"There are various methods for calculating what to charge for translations, but which one is right for you? I have attended seminars where speakers propose basing your rates on how much you need to earn, how many hours you want to work, and how many words per hour you translate. Do all the math, then set your rate based on the amount you need to charge per word to achieve your earnings goal.
While I don’t think that is a realistic way to set rates, I do think performing that calculation is a good way to figure out appropriate earnings targets and if you are likely to achieve them if you make translation your career and this is good information for you to have as you go about setting your rates. So let’s start there. How many words per hour do you generally translate when working on average-difficulty texts (in your field)? For most domains, successful translators generally translate a minimum of 300-400 words per hour, on average. So we will use 400 words per hour for our exercise. How many hours per year do you plan to translate? Remember that 30% administrative time (marketing, collections, bookkeeping, e-mail, phone calls, etc.) is a reasonable estimate. So let’s figure a 40-hour work week, with 12 hours of administrative time, leaving 28 hours for translation. Assuming 4 weeks for vacation, sick and personal time, we will use 48 work weeks, for a total of 1344 work hours per year. 1344 hours x 400 words = 537,600 words per year. At USD .10/word, you would earn USD 53,760 per year. At USD .15/word, you would earn USD 80,640. At USD .20/word, you would earn USD 107,520. I know translators charging all these rates (and others charging less, still others charging much more). Any of these figures could be considered a reasonable full-time income in the U.S., although at USD .10, a translator would be working very hard for an income that would leave him struggling in most U.S. markets. It is entirely possible that a single translator charges all these rates to different clients under different circumstances."