Hourly rate - how many minutes?
Thread poster: Ahmad Hassaballa

Ahmad Hassaballa  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
Member (2005)
German to Arabic
+ ...
Jul 7, 2009

Hi all,

I've been working for a couple of weeks on a slightly big project. I've been asked to charge per hourly rate. However, since I'm about finishing up the translation, I feel that charging per word would be more profitable!!

My question here to all of you: How many minutes in a translation hour? I mean if a translator needs 5 - 10 minutes of rest every hour, will this rest period be included in the working hour, or be excluded when charging the client?

A big thank you in advanceicon_smile.gif



Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
German to English
+ ...
1 hour = 60 minutes Jul 7, 2009

Welcome to the world of billable hours. As far as I know, a "translator's hour" corresponds with a normal hour, i.e., 60 minutes (this is not German academia, where an hour is actually 45 minutes).

Charging per word is often better--as you have noticed and is the norm--than charging per hour (depending, of course, on how much you are charging), especially if you are proficient in the subject. But that is not necessarily a phenomenum specific to translating.

You didn't ask, so I assume you already realize that you cannot change the mode of payment now, so "live and learn."

Are they watching you work?icon_razz.gif


megane_wang  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not only those 5 minutes!!!! Jul 7, 2009

Hello Ahmad,

First of all, if charging per hours is not giving the profits you need, that means that you did not compute your rates correctly.

Maybe you have already tried this, but even in that case you may still go back and try again:


I see that it has changed; maybe THIS one will help you better:


Yep, when you use them both, try to be honest, no one is looking.

1. Insert your DESIRED salary (not less).

2. Do no forget ALL your costs (a decent rent, some vacation, a retirement plan, some medical insurance, if you have some chilren then multiply that by N!!!).

3. Be honest about the time you wish to work. You won't be working 60 hours a week all your life - that's not life.

4. Be honest about the costs: don't forget about computers, books, licences, courses, training, food, drinks, paper, printer, Internet connnection... hey: do you really think you will use your computer until it becomes prehistoric? I don't think so!!

5. Review your last projects to see how many hours you really translate/review in an hour. Is that it? Nononono: that's not true. It's about a 80% or even worse, a 70% of what you think. Or do you never visit the toilet? Never have a coffee or whatever? Never answer the telephone? Never send offers? Never make a test? Never visit a customer? Never prepare and send an invoice? AYE!!! DO NOT forget all the time you spend looking for customers, e-mailing your CV, preparing tests, sending documents, invoicing, even the time you spend calculating your rates! THIS is your job too.

After this, your counts in words and hours should be very similar; don't be surprised if they are higher than you thought. Don't be surprised AT ALL if they are higher than some people are willing to offer.

When you finish this, just count the time as you did it during your analysis: For short jobs or while dealing with many things at the same time, I have a running counter on my computer (Allnetic TimeTracker). I personally hate it, but sometimes it has been a real time/life saver for me, to know in which projects I have spent my time.

Another more comfortable approach is: If I said I'm going to work 8 hours a day and I have spent "a morning" doing something, that's 4 hours. If I spent a whole day, that's 8 hours. A "half morning" or "half afternoon" would be just 2 hours.

If you counted your rates correctly, this last approach will work well enough because your rates will take everything into account. If you just count your "translation minutes" you will easily get the impression that you spend the day adding minutes until you add up... 12-16 hours a day.

I hope this helps!

Ruth @ MW


Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
English to Hungarian
+ ...
60 minutes Jul 7, 2009

When I charge tasks by the hour, I include only the time spent with the assignment. Time tracking tools such as Timestamp can help you keep track of the exact amount of time; if I stop for ten minutes to make an unrelated phone call I stop the clock with a click, and restart it when I return to the task. So, if I work on a proof-reading assignment between 8:30 and 12:00, and take three 10-minute breaks, I bill 3 hours.

Charging translation by the hour is not unheard of but nonetheless unusual: by quoting a per-word price, the total amount is set right at the onset, which is usually preferred by both sides.



Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
By the hour = words per hour Jul 7, 2009

First of all I am not sure, but it sounds as though you took the job on without first agreeing to invoicing method and now nearly at the end they have told you they will pay you by the hour? Is this correct? If not sorry for missunderstanding. If it is correct, then please note you should NEVER accept a job without first agreeing ALL the terms and getting a purchase order or signing a contract.

Having said that, to calculate hourly rate you need to knwo how many words an hour you can do, to know this you need to keep track of how much time you spend on each project (translating, formatting, proofreading, QM, communicating and invoicing). This is something you should always keep a record of, as it then lets you see how long everything takes, and the longer you keep track the more accurate your calculations will be, as you will get an accurate overall average.

So lets say you can do 400 words per hour if it is a normal type file and 300 words per hour if it is a PDF.

Lets say your normal per word rate is 0.10, so that means with normal files you are earning 40 an hour and with PDF you are eraning 30 an hour, these should be your hourly rates, also knowing how many words an hour you can do, you can tell the client how many hours you will take and there are no unplesant surprises.


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
55 minutes Jul 8, 2009

Ahmad Hassaballa wrote:
My question here to all of you: How many minutes in a translation hour? I mean if a translator needs 5 - 10 minutes of rest every hour, will this rest period be included in the working hour, or be excluded when charging the client?

I think as a freelancer you can bill only for time spent on activities that directly relate to the job. If you were an employee, you'd get paid lunch breaks and paid tea breaks, but as a freelancer you can't include your lunch times and tea times into the billable hours.

Now, if you did some work at a client's premises and you took 5 minute smoke breaks every hour, I think it may be acceptable to bill full hours but I also think that the client would be endeared if you subtracted the smoke time from the invoiced hours.


irina savescu  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:11
English to Romanian
time tracking software Jul 8, 2009

How about just calculating your full price for that particular project (based on your word count) and then convert it to a reasonable rate for the client? Depending on the client you may either let him find you fast and expensive or cheap but perfectionist (cheap and slow just doesn't sound right, marketing-wise).

At the end of the day the client only needs two things, a quality product and a reasonable price (and most give the impression of only caring about the latter).
What troubles you went through to get there, how many hours and whatever you had to sacrifice (hopefully not much) is not really relevant information for your client.

[Edited at 2009-07-09 03:11 GMT]


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