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Doing away with the “per word or per line payment system”
Thread poster: Williamson

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:55
Flemish to English
+ ...
Jul 29, 2010

I am considering throwing the "per word or per line of 55 characters payment system" overboard.
My friend is a dentist-dental surgeon. I visited his practice a couple of times for a treatment. The minimum he charges is £40/€50 for about 20 minutes of work.
If he has to treat two teeth, it is £60/€75 and that takes him 30 minutes.
In an hour, he tries to see three patients, which means that he earns 150 euro/£120 per hour before taxes. Take away 30-40% and you arrive at 75 euros per hour.
Now, it may be that I gain more by adopting the hourly system or that I lose because the number of words I can translate in 1 hour supersedes my hourly rate. But that is a chance to take. The electronics engineer, who revised one of my projects, charged by the hour. Our colleagues, conference-interpreters earn about 50-75 euros per hour.
Another acquaintance, who is a freelance programmer, asks 75 euros per hour x8 hours

Asking the rate of other professionals per hour would not only increase the standing of the profession, but also eliminate offers like 40000 words and 10000 reps.
This system only made intermediaries rich.

Moreover, you can compare with what other professionals earn. 0.13/words with 10000 reps (for which i never give discounts) is very vague. The whole world of professionals uses an hourly standard and so should we.

[Edited at 2010-07-29 13:09 GMT]


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:55
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Not for me... Jul 29, 2010

I do not see much sense in the system "the less efficiently I work the more I get paid". Maybe because I have always worked pretty fast, so per word rate was always more profitable for me.

 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:55
Flemish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Professional Jul 30, 2010

Jabberwock wrote:

I do not see much sense in the system "the less efficiently I work the more I get paid". Maybe because I have always worked pretty fast, so per word rate was always more profitable for me.


The sense is that it is used by almost every professional in the world, that it can be used for translating PowerPoint-presentation with little text, but which take time.
Efficiency does not equal fast, A text may require a lot of research.´DTP with little words takes time.



[Edited at 2010-07-30 05:35 GMT]


 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Good luck Jul 30, 2010

I see there aren't many responses to this thread at this point.

That may be because people see this idea as very difficult to implement. If you feel that you can do it personally, then we wish you good luck, and I for one would be interested in hearing about your level of success.

Providing a translation requires an agreement between client and provider, so of course in order to change the entire system of remuneration, both sides have to agree to the change - and clients are notoriously averse to change.

In addition, many clients seeking translation services simply don't understand it as professional work - even agencies. In some cases they seem to think that all a translator does is look at a text and retype it (albeit in another language). These types of clients (unfortunately, so many) are bound to look at "professional hourly rates" and choke.

Jabberwock made a good point, and that is that a suspicious (or even just a penny-pinching) client may assume you will slow your work down to make more money. So demanding an hourly fee just means one more thing you will have to educate your client about.

In any case, demanding an hourly fee does not prevent clients from arguing for a lower hourly rate (as they do with proofreading, which many linguists offer for hourly payment).

"This job has 300 repetitions in it and 580 fuzzy matches, surely this will allow you to work faster and therefore you can take on other projects - so you should drop your hourly rate by $10"
"The highest rate we pay is $25/hour - if you won't accept that, we know linguists who will"
"All our other linguists accept $20/hour, why can't you?"
ad nauseum, ad infinitum

For myself, I'm not weighing in on whether this idea is a "good" one or not, simply pointing out that even if it were ideal, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to successfully implement. But as stated, I do wish you luck!



[Edited at 2010-07-30 06:35 GMT]


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:55
Flemish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
There must be a first time for everything... Jul 30, 2010

Janet Rubin wrote:

I see there aren't many responses to this thread at this point.

That may be because people see this idea as very difficult to implement. If you feel that you can do it personally, then we wish you good luck, and I for one would be interested in hearing about your level of success.

Providing a translation requires an agreement between client and provider, so of course in order to change the entire system of remuneration, both sides have to agree to the change - and clients are notoriously averse to change.

In addition, many clients seeking translation services simply don't understand it as professional work - even agencies. In some cases they seem to think that all a translator does is look at a text and retype it (albeit in another language). These types of clients (unfortunately, so many) are bound to look at "professional hourly rates" and choke.

Jabberwock made a good point, and that is that a suspicious (or even just a penny-pinching) client may assume you will slow your work down to make more money. So demanding an hourly fee just means one more thing you will have to educate your client about.

In any case, demanding an hourly fee does not prevent clients from arguing for a lower hourly rate (as they do with proofreading, which many linguists offer for hourly payment).

"This job has 300 repetitions in it and 580 fuzzy matches, surely this will allow you to work faster and therefore you can take on other projects - so you should drop your hourly rate by $10"
"The highest rate we pay is $25/hour - if you won't accept that, we know linguists who will"
"All our other linguists accept $20/hour, why can't you?"
ad nauseum, ad infinitum

For myself, I'm not weighing in on whether this idea is a "good" one or not, simply pointing out that even if it were ideal, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to successfully implement. But as stated, I do wish you luck!



[Edited at 2010-07-30 06:35 GMT]


They don't choke when they get their car serviced at a medium-sized garage at €50/hour.
My brother is an electrician. He also charge an hourly rate of €50.

My original example (the dentist) times his work very carefully.
Every time I go to visit him, it is "hi, how are you", the weather is fine/bad, sit down and then he starts work. In between he asks whether it hurts or says or "How is your business (sigh).
Twenty minutes later he is finished and sits behind his desk-top with a programme with pictures of a set of teeth, click on those he treated and prints-out an invoice of 50 or 75 euros. When will you come for the next tooth.I can't schedule you next week, because I am fully booked.
He is well-versed in English, French, German. When I ask him to translate terminology in Dutch, he also charges by the hour, no, not 20 euros per hour, but 30. Yes, I know you should specialise, but I can be a specialist in everything, so I ask professionals for their terminological advice. They don't work for free.
That makes it a lot easier to add that sum to the price of the translation as a whole.
.
The effect of the idea could that people will start to consider translation as a real profession, for they are used to be charged by the hour by professionals.
If my dentist has to repeat the same gesture 10 times, he won't give you a reduction if he can do it faster with a €1000 tool he just bought. By the hour also eliminates trados-reductions.
No trados-reductions equals the bankruptcy of some bloodsucker agencies, which I am forbidden by forum rules to sum up.

Before this site and others like it existed, I had never heard of payment by the word, but by the line of 55 or 60 characters. Here, it also rather difficult to ask for rep.discounts.
There has to be a first time to everything.
At 20 euro/$ per hour, this profession is good to start and to evolve towards conference interpreting where nobody blinks at rates of 65 euros per hour (here again: per hour).
Besides in the "real world" everybody is used being charged by the service performed (M.D., DDS,) or by the hour. It should not be so difficult with direct customers who are used to charging that way. In the real world, nobody ever heard of charging by the word.
That was invented in the English-speaking countries.









[Edited at 2010-07-30 12:27 GMT]


 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Wrong audience Jul 30, 2010

It is not us you have to convince.

And by the way
Williamson wrote:
They don't choke when they get their car serviced at a medium-sized garage at €50/hour.


I would disagree. Most people are very unhappy about bringing their cars to the garage precisely because of the cost, and people constantly talk about and suspect they are indeed being cheated. At least where I come from.


 

Michael GREEN  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:55
English to French
Seems a real enough world to me... Jul 30, 2010

In the real world, nobody ever heard of charging by the word.
That was invented in the English-speaking countries.


The real world?

Our world seems real enough to me.

Translators' tasks can scarcely be compared with those of attorneys, surgeons or notaries, for example, who are paid for the time they spend finding a solution to their clients' problems. The cost of that time is a function of their skills/experience. Translators "simply" turn a document from one language into another, and while the fees we charge must obviously reflect our own skills and experience, it is perfectly logical to use a fee system based on the content of the document, ie the number of words - something that both the translator and his client can agree on without too much argument.

This is almost always quantifiable - I recently told a potential customer who wanted me to provide a quote for proof-reading "40 pages of a web site" to come back when she had counted the words. Which she did.

Nevertheless, there is nothing to stop you charging your customers on an hourly basis, as long as you can persuade them to accept that - and indeed, I think that is a logical approach (which I sometimes adopt myself) for handling proof-reading and correction, copy-writing in a target language based on a brief written in the source language: or Powerpoint presentations....

On the other hand, I would be interested to learn how you present your bill to your customer: "To translating your company report - 10 hours at $40/hour" may not be detailed enough to satisfy him - or his company's auditors. The number of words can be ascertained quite easily - but how do you justify your 10 hours? Using the Word statistics function is possible - but pretty hit-and-miss.


 

Michael GREEN  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:55
English to French
... and another thing :-) Jul 30, 2010

Williamson wrote:

Asking the rate of other professionals per hour would (...) increase the standing of the profession


The only way to increase the standing of the profession is to increase the quality of the average translator's work - and some of the answers provided to Kudoz questions by "Proz certified pros" show that there is a long way to go yet ....

In the longer term, if translating is to be a "profession" with the same standing as, eg, lawyers, it must become a closed shop - nobody can set himself up as a doctor or lawyer without being a qualified member of the profession (but if he doesn't succeed, he can always become a translator ..).


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:55
Flemish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No problem for other freelancers. Jul 30, 2010

From a student in Translation “Translation indeed is a global market, and as a student it is simply unbelievable and very disturbing to read on fora like Proz how some colleagues are undermining the whole business” (by staunchly defending the Trados imposed reductions). Attending a master in Translation is harmful. So, a school like ESIT should do away its translation department.


My acquaintance, who has been working as a freelance programmer for various industries since 1995 has been writing 500 euro per day invoices based upon an hourly system with payment after 30 days since then and never has complaints. The audit departments of his customers, mainly big banks never had any problem. Moreover, most companies at non-management level work with hourly employees, so for their accounting departments, it should not be too difficult to understand that a freelancer wants to be paid by the hour.

In the past, instead of working as an employee, which would have been costly for the French company, I proposed that I would work on-site for the duration of the project at an hourly rate. They did not seem to make a problem about that. Sometimes it is cheaper to hire a freelancer than to employ a person full-time on a fixed contract.

Interpreters, who can not start overnight, also charge by half a day (of 4 hours) or a full day of 8 hours, per diems not included.

If you want to practice medicine or law, you first have to go to med-school or law school and only after graduation as an M.D. and in the case of a lawyer, bar exams you can start your professional career. Practicing medicine or law without the necessary qualifications would result in ending up in jail.

I for one, would not mind it the profession of translator would be regulated.


[Edited at 2010-07-31 04:11 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Someone beat you to it! Jul 31, 2010

Look at this lecture programmed for the forthcoming ProZ conference in Prague:

http://www.proz.com/conference/157?page=schedule&mode=details&session_id=4538

entitled "Time to start charging by the hour rather than by the word!"

So, there are colleagues among us here who already do this, and an agency for Williamson to work with!


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:55
Flemish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Cold-calling Aug 1, 2010

Thank you. However, end of September, I plan a round of cold-calling a list of companies and professionals in a certain sector.
Pays better, no usual issues like "native only", "best rates" and "trados-discounts".

I am not here to make "le grand mot", "le traducteur express" et "le loup de la pierre" de "le cygne de la mer" and other pennypinchers bigger than they already are.
I only work for agencies who offer a decent, read +0.10 eurocent p.w. rate.

Below a certain amount per annum, I'd rather be a wage-earner at a learning company, where I can put into practise as the freelancer the useful things, I've learned and make money, not amuse myself.



[Edited at 2010-08-01 16:43 GMT]


 

Michael GREEN  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:55
English to French
Cold-calling? Good luck... Aug 5, 2010

Williamson wrote:

However, end of September, I plan a round of cold-calling a list of companies and professionals in a certain sector.
Pays better, no usual issues like "native only", "best rates" and "trados-discounts".



Cold-calling (as any professional marketeer or salesperson will confirm) is a time-consuming, soul-destroying approach to obtaining new customers that should only be tried when all else has failed.

"All else" means a professional marketing strategy with advertising, direct mail etc to generate enquiries from prospects who have an interest in what you offer. You then have to convert those enquiries into sales, or customers. That is how I obtained my direct accounts, but it was a long haul. Cold calling means knocking on doors - actually or figuratively - of companies who haven't asked for your attention and in 99.9% of cases, don't want it.

I think it is worth bearing in mind that most companies of any size - able to place decent-sized orders for translations on a regular basis - need multi-lingual translations, which is why they go to agencies. With rare exceptions, they want single-source translation services rather than having a large number of different independent translators to deal with. Otherwise they employ them - and pay rotten wages.

But I'm just an ageing ex-marketeer on the verge of retirement, and I wouldn't want to put a damper on your enthusiasm.

As for revenues, I am too modest to be dissatisfied with my 4000-5000 Euros/month, of which 90% comes from agencies - but you may have other criteria.


 

Michael GREEN  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:55
English to French
The French have a saying for it ... Aug 5, 2010

"On ne peut pas être au four et au moulin" - you can't be in two places at once.

Prospecting is time-consuming as well as being frequently disheartening, and the time spent prospecting is time NOT spent translating - so regardless of the rates you charge (whether per hour/word/page/number of cups of coffee etc), if you spend 50% of your time prospecting, you are effectively dividing your fee rates in half.

This is the main reason why (having been down that route) I prefer to work for agencies - this may be anathema to many freelancers, who appear to look upon agencies as parasites who pay us low rates and add un-earned margins before selling our work to their customers - but my deal with agencies (I only work regularly for half-a-dozen) is that of a partnership: put simply, they do the prospecting, and I do the translating. It's a give and take relationship. I help them with assessing other translators' work, analysing web sites or whatever, and in return they give me repeat work for regular customers, and first refusal for new customers in my fields of expertise. Their upcharge to the customer covers their marketing and admin costs, plus a profit margin that I don't begrudge them because I prefer to have a full order book (and I turn down jobs every week) at lower rates, than work part-time at rates that may not be much higher than those of a good agency.

It's simple maths - a regular workload of 20,000 words/wk at (eg) 0.10 Euros/word brings in more revenue than an irregular workload of 10,000 words/wk at 0.15 Euros/word.

Secondly, prospecting to end-users who require the services of a translator inevitably means coming into competition with existing suppliers (agencies or other freelancers), and to get a foot in the door, you need to prove that your service has something more to offer - which often means a more competitive price (and in your case, mon cher Williamson, you are going to be talking rates per hour when the competition is probably on rates per word), until the customer has been able to evaluate the quality of your work (accuracy, responsiveness, respect of deadlines etc). It is not easy to persuade a potential customer to switch suppliers unless you have a very good series of arguments in your favour. And that's just ONE customer - you have to go through the whole process each time. An agency does that for you - it's their role.

However, we all have our own priorities and requirements, and while my strategy suits me, I recognise that it may not suit some of my colleagues.


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:55
Flemish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Der Hausübersetzer. Aug 6, 2010

The calls won't be so cold. I have other sources of translation needs than the translation portals like Proz.com and the agencies. Used these in the past and got a foot in the door at medium-sized German company. In fact, I was their on-line "Hausübersetzer".

I still see myself running around Brussels in 1988 with a CV in my hand ringing at agency doors. Wasn't that cold calling too?
When you were a marketeer, I was translating both for agencies at a price per line of 55 words, not per word or for this German company per hour. For the latter, I translated a lot of PowerPoint presentations. They usually paid after 14 days.
Another of "my sectors"works with "calls for tender" (no, it is not the E.U.). If you don't have the terminology, you can not jump on that sector overnight. If you are too cheap, you won't get the tender. I am of your generation, not a starter.

In the end, it is better to have a handful of repeat direct customers of whom you become the on-line translator. A quick profit versus a stable higher income on the long run.
I don't have any pressure on me to earn money quickly.
If need be, I can take a month or two to make publicity and not get frustrated because I earn nothing. I am not egocentric like most : one language combination, specialised in..., but work with a datebase of “we” (linguists+specialists in various fields).





[Edited at 2010-08-06 09:31 GMT]


 

Michael GREEN  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:55
English to French
On the whole, Williamson... Aug 7, 2010

I agree with your last post.

"I have other sources of translation needs than the translation portals like Proz.com and the agencies."

Quite. Proz.com certainly over-rates itself as a source of jobs/customers, however useful it may be as a place of debate/discussion or provider of glossaries and terminology.

"I still see myself running around Brussels in 1988 with a CV in my hand ringing at agency doors. Wasn't that cold calling too?"

Yes - and I certainly wouldn't / didn't find my agency customers through cold calling. But 1988 was a different world - the Internet as we know it today was in its infancy, and in those days, on top of my usual job, I was tearing my hair out correcting translations by professional translators who gave me such a poor image of the "profession" (if indeed it is a profession, rather than a craft or trade) that years later I decided that I could do at least as well, if not better. And I have made good money out of it, too.

"In the end, it is better to have a handful of repeat direct customers of whom you become the on-line translator."

That is indeed my policy with direct accounts - but most of my income still comes from agencies... and they too are "repeat customers" - and of course they are on-line.

"A quick profit versus a stable higher income on the long run."

I take that to mean that like me, you prefer a stable long-term income. That is why I accept the lower, but regular, revenues per word that I obtain from agencies. There are no quick profits in translating, as far as I know...

"I don't have any pressure on me to earn money quickly."

Then I can only congratulate you on your frugal and unworldly life-style, and I hope you never find yourself in the position of "needing to earn money quickly".

"I am not egocentric like most : one language combination, specialised in..., but work with a datebase of “we” (linguists+specialists in various fields)."

I don't see what is "egocentric" about having one language combination - it's the case of 99% of translators ... and a lot of us work with other colleagues on projects.

And now I am going to stop being boring, and duck out of this - and every other Proz forum - because contrary to the impression I may have given, I don't feel any pressing need to give my colleagues the benefit of my experience, and anyway I am retiring in less than 4 weeks.

Good luck for the future....

[Edited at 2010-08-08 08:16 GMT]


 
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