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How much _should_ I charge for this editing/proofreading job?
Thread poster: Thomas Johansson

Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:38
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Jun 21, 2008

I have just finished and delivered a proofreading/editing job of approximately 9,000 words. By agreement, my client will pay me per hour (not per word).

However, I have spent a lot of time on this job, and I am worried that the client may be chocked by my invoice. I am considering cutting my price, if and to the extent necessary, to avoid that.

So my question (which admittedly is very speculative), where I hope someone can help me out, is:

(1) How much time did the client (a translation agency) probably or reasonably expect me to spend on the job, more or less?


(2) Is there some sort of "rule of thumb" for how much time an editing/proofreading job reasonably should take or how much it reasonably should cost (e.g. in relation to the translation cost)?

This particular job consisted of 3 files which together form a license agreement for software products. I have been asked to be "meticulous", and the end client (the software company) has emphasized that the final document must be of very high, if not perfect, quality. The translation I received and was asked to edit and proofread was "ok" - not extremely good, nor extremely bad. My feeling is that the translator has tried to make a good job, doing necessary terminological research online, etc., but has been working under stress and has lacked good familiarity with the essential terminological areas: contracts and legal terminology, software and computers.
It would be very unfair to say that I had to "retranslate" the document. However, I did have to check the translation sentence by sentence, word by word vis-a-vis the source text, make several modifications in most sentences, research and double-check much terminology, etc.

I really would appreciate any reflections as soon as possible, since the agency probably will ask me soon how much time I spent.


[Edited at 2008-06-21 00:53]

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:38
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Why not tell the truth? Jun 21, 2008

Do you feel you were incompetent to do the job? Was it something that you shouldn't have accepted, as it was over your head?
From what you wrote, I don't think so.
So why not state the actual hours you spent, especially that they requested to be meticulous?

I never accept proofing/editing jobs without seeing the actual translation. Only exception is when I know the translator as we regularly work together, then I know what to expect.
I look at the text, and assess it. If the translation is horrible, I don't take it.

My "rule of thumb" is about 1000 words per hour, if it is a GOOD translation, and if it is a straightforward job, in my fields. (From what you wrote I guess your text was not particularly good.) User interface localization proofing is about 700 words per hour for me, as it has tagging issues and lots of things to cross-check.

I give an estimate to the client BEFORE I start the job, with the agreement that if after starting working on it, it looks like that it would take longer, I would let them know.

[Edited at 2008-06-21 01:56]

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
My experience Jun 21, 2008

In my experience (quite a number of years), as long as the revision is in a field that is reasonably OK for me, I estimate between 9 and 18 hours - outside - for a text of 9000 words written by a non-native and with no source; these texts usually take 9-14 hours but I can't risk selling myself short so that explains the 500 words/hour as opposed to 1000 or 750 words.

You need to consider adding in additional hours to cover the fact of your assessment of the quality which makes the working with two languages and the manipulating of a third interpretation (your own in the target language) more onerous. In other words an error in the target means referring to the source, often analysing it for what's wrong and then considering a more correct version.

I tell the client the hour estimate and explain that if it takes less time I will obviously bill less. If it takes more, it shouldn't be much more, and I will bear that "loss". No client has ever complained about this system, and especially not after the event. Mind you, I don't do this with agencies, only with direct clients. I don't revise for agencies as a rule.

The specification would indicate that quality mattered more than cost, so I think that defines your remit.

Expecting us to predict what the agency considers as reasonable is not logical, by the way. I know a cheapskate agency that always dictated the hours I should spend, I soon stopped working from them because I always spent at least double! If your agency is genuinely pro and concerned about quality I think you have very good arguments to justify the time spent.

HTH:-) As I say, that's all based on my own experience exclusively:-)

[Edited at 2008-06-21 02:05]

[Edited at 2008-06-21 08:34]

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Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:38
English to Swedish
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1/3 of translation fee Jun 21, 2008

Please see

Sven Petersson
Medical translator

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Stephanie Sirot  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:38
English to French
+ ...
Tell the agency Jun 21, 2008

You should charge them according to the time you spent doing the job. Nothing more, nothing less.

You should also tell the agency, in an objective and impartial manner, that the initial translation needed a lot of corrections because so...(your reasons). However, you should insist on the fact that the initial translation was not a disaster.

After all, you don't necessarily want the "poor" translator not to be paid, do you?


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Jack Qin  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:38
English to Chinese
+ ...
It is a commonplace Jun 22, 2008

We also more often than not talked about that in Chinese Forum. The common practice is that editing and proofreading charges will be 1/2 and 1/3 of the translation fees respectively.

However, charges basend upon hours spent editing and proofreading the translation will be considered more reasonable way.

For your reference only.


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