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Should we charge more to work from hardcopies?
Thread poster: Catherine Bolton

Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:35
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Oct 5, 2002

I\'m cross-posting this as it was in \"Money Matters\" but is also relevant here. I\'d be interested in getting as much feedback as possible, since I have to tackle this with my customer next week.

Here\'s my problem.

About 2-3 times a year, I translate a trade journal that is published quarterly in Italian. The job is commissioned through an agency, which hands me photocopies of the printed pages from the Italian magazine, and often even computer printouts (in Times New Roman, point size 12!) of articles written by Italians who work for the association that publishes the magazine.

Time and again I have asked for files, particularly since there are lots of names in the articles, which I must obviously type and double-check since the spellchecker doesn\'t help here.

I\'ve been told they aren\'t available, yet I know that the typesetter receives files to print the Italian version, which is put out before the English one.

At this point, it sounds to me like they simply can\'t be bothered to dig out the files.

Last week, I told the agency that if I am forced to work from paper, when files obviously exist, I think I should get paid more. I also mentioned that I heard somewhere (but I can\'t remember where!) that translators are starting to charge extra if they have to work from paper instead of files.

A translator friend suggested not-so-tongue-in-cheek that I print out my translation and give them BACK a printed copy! Tempting, but not a solution.

I can understand working from paper if a customer says \"I need you to translate an article from such-and-such a newspaper\" and only paper exists! But this?

Any ideas? Is it urban legend? Is it the new trend in the business? If not, should we start one ?

Two colleagues have already answered very kindly. Here\'s the link if you want to see what they have to say.

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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:35
Dutch to English
+ ...
Working from paper Oct 5, 2002

I charge more too. Not if its just a few pages, but if I have to spend extra time deciding what it actually says (because the quality is bad) or if there are many pages, I will charge about 20% more. After all, you have to double check names and whether you missed out anything.

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Libin PhD  Identity Verified
Chinese to English
+ ...
I charge 15% more for hardcopy Oct 5, 2002

I charge 15% more for hardcopy, especially there are some formatting in the document, such as tables, different font style/size, etc.

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English to Portuguese
It all depends on the file/document sizes Oct 5, 2002


I, for instance, very rarely accept work when it is based on hardcopies only. I work mainly in large jobs and cannot imagine translating a 10000-word job from hardcopies or PDF files only. Also that is an old system and translators are getting new tools all customer should be aware of.

Also, I would loose that text unless I use an allignment tool to create a memory afterwords. And that would create problems when clients want me to use same terminology used before (say on previous projects) since that previous job would be either \"binned\" or stored (target in a soft format and source on paper). Very time consuming really.

For that reason, I accept that sort of task only when very small and for a client I have worked with. Never for a starter as that might get them used to it.

Hope this helps

Kind regards


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Russian to German
+ ...
Payment should definitely be higher for paper work! Oct 5, 2002

There is sure more work implied in working from paper copies, and it would be a nice temptation to send a printed copy to the client, especially if you know they have the files. Just to find out how they feel getting the same quality they expect you to work from. ))

Sometimes clients are not aware of what they expect from translators!

As a suggestion, I would try to find out how much extra time you need for reading and understanding the text (when the printout is in bad quality), typing and formatting, and then add an hourly fee to the actual translation time. This would be fair to the client and to yourself.

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Giuliana Buscaglione  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:35
Member (2001)
German to Italian
+ ...
I would Oct 5, 2002


As there must be files, I would anyway charge more, that is my normal rate for the translation and a rate per hour for all those checking, formatting or whatever activity (this is what I used to do many year ago, when the chance of having a file on a floppy was very little).

If the agency isn\'t ready to pay: I like the idea of returning only a printed translation very, very much

I mean, you receive paper, paper is returned! Let them deal once with a translation on paper and they\'ll see what it means: waste of time, proof-reading, etc. Of course, they might look for someone else, who might be ready to deliver a soft file, in your place, but I wouldn\'t care about losing a job, for which I am paid less than my actual work is, if I were you. (Having a soft file from them, I would finish the translation in a shorter time; the saved time is time, in which I could eventually translate another text for money).


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Nathalie M. Girard, ALHC  Identity Verified
English to French
+ ...
I always charge extra for hard-copies/PDF Oct 5, 2002

Good afternoon,

Just wanted to add my vote to charging extra for hard-copy/PDF files. No matter what the number of pages (yes, even for just one page), I just charge and extra US$0.01 per source word.

I\'ve never had any problems what-so-ever with this small surcharge.

I simply tell them that working from a hard-copy requires extra time for recreating the layout, extra proofing to make sure nothing was omitted as well as hard copies being of inferior quality just take longer to process compared to having a source file in electronic format (especially if it is a fax from a fax... the nightmare!)

I hope this will help you to discuss this matter with your client.

Have a nice weekend!


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:35
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
thanks! Oct 6, 2002

Thanks so much to everyone for your comments. I\'m planning to tell the customer that for the next job (for this one it\'s probably too late!) I\'ll add a percentage unless they can give me files. In my posting of this under \"Money matters\" Ralf pointed out that this is usually very good incentive for customers who \"can\'t be bothered\" to dig up the files.

I think with a percentage, the amount is easier to quantify than an hourly amount. I find that people prefer to know in advance what the job will run.

The other bad thing about working from paper is that estimates can range wildly. This particular customer has said on a number of occasions that, based on the paper, the job is probably xx words, but they generally underestimate by about 20%! This means that the time I\'ve allocated isn\'t enough -- although I\'ve learned to ask for more time.

Thanks again for all your valuable input!

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Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:35
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
I always do Oct 6, 2002

It is more work for me, especially when special formating is involved. IMO, my job is translating the material, but if they want me to put the translation into a special formating, I charge more.


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jccantrell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:35
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Call me old-fashioned, .... Oct 8, 2002

but I do most of my work from paper. I get faxes, and a lot of snailmail. It is starting to slowly move into the digital realm, but I would say it is still 60% paper for me.

This being said, my rates reflect my take on working with the material. If there is special formatting required, then the customer is apprised of this early on and knows that it will be charged extra. I have never had a customer refuse this.

Of course, almost ALL of my work is non-repetitive. By that I mean that most translation memory products have little value for me. One day it is rocket engines, the next automotive electronics, then tin-can welding machines..... \'Anlage\' in one rarely means \'Anlage\' in the second.

In sum, you might say that I already charge for having to work with paper. Working with electronic copies is just an extra benefit that allows me to get the product out faster and that is where the customer wins, too.

My take on it from the USA.

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