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Minimums for translation projects
Thread poster: kmsud
kmsud
United States
Local time: 19:31
English
+ ...
Sep 19, 2008

Hello, I'm not a professional translator. I have my M.A. in Linguistics, have translated in the past, and am now managing all translation for our company's products. I usually send projects to a group of freelance translators I know, who do a great job. All translators have, of course, a minimum fee. That is, I cannot send 2 sentences to them for translation, unless I want to pay the $40 or $50 minimum.

My question to all you translators out there is: Is it reasonable to ask translators to translate a few sentences at a time, and save up the charges for these translations until the end of the month? The nature of my job is, I get several small translation requests and of course they are always urgent. But the requests come at inconsistent times. So, would translators be against a deal, where I can send them a few sentences here and there and then they would send me the invoice at the end of every month? Then, even if they translated only $20 worth of text, they would still be paid their personal minimum amount at the end of the month.

I know it's a hassle to translate and track small bits of text; I am in the same boat--as the person in-between I have to try to balance my company's needs with what is affordable with what is practical for the translators.

Thanks for your input!


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:31
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A minimum fee... depends on some factors Sep 19, 2008

kmsud wrote:
My question to all you translators out there is: Is it reasonable to ask translators to translate a few sentences at a time, and save up the charges for these translations until the end of the month?


Well, if you asked me I'd say that it will depend on whether all the work you send to your translators is short sentences, of whether a majority of it (let's say 90% of the jobs) are medium-sized or large jobs.

We have some very good customers who send large jobs and, whenever their usual end-customers have a need, also very short jobs encompassing just only one line or a paragraph. We do a fair amount of these jobs for free (invoicing them can take longer than the actual translation) or charge a minimum fee for them, trying to gather several tiny jobs in one single PO.


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kmsud
United States
Local time: 19:31
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
amount of translation text usually sent Sep 19, 2008

Thanks for your response! I send medium translation jobs (4000-6000 words) to the translators as well, but not very often...maybe just once every 3-4 months. Some of the translators are ones our company has worked with for a few years and I have great relationships with them; others are rather new and seem more hesitant to agree to such a system.

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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
an easy solution Sep 19, 2008

If we are talking small beer and everybody wants to avoid a constant flurry of invoices then try this.

Pay your participating translators one hundred dollars up front for small urgent translations. At the end of each month they can send a statement of account showing the outstanding balance. When the balance is near zero, issue another 100 dollar cheque.

You will avoid the paperwork and generate considerable goodwill as well. The total cost in advanced payment should be negligible - unless your business is right up against the wall on cashflow.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:31
English to French
+ ...
Yes Sep 19, 2008

kmsud wrote:

So, would translators be against a deal, where I can send them a few sentences here and there and then they would send me the invoice at the end of every month? Then, even if they translated only $20 worth of text, they would still be paid their personal minimum amount at the end of the month.


As far as I know, this is usually how translators work it out. Of course, like you say, if they only get a couple of dollars worth of translation within a given month, you would still need to pay the minimum fee. As a translator, I would agree to what you propose.


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:31
French to English
+ ...
All very well but... Sep 19, 2008

I think a lot depends on the nature of the sentences in question. Just because there are only a couple of sentences, this may actually entail considerable research on the part of the translator. It also interrupts your workflow, i.e. other longer jobs you may be working on. Like Tomas, I do get asked to do the odd phrase or sentence and I sometimes do these for free - it simply isn't worth the trouble of invoicing and it generates goodwill. However, something like an advertising slogan may only be a couple of words, but would involve considerable effort to come up with the RIGHT words in the right context - in such a case, I would expect to charge either on an hourly basis or certainly as a minimum charge for that job alone. Likewise a couple of sentences relating to a previous job might be a matter of minutes, or, if the job in question had been translated some time before, it could involve considerable research in looking out the job in question, reacquainting yourself with the subject matter and making sure that everything is consistent - once again I don't think it would be unreasonable to apply a minimum charge in this case. I tend to invoice monthly anyway, so simply adding smaller jobs up and invoicing at the end of the month wouldn't in itself be adequate compensation for the time spent.

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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:31
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Yes, obviously small orders have to be accepted too Sep 19, 2008

I think it is perfectly reasonable to come to an arrangement whereby the small jobs are added up and invoiced at the end of each month (if necessary, for a single minimum fee, i.e. if they do not, together, already exceed the minimum fee). I cannot really see any other way around the problem.

However, as Claire points out, they would have to be fairly normal sentences and not short sentences that require unusually extensive research. There should also be sufficient context to be able to translate them.

I, too, often translate a sentence or two for nothing for regular clients. However, I do encounter the problem, sometimes, that I do not have the context for the sentence.

Good luck with working something out!

Astrid


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
Agree Sep 20, 2008

John Rawlins wrote:

If we are talking small beer and everybody wants to avoid a constant flurry of invoices then try this.

Pay your participating translators one hundred dollars up front for small urgent translations. At the end of each month they can send a statement of account showing the outstanding balance. When the balance is near zero, issue another 100 dollar cheque.

You will avoid the paperwork and generate considerable goodwill as well. The total cost in advanced payment should be negligible - unless your business is right up against the wall on cashflow.






I agree this is the best way.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:31
Member
English to French
Another way of understanding your message Sep 20, 2008

If you're interested in cutting down admin and paperwork, I am sure your translators will have no problem aggregating jobs into one invoice at the end of the month.
But from your posting, you may also be asking if your translators would agree to be paid by the word at the end of each month, so that you can base your payments on the aggregated wordcount (and if too low, on their minimum fee).
If this is your intent, then I am not sure it would be successful, even more so since you don't send significant translation jobs very often.

As a translator, I most likely would not agree to be paid by the word for any request below 200 words, because it wouldn't cover the actual time I spend processing the job. I don't charge loyal customers every time they send the odd small bit, but if most of the jobs I got from any customer were microjobs, I would probably charge each of them. A hefty bill for very few words may also help the customer try and do something about their workflow to avoid sending excessive requests for microjobs.

To add to Claire's posting, charging a minimum fee means that even for one word (and such requests are always fairly urgent, it's only one word, for god sake), you need to:

- Drop whatever you were doing at that time, such as a stressful project where time is constrained and a lot of concentration and involvement is required
- Communicate with your customer, which can require a few exchanges (Yes I can do it. - Great. - more context please? - No. - Ok Thanks.)
- Track the job in some management system, even if all jobs are consolidated into one at the end of the month
- Sometimes do extensive research because context is lacking/PR stuff, etc.
- Send the translation and close the job
- Switch back to whatever you were doing, including immersing again into the previous subject matter, which may be about as pleasant as going back into freezing water (before it gets reinvigorating and comfy again)

I reckon that any straightforward request and subsequent deal costs me at least 10 minutes of my time in non-productive activities (switching, communicating, checking, tracking, closing). Add to it the actual work and research and you realise that a job of a few words paid by the word is just not worth the trouble, even if it's all consolidated at the end of the month.

You may stand a better chance suggesting a lower fixed fee for bits up to 200 words (or whatever) and rate per word above.

Enjoy your Sunday,
Philippe


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