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New to Freelancing - Need to know how fast is considered good.
Thread poster: petermartins

petermartins  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:47
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Oct 6, 2004


I'm new to freelance translating. But I've spent the last year translating (english>portuguese) how-to manuals for the company I work for. I'm native in both languages. I've known how to read, write and speak them both since I was 6. But I have no idea how fast I should be doing it (words/h). I wouldn't want to start freelancing and not be able to comply to regular schedules or maybe cheating on my employers.

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xxxMurielP  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:47
French to English
+ ...
Average of about 2000 words/day Oct 6, 2004

Hello Peter,

Welcome to freelancing! It seems to be around 2000 words per day (at least here in the UK) but obviously this is very much dependant on the document you are translating. You need to see how much you can do in a day remaining confident and comfortable with the quality of your work. You will soon be able to rate your speed as I think this is personal. There's no need to rush a job if you're not going to do a good job of it. You can also have a look at the ITI website ( where you will find useful tips on how to get started.

Hope this helps.
Good luck.


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 02:47
German to English
You'll get faster with time Oct 6, 2004

You're better off taking your time and producing a quality product rather than trying to crank out 3000 words/day with a mediocre result.

As Muriel indicated, 2000 words/day is a realistic goal, and over time, as you become more experienced, you'll be able to exceed that. But you'll also learn to promise no more than 2000-2500, even though your capacity might be greater. Reason: Murphy's Law: if anything can go wrong, it will.

Your typing skills are also a factor. I'm sure I could produce more if I ever learned to type properly.

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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 02:47
There are two speeds to consider - ongoing and "sprint" Oct 6, 2004

Speaking based on what we have seen in surveys among members, it is important to differentiate between your maximum throughput rate and the rate you can maintain every day on an ongoing basis. Surveys suggest that around 2500 words is typical on an ongoing basis. Many members report, though, that in a pinch they can do twice that or more (presumably by working longer hours).

I recommend you determine both your "sprint" and "ongoing" throughput rates. This will help you to plan.

By the way, to boost your speed consider:
(1) Sticking to your specialty(s)
(2) Using CAT tools
(3) Using KudoZ for tough terms you can not find in dictionaries or web searches

(Note added later: I see that you already do at least (1) and (2). Great.)

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
Be cautious about committing yourself. Oct 6, 2004

Peter Martins wrote:
I wouldn't want to start freelancing and not be able to comply to regular schedules or maybe cheating on my employers.

You wouldn't be cheating, they usually pay by the word/line, you'd just land yourself in it:-)

In other words, if you agree to do 3,000 words in 24 hours, then find you can't, then the client won't be very pleased with you.

I rarely accept jobs without first seeing a text, or at least a sample. Then I calculate time, building in a margin for error - no more than 2,000 words/day for technical stuff - and let the client know my proposed delivery. If their deadline is too tight, I ask them for an extension, and if that's not possible, I turn down the job.

Note that 2,000 technical words a day might means a l-o-n-g day, i.e. not your 7.5 office hours, but your 10 translator hours:-) Work is frequently interrupted by calls, emails, etc or other admin things, so a translator's real work day tends to be long.

What's more, it may not be feasible for somebody with relatively little experience to do 2,000-3,000/day, either.


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Hilary Davies Shelby
United States
Local time: 01:47
German to English
Biting off more than you can chew Oct 7, 2004

I tended to do this when I started out, and it really bit me back - my customers were thrilled, but all it resulted in was severe, and entirely self-inflicted, stress!

I started off saying "up to 5000 words per day", before I realised that I could only do this in certain subjects I knew well (video games, software manuals, easy general texts).

My "average" is now 2,000 per day, but again, that can be a LONG day - 14 hours is not unusual ;-(

If it's technical or complicated and/or in an area you don't have a lot of experience in, I would even say 1500 per day. And please watch out for those ones that look straightforward and have 3 pages hiding in the middle about something you've never heard of!

Just a few hard-earned pieces of advice - I am proud to say that I have been doing this for a year now, am trying hard to practise what I preach, and have never had a customer who hasn't come back with more work (and no, it's NOT just corrections!).

Good luck!!

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Local time: 08:47
English to French
+ ...
Thank you Hilary Oct 7, 2004

to be so honest.

Thank you to put back things in perspective. You read so much boasting nowaday on lists.

2500 words a day, yes, but they always forgot to tell how long is the day. I used to be complexed, but I realised that they didn't say how many repetitions they were, if they used a CAT tool, how familiar they were with the subject, how many time they did something very similar etc.

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Local time: 08:47
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Also remember... Oct 9, 2004 calculate time for spellchecking, layout-checking etc. - all depending on your customer's expectations.

I usually say approx. 2000 words/day and then, depending on the size of the job, I add extra time when proposing a delivery date to the customer.

E.g. a 10000 word job:
10000 words/2000 words a day = 5 days
Extra time: 2-3 days

This way you also have the opportunity to "cut down" the delivery time by one day, making the customer happy, and you will still have time to do a good job.

Also, if the customer does not ask for a shorter delivery time, you may surprise him/her by delivering early! This has proven to be a big hit for me.

Good luck)

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