Formatting and Layout, client doesn't seem to recognize
Thread poster: Samer Helmy

Samer Helmy
English to Arabic
+ ...
Oct 15, 2010


I did a job recently for a fairly new client, where I was asked to provide my basic rate per word, which I did. Afterwards the client sent a job to me with a word count presented plus jpeg images of the project. There was also a specific request in the terms to stick to formatting and layout. The project had very extensive formatting and there were complex financial tables involved. After I was done I sent the job back within the deadline and they confirmed happy receipt. I sent the invoice with the total agreed amount, thinking that they probably already put the proper loading on the word count with regards to the financial tables.

Here is the issue: one week after the delivery of the invoice I was contacted by the client saying that the actual number of words is less than earlier quoted (seriously less), and wanted to pay only the flat rate per word saying that this is what was presented to them. I replied by saying that the extensive layout and formatting as well as working from images meant that I had no way of counting the source words myself, and that if they wish to calculate per word flat, then I should add a load factor to represent image source, formatting, and financial tabulation.

What is the argument here and how do I get what I want without creating an issue?

I know already that best thing in the future with them is to reconfirm each job total budget BEFORE it is translated, but that is already gone, and sometimes in target word count it is impossible.

How do I take my full fees, what is the industry norm? Do you also think it is right to do this after one week of delivering my work and invoice?

Samer Helmy


sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:38
English to Russian
+ ...
Hard-learned lesson Oct 15, 2010


Been there, done that, got burned. Before quoting with a per-word rate ALWAYS request the file to have a look at.

If layout and formatting are involved, you cannot increase the word count to take that into consideration, but make an estimate for additional hours required for layout and formatting, at your regular per-hour rate. All of this, with breakdown by wordcount (per word rate) and formatting hours (per hour rate) should have been agreed and confirmed by the PO BEFORE you started the project.

If they do not want to pay extra for formatting ( it happened to me), take the project on condition that the file is reformatted into a simpler format or you do not translate these sections at all.

Sorry - it is only their good will to pay extra for formatting, otherwise consider this a lesson for the future. And if you did not include this formatting time into the invoice sent together with the project, a week later is too late.


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 03:38
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Unfortunately too late now Oct 15, 2010

I commiserate with you because you probably spent considerably more time on this job than what you were paid for but these things must be agreed upon ahead of time.
With such complex documents, if you cannot get a source word count, estimate the number of hours it will take you to complete the job and either charge by the hour or convert the total hourly amount to a per word fee. Always look at the job before you accept it and estimate the cost. I'm sure this will never happen to you again!


Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:38
German to English
Flat rate not always appropriate Oct 15, 2010

Unfortunately some clients think that translation means typing or otherwise converting words in one language into another. Normally agency clients understand what is involved and will ask a translator to provide separate quotes for translation, complex layout (unless they provide the service themselves) and graphics (ditto).

When responding to a query by a new direct customer, I always ask to see the document before providing a quotation. I base my estimate on word count, document structural complexity and number of graphics. Sometimes the client wants a quote based solely on on word or hour units, as their tracking/payment/IT system cannot deal with bids based on mixed units (words and hours). In such cases, I adjust the invoiced word rate to include the time it would take to translate the graphics. I usually include one hour per graphic in my estimate. Sometimes they take longer, but in most cases, they take much less, in which case I can easily charge a little less than my estimate which makes my customers happy.

For reasons of simplicity, I am using .10 as a base word rate charge , and 200 words/hour as my translation speed. My own rates and translation speed are much higher.

Here's the basis for the estimate
Countable words in project = 1000
Rate for words = 100.00
10 graphics @ 1 hour per graphic = 10 hours = 2000 words = 200.00

Words/word equivalents = 3000

Estimate for the project = 300.00

The cost per word unit is then .30

If the client wants it represented in hours, then this would be 15 hours (5 hours @ 200 words/hour + 10 hours for graphics).

Normally all they want is a final figure for the estimate, and they can apportion it to words or hours themselves, if that's how they keep track of costs.

This system has worked well for me for many many years, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times in 40 years that I have underestimated a job.


Samer Helmy
English to Arabic
+ ...
hmmm Oct 16, 2010

Thanks everyone for your comments. Learned a few things.

Regarding the current situation then, do you think I should just bite the loss and accept their payment only on the original per word rate, or should I ask for a midway compromise?


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