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Charge by source or target word count?
Thread poster: Harvey Beasley
Harvey Beasley
Local time: 23:31
Japanese to English
Mar 18, 2007

Until now I have been charging by target document word count. I recently heard an experienced translator giving advice that charging by source document word count is the better way to go, though he didn't explain his reasoning...

Does anyone here have an opinion regarding this?

Thanks for any advice!

- Harvey


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:31
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
It usually depends on the customer Mar 18, 2007

If your customer wants to be charged by source word, you should calculate accordingly. Nowadays source word rates are often accompanied by reductions for repetitions, matches with the TM etc. So be careful to address these issues. If the customer does not want to pay for repetitions, and there are 10 % repetitions in the document, you should rise your source word rate accordingly in order to get roughly the same amount of money.
And of course you have to access the difference between languages regarding words per text unit.
Regards
Heinrich


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M. Anna Kańduła  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:31
English to Polish
You know the price Mar 18, 2007

Charging by source word gives you exact price for a translation at once. I don't know how it's in your language pairs, but in mine there might be significant difference in number of source and target words. Charging by target words I wouldn't be able to say how much a translation would cost (only more or less), and would need to specify it after the job is done. I don't think many clients would like being kept in darkness until time of payment

And - in my case - there more source words, than target words I don't know how counting would look like for Japanese though, maybe it's easier to stay with target word charge.

Anni

[Edited at 2007-03-18 08:51]


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Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 16:31
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Shrinking and swelling factors are also important Mar 18, 2007

Heinrich is of course right and remember:
The customer is often determining what it should be.

But:

Shrinking and swelling factors are also important when choosing the optimum.

Example: If you charge 0.15 deu>swe or swe>deu, i.e. the s/s factor is close to 1.

If you choose source, you should charge 0,13 for eng>swe = the shrinking factor is 1,15 (15%).
If you choose target, you should charge 0,17 to achieve the word price 0,15.

I have several times tried to get started a shrinking/swelling statistics database on the site and I might restart that thread.

Best

MW


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:31
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Quoting by source or target? Mar 18, 2007

Harvey Beasley wrote:
Until now I have been charging by target document word count. I recently heard an experienced translator giving advice that charging by source document word count is the better way to go, though he didn't explain his reasoning...


Charging per hour is best. But... if you can't or won't or don't want to charge per hour, then charging by word is a good second option.

I think charging by source word count is better, because it enables you and the client both to calculate the quote in advance. If you charge per target word, the client can only estimate the quote beforehand by applying an increase or decrease to the source word count based on the typical word count increase of decrease of the particular language combination.


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Jim Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Charging by source is good if there's any editing involved Mar 18, 2007

I have reduced many texts in the area of PR and advertising by 20-30%, simply because they were so bloated in the original. (Of course if you ever need to do this you should make that clear to the customer beforehand. Still, I've never gotten a complaint - quite the contrary.)

In such cases, charging based on the original makes sense, because it covers you for your editing work as well.

Also agree with Anna that it's nice to be able to quote them an exact price right off the bat.

Unfortunately I couldn't use Samuel's method because I'm so neurotic that I work only in fits and starts. No way to measure time.

Be well,
JT


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 17:31
Member
English to Latvian
It depends on several factors Mar 18, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:

Charging per hour is best. .....



Well, I cannot agree with Mr. Samuel that it is the best way of charging because, to my opinion, you can never say how much words you will translate in an hour. For example, sometimes translating one standard page takes me some 20 minutes, but sometimes text is so tricky difficult with terms taking me ages to find the correct translation that I need an hour or more for translating just one standard page. So I can never tell...

Besides, M. Anna Kandula mentioned that, for her, it is better to charge for a source wordcount because it is always exceeding the target wordcount. It is the same with my language pair (En to Lv) so I prefer charging by source word

I think it depends on you and your preferences and also your client's preferences, however, maybe it is worth to check differences in wordcount in a source and a target text.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:31
English to German
+ ...
A case for hourly charging? Mar 18, 2007

Hi Evija,

Well, I cannot agree with Mr. Samuel that it is the best way of charging because, to my opinion, you can never say how much words you will translate in an hour.

Which would support the case for charging on the basis of time spent (which, in contrast to any word count, represents your true input of resources, and hence, cost).

The key issue here is transparency: charging on the basis of a certain volume of text (whichever way you agree on measuring it) provides an objective measure, as opposed to having to defend the time you worked on the project. It also gives your customer a more reliable calculation basis. Still, your profitability will depend on the number of hours worked.

Besides, M. Anna Kandula mentioned that, for her, it is better to charge for a source wordcount because it is always exceeding the target wordcount. It is the same with my language pair (En to Lv) so I prefer charging by source word

Which you can easily account for by differentiating price levels for source vs. target count.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 17:31
Turkish to English
+ ...
Problem when working from Turkish Mar 18, 2007

This is a perennial problem when translating from an agglutinating language like Turkish that builds up long words with a chain of suffixes that usually correspond to a number of words in English (e.g. temizletemedim = I couldn't get it cleaned). There is usually an expansion in the word count of about two-thirds when you translate from Turkish into English, so it makes a great deal of difference whether you are charging according to the source word count or the target word count. Of course, you can quote based on the source word count and adjust the price to take account of the expected expansion (such that 11.5 cents per source word is equivalent to 7 cents per target word), but in practice I find clients always think that it sounds too expensive. In fact I don't think I have ever succeeded in being awarded an assignment where I quoted on a source word basis.
I agree that a method of charging based on the source text is fairer for clients. The character count changes much less when a text is translated from Turkish into English and I much prefer to quote based on the number of source characters (or character-based lines) rather than words.
Actually, the method of charging that I like best is when I can examine the text and give a binding quote for the job as a whole, taking into account not only volume but also difficulty and the kind of results the client is looking for.


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Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 20:01
English to Hindi
+ ...
Tim Drayton is very correct Mar 18, 2007

hardly there can be a choice for you; whether to go with source or target. besicly job provider asks u to submit ur rates to source words. no choice for quoting for target word. What Tim says is correct. In my pair EN>HN also the same case. target words r normaly count less then source one. Its always better to go natural. that is charge as per source words its nice for both of you. you and your client.

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xxxBrandis
Local time: 16:31
English to German
+ ...
why not charge whichever is higher... Mar 18, 2007

Hi ! the processing has to be done either way. I usually quote source/target whichever is higher. Brandis

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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:31
German to English
+ ...
Charge by source or target word count? Mar 18, 2007

What Tim said. German > English gives rise to a similar problem, albeit not on the same scale as Turkish > English.

It should also be borne in mind than one method or the other may be the convention in certain countries. In Germany, for instance, target-text counts are the norm. That does not mean that they are set in stone, but when a convention is accepted virtually universally, changing it is unlikely to lead to greater transparency.

If the generally accepted convention for billing is not acceptable to a particular customer, Tim's suggestion of a binding quote for the job as a whole is the best alternative.

Marc


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:31
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Charging per hour... Mar 18, 2007

Evija Rimsane wrote:
Well, I cannot agree with Mr. Samuel that it is the best way of charging because, to my opinion, you can never say how much words you will translate in an hour.


Well, it depends on how you quote. If your quote is a fixed amount, then charging per hour might not make sense. But on the other hand, if you're quoting a pre-determined amount, then it really doesn't concern the client how you had arrived at that final amount... as long as the amount is fixed.

A client may ask you for your rate per word, but the rate you tell him is only an approximation of your usual rate. Instead of saying "my rate is XYZ per word", you should say "my usual rate is XYZ per word", because that statement is only meant to give the client a rough indication of your price.

Ultimately when you get the text so that you can submit your final quote, you could decide that the text is far more difficult than usual and therefore you would change your final quote. Never provide a rate that applies globally regardless of the text.

Alternatively, if a client says "the highest I will pay, is XYZ per word", then you can decide after receiving the source documents whether you'd be willing to work for that amount. If at any time a regular client sends you something far more difficult than before, feel free to tell him "this job will cost you more" or "I can't do this for our usual rate".

It boils down to the same thing ultimately. You get paid for your time. Your pay should compensate you for your time spent on the job. Whether you calculate your time in words or in hours, makes little difference.


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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:31
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
1. Long words, 2. fixed quote Mar 18, 2007

The problem with long souce-language words in Turkish and German has been mentioned. The solution often used by German customers is for the translator to charge per line, not per word. A line is defined as 55 characters including spaces. I find that in Ger>Eng translations the number of words increases by about 15%, and the number of characters is roughly the same.

What I usually do, when I have the choice, is to make my own calculation based on source characters (if German) or words (if French) and then offer a fixed price based on that, usually rounded down to a multiple of 10 euros.

The problem with charging by the hour is (I expect) that a translator who takes a long time (whether this is due to care and thoroughness or to incompetence or inexperience) will earn a lot for a given job. I find it difficult to predict how difficult a job will be and therefore how long it will take. By charging per unit of text size, I am charging for roughly how many hours it should take instead of how many it does take.

Oliver


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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Germany
Member (2002)
Swedish
+ ...
Shrinking & swelling factors Mar 19, 2007

Mats Wiman wrote:

Shrinking and swelling factors are also important when choosing the optimum.

...

I have several times tried to get started a shrinking/swelling statistics database on the site and I might restart that thread.

Best

MW


Splendid idea, Mats!

However, as some of us also quote and invoice in standard lines (which is the basic method in Germany, one standard line with 55 characters), this database would also have to take shrinking and swelling factors for characters.

In some cases, you get more words in the target language, but less characters (as the words in the target are shorter than in source). Thus it's always necessary to define a shrinking or swelling factor either in terms of words or characters (lines). For German into Swedish, the factor for characters might be somewhere around 1,02 until 0,98, but as Germans love long words and we Swedes don't, we easily get 40-50 % more words.

To get back to the initial question in this thread: Listen to your client and do it the way he/she would like to have it.
Some clients insist on a fixed price based on the source text, as their purchase dept. is granted a certain amount by the accounting dept., but other clients just want a rough quote before the job and then insist on a detailed invoice (based on the amount of translation) once the job has been delivered.

Erik


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