How to correctly charge hourly work
Thread poster: Konstantin Stäbler

Konstantin Stäbler  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:55
English to German
+ ...
May 24, 2014

Dear colleagues,

how do you charge hourly work that you do?

I often have the problem that I spend a considerable amount of time doing administrative work like uploading and downloading or writing E-Mails when handling jobs based on an hourly rate. I don't count this time, yet it seems to me that often such hourly jobs require additional tasks such as writing explanatory mails that are rather time-consuming.

How do you handle such jobs? Do you charge for all tasks when working on an hourly basis or just the strictly language-related component of the job?

[Edited at 2014-05-24 13:34 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Interesting question May 24, 2014

I've often wondered how other handle it.

All I can say is that I personally only charge for the time spent actually translating/proofreading/editing, and any research etc that this involves. Of course, my hourly rate has been calculated on the basis of knowing that no job ever existed that didn't need to be received, delivered and documented.

Edited to say that my hourly rate for teaching is actually 50% higher as it involves much more ancillary work: lesson planning and reviews and a certain amount of travel time.

[Edited at 2014-05-24 13:22 GMT]


 

Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:55
English to Russian
+ ...
Guidelines May 24, 2014

I don't charge for correspondence and for studying the detailed instructions, but everything else (research, reports, filling in query logs, etc.) is a part of my job, and it is included in the invoice.
One of my recent assignments included instructions and reference files that took me over an hour of carefully studying everything to make sure that I don't have questions; this time was not added to my invoice, because the order came from my valued customer, but in general it should be considered a part of your job, so you can confirm the receipt and start counting time as soon as you open the "parcel". Your hourly rate should cover these "free" extra activities. If the project is very small, you can apply a minimum charge (for me it's either 0.5 h or 1 hour). Some clients say that it is their policy not to pay minimum charge, but it is your right not to work with them.

[Редактировалось 2014-05-24 13:24 GMT]


 

Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:55
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Minimum fee May 24, 2014

I only count the amount of time that I actually work on the document. My hourly rate includes the fact that my "business" requires supporting activities that generate no direct income, such as communication with (potential) clients and invoicing.

Applying a minimum charge serves to correct the ratio between profitable and non-profitable activities. If a regular client usually sends reasonable-sized assignments, I don't tend to apply such a minimum for the odd small job. But that's a gesture of good-will, not a rule.
Opinions may vary wildly on this; I would judge 1.5 - 2 hours a reasonable minimum for one-off jobs and 1 - 1.5 hours for more regular arrangements.

The upload/download speed depends on your connection. I changed from a landline based broadband connection to satellite and my download speed has increased 20 (twenty!) fold as a result. That's a huge difference. But even before the change, I wouldn't exactly sit there and watch a file download. I just get on with other stuff.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:55
Russian to English
+ ...
I don't work by the hour (only interpreting) May 24, 2014

It never turns out well. Some people expect that you will translate four pages in an hour, or something like that. I don't charge for any e-mails, or uploading and downloading, however, I would not answer five hundred various e-mails right away. I only answer e-mails about twice a day.

If you charge for too many hours, some clients may think that you are lying or trying to take advantage of them--they may not realize how many hours translation and proper editing takes. If you are charging for too few--they may think you did not do a job thorough enough.




[Edited at 2014-05-24 13:59 GMT]


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 13:55
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Know you average overhead and take it into account May 24, 2014

All projects, big or small, have overhead. You just have to know your average overhead and take that into account - this is true no matter what type of system you base your quote on. Then you should consider any project specific overhead (extensive reference material, extra administrative work, etc.) that might be involved.

That said, a couple of remarks:

1) Personally, I would advise against working based on an hourly rate. There are several reasons for that, but the main one is that in this pricing model expertise and efficiency work against you in the long term. As you get more specialized, and as you refine your workflow and professional process, your productivity increases, but when charging an hourly rate you end up earning less.
You should keep track of how much you earn per hour and compare it to your goals, but I don't recommend charging by the hour, which leads me to point number two;

2) I am a firm believer that professional translators should do away with per-word, per-hour, per-charter and all other per-some-random-base-unit model, and instead give a per-project quote that reflects the effort and time that they estimate is involved in that project.

Also, conducting business as if the words are the base raw material as well as the end product and everything in between is just some kind of mechanical and clerical type of process is harmful to the profile of the profession. You should always be flexible and talk your client's "business language", but as a general rule I think that the current nomenclature in the translation market should change.

[Edited at 2014-05-24 17:13 GMT]


 

Konstantin Stäbler  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:55
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I guess I should adapt my hourly rates May 24, 2014

Thank you all for taking the time to write and for your valuable insights.

I have to review my hourly rates and adapt them accordingly.

@Shai:

Interesting points, yet it's probably not feasible or not desirable for agencies to accept quotes from translators since they have to offer a fast turn-around to their clients. To size up each large job and create a quote will note solve the general lack of time that translators usually have. This approach could be interesting in the case of direct clients that hand out very large jobs and don't care about our rates per lines and words since they don't know much about the business anyway.


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 13:55
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Take care of yourself May 24, 2014

Do yourself a favor and don't adopt the broker (and most agencies nowadays seem to be just that - brokers) rationale and mentality. You and an agency typically use a completely different business model, and the agency doesn't necessarily have your best interests at heart (sometimes even quite the contrary).

Don't think that direct clients are all great and just look to throw money at your services, just like not all agencies are bad (some are still professional practices). The point that I was trying to make was that you shouldn't base your business operation on the type of clients (direct or agency) that you happen to find you. You should know your skills, your work, and where you want to go and then work to get there with time. Pricing your services is just on aspect of it all.

[Edited at 2014-05-24 18:34 GMT]


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:55
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
This is a really good topic May 25, 2014

but I have another problem about hourly charges. Here is a Scenario:

A client is asking you to QA a PDF of 6000 source words, and your fee is calculated based on a rate of 1500 words per hour. You clock your time and it is found that you really can finish 1500 words in one hour. However, because the task requires a high level of concentration, you become really tired after working on it for one hour, and you need to take at least a 15 minute break.

This means by the time you have finished the four hour job, you have actually spend 5 hours. This is significant if you do a lot of jobs paid by hour. In the long run, you would have lost 20% of your time, with no income at all.

I wonder how you guys handle the situation.

I hope this is not off topic.


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 13:55
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Set your own terms May 25, 2014

Simple as that. Don't let others dictate how, how much, and for what you charge for.

You know what is needed for your to to the work, how much is should take, and how much you want to charge for it. This is how you determine your fee for a project, and from that point it is a rather simple matter of applying some mathematics if you deem it necessary to present your quote/bill in a more appropriate way for the specific client you work with.

Again, except for very specific tasks that are best billed by the hour (like going over reference material, attending meetings) I advise against working by an hourly rate.
Your goal should be to maintain the same hourly earnings no matter what type of work you do (translation, editing, whatever else), but this doesn't mean that one should bill by the hour - or more specifically - bill the same hourly rate for everything. Regardless of what system one is using to calculate one's fee, one should always take into account a reasonable break time, travel time (if necessary), and any additional time spent on a project but not directly on the core work itself, just like one has to consider the business overhead, health insurance, sick days, a yearly vacation and any other benefit when coming up with his or her fee schedule.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Work is work May 25, 2014

jyuan_us wrote:
A client is asking you to QA a PDF of 6000 source words, and your fee is calculated based on a rate of 1500 words per hour. You clock your time and it is found that you really can finish 1500 words in one hour. However, because the task requires a high level of concentration, you become really tired after working on it for one hour, and you need to take at least a 15 minute break.

To me, work is work. Maybe I am a bit naïve, but I would feel bad if I charged my customers for my breaks.


 

Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:55
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
A little illustration May 25, 2014

jyuan_us wrote:

However, because the task requires a high level of concentration, you become really tired after working on it for one hour, and you need to take at least a 15 minute break.

This means by the time you have finished the four hour job, you have actually spend 5 hours. This is significant if you do a lot of jobs paid by hour. In the long run, you would have lost 20% of your time, with no income at all.


The text doesn't even need to be challenging - if I'm pushed to work at a rate beyond my mental capacity, then I need to take frequent breaks. If I'm working on an hourly rate, then this is the rate for my sustainable pace - not for a pace dictated by someone else and not for a sprint pace. A complicated or poor quality text automatically takes longer.

Just to illustrate this: I can run 100 m in about 12.5 seconds on a first sprint and maybe do 10 sprints with a minute break in between. The last few sprints will be above 13 seconds. After 10 sprints, my legs are jellied and I have to stop. So my total training distance for the day is 1000 metres. The average pace for 100 metres is (12.5+13)/2=12.75 seconds.
800 metres will take me around 2 minutes and 20 seconds, or 140 seconds. The second run after a 5 minute break will be about 2:40 or 160 seconds. Then I have to stop. My total training distance for the day is 1600 metres. The average pace for 100 metres is (140+160)/16=18.75 seconds.

Let's say, every 100 metres is a unit of output and every second a unit of money. A client wants a price for 5 units.

I don't take the top speed of the first few sprints: 5 x 12.5=62.5 and ignore the fact that this forces me to take additional breaks and is not sustainable, but I take the average 800 metre time as a base: 5 x 18.75=92.5

If he needs me to "sprint" for whatever reason, you can see that with 5 sprints, he has utilised half my daily capacity. So again, I go back to a daily goal of 16 units based on the 800 metre times and say this uses up 8 of these 16 units. This means that the price is now 8 x 18.75= 150. The break times in themselves, however, have been ignored entirely. I look at the effect on my total capacity.

I believe this is commonly called an express charge with typical ranges between 50% and 100%.



[Edited at 2014-05-25 10:20 GMT]


 

Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:55
English to Russian
+ ...
No! May 25, 2014

jyuan_us wrote:

A client is asking you to QA a PDF of 6000 source words, and your fee is calculated based on a rate of 1500 words per hour.


I only work with clients that accept my own calculation. They assume that my rate is approximately 1000 words per hour, but it's me who tells them how much time I spent on the task. An hourly rate (how much time you actually spent) is NOT a flat rate (how much time they think you should spend). There are many clients (agencies) that don't accept an hourly rate and insist on a per word rate (a flat/fixed rate) to make sure they are within their client's budget (they try to set the lowest budget to please the client and then they offer a low rate to their suppliers and complain that their budget is so low), but we don't have to accept their terms.
I also strongly believe that each party should be honest (if the client assumes that the task will take 2.5 hours and I spend 2 hours, I'll invoice 2 hours; if I spent 3 or 3.5 hours, I'll briefly comment on the text's issues to let them know what was wrong, but I won't sound apologetic).

[Редактировалось 2014-05-25 23:50 GMT]

[Редактировалось 2014-05-25 23:52 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It can only be an estimate; and there must be trust May 26, 2014

Natalia Mackevich wrote:
I also strongly believe that each party should be honest (if the client assumes that the task will take 2.5 hours and I spend 2 hours, I'll invoice 2 hours; if I spent 3 or 3.5 hours, I'll briefly comment on the text's issues to let them know what was wrong, but I won't sound apologetic).

I calculate how long I expect a job to take, based on the word count and a brief scan of various parts of the text (NOT just the first page as that's often where quality is best!). As an example, let's say I estimate 3 hours' work if there aren't any hidden nasties (e.g. the odd bit that's been through an MT, a different translator used for part of it, major inconsistencies, dodgy facts that need to be researched...). In this case, I'll tell the client I'm happy to guarantee a maximum of (say) 4 hours, but that it's more likely to cost them only 3.5 hours. If I'm awarded the job then the client will accept an invoice for 4 hours; be happier with 3.5; and ecstatic if I find no nasties at all and present them with a bill for 3 hours. Of course, if the job takes 5 hours then I'm out of pocket, but I'll have learnt yet another valuable lesson. Most of the time it's a classic win/win situation.


 


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