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Words per hour
Thread poster: Mitch Hammarstrom

Mitch Hammarstrom  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:08
Member (2010)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Mar 22, 2007

Hi. I have been in the translation business for a while now, mostly on a local scale though. I have never really compared myself to other translators so I'm unsure of my "skill level."

Anyway, how many words per hour does an "average" translator get in?


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:08
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
It depends, of course Mar 23, 2007

Mitch Hammarstrom wrote:

Hi. I have been in the translation business for a while now, mostly on a local scale though. I have never really compared myself to other translators so I'm unsure of my "skill level."

Anyway, how many words per hour does an "average" translator get in?


Hullo Mitch,
The number of words a translator can do per hour depends, of course, on the complexity of the text, the translator's familiarity with the subject, and so on. Some files, such as PowerPoint, are cumbersome and time-consuming, and some subjects require a great deal of looking-up and research, while others don't. I guess that's why we usually charge per word rather than per hour. I can produce 1,000 words per hour with my special subjects when the source text is legible and straightforward - I don't mean that I can work at that rate non-stop from 9 to 5, of course.
I'm sure our personal "words per hour" rate varies greatly from person to person, but after a few years of experience most of us can estimate roughly how long a job will take us.
Best of luck,
Jenny.


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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 18:08
English to Indonesian
+ ...
My Personal Experience Mar 23, 2007

Mitch Hammarstrom wrote:

Anyway, how many words per hour does an "average" translator get in?


Hello Mitch,

As has been mentioned by Jenny, it is determined by many factors.

Personally, I often try-out my daily translation productivity in my special subjects. It turns out that my maximum daily productivity is 8000 (eight thousand) words per day (working from 5 am to 6 pm).

Nevertheless, it should be noted that this is an experimental productivity. It is only intended to satisfy my curiosity about my maximum translation productivity. For normal translation, I set 3000 words per day as my normal productivity. By this figure I can translate the documents perfectly and pleasantly.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Why run when you can walk? Mar 23, 2007

When clients ask me about my capacity for a new project, I say:

1000 words on the first day,
1500 words per day in the first week,
2000 words per day in the first month,
2500 words per day later.

These are "new words equivalents", it can be much more if you count repetitions and high fuzzy matches as new words.

If you would count them like new words, my highest output was 40,000 words per day for a whole week, with 95% repetitions plus 4% fuzzy matches > 85%, using DVX.

Harry

[Edited at 2007-03-23 09:26]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:08
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
How many, Harry? Mar 23, 2007

Surely you mean 4,000 words per day, not 40,000?

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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
no typo Mar 23, 2007

Jack Doughty wrote:
Surely you mean 4,000 words per day, not 40,000?


No, it was 40,000 words per day, more than 200,000 in that week: I could skip my own 100% matches and the repetitions, and mostly I had to correct/adjust just a few characters of the high fuzzy matches.

The text was the item names and short descriptions of an online shop, and the database was mostly assembled via copy & paste or search & replace, so the "assemble from portions" functionality of DVX could do most of the actual work.

[Edited at 2007-03-23 09:38]


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:08
English to Dutch
+ ...
Recent poll Mar 23, 2007

Hi Mitch,

you may find this interesting:

http://www.proz.com/topic/67996

Good luck!


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Mitch Hammarstrom  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:08
Member (2010)
English to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank You Mar 23, 2007

Thanks guys, I appreciate it.

Just hypothetically, not at all my situation. If something were to happen and you only translated a very small amount of words for a few hours...and it took you that many more hours to translate something. How would you handle that? Would you still invoice the client for the full hours that you worked? And how do YOU know how many hours "expects?"


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:08
French to English
+ ...
You win some, you lose some Mar 23, 2007

Hi Mitch,

In answer to your last question - if it takes you much longer than you anticipated to translate a small number of words, then no I definitely wouldn't pass that on to the client. You win some, you lose some. However, you might think twice before accepting something in that subject area, format, etc. again..... On the other hand, if you realise when you receive a text that the format/subject area is such that it's going to take you a long time, I think it's perfectly acceptable to broach it with the client at that stage and discuss an hourly rate or a surcharge for complexity.

This is all assuming that you normally charge on a word/line basis, of course, which I suppose might not be the case, now I think about it. I think it's the fairest way of charging for translations though. Proof-reading/editing is a totally different matter, of course, and depends on the quality of the text you're editing, as has been discussed here before. Then I think you'd be justified in going back to the client and saying that it's taken you longer because the quality of the translation was not as good as might reasonably have been expected.

Best of luck,

Claire

[Edited at 2007-03-23 12:46]


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Mitch Hammarstrom  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:08
Member (2010)
English to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Makes Sense Mar 23, 2007

Thanks a lot.

It's incredible how much the "international" scene differs from the "local" scene in the translation business.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:08
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Output Mar 23, 2007

Hi Mitch,

I regularly check my translation speed. I have up to now been translating ca. 700 words per hour, typing. In the past few weeks I have been using Dragon, but that has not made a lot of difference yet. Dictating must be quicker with familiar text (such as I often get from lawyers, and was the reason that I bought Dragon), but, with unfamiliar text, there is no time saved if you have to sit and think anyway.

Of course, there is the proofreading afterwards. Nevertheless, a good average in the end is that output is 500 words per hour including the proofreading, and this is quite an easy figure with which to work in order to establish desired hourly/weekly/monthly/annual earnings.

I understand Harry's story very well. I have had one or two repetitive big projects from time to time, that tend towards being administrative processing of translations, rather than "genuine" translation. If you are organised, with all the right equipment, then it is possible to process large batches of documents in record time.

With familiar, ongoing Court cases I can easily do 1000 words per hour (excluding proofreading), but then the next day I will get a list of goods and services to do for a trademark application and have to invoice EUR 10 for up to 6 hours' research! Luckily that is a very infrequent occurrence, and the 1000 words per hour/10,000 words per day occurrences rather more frequent.

New projects from agencies generally always work out at the figures mentioned above, 700 without proofreading/500 with proofreading. I am hoping, of course, to get to 2000 words per hour with familiar Court cases plus Dragon. Lawyers sometimes want it that fast, anyway.

Astrid



[Edited at 2007-03-23 12:57]


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 05:08
English to Russian
+ ...
Rush is good when you need to catch a flee... Mar 23, 2007

I too can produce up to 6000 words/day without ever using CAT tools. However, this speed must be paid for, and should be considered an exception.

In-house standard in the US is 250 words (standard page) per hour, i.e. you must produce 2000 words/day to earn your salary of $30-40/hour in a 40-hour week. Everything else is a 1.5 overtime, 2.0 on weekends and holidays.

If you want to see your grandchildren grow:-), aim at a nice pace of 350-450 words per hour, 8 hours a day. At least on average, unless you'll start working in your specialty fields only, where your fingers will be typing ahead of your brain. With decent rates and steady flow you'll be making at least 280 bucks a day, which could give you a nice income of 63K a year (with 45 regular business weeks out of 52) and you'll still see the sunshine:-). Take this number as a reference point and shoot for more, I'd say raise your rates and specialize:-), but put life first:-).

Of course there will be 14-hour days etc in your freelancer life but don't look at it as common practice, you still need your eyes, back and quite a few other things for other purposes:-). Take long breaks after any race against time.

Irene

PS - that was the word of a CAT-hater:-)



[Edited at 2007-03-23 14:06]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 12:08
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It depends on your language too Mar 23, 2007

I charge different rates depending on whether the word count is based on the source or target language, because there is a 20% difference on average between English and the Scandinavian languages I work with.

It's worth bearing in mind when some people seem to be able to cope with incredible numbers of words per day.

The agency I worked for pointed this out when they changed from counting target words to counting source words whenever possible. They have other standard percentage differences for other language pairs, but I don't know them.

Over nine years I have progressed from around 2000 English target words a day - 1800 or so Danish or Swedish source words - to about 2000 weighted source words of Danish or Swedish, up to 2500 in English. That means more if there are a lot of 100% matches when I use Trados.

I don't on the whole check less in dictionaries and databases, which is what takes time, but I know where to find things faster, or I have them in the concordance or Multiterm. In fact I probably check a lot more than when I first started, but I take on more complicated jobs too.

Translation is not merely a matter of speed. Otherwise you could leave it to the machines. There is this question of quality, which depends on so many other things as well.

With some dense law texts you can be proud of managing 800 - 1000 words a day. I have done 5000 words of tourist blurb in a day without a CAT, but I couldn't do it every day.
(And wouldn't want to!)

I vary my rates from job to job too. I try to earn roughly the same per hour, so I take a lower rate per word for a routine job than for a text that calls for a lot of research before I can begin translating.

There's no way you can find a 'one size fits all' solution in this business, so you have to know roughly what to expect, then explain to the client and find a balance that you can live on.



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Mitch Hammarstrom  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:08
Member (2010)
English to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Ok. I feel rather confident now. Mar 23, 2007

Thank You for your answers and opinions. They are greatly appreciated

I can now relax and feel confident that I am not slower than a snail.


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