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Suggestions for Quoting Rates for Proofreading Jobs
Thread poster: Ron Stelter
Ron Stelter  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:42
Partial member (2003)
German to English
May 14, 2004

I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions regarding quoting rates for proofreading inquiries. It seems I often will even avoid taking on such jobs as I just don't want to deal with the negotiation headaches.

In this case, I am making reference to a specific inquiry from this morning. This lady contacted me from this translation agency and was saying that it should take me 30 hours to do the job and thus that X rate would be offered which seemed more or less fair. However, upon closer inspection, the job was of such a volume (110,000 words!) that I thought this highly unlikely and felt she was really just wanting me to agree to a "dumping price rate." It seems that there are some agencies which will tell you that it will take 30 hours when maybe no one alive could do it in less than 50 hours. I don't think anyone could do it in 30 hours and do a thorough job. It wasn't particularly light material, either.

In the past, I had often thought that I could avoid this problem by charging a lump-sum fee. Thus, there would never be any dispute of any kind about the number of hours billed.

From previous discussion of such topics with translators, it seems to be that a typical rate per word might be something like 25-30% of what one would charge for translation.

So I looked at the rate that she told me she thought would be a fair rate and it was enormously small. Like 75% less than I would expect would be a fair rate (in the West or really just about anywhere).

I would appreciate any suggestions on how to quote for proofreading jobs, at least in general terms as far as rates and negotiating tips are concerned. Also, it would be helpful to know what percentage I could charge if the job involved only reading through the final version in the target language. (I suppose highly specific discussion on rates may be frowned upon in this forum. I'm not for sure. But at least general suggestions would be welcome.)

I just want to avoid being "taken," as we say, particularly since I don't want to end up working for 1 cent a page or some ridiculous thing.

I guess the thing that really burned me up was that I felt that somebody had basically hoped that I was gullible enough to really get taken advantage of.

Thanks.

Ron

[Edited at 2004-05-14 17:47]

[Edited at 2004-05-14 18:31]


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Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 14:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
First. Check the document May 14, 2004

Hi:
I never commit to an editing job until I have looked at the actual document. Lately, I've been getting quite a few requests for editing machine translation documents. These, of course are quite easy to spot, and when that happens, I send the agency one or two samples to prove my point, and offer to do the translation from scratch. It works about 90% of the time.

I also want to look at it to gage the quality of the human translation. Many agencies will send documents to be translated by very cheap, but bad, translators, then will look for a good edit at a low rate to fix everything. When this happens, I also provide a few samples, and again, offer to do the thing from scratch.

If the translation is of professional quality, then I figure between 900 to 2,000 words per hour, depending on the complexity of the terminology.

Hope it helps,

Ricardo


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 09:42
English to French
+ ...
Ask the right questions May 14, 2004

It took me a while to figure this one out.
What I do now is
1. ask for the word count
2. have them send me 3 pages taken at random
That tells me how much time I will have to spend on the job. Also, if the translation is really bad, I tell them so and I offer to translate the whole thing from scratch.
Basically, I have had to learn to think before I jump because they always say they're in a big hurry, so forth. I have posted the French saying "Il est urgent d'attendre" in my office as a reminder.
Luck,
Sarah


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
A real can of worms! May 14, 2004

Editing variables: machine/human text, native/non-native text, translator/non-translator text, technical/non-technical text (each complicated in their own partcicular way)

I always end up losing out on editing jobs, and am now extremely wary of them. I have been editing for about 5 years and in my experience, one should calculate on 500-1000 words per hour. Anything more might indicate a faulty translation. In the rare case where I ask someone to edit, I give a rate and estimated number of hours (based on my own experience), indicate my priorities, and ask them to contact me if they consider, for whatever reason, that the translation is defective.

As someone alse has pointed out, you should first of all check who/what has done the translation.

For example, editing non-natives is particularly thorny; even if they are field experts with 'good' language skills, you still end up trying to guess what they are saying, and practically rewrite the entire text around the technical terms.

Another question is whether you will have the source text, as obviously this avoids the kind of back-translational guesswork you have to do if the text was written by a non-native.

I would also enquire about the translator, to try and assess what quality you can expect, and come to an agreement that if it takes more hours than agreed as a consequence of faulty research on the translator's side (stylistic questions - as opposed to terminology - are subjective, so it may be difficult to make a point in this area), that you will be compensated (it's up to the agency to deal with the translator, as this 'loss' is not one either the editor or the agency should bear).

Finally, another logical way to approach the issue is to define the level of edit required. A full edit, requiring exhaustive terminology checks as well as lingusitic editing? A linguistic edit alone (a good book on the subject is Brian Mossop: Revising and Editing for Translators ISBN 1-900650-45-2 c. 120pp. 2001).... whether the ST is to be compared word-for-word, or only to be referred to for doubts/spot checks, or not at all...?

A standard rule of thumb is that an edit should cost no more than a third what translation would cost (assuming the original translation was adequte). And this could be used to work out an hourly rate. I usually charge my minimum hourly rate and give an estimate of the hours (a range, becuase often one needs to work thru' a good part of the text to realise how much revision it needed).

Another approach - when hours/pay is restricted - is simply to stick to essential changes, i.e. work towards an 'acceptable' text rather than a 'perfect' text, and making this clear to the agency.

Hope these insights are of some guidance:-)


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:42
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Many answers to a simple question May 15, 2004

Generally I feel, the translator should take care of the editing, so that the end-customer or the agency gets a final version. That means the translator pays for the editing.
Secondly I believe agencies should not take jobs into languages they do not master themselves, in-house. When I provide a German target text to a German speaking agency or end-customer, they'll see if something is odd or not.
The price of editing of course varies if one has to compare the text with the source or not. Something is amiss if two translators are needed, because one should be enough, editing should be about small adjustments, putting typos right and formatting questions. Then 1 hour for 10 pages is quite sufficient according to my experience.


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Lesley Clayton
France
Local time: 18:42
French to English
+ ...
Thank you Ailish May 15, 2004

Thank you Ailish for a really comprehensive reply on the subject. I (and others too, no doubt) found it extremely useful and informative.

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Thierry thierry_lafaye
Spain
Local time: 18:42
English to French
+ ...
All points valid, and "don't take a work on if you haven't seen the document before" is golden rule May 15, 2004

Ron Stelter wrote:

This lady contacted me from this translation agency and was saying that it should take me 30 hours to do the job and thus that X rate would be offered which seemed more or less fair. However, upon closer inspection, the job was of such a volume (110,000 words!) that I thought this highly unlikely and felt she was really just wanting me to agree to a "dumping price rate." It seems that there are some agencies which will tell you that it will take 30 hours when maybe no one alive could do it in less than 50 hours. I don't think anyone could do it in 30 hours and do a thorough job. It wasn't particularly light material, either.

Thanks.

Ron

[Edited at 2004-05-14 17:47]

[Edited at 2004-05-14 18:31]



Hi Ron,



Your question could not come at a better moment as I am finishing an "editing" job which turns out to be proof-reading machine translations. I honestly could not figure this out before reading the document itself upfront before committing as I know the agency, the quality of the translator's work for new segments and even the project itself so I agreed on a fixed rate to accommodate the agency. Then the older segments were to be reviewed just before I receive the files so I thought it was just a bigger project. It turned out to be machine translated segments representing 50-70% of the overall project. Even translating from scratch would have been quicker as I have to go around the formatting and other technical aspects that I will not bore you with. So to make a too long story short, I end up translating for about 70% cheaper and keeping me busy for over a week with absolutely no possibility to do anything else and cutting on my sleep and, because I agreed upfront too confidently, even raising the issue just didn't seem to concern the agency or the final client and I am still paid for an actual review. That will definitely not pay my bills


So all points above are valid and if you already have a doubt about an agency, I would strongly advise not to take on the job at all, as this is already a proof that this is potentially a big headache. But if you still believe you may have to take it on, take all given advice above into account and most of all I think that having a look at the document upfront before committing to anything is THE Big Golden Rule. And if you still turn out to take it on, communicate any issue which may slow you down so significantly that there is a 50% chance you may not meet your deadline or estimated completion of time but they may then argue that you agreed on something so you need to stick to it. This is why I would certainly never ever do such a mistake again. It is not just a question of how much you get money-wise for it, but how much pain you put yourself under.


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