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Should they charge same as experienced interpreters? A lower percentage thereof? What the client offers? What institutions pay?

asked 23 Mar '16, 08:24

Andy's gravatar image


Hi Andy,

I always tell novices that they should be getting the same rate as the rest of the team because they are doing the same job we are and it's a lot harder for them: they may need 3 times more effort to prepare, they will expend more energy in the booth, etc, So since they have to work harder, and they won't get paid more than I do, they should at least get the same.

Joking aside, I also recommend that fabulous article by Julia Böhm, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?i . Most beginners hear a number that is much higher than they have ever been offered and say yes immediately, without thinking anything through. Leaving aside any bills for health insurance or savings for pensions (they are young, so immortal), they don't consider that one day of work will require at least one day of preparation if not more, so this supposedly high number becomes miniscule once all those factors are added in. If they work through their numbers, they will understand what they need to charge to live, and will be better prepared with sales arguments when dealing directly with a client.

As to what the institutions pay, this is a matter of public record. In the US, the Department of State's Office of Language Services had a list of rates they published every year, and somehow the agencies got hold of those rates and tried to use State's categories and rates. But in this case, State gave us 2-4 weeks of work at a time for the lower paid jobs, while agencies were trying to give us the same rate for a single day. In Europe, international organizations have a negotiated rate based on the fact that they are tax free and have a certain number of interpreter days to give out (though not always to the same person). You could use those rates in the private market, if you add on the taxes you must pay and if you expect a certain number of days from the client.

And to answer your question with a question - how can they charge a lower percentage of what an experienced interpreter charges if we are all quoting our own rates and there is no fixed rate on the market anymore?

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answered 24 Mar '16, 06:52

JuliaP's gravatar image



Thanks Julia, to answer your question - I had in mind that AIIC statistics show what members earned in past years as an average, rather than an illegally fixed and recommended rate. Now let me return the question favour... how does a novice interpreter know what the rest of the team is earning?

(24 Mar '16, 10:03) Andy

So you are assuming that they are being hired individually by an agency for a job with multiple languages? Or hired on their own or to make up a team?

Well, if they have worked in the past, they have a ballpark idea of what could be charged. In any case I still say read the Millionaire article to understand fully what fees should cover.

If the novice hasn't worked yet, or it's a new field, then ask advice of a mentor - an experienced interpreter not with the same language combination, willing to help out. If the novice doesn't have one, then get one fast! There is a question on here about mentoring and the relationship that should exist. As the mentor is from a different market than the novice, this couldn't be seen as illegal price fixing.

And a novice should read some books on negotiating - they'll need it!

(24 Mar '16, 10:21) JuliaP

Thanks Julia. Yes the Boehm article is very useful. Really my "assumption" is that new interpreters won't be able to set their own prices much at all, but rather they will be rung up and offered a job with a rate - and that they have to either accept, negotiate, or refuse. If the recruiter is recruiting a team then negotiation is probably out, so it's a question of what price to accept or how low do you go.

(26 Mar '16, 11:07) Andy

But then your comment assumes that the novice would be told a fixed rate to stick to on the private market - something no one is able to do.

I would counsel some market research with a mentor, and figuring out what rate you absolutely cannot go below or else you would be paying the taxman for the privilege of working, and sticking to your guns. This is what happened to me when I moved to a new market - I was recruited as one of many for a conference, but the team rate would have had me paying for the privilege of working. I don't know why everyone else was able to accept, but I did not. Since I had valid arguments, and I fully understood their position and said they should find someone else, but they were desperate, I ended up earning a different fee than the rest of the team.

It also happened to me on my old market that I knew very well - the team was recruited individually, and we all had different rates. I was not the highest paid, but was satisfied with my rate because I had done my homework and knew I would earn enough on the job. So it is still down to numbers and knowing your limits.

(26 Mar '16, 14:36) JuliaP
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question asked: 23 Mar '16, 08:24

question was seen: 4,146 times

last updated: 03 Apr '16, 23:46 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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