicle | November/December 2022
a country where it's not
necessary to earn big.
A counterargument to all
this would be: Why should
legal firms based in the U.K.
or the U.S. get away with
paying translators, say in
Brazil, a pittance when these
firms are raking in millions?
You're paying for deftness
after all, regardless of the
location. I do understand
that, yes, it's easier to
negotiate fees when you've
already built up some clout
with clients and have a
steady income; not so much
when you feel like a tadpole
in an overcrowded pond with
lots of things to eat you in,
above, and around it. Many
novice translators have such
low confidence that they
sincerely believe the only
thing they can compete on is
price. However, charging low
fees (certainly long-term)
affects one's self-esteem and
distorts the way in which our
profession is viewed by the
wider world.
Disclosing Your Rates:
When and How?
So, how can we start to feel
more comfortable talking
about money, specifically
our money? Initially, I think
experienced translators who
are comfortable in their
professional skin could
organize more presentations,
workshops, and courses
wherein they not only discuss
rates but disclose theirs. In
many ways this is already
happening, with Stack and
online forums essentially
functioning as the office
watercooler for freelance
translators and helping to
normalize the discussion of
rates. Online courses with
such titles as " How to Raise
Your Rates " and " Negotiating
Rates " are also starting to
appear more frequently. The
less obscure and cryptic we
are about our own rates,
the more translators will
know what ballpark figure
they can set for a particular
specialization or task
at hand.
At the same time,
however, we need to
be aware that there are
good reasons why some
organizations discourage
structured discussions
concerning specific rates.
For example, ATA has an
Antitrust Compliance Policy
that strictly complies with
federal antitrust law in effect
in the U.S. ATA's policy
regarding the discussion
of rates was adopted by
its Board of directors as a
result of a U.S. Federal Trade
Commission investigation in
the early 1990s. A member's
conduct in connection with
all ATA meetings and events
must comply with antitrust
law because penalties for
violations of antitrust law
can be very severe-not
only for ATA, but also for its
individual members.6
The good thing is that
our profession is kinder and
more open than many others
in terms of sharing this type
of information. Translators
working in the same
language combination will
often refer one another to
clients when they can't take
on a particular assignment
and disclose their rate
if asked. Networking as
www.atanet.org
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The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2022

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