Should Translators Charge a Minimum Fee?

Translator Minimum Fee

Unstable translation rates have been an ongoing problem in many countries. In the US, there appeared to be a slight decline in the per-word price over the past four years. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics annual report also revealed a 6% decrease in both median annual pay and median hourly wage for interpreters and translators in 2021.

Now more than ever it seems important for linguists and LSPs to set a minimum fee when possible. While knowing what to charge can be difficult, as discussed in a recent SlatoPod episode, 77% of respondents agreed that translators and LSPs should have a minimum fee for small jobs. 20% clarified that it depends on the client and only 4% disagreed altogether. 

Increasing Price Pressures

In September, the Slator Language Industry Job Index (LIJI) fell by nearly 4.5 points, the biggest decline observed since the beginning of the year. This result was a reflection of global macroeconomic pressures. Issues that not only affect hiring in the language industry but also pricing pressure among freelancers and linguists. 

Pricing in the translation industry has become a topic of concern more recently, with academics Joseph Lambert and Callum Walker releasing a paper titled Because We’re Worth It to unpack freelance translation, status, and rate-setting. The duo attributes pricing pressure to disruptive trends from changing technology, client or LSP resistance to rate suggestions, and the willingness to talk about rates within the community. 

Slator readers were split on the question of whether they have experienced stronger price pressure this year compared to 2021. Nearly half of the respondents (44%) have experienced stronger pressure in comparison to 37% that hadn’t. While for 18% it was more complex and depended on the client. 

AI Writing Goes Multilingual 

Natural language generation (NLG) has been an exciting field in NLP for years, but various NLG startups, such as, Anyword, and Unbounced, have been gaining traction recently with funding. Slator reported whether those startups that provide multilingual AI writing solutions could be a threat or an opportunity for LSPs. While many of these AI writing startups are able to produce multilingual output, the article concluded there is a potential opportunity for LSPs to productize their own AI writing tool or partner with one. 

Although, there still seems to be some hesitancy among Slator readers as 69% have never used an AI writing tool before, 9% are willing to and 22% have already. However, as NLG develops, it will no doubt play a bigger role in the language industry’s service and tech offering, as well as the production of multilingual content.

The Variety and Complexity of Job Titles

On the 30th September, the world celebrated International Translation Day in recognition of language professionals. While the celebration may include “Translation” in the title, there is no doubt that this extends beyond the typical roles of translators and project managers. 

One only needs to look to a language industry job board like LocJobs to see the array of job titles and descriptions. In September, you had more obvious titles such as Translation Vendor Manager and Localization Product Manager. Then you had the slightly less revealing title of Solution Engineer, which requires a more elaborate description. 

We asked Slator readers how hard it was to explain your job and what you do in the language industry to friends and family. The results were divided with the majority of respondents (40%) agreeing it takes some time, while 26% thought it relatively easy and 18% found it difficult and needed patience. The last 17% was divided equally in two by those that found it very easy and those on the opposite side that said it is hopeless.