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Hourly or per word?
Thread poster: Brigitte Hamilton

Brigitte Hamilton  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:51
Member (2007)
German to English
May 17, 2007

Good day everyone,

my question is: when is it better to use an hourly rate for translation versus a per word rate? I have been asked to quote on a fairly lengthy document (about 30,000 words) - it is a thesis in the field of information technology.
The text is not overly technical, I am quite comfortable with it, but I am wondering whether, given the document size and the need to keep terms and chapters congruent, I should be going with an hourly rate rather than a word rate. What are the criteria for choosing one over the other? Thanks in advance,
Brigitte


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:51
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Per word rate May 17, 2007

Hi,

Generally, clients want to know the cost in advance. A per word rate is one of the most practical ways to determine that cost. Hourly rates are usually reserved for things like editing and proofreading, where the quality of the source meterial (translation) greatly affects the amount of work to be done (although per word rates are also widely used for editing and proofreading assignments).

In projects of this size, any formatting and/or consistency maintenance tasks (i.e. keeping things congruent) are usually treated as being a part of the translation process. If you anticipate these tasks to take up extra time (exceeding the normal), you could propose to do them as an extra, using an hourly rate. I suggest you discuss it with your client, but first look into how much extra time it might really take.

HTH,
Mikhail


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Word Rate May 17, 2007

I see no problem at all using a word rate with what you describe, and if you have a good process you should be able to sail through it with no undue problems.

If you do have problems keeping it congruent then improve your process. That is something you need to do for yourself, and do not expect your client to pay for it; it is part of your tools that you should already have.

Hourly rates would be for things such as transcription and translation of audio tapes for instance, where sound quality can be extremely variable (and extremely bad) at times, so the length of it can give you no clue as to how much effort it will take.

There could be other instances where hourly rates would be indicated as well, such as when things are constantly being revised on you, etc., but they are unusual circumstances, and when they come along you´ll know!


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Egmont
Spain
Local time: 22:51
Afrikaans to Spanish
+ ...
Word rate May 17, 2007

In my opinion and according to my experience the wprd rate is more useful for the client.

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ntext  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:51
German to English
+ ...
My suggestion May 17, 2007

I see two possibilities: (1) you are able to assess upfront how long the job will take you, or (2) you are unable to assess upfront how long the job will take you.

Scenario (1): Determine how much you need or want to make per hour. Multiply this hourly rate by the number of hours you expect to be working on the job to calculate the total fee for the project. You are then free to either quote this total as a flat project rate or divide it by any unit you like; for example, if the client wants a word rate, divide the total fee by the number of words in the text, and voila! there's your quote.

Scenario (2): Determine how much you need or want to make per hour. Quote that amount as an hourly rate, and once the project has been completed, bill the client for hours worked. (Be sure not to let the client cap the number of billable hours at a level that may be too low.)

That said, as others have commented before, many clients (especially agencies) don't like the second approach, so if at all possible, you should probably go with the first one.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:51
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Just make sure you quote a healthy word rate May 17, 2007

Don't let the client push you into doing it for a low word rate because it is a large job. As you will need extra stamina to see the thing through, quote a very respectable rate, which will then include everything. Actually, I find, with my pair at least, that it works very well to say that it will take one hour for every 500 words. It generally works out almost exactly. I can proofread within this allowance as well. Therefore 30,000 words would take me 60 hours, and I would also be thinking about how many hours per week I could spare for that client, leaving room for other clients as well. Perhaps I would decide on 20, and quote 3 weeks as the time needed in this case. Just another aspect to think about, as well.

Astrid


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:51
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
2 Astrid May 17, 2007

500 words an hour is well above average. I know you're just talking about your own pace and LP there, but it's really a lot of words to do in an hour.

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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:51
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Words per hour depends on the language pair May 18, 2007

Hi Mikhail,

Yes, the number of words per hour does depend very much on the language pair. If, as in your case, you are working with two different alphabets, I can imagine that the number of words per hour is lower.

Astrid


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:51
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Yeah, it's possible May 18, 2007

I can translate that much when I don't have to think about the text For instance, marketing response surveys, general texts, etc. So, I suppose that if you only work with texts you're very familiar with, that would easily raise your throughput, and so 500 words/hour is not impossible. In fact, I'm hoping to raise my speed to about 400 words/hour. Anyway, I'm happy for you

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Brigitte Hamilton  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:51
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks May 18, 2007

Hi everyone,
thank you so much for all the comments, they covered so much more than 'just' rates, so I found them all very useful! I will use a good 'per word' rate and see how that goes.


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