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Hourly rates vs. word/line rates: anomalies?
Thread poster: Ian M-H
Ian M-H
United States
Local time: 14:27
German to English
+ ...
Nov 18, 2005

Am I imagining things, missing something, or do a lot of translators take different factors into account when calculating hourly rates than those they use to decide on their prices per word or line?

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago, when I quoted an hourly rate to a colleague for a piece of work. I quoted my personal rock-bottom "colleague rate" - I'd known the person for a while, albeit only via ProZ, and was confident that the job would go smoothly and that I'd get paid, so I didn't need to factor in 'hassle'.

The colleague's initial reaction was to be slightly surprised and find my hourly rate on the high side, saying it was more than he usually charges his clients - which in turn surprised me, as I know the rough range of the line prices he charges and those are not very different to mine (if anything, higher rather than lower). So, as I say, it got me thinking...

Looking around ProZ, and at individual translators' web sites, seeme to confirm the anomaly: a lot of translators are charging what I would regard as reasonable word/line rates, but quoting hourly rates that are less than half of what I have to pay my plumber. Can anyone explain?

I won't put any figures here, as I don't think this is specific to Germany or Europe or to a paricular currency - my point is not about absolute figures but about the apparent disparity between pricing methods. And I won't offer any explanatory hypotheses, or thoughts of my own about how rates could/should be calculated, either - not until I've seen what colleagues have to say. But I'll certainly be very interested to hear how others see this.

Any thoughts/comments?

[Edited at 2005-11-18 20:24]


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:27
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Noticed the same thing Nov 18, 2005

I noticed exactly the same thing: word rates of (say) USD 0.10 / word and, at the same time hourly rates of USD 15 / hour.

If one translates on the average 2500 words in a day, at USD 0.10 / word that means USD 250 for the day.

In order to earn USD 250 at a rate of USD 15 / hour, that means working about 16 hours and 40 minutes.

Either we are dealing with very slow translators, or (which is more probable), with people who have not realized that words and hourly rate should earn exactly the same, at the end of the day.


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John Walsh  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:27
Member (2004)
Italian to English
Hi Nov 18, 2005

My hourly rate is based on the average number of words I translate per hour. The average is a range from x to x and I usually take the lower number if it's through an agency.
Whether that's more or less than what my plumber gets is irrelevant.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:27
Flemish to English
+ ...
Hear Hear Nov 18, 2005

"Looking around ProZ, and at individual translators' web sites, seeme to confirm the anomaly: a lot of translators are charging what I would regard as reasonable word/line rates, but quoting hourly rates that are less than half of what I have to pay my plumber. Can anyone explain?"

*************************************************************
Hear!Hear! That's what I have posted many times. Any professional in Europe charges at least 30-50 euro/Sterling20-34 per hour. Have your car repaired or serviced in any garage: how much do you pay? Go to your M.D.or dentist: how much do you pay, your accountant, how much do you pay? For those on this site who are professional (CIUTI-school trained=according to certain standards-not self-annointed)interpreters: how much do you charge an hour.
How much does a professional consultant charges per hour....?

[Edited at 2005-11-18 22:06]


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John Walsh  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:27
Member (2004)
Italian to English
With all due respect... Nov 18, 2005

Williamson wrote:


Have your car repaired or serviced in any garage: how much do you pay? Go to your M.D.or dentist: how much do you pay, your accountant, how much do you pay? For those on this site who are professional (CIUTI-school trained=according to certain standards-not self-annointed)interpreters: how much do you charge an hour
How much does a professional consultant charges per hour....?

[Edited at 2005-11-18 22:05]

...that is irrelevant. Totally different markets, totally different duties, totally different needs, totally different everything.
But I do agree with you, translators should make more money.


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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:27
Partial member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
A lot of confusion also on the outsourcer side Nov 18, 2005

Hi,

I collaborate with a well-established translation agency based in Canada and I have noticed the same inconsistency between the rate per hour and the rate per word.
The rate per word is 0.15 CAD = 0.107 Eur.
The rate per hour is 30 CAD = 21 Eur.

This really puzzles me.

Laura


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
That's really a lack of consistency Nov 18, 2005

I use to charge 30% more per hour than my word rate times speed, because the work paid by the hour is usually more stressful than a routine translation.

The same relation used to be applied in the agency where I learned professional translation.


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John Walsh  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:27
Member (2004)
Italian to English
. Nov 19, 2005

Harry_B wrote:

the work paid by the hour is usually more stressful than a routine translation.


Depends on what you're doing. Consulting, proofreading/editing, interpreting? My rates per hour for interpreting are much higher than my rate per hour for translating.


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Aleksandr Okunev
Local time: 22:27
English to Russian
Exactly my point Nov 19, 2005

Harry_B wrote: because the work paid by the hour is usually more stressful than a routine translation.

Some of my clients ask me why my interpreting daily rate is higher than the calculated per word output. I usually tell them a story about the comfort of my home, cosy chair, music on Winamp and tea whenever I want it, no tie, monkey suit and stuff.
So far all of them have agreed with my reasoning.
Thus, there is little safety in numbers, you must know the business too.
Happy translating/interpreting!

Alex
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~>


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:27
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
My electrician wants EUR 55 per hour Nov 19, 2005

I have never yet come across a translator who dares to quote EUR 55 per hour.

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John Walsh  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:27
Member (2004)
Italian to English
. Nov 19, 2005

My plumber gets 30 per hour and my daughter's doctor gets 80 for a 30 min check-up.
Should I base my hourly rate on what they get?


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:27
Member
English to Turkish
The proverbial plumber :-) Nov 20, 2005

Agree with John above that it doesn't make much sense to compare our hourly rates to those of plumbers or doctors, who are entirely dependent on a local clientele. A translator can provide services to clients located practically anywhere in the world - at least this is so in the age of internet. And therefore, translators can apply different rates for different economic zones. As far as I know, a doctor, or a plumber, for that matter, wouldn't have the comfort of choosing not to disclose his rates to everyone, and must charge each client the same rate for the same service.

[Edited at 2005-11-20 00:13]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:27
Flemish to English
+ ...
Yes Nov 20, 2005

John Walsh wrote:

My plumber gets 30 per hour and my daughter's doctor gets 80 for a 30 min check-up.
Should I base my hourly rate on what they get?


Yes, they are self-employed professionals. Aren't you? The one has gone through technical training, the other through university.... Don't you want a R.O.I.? (return on investment of time,equipment..)

[Edited at 2005-11-20 10:05]


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Ian M-H
United States
Local time: 14:27
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Irrelevant plumbers Nov 20, 2005

Some interesting feedback. For now I'd just like to comment on one point, which I could obviously have put better in my original post:

Xola wrote:
doesn't make much sense to compare our hourly rates to those of plumbers or doctors [...][/quote]

Of course it doesn't. My point was meant to be that a lot of translators appear to have word/line rates that allow the conclusion, making conservative assumptions about productivity, that they bring in a certain amount per hour, X. (Not that they *net* X per hour: that is, of course, a different calculation.) Their hourly charge-out rates, on the other hand, are often significantly below X.

My hypothetical plumber's hourly rate was an (obviously unhelpful!) attempt to give X a vaguely human face


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Hermann  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:27
English to German
+ ...
Perhaps this simple model can help to find an answer Nov 20, 2005

I think the question hourly rates vs. word rates becomes less relevant if we look at how we should calculate our rates per word/line/page in the first place.

To start with we should decide what kind of income would be acceptable for the type of work we do. Where do we see us? Do we compare ourselves to other professions, such as lawyers, accountants, teachers, plumbers or odd-job people like child minders, house sitters, Big Issue vendors? Don’t forget, many of us have worked before in other professions which are usually quite well paid, and others might have been holiday reps after graduating in language or translation studies. The expectations are, therefore, quite different.

Based on this we should arrive at an annual income which is on the same level as someone would earn working in one of the professions we feel akin to.

Let’s take a figure of say £30,000. (Note: In some regions you could manage quite well on this, in others you would be very pushed with this income.)

What would it take to earn this money?

The year has 52 weeks or 365 days (plus another day in a leap year). This gives us £577 per week. But hang on, we are not machines, and family, kids, and friends demand some time as well.

Let’s take away 4 weeks for holidays, giving us 48 weeks, and let’s make it a 40 hour week. To achieve £30.000 per year we would need to earn £625 per week or £15.63 per hour.

But we also have to take into account any non-productive time, e.g. for administration. Let’s make this 5 hours per week. This leaves us 35 hours 'productive time'. The hourly rate will now have risen to £17.85.

To work out the rate we need to charge per word we now only need to establish how many words on average we can translate per hour.

I believe 2000 words per day would not be unrealistic for this exercise (many agencies base their schedules on this figure). Based on an 8 hours day we would be looking at 250 words per hour. Let’s allow us 1 hour break, leaving us with 7 hours actual working time. We are now looking at around 285 words per hour. £17.85 x 3.5 gives us £62.50 per 1000 words or £0.0625 per word.

But we are not finished yet. What about computers, consumables, heating, electricity, dictionaries, software, regular updates, advertising, and so on. This means we need to add these costs to our £30.000 before we can beginn to work out the hourly rate.

Maybe there are some mistakes in my calculation, but I still believe it provides a reasonable good model to help us approach this whole rates business which is constantly brought up. And it can be applied to any region and circumstances. Whether you are living in a place where 4 weeks annual holidays is completely unheard of and the average income is at the lower end or whether you are based in London where a cup of coffee will cost you £1.50 and more, and whether you compare yourself to a copywriter or a copy typist. And it will help you to argue your case and stick to these rates, or to decide whether to go back to your previous profession or to consider a complete career change.


[Edited at 2005-11-20 18:49]

[Edited at 2005-11-20 18:53]

[Edited at 2005-11-25 23:37]


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