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Charging by the hour: what activities?
Thread poster: Oliver Walter

Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:12
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Nov 22, 2007

(I haven't been able to find a discussion on this topic in the forums.)
I am doing a job in which we are agreed that I will charge per hour (but with a fixed agreed amount as the maximum total I can charge). From the work I have done so far, I think I will take less than the time that corresponds to this ceiling.

My question is: When charging by time, just what activities should be charged for? Obviously the translation work itself (including proofreading), but what about other activities that are not actual translation work, but which you would not do if you didn't have this job?
I'm thinking, for example, of: reading background material supplied by the client (and perhaps other material too); reading, writing and sending emails for this job, making backup files.
I can imagine two contradictory arguments:
1, that you charge for all time spent on activities that would not be done if this job did not exist, or
2, that you charge for translating itself, perhaps a little background reading, but other activities should be regarded as something you are expected to do with the income you receive from the "true" translating work.

Is there a generally accepted answer to this and/or do you have your personal rule?

Thanks for your contributions.


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 20:12
English to Czech
Charge for everything related to the job... Nov 22, 2007

If there is a ceiling, it is OK, in my opinion - the client is ready to accept that. And it is fair. Per word rates should be also based on such circumstances... that the reality differs is other thing...

Just be honest - when you need to study something - is something you are supposed to know, or is something really special? etc...

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:12
English to French
+ ...
Charge for the time spent on the job Nov 22, 2007

Simply charge for the time you spend on the project. This will include everything. Just make sure you are being reasonable as to what you include. I wouldn't find it reasonable to read a 300-page book in order to carry out ten hours of translation.

You said it yourself: you wouldn't perform those tasks if you didn't have the job. So why wouldn't you charge for them? They are taking up your time, and your time is worth $XY per hour.

All the best!

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Haiyang Ai  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:12
English to Chinese
+ ...
Hourly rates Nov 23, 2007

Oliver Walter wrote:
I'm thinking, for example, of: reading background material supplied by the client (and perhaps other material too); reading, writing and sending emails for this job, making backup files.

I don't think reading background materials or backing up files justify the hourly rates that your clients would like to pay.
There're some other activities, for example, desktop publishing, screenshots, transcription, or even some management work regarding the big projects, that would be deemed as jobs to be paid by the hours. Exact hours are not always possible to predict, but some close estimates would be acceptable.

Kind regards,

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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:12
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Necessary activities are to be charged Nov 23, 2007

As always with money issues, it has to be agreed on between you and the client.

Viktoria is right: charging for the time needed to read a 300-page book to carry out a 3-page translation would be unreasonable. Besides, when a translator accepts a job s/he is supposed to be well familiar with the field

On the other hand, there might be other activities involved. I use the following rule: all significant activities are charged. There was a project where the payment for the translation itself was about EUR 200, and additional payment for the time spent on preparing replies to the end client's claims (long emails containing examples from the source and target document, with reference to grammar books, etc.) amounted to EUR 350.


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Local time: 20:12
English to German
+ ...
charge for the footwork as well. Nov 23, 2007

Hi lately one otherwise reliable client had paid via Western union to a wrong destination country. I had to spend two days at the WU offices and charged the customer 16 hours for the foot work given. I did not see it as unnecessary. It was job related. I had given him clear instructions so that he cannot make a mistake. Brandis

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