Fees: to publish or not to publish? (1)

After much humming and hawing, I’ve finally taken the plunge and published my fees on my website. I know that many translators and other small-business owners prefer not to do so. Some say that as they provide a service, not a product, their fees are not — should not be? — easily quantifiable. Others feel that, once published, their fees would be set in stone and hard to tailor to the difficulty and complexity of a given project.

My position is:

  • my fees are quite easy to quantify. I charge on a per day, hour or page basis (per-word if required), with a sliding scale to reflect subject difficulty and surcharges for urgency and so on. If for some reason a project is difficult to quantify at the outset, I word my quote to reflect this.
  • I already draw up a fee schedule each year which I send out to clients as and when they request it. It has a degree of flexibility built in, as the fees are listed as “starting from” a minimum level. So why not publish the schedule on my website?

It’s up to each business owner to decide whether or not to publish their fees, of course.

But here’s something I don’t understand. If you don’t want to publish your rates, why include a dedicated “Fees” or “Rates” page in your website? Pages that take up valuable space but fail to provide specific information are misleading and a waste of potential customers’ time, and web-users don’t like being misled or having their time wasted. Plus, these generic pages all say pretty much the same thing.

If you want to provide general information about your pricing strategy — our fees vary according to the length, difficulty and nature of the project; please contact us and we’ll send you a quote, etc — that’s fine. Clients are entitled to know how we arrive at our fees, and it doesn’t do any harm to give them an idea of the various layers of complexity involved in our work.

You just need to decide where to put that information and how to label it. A dedicated web-page labelled “Fees” but lacking specific information about rates isn’t the best place.

What’s your position? Let us know in the comments — or pop back tomorrow to take our poll.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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    1. That’s more or less how I feel. I like retail websites to be transparent and feel mine should be too. Potential clients will find out sooner or later what my fees are, so I might as well be up-front about them. Of course competitors will also find out – but I don’t compete on price.
      Lots of professionals (law firms, web designers, marketing companies…) don’t publish their fees – but they don’t have a “Fees” page on their site either.

  1. Thanks for posting this. We do not publish our fees either and we do not have a fees page on our website. We do have core translation prices set out in our internal price matrix which we adhere to and are quite happy to send out to potential customers. The problem with publishing them is that a basic translation rate may not apply to the translation of highly technical medical content, for example, and once customers have seen the basic rate that’s the one they want to pay for. We are professionals running professional services and each job, in my opinion, should be charged on an individual basis depending on the nature of the work involved. After all, no 2 projects are identical.

    1. Many thanks for your thoughtful comment.
      I know, it’s a tricky one. One approach is to write a detailed fee list with rates for standard, specialist, marketing etc texts. But that could become too convoluted. That’s why I chose the “starting from” option.

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