Earning potential in freelance translation

As a freelancer in the translation market, it is useful to know the upper limits of our earning potential. In doing so we can make sure that an investment in time is going to be financially worthwhile, over and above the personal-satisfaction that might be gained from the work.

The good news, as you may well be aware, is that the language services market is large (ca. $30bn). It continues to grow steadily (+13% pa) despite a prolonged global recession, fuelled in part by the globalisation of trade and governments. Average in-house salaried translator roles are paid at around $40k (US Dept. of Labor stats), however freelance workers have the ability to earn much more, and indeed they must in order to stay in business.

My own peak monthly earnings have been in the high 4-figures from freelancing. They reach well into the 5-figures for months combining freelance agency and direct client work with some basic outsourcing. Those 5-figures are for turnover, with bills to be paid, and are only the peak months, but it shows how you can go from a few agency clients at first to a diverse mix of direct, agency and outsourcing with no need for an MBA or outside investment.

All I have done is to pay close attention to what works for others, even outside of translation, and taken in as much sales, PR and copywriting information as I could through online communities, offline courses and well-regarded literature.

Those peak months are hard work, and I have often bordered on entering the fabled ‘burnout’ phase. This is what prompted me to find tools to increase efficiency and strategies to find new clients. I have read stories of translators earning $43k in one month, but this is probably not likely for most people with families, nor desirable if they have lives of any kind outside of work. I am a big proponent of a healthy work/life balance, and as such any improvements in efficiency that can be squeezed from a working day are welcome.

I plainly could not have earned the figures that now offer me a degree of stability without raising my rates and using tools. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. The goal of the book, then, is to help you to achieve your full earning potential as a freelance translator, whatever that may be.

For those who purchased the book directly from the website, there is a detailed rate calculator included in the package. It is also available for those signing up to the mailing list via the site. It is best to use this only after reading the book to make sure that its use is in line with a consistent strategy to grow and stabilise your business.

I’ve no doubt that you’ll find enough advice in the book to enable you to raise your rates to the true value of your work almost immediately, if you haven’t already. It effectively gives you the permission and pathways to give yourself a pay-rise. I hope you find that you’ve made a worthwhile investment.


Thanks for reading. I do translation from French and Swedish to English, so if that's useful to you, feel free to connect and message me on LinkedIn or Twitter.