URGENT! Interpreting Job - How much do I ask for?

I’ve been asked to do an interpreting job at the last minute, traveling from Taipei to Taichung on Friday and translating at a meeting/seminar (it has to do with engineering/architecture). The meeting lasts from about 9am to noon, and they said I should be back in Taipei by 3pm. They’ll be driving me (although we have to leave at 5am). What kind of flat rate would be fair to ask for? I’m not a trained interpreter, but do work as a professional translator (written), and as most people know am a grad student in Chinese at NTU. Any ballpark figures?

I have a Taiwanese student in one of my English classes who does work as an interpreter (Chinese-Japanese) and she gets NT$2000/hr.

The travel time is the killer in this case; it really would be an exhausting day.
If I were you, I wouldn’t touch it for anything less than NT$8,000.

NT$2000/hour for the job. NT$500/hour for travel.

But you should not take this job if you are not a professional interpreter.

Probably Buddha is the only person available. If both he and the client are confident that he can do it, that should be OK. The main difficulty will be the technical jargon. Presumably this is consecutive interpreting, not simultaneous.

Probably Buddha is the only person available. If both he and the client are confident that he can do it, that should be OK. The main difficulty will be the technical jargon. Presumably this is consecutive interpreting, not simultaneous.[/quote]

Yes, my boss recommended me to them for the job (my boss is friends with the owner of the company). They would have no time to find someone else for it since it’s last minute. They’ll be giving me an outline of the contents of the meeting and other info in advance so I can make sure I know the vocab I might need and what I’ll basically be interpreting. And thanks for the advice! :slight_smile:

I met with the client this evening. The first half is a PowerPoint presentation, which they already gaveme a hard copy of, so I’ve already translated that part and just have to spit out the English translation of what the presenter says in Chinese. The second portion is a Q&A, and the relevant technical vocabulary I’ve already learned, so it should be pretty straightforward. They’re giving me NT$10,000 for the day (about a two hour presentation/discussion) plus travel time and my prep time.

Although I have great respect for your Chinese, I would really recommend you not take interpreting jobs if you are not trained. There’s a lot more going on than just language issues – particularly in a field such as the one they are describing.

That said, pros on the Taiwan market are now getting NT$18,000-20,000 per day, so that might be NT$10,000 per half day. You should calculate your fees based on ALL the time you will not be available to provide services for anyone else who might pay you (i.e., travel time is not “discounted”, it is work time you cannot sell to anyone else). If you undercut the “accepted” pricing, you will get in trouble with certain people (trust me on this one) which may or may not be a problem for you depending on your future aspirations. If you don’t plan to do much interpreting it probably doesn’t matter; if you plan to stay in the field you won’t make any friends by offering a lower rate and you will make many enemies. I worked years back with a partner who set our rates and offered lower rates and it caused me many years of problems with other interpreters, even though I personally had nothing to do with the rate-setting at the time.

At a minimum, don’t say “he said…”! [Mark of the Amateur!] But I’m sure you know that already. :smiley:

Just my NT$0.66, your mileage may vary. But do NOT accept a rate that anyone could get merely for having a warm body and speaking English! Also, pros usually don’t offer anything less than a half-day minimum. No hourly work.

Thanks for the tips. However, this is basically just a one-off gig that I’m doing as a favor for my boss. I went over all the material before I took the job to make sure I can handle it. I don’t really have any aspirations to be an interpreter. As you know, I’m a literature person … anything to do with Chinese past the late 19th century doesn’t interest me very much! :wink: At any rate, if I do happen to get any other requests in the future, I’ll definitely keep in mind what you said! :smiley: Thanks!


The job went well, and the client was very pleased. The group at the other side of the negotiating table was also very pleased (a Western company that is setting up a major factory in Taichung), so much so that they were interested in me going to work for them as an interpreter. Unfortunately, I don’t want to leave school for that, but it made me feel good! :smiley: Also, the client paid me a little extra since we went a little over time, and took me out to a really fancy lunch … so for my first interpreting gig I made out with NT$11,000, a really nice lunch, and a job offer. :slight_smile:

Congrats Buddha.

Good info to know Ironlady. For the trade shows there are ads for “interpreting jobs.” Targetted more towards females (of course it’s a trade show!), they pass out pamplets and answer questions. It’s not as deep as a true interpreting jobs I think, but then neither is the pay.

You might want to consider client confidentiality in future, when you act as interpreter at a private meeting…

What was posted is hardly a secret: edition.cnn.com/2004/BUSINESS/10 … ning.reut/

The company did tell me that they need interpreters to communicate between their foreign management and their Taiwanese workers, and that if I knew anyone in the Taichung area (or willing to commute) who has a good command of Chinese (and obviously English, I think he was looking for foreigners), to contact him. If you’re interested, and your Chinese is at an advanced level, send me a PM and I will put you in touch with the guy at the company.