"Revised target word count"?
Thread poster: Astrid Elke Witte

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:34
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Mar 2, 2009

I must say, working for agencies never gets boring. They come up with a new one every week. Well, today's interesting business practice, that I had yet to learn, was the one of "revised target word count" in the German to English language pair. As usual, you mention to the agency that you cannot charge for source words, because so many German "words" (i.e. words technically speaking) are actually word combinations, so you have to charge for target words if they are not familiar with the German system of source lines.

Supposing that the agency with whom you are negotiating agrees on a target word count, you assume then that they agree to pay for the number of target words in your finished translation - right? Wrong! At least in this case. No, you can't write an invoice; you have to wait patiently (maybe a day or two) until somebody contacts you and tells you how many words it was. You get bored waiting, and you write an invoice and send it anyway. Eventually the somebody contacts you and announces the target word count in your document, for which you may charge. It is significantly lower than the actual target word count, for which you have in fact already billed them. The difference cannot be explained by whether the words were counted in Word, PractiCount or Trados. You write to them and ask them to check their word count.

At this point it comes to light that someone in-house has edited your translation and, in so doing, has produced a final document to send to the client with a significantly lower word count. This is interesting, since you are not known to pad out your translations, but normally only write the exact words necessary. They are carefully chosen and are all there for a reason. The PM patiently explains that it is the word count of the edited translation that they normally pay for, not the word count of the document that you sold them. How would you react? Is this common practice?


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:34
English to French
+ ...
I react by demanding to be paid for the work carried out Mar 3, 2009

No matter who edits what and why once you have delivered your translation, you did work to produce your translation and you are entitled to be paid for that word count, especially after the client has agreed. You are not responsible for the edited version, and that is none of your business - it just may be that the final word count is significantly lower because they are specifically editing their texts so that they can save money when they pay the translator. It may also happen that by editing the document in this manner, the quality is affected, and if their client is not happy, I wouldn't be surprised if they blamed you for it, which is awesome for them, as they would then get your translation free of charge instead of at a lower price.

I wouldn't try to negotiate with them - I would just remind them that they agreed to the word count (of which I still have a record to prove it). As for their crooked policy to only pay for the words in the final, edited version, it was their responsibility to let you know about it in advance. They didn't? Well, I guess next time they will! You had an agreement, this wasn't part of it, so...

To me, this sounds extremely shady for a practice.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:34
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
So, they continue cooking the meal, and pay at the end??? Mar 3, 2009

OK, so you were asked to cook up 4 gallons of stew, which you did.
They decided to put it back on the stove and cook it further, where some of the sauce evaporated, resulting in 3.5 gallons of stew.
Would they owe you only for 3.5 gallons of stew?
Would they pay you for 5 gallons if they watered it down?

Am am sorry for the cheesy comparison, but this story sounds absurd.

The only time they would be obligated to pay for the edited word count only, if they had contracted you to perform full services (including translation, then editing by somebody else, and finalizing) - in that case you would deliver a job that is already edited, so obviously the word count is the edited word count.

By the way, that's why I try to avoid target wordcount based invoicing, because that leaves room for arguments like this. I always insist on source-based invoicing, or if the source is uncountable (hardcopy), then I specify a fix amount up front. This way the price is clear from the beginning, and nobody gets surprised at the end.


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Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:34
English to French
+ ...
Your transaction Mar 3, 2009

What happens to the file after you have sent it is not your business, commercially speaking.

Whatever the agreement conditions for what you have sent, you are entitled to be paid according to what you have sent only.

Prices cannot be modified like that, in a fancy way, after delivery.


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Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 02:34
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Wow, at least they are creative in trying not to pay... Mar 3, 2009

One more thing to watch out for, I guess - not that I would ever agree to a target word rate anyway, since due to differences in language structure, a Finnish translation may have about half as many words as a source text in any Indo-European language (plus my style is pretty concise and brings it down still). Well, I would agree, but it would be a whole different rate then...

No way what they are trying is acceptable, of course. I think Oleg Rudavin put it quite well in his new book about freelancing (which I recommend). The issue was Trados match discounts and his point was (as I understood) that even if it's just punching Enter, it's still work for us, and any work means we should be paid for it. So it goes without saying that they pay for what they get, it doesn't concern us whether they use it or not.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:34
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your replies Mar 3, 2009

Thanks, Viktoria, Katalin, Arnaud and Taija, for confirming that this is not a usual practice (or at least not a correct one). I was not sure, because agencies are not my main customers. I did two translations for them, one that I delivered on Friday and one on Monday. I heard, for the first time, yesterday about their wish/intention to pay the reduced word count after editing for the first translation, delivered on Friday. I wrote to them and told them how many words it was, and they agreed to accept my word count and adjust their records concerning the first one (as an exceptional case, so it came across), but they still reiterated that the many freelancers who work for them all get paid according to the word count after the editor has done his work. The reason, they say, is that they cannot pay the translator for a greater number of words than they deliver to the end client. That makes sense apparently.

In fact, the other freelancers that work for them are mostly not working in the German to English language pair, but in a common language pair that is always based on source word count. However, source word count does not work with German. Following the dispute, they still tried it again with the second translation, and just a few minutes ago finally agreed to adjust their records and accept the amount of my invoice concerning that one.

Well, there is something new to be learned every day, and I guess I will try something different next time, such as a higher rate for source words. You are right, Katalin: I need to find a way to make it work with source words (with agencies that are unfamiliar with source lines).

Astrid

P.S. I like your analogy with the stew, Katalin! It is spot on!

[Edited at 2009-03-03 21:43 GMT]


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Source, target, editing, and agencies Mar 4, 2009

Just to add my voice to the throng, at the moment I work almost exclusively for agencies (not a choice), and I have *never* been told to charge for a line or word count that results from handling after the translation has left my computer.

Working in German to English, I "grew up" with the target line count, and that's always my preferred method of charging. However, I have learned to charge according to other methods as well, and as one Proz colleague here is fond of saying, you can always come up with a conversion method and charge the way your client wants to be charged.

For example, I know that for my German to English work, the target word count can be anywhere from 15-35% higher than the source word count (usually right around 30%).

No problemo, I just take the rate that I would normally charge for a target word count and multiply it by 1.30 and submit that as the "source word rate". Or you could choose any number you like.

In my example, if the target word count is actually 35% higher, I would be out a little bit of money, probably nothing to write home about. On the other hand, if for some reason the target word count is really only 25% higher, it works out in my favor. Law of averages, you win some, you lose some. It's not my favorite game to play, but I can play it.

As for the other, never accept payment based on someone else's handling of your files - unless you agree to that ahead of time and modify your rates accordingly! My 2c


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:34
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Astrid, it is simple math Mar 4, 2009

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Well, there is something new to be learned every day, and I guess I will try something different next time, such as a higher rate for source words. You are right, Katalin: I need to find a way to make it work with source words (with agencies that are unfamiliar with source lines).


If you have a standard rate for source lines that you are comfortable with, than it is easy:
You get the German source text, so you count the lines. You multiply that with your per line rate. This is the total price for the job, right?
You can either quote this as a fixed price, or take this total and divide it by the number of source words, and you have a per source word rate for that job. (Round UP, if needed.)
You can do this for every project you get from them - you may end up with a slightly different per source word rate each time, but you will get the price you would have gotten, had they handled source lines.

In fact, if you do this exercise often enough, with many projects, you may find an average per source word rate that you are comfortable with. (If not for everything, at least for each type of job - but as far as I know you deal with legal stuff mostly, so maybe those jobs do converge to an acceptable per source word rate.)

Good luck
Katalin

[Edited at 2009-03-04 15:37 GMT]


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:34
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, mathematicians! Mar 4, 2009

Janet, yes you are right, it is generally 25% to 35% more words in English; I have noticed that too. There is the problem, of course, that, when you multiply by 1.30, the source word rate sounds awfully expensive to them - especially if they know nothing about the German language and do not understand the reason why it costs more per source word than, for example, French.

Katalin, your idea sounds great. I can implement it with new enquiries at least. It would not work with the agency discussed in this thread, because they obtain a rate from you and then carve it in stone, and it cannot be changed with each job.

Thanks, anyway!

Astrid


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