How do I charge for compiling a glossary?
Thread poster: Claudia Alvis

Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:57
Partial member
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Jan 21, 2008

For over a month, I worked on a medium-large project consisting of several technical manuals. Since text included several acronyms, specific terms, non-translatable terms of many sorts, I was told to create a glossary. So, I used my own glossaries, but I also set up two empty glossaries (one bilingual, one monolingual); that way, I'd just add the terms as I was running across them.

But it wasn't as simple as clicking and move on. Since, I knew I was creating a glossary, I had to modify the format, change the wording, things like that; and in the case of the monolingual glossary, I had to be more specific phrasing the definitions. Now, my client has told me they just need the terms in Excel, they'll edit the terms, which of course takes the load off me, I don't have a problem with that. But I have no idea how to charge for the compilation of the terms. There's no way using a time tracker would have been practical; but the compilation, I reckon, added more time to the translating process, I just can't determine how much.

Any ideas?


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shfranke  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:57
English to Arabic
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Perhaps the easiest method is to charge for your time spent Jan 21, 2008


As you've described that situation, perhaps the easiest method is to record, calculate and then charge for the hours you spent in building, researching, and populating those glossaries.

FYI, that billing-for-time method is a common business practice of "professional paralegals" who do (usually-time-intensive) legal research and compile detailed reports for law firms in the US.

May I observe that you are fortunate that this customer also wanted you to build and deliver such a specialized glossary, as some customers tend to dither and dawdle about that additional production when they first engage your services.

Hope this helps.


Stephen H. Franke
English - Arabic, Kurdish and Persian
San Pedro, California

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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:57
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Timing Jan 21, 2008

Thank you Stephen for your input. Unfortunately, because of the way I compiled the terms, I did it basically on-the-go, it was impossible for me to keep track of the time JUST spent on the creation/compilation of the glossary. I can't really figure out an average, since many terms were already part of my own glossaries, so I just highlighted the terms and clicked to add them to the compilation, which took me only a few seconds; while others, took me several minutes in research, phrasing, formatting, etc. In either case, starting and stopping a stop-watch would've added way too much time to the whole process.

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:57
French to English
Some rough and ready ideas Jan 21, 2008

Not sure if any of these ideas are any use:

1. Have a look through your glossary, and see of you can remember whether, on average, an entry took you 1 minute, or 5 minutes, or 30 minutes. Multiply the average by the number of entries = time spent.
A refinement, if you know that there were some that were very quick (say 1 minute) and some that took much longer (say 30 minutes), get a rough proportion for each (say, 80% and 20%) and refine the calculation.

2. Can you remember if each working day was longer than usual? Just take, say, 30 minutes per day you worked on the project.

3. Did the overall project take longer than usual. Did you find that, say, instead of 2,500 words per day, the actual work rate was 2,200 words? So you "lost" 300 words/day, in this example, so you could either charge 300 words/day, or one hour or whatever seems appropriate.

I think you are going to have to approximate and use averages; it's all you can do after the event.

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Veronica Coquard
Local time: 22:57
French to English
My way Jan 25, 2008


Now, some of you might think I'm insane, but I have my own original way of "selling" glossaries. This is something I have only done for end clients; I don't know whether an agency would "fall" for this.

Personally, I quietly keep a thorough glossary for every text I translate, whether the client is privy to it or not. For this reason, I don't consider that it takes more time to work with a glossary than without one. For me, the opposite is true.

Here's my tactic: the first time I work for a client (and especially when I know that there will be more work on the same subject from that client) I propose to sell the glossary corresponding with that work for a flat fee... and to update it for all future work in the same subject, for FREE. The price of your initial glossary is up to you to decide, depending on the volume of the work and how much you think your client is willing to pay, amongst other factors.

The main motivation for doing this is not to make money on the glossary itself, but to get the client to realize the "value" of a glossary, namely the importance of using the same terms in future work, even if he hires another translator (which, as you shall see, he will not; but it makes for a good sales pitch).

The client feels that he's getting the most for his money when he comes back to you with more work - and a FREE glossary update. Meanwhile, you maintain good work habits (the fact that the client will be looking at your glossary encourages you to maintain, word for word, a homogenous translation). There are other good side effects: the client may be surprised, for example, at how many new terms have come up, and will feel that your fees are justified.

In your case, for this job, it may be too late. Such an agreement would have to have been made before starting the work. But the idea may be of some use to someone!

Best of luck!

[Edited at 2008-01-25 15:32]

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