American Translators Association (ATA): It's Okay to Tell

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American Translators Association (ATA): It's Okay to Tell

It's Okay to Tell

To make the most of their work, small business owners are well advised to examine whether their prices are in line with the market and the competition. Although ATA is subject to special restrictions when it comes to discussing pricing, these restrictions do not apply to individual members who wish to post the prices they charge for their work.

Dear Business Smarts:

My question comes from the issue of rate fixing and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settlement that happened before I was an ATA member. I have been posting my rates in my online profiles at sites such as ProZ. Yesterday, during a list discussion on another subject, the issue of posting rates came up as an aside, as being something ATA members should not do. I was aware that we were not meant to discuss rates on chapter lists and the like, but is it true that we should not post our rates? Are we meant to keep our rates secret? I like to post my rates as it has reduced the time I waste refusing low-paying jobs. Is there an official position? Thank you for your help. — Regards, Karen M. Tkaczyk (McMillan Translation)

Dear Karen:

Thanks very much for your excellent question. The ban on price discussions within ATA dates back to the late 1980s, when ATA as an organization published annual guidelines with price recommendations for translators. As a result of an investigation by the FTC, ATA as an organization (meaning all employees, elected officials, and publications of the Association) had to agree not to post specific prices. As a consequence, we are very cautious about price discussions, for example, in ATA-sponsored discussion groups for chapters or divisions.

However, the policy of not posting prices does not affect the individual members of the organization, who are completely free to publish their prices, along with their association membership status, in any form. You are under no obligation whatsoever to keep your rates secret because you are not an official representative of ATA and are not recommending in any way that other people should charge what you do. It would be a completely different matter if you discussed the "going rate" with other people, or agreed with a group of other people, that you were all going to charge the same price.

As a general rule, your pricing should reflect factors such as your qualifications, and years of experience and the difficulty of the material you translate. It is good practice to review your pricing strategy thoroughly every two or three years to see if your income is keeping up with inflation and whether you are meeting your financial goals for retirement and other expenses. The rate calculator on ATA’s website is a good start for analyzing your charges.


Reprinted from The ATA Chronicle: January 2009, p 37