I have been working as a freelance translator since the beginning of February 2021, and the process of doing so has been long-winded and anxiety-inducing. When you work freelance, you usually do not get offered a regular salary like with most jobs. Instead, you have to determine what your time is worth yourself. This is the most difficult part, and I have many thoughts regarding this process. They include, but are not limited to the following:
What if I set my rates too high?
I have lost out on opportunities because of the standard rate set by the translation community in Norway. The cost of living is so incredibly high, so our rates are a bit higher than in the rest of the world. This becomes an issue when a company offers a rate per word or per hour that is barely even half of what has been determined as a minimum livable wage.
What if I set my rates too low?
Underselling yourself is your biggest mistake, but you want to please the company, right? No, I learned the hard way that you’re not going to earn enough to live even remotely comfortable if you accept rates that are way lower than the average standard. Doing so gives the companies the opportunity offer equally as low rates to others, as they know that at least someone would accept them.
What if they don’t think that the work I deliver is worth this price?
Occasionally it happens that a client isn’t fully happy with your work, but that does not mean that you’re not entitled to compensation for the time spent. Often the issue is fixed by redoing a few segments, I always do this free of charge since it is my fault, but it doesn’t mean I won’t still send an invoice for the original time spent on doing the work. It’s like hiring someone to build something for you, then asking for the whole thing for free just because one little thing is crooked, when it can easily be fixed.
What if I set my price too low and they’re taking advantage of this by giving me more work than others?
When I started off with the lowest rates I could possibly offer, I always received a very high volume of jobs/tasks to do every day. My theory was that since it was so cheap to send it to me, they just preferred doing that without considering how overwhelmed I would become from dealing with up to ten small to large jobs every day. I’m not saying it’s bad to have a lot to do, but there’s a line between being busy, and drowning in your obligations. Be reasonable, set your rate somewhere where you don’t have to accept more than you are able to handle to earn enough. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you.
What if I don’t earn enough to make a living off of it?
It is important to make enough to cover both bills and having enough to feed yourself for a month. Don’t be afraid to negotiate your rates every once in a while. No job is ever worth depriving yourself of necessities. It can be absolutely horrifying to even bring up a topic like that with a company/vendor, but it is a necessary evil sometimes. You always deserve to be able to live comfortably, and not paycheck to paycheck. If the company isn’t willing to accommodate you, there’s always someone else out there who will.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when you’re first starting out as a freelancer, and even now, five months later, I still feel anxious whenever I have to negotiate my rates with a company. Being a freelancer is certainly a learning process, and I can’t wait to get to a point where I’m as comfortable as I could ever be. My anxiety is mostly fueled by the fact that I indeed suffer from clinical depression and generalized anxiety, and feeling some security in my job would help a lot with that. It is awful to wonder if you would be able to feed yourself or pay your bills every month. The bottom line to this is: know your worth, and don’t let anyone make you undersell yourself. Your time and effort is worth as much as you determine it to be.