You’re a Translator, Not a Free Language Translation

  • Time to read: 6 min.

As an affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Free language translation is supposed to be one of those things relegated to translation engines like Google or Babelfish. That’s because everyone (non-translators included) knows that free translation engines don’t give you the results that a professional translator can provide.

And ever since the invention of these translation engines, there have been choices when deciding to have a translation done.

The first option is a client could do a little research and choose a professional translator. Another option has been to strictly use free translation engines and just accept the fact that the translation results were not going to be accurate.

The last option was for clients to use a combination of the two. Enlisting the services of a professional translator for those important jobs, while resorting to free language translation websites when all that was needed was a gist or overall meaning of texts.

Lately, though, it seems that this supposed common sense by non-translators has gone by the wayside, with more and more clients wanting professional translation services but want to pay next to nothing (if even that much). And if you’re a translator, you should take heed.

Because the freelance translation market is one that is fought in a worldwide marketplace, competition can be pretty fierce, especially with translators in third world countries able to charge significantly less than translators based out of North America or Europe. No where is this more evident than on freelance job boards.

Free Language Translation: A Real-Life Example

Let me give you an example of this “free language translation” attitude that I think is becoming all too common. The other day I was checking out some translation jobs posted on For those that don’t know, UpWork is an online marketplace where people can post their job needs, and providers can market their services.

There are translators from all over the world marketing their translation services on the website, and I’m always curious to see what people expect to pay translators, as well as how low translators are willing to go to secure a job. Well, what I found even surprised me.

This is an exact posting I found from someone looking for a translation provider:

We need approximately 70,000 words to be translated from English into Spanish.There is nothing technical about the work. The work is in a dialogue format.

We want to hire someone now. We will only use elance escrow service and the work needs to be quality. It will be checked by a third party.

Only bids under 0.01 will be entertained. The ideal bidder could do it for 0.005.

OK, so can anyone actually believe this!!! This guy has 70,000 words he wants translated, he wants them to be quality, and he only wants to pay a half cent per word!!! Honestly, how can someone in good conscious do this?

Yet, I don’t know what’s worse, this person’s request or the fact that 6 people had already replied to this guy saying they were willing to do the job! (Specifically, two people from Mexico, two from Uruguay, one from Pakistan, and one from the U.S.)

Worse Than Free Language Translation

the cost of free language translation

So is this what people think of us as translators? That we are only slightly better than some free online language translator? That we are willing to do our job for so cheap that we couldn’t even make a living? A mere $350 for 70,000 words and he wants “quality?”

That’s so ridiculous it’s not even funny.

I know that a lot of translators just starting out are especially worried about their ability to find translation jobs and because of their worry and the tough job market for translators, are often willing to lower their prices just to “break into the business.” Some are even willing to offer free language translation services.

I understand this desire and that sacrifices often have to be made in order to get clients and find work.

I, for one, decided long ago that I would not sacrifice my talents to extremely low-paying jobs that didn’t give me the respect I felt I deserve. Charging less than you normally charge for a job is one thing, but drastically lowering your price so you’re strictly free labor is another issue.

Don’t sell yourself short by offering free language translation.

After I do a job, I want to feel like the client has respected me and my work and that I in turn have given it my best effort and provided the best possible translation for a client. But this would be nearly impossible for me if I dramatically lowered by price point (especially to half a cent a word!).

I am not a free language translation program. And neither are you.

How To Get Paid What You’re Worth

As a translator, you are paid to convert one written language into another. This is a complex and skilled task that requires a deep understanding of both languages as well as the ability to convey meaning accurately and concisely. While there is no set formula for determining your worth as a translator, there are a few factors to consider when setting your translation rates.

First, think about the difficulty of the text you are translating. If the text is filled with jargon or difficult concepts, it will likely take you longer to translate than if it were a simple document.

You should also consider the time frame in which you are being asked to complete the translation. A tight deadline will likely require you to work more quickly, and thus you may justify a higher rate.

Finally, don’t forget to factor in your own experience and expertise. If you have been working as a translator for many years, or if you have specialized knowledge in a particular subject area, you can charge a higher rate than someone who is just starting out.

What To Do If a Client Lowballs You

If you are approached with a job that pays much less than your usual rate, there are a few things you can do.

First, try to negotiate with the client. If they are firm on their rate, ask if they would be willing to increase the fee if you complete the job within a shorter time frame.,You can also offer to do a smaller portion of the job, such as translating only a section of a document, in order to get paid for your time.

If the client is still unwilling to budge, it may be best to politely decline the job and move on. It is not worth your time and energy to work for free, or for very little pay.

Remember, you are a professional translator and you deserve to be compensated fairly for your work. Free language translation is no way to get paid.

FAQ – Free Language Translation

Should I offer my services for free?

No. As a professional translator, you should be paid for your time and expertise. Do not sell yourself short by offering free language translation. The only translators that offer free language translation are those that don’t value their skill.

What if I am just starting out and don’t have any clients?

If you are just starting out, you may need to lower your rates in order to attract clients. However, you should not offer free language translation. Once you have built up a client base, you can start charging your usual rates.

A client wants me to translate a document but is only willing to pay half my usual rate. What should I do?

If the client is unwilling to pay your usual rate, you can try to negotiate a higher fee or offer to do a smaller portion of the job. If the client is still unwilling to budge, it may be best to politely decline the job and move on. You don’t have to provide free language translation to become a professional translator.