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Outsourcing scientific work
Thread poster: xxxgjn
Spanish to English
Feb 6, 2007


I'm a scientific translator (mostly Spanish->English, mainly biomedical and biology) with many years of professional experience as an employee... but I'm just starting up as a freelancer.

I'm beginning to get enquiries about larger jobs or agreements that would require me to contract work out, and to take on a coordinating and quality-control role myself.

OK... but I don't know anything about contracting out. Evidently, if I'm going to do this I need a) to have some margin of profit and b) to find translators whose work is good enough. So if I want decent-quality scientific translation from say Spanish, French or German to English, what should I expect to pay? 0.07 euros word? 0.10 euros word? I don't care much about Trados and stuff... rather I'd be looking for people with a science background, a good understanding of academic and technical writing styles, and a conscientious and thinking approach to translation. I would offer reasonably generous but very rigid deadlines.

Can I hope to find scientific translators of a reasonable standard at around these rates? And what sort of percentage margin would people suggest? What sort of margin do serious quality-oriented agencies typically work with?

Of course I realize all of these figures are often pretty much confidential, but perhaps the people here can give me some sort of useful advice.

Very many thanks!

[Edited at 2007-02-06 17:29]

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Local time: 07:34
English to German
+ ...
various factors to consider Feb 7, 2007

Hello there! much depends upon the type, style and the subject of the document, then comes the time frame, available local resources with the translator and or whether you are giving the translators, type of tools needed to by implemented, whether he/she has free hands and can manage within the given time frame , finally the offered price. It is somewhat complicated calculation, but ... there actually no fixed price here. Best Brandis

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Dr. Andrew Frankland  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:34
Member (2007)
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Rate suggestion Feb 7, 2007

Just an idea, but if I were in the same situation I would take my copyediting/quality control rate off the price I charged the client and give the rest to the translator. For example, if the client was paying me 0.12€ per source word and I charged 0.04€ for copyediting/quality control then I would offer the translator 0.08€, or 0.07€ if I was feeling particularly tight-fisted.

As for finding translators, there are plenty around on this site and a short, with the emphasis on short, test piece should allow you to separate the wheat from the chaff. After that it's simply a case of developing a business relationship with them and building the mutual confidence that is essential in this type of arrangement.

Hope that helps,


PS Don't forget a confidentiality agreement between you and the translator and to send PO's for all projects stating your conditions clearly (fee, deadline, delivery format...) and the responsibilities of both yourself and the translator.

PPS If you're looking for someone.....

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Spanish to English
Many thanks for replies so far Feb 7, 2007

Many thanks to both of you for these very useful replies.

Andrew: very pleased to meet you, particularly as your specialization is an important one that I can't offer personally. The idea of offering the final rate minus my copy-editing rate is a very sensible way of looking at this, of course. And certainly, requesting translation of a very short test piece makes very good sense for both parties.

In addition, I've received a very detailed private response from another scientific translator. She's made me aware of the benefits of looking at this sort of thing not from an agency viewpoint, but rather from the viewpoint of association with other translators. Of course, to some extent these are different names for the same thing... there's generally going to be one person who takes final responsability for agreement with the client and for coordination and quality control, and who needs to earn money for these roles.

But certainly I think this idea of association is a sensible one, and makes me think in terms of charging clients more, rather than paying other translators less.

Of course, this is easier said than done

Thanks once more, and if anyone else has anything to add, please fire away.

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Evonymus (Ewa Kazmierczak)  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:34
Partial member (2010)
English to Polish
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concerning rates Feb 7, 2007

Dr. Andrew Frankland wrote:

Just an idea, but if I were in the same situation I would take my copyediting/quality control rate off the price I charged the client and give the rest to the translator.

I fully agree with Andrew. That’s a fair and common ‘method’ with this kind of outsourcing.
And I’m sure you can find some scientific translators, also within the Proz community.
Good luck with your project, regards Ewa

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