Productivity, high income and translators

Is translation a high paying profession? How much can one earn doing translation 40 hours a week? Can one reach a six figure income doing freelance translation? These are some of the issues that would-be-translators would like to know. While there is no general earning guideline for translators with some reporting income in excess of $100,000 a year while most others aspire to reach that figure, it all depends on the source and target language, the subject area, the time factor and volume. High translation rate per word is dependent on many factors like niche area, dealing directly with client instead of through agencies, using productivity improvement tools like CAT, speech recognition etc. Japanese knowing translators usually command a premium compared to other languages. This language demand is not a constant always and varies with time. An average full time translator may translate about 400,000 to 600,000 words per year. To reach a six figure income you have to charge at least 20 cents a word. Apart from CAT and other productivity enhancement tools, love for the job usually results in more accurate and faster translation. It is true not only for translation but for other professions as well. You can do the job better if you like the job. Period. It is that simple. Charging a lower rate in order to attract more clients is usually a bad strategy. If you put in more than 40 hours a week doing translation the productivity falls for most people. In terms of no. of words, about 2000 words per day is generally considered doable. It has been found in a study that working 60 hours a week continuously for eight weeks results in the same amount of work as eight 40 hours week of comparable quality! Hence while stressing yourself occasionally is OK it should not become the norm. The time taken for a translation job varies from job to job and depends on the familiarity of the subject to the translator. You will be able finish a job quickly if you already know the subject matter compared to a topic unknown to you. This is particularly true for technical translation jobs. A 2000 word job may take just 2 hours in some cases while up to 8 hours in others. Thus productivity is also dependent on the subject matter. Rush jobs usually command a higher price. Those that need to be completed over weekends or in short time can be considered rush jobs. Rate per word is also dependent on the volume of translation. Higher volumes command lower rate and vice versa. If you establish yourself as a very good translator and in a specialized topic or a niche language, you can afford to charge a premium to the market rate. Thus building good references would help you in achieving it. The rates also depend on geography and vary from place to place. To sum up, earning a six figure income or more doing translation depends on a host of factors and is an achievable target.