The price of quality

My work as a freelance translator and writer (ghost writing and SEO) is my only source of income these days and sometimes I wonder whether I wouldn’t be better off writing my own non-fiction book (e.g. about freelancing) instead of helping other people making more money and not even get credit for what I do. Often my name isn’t even mentioned when I do translations and that’s a bit sad. But then I look at Amazon and see the prices of eBooks – ranging from free to $2 or $3. What would you expect for that kind of money? Of course, there is no printing cost involved and often you get books with a very plain layout – but should authors really give away their books for free? Doesn’t it somehow ruin the market for other writers?

Recently I’ve read a book that I received for free because one of my mini-jobs is being a book reviewer. I enjoyed the book and the author talked about translating the book into different languages in the future. So I contacted him and said I would enjoy translating the book and offered him a very good rate. However, he declined by telling me that his publisher would take care of that if he ever decided that he wanted translations (so why does he mention it in his book if he doesn’t really mean it?).  Also, if I was an author and wanted my book translated, I would not want just any translator to translate it. I’d like someone who actually enjoys the story and puts some effort into the translation. Many “professional” translators simply work like machines and don’t put much feeling into what they do – and then they charge a heap of money for it.

I always price my translations on different factors: how urgent the job is (i.e. do I have to focus on it for a few days for many hours, is it a rush job, is there no time limit etc.), how much fun I would have with the job and how difficult the content of the document is. I want my price to be fair to myself (i.e. not too cheap) and also to the customer (i.e. not too expensive, esp. when it would be a translation I’d enjoy a lot).

When I write SEO articles or simple blog articles that do not need too much research, I usually have a set fee of $1 per 100 words. Academic texts are more expensive, esp. if they need to meet certain standards.

When I look at how other people set their prices, I often wonder what their thoughts are. Some people offer a rate of $0.10 per 500 word article! Why would someone do that? You can earn 10 cent a lot faster – and how good will the quality of those articles be?

Some translators often ask ten times the price of what I would ask for translations – and then I also wonder what their thinking behind that pricing is.

What is the price of quality and how do you find it?



Filed under About writing, Morning hours

6 responses to “The price of quality

  1. I find that you pay for what you get. I will spend extra for better quality.

    • to me, it depends a lot on how important something is to me. When it comes to basic things like notebooks, I often just go for the cheapest option as I decorate the cover myself anyway and don’t need the fancy looking ones.
      When it comes to treats like a good chocolate, I’d rather pay a dollar or two more and really have a proper treat instead of something that tastes like plastic.
      And when you pay writers and think you get a good deal because they are cheap, you often end up having to pay more because you either need someone to take care of all the mistakes or even have someone else write the article anew!

  2. Agree with the above. Sometimes trying to save money can lead to false economies. What language/s do you translate to/from?

    • I’m translating from English to German (and the other way around), mainly I get jobs like translating websites, apps, marketing documents and articles – sometimes I also get eBooks to translate but I have to be lucky to find those jobs as book publishers usually have their own translating agencies.

      • Have you registered at It seems a very active site and is run from Australia. Also, I know someone who uses a site called ‘People Per Hour’ (php) which is perhaps more geared towards writers. In any case, I know where to go if I want any German translations. Danke!

      • Hi, yes, I know Freelancer but I don’t like it very much because the layout is a bit confusing at times and very cluttered. I prefer Elance – it’s a nice, simple site and everything is easy to find and easy to do, i.e. it’s not a time-waster. It’s also the portal on which I have heaps of feedback already and it’s always easier to get new jobs when people can see that you have many 5 star ratings!

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