How do you tell the precise cost of a translation before starting to translate?
Thread poster: KKastenhuber

KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 18:58
Russian to German
+ ...
Aug 23, 2010

Hello,

I'm sorry if this has been discussed elsewhere, I did a quick search but couldn't find the kind of advice I'm looking for, so please, dear ProZ Community, help out a newbie.

I'm currently in the process of discussing conditions for a rather large literary translation project I want to do and find myself lacking experience for one particular question: My client has asked me to do a small part of the translation for starters (to "see how it goes" - which I am perfectly fine with - both me and my client are pretty new to this). We have agreed that I'm going to do this small amount, they'll pay me for it and if we're both happy with the result, they'll send more texts to be translated.

I'm trying to make sure that I'm definitely going to be paid, so I asked for a PO for this first small part of the translation, which among other things should state the price we agreed upon (per standard page in target language, as usual in literary translation). Now, they're asking me for a precise amount - a question I can relate to, but don't know how to react to.

What's the best way to deal with this?

1) Quickly make a first draft before getting the PO to roughly find out the amount and have them put it onto the PO? - Kind of makes the whole idea of a PO seem pointless.

2) Insist on the fact that I can't tell a precise amount right now and I'll only be able to tell precisely when the translation is done? - Seems unprofessional.

3) Estimate an amount and take the risk of "losing" money by not having estimated it correctly? - Seems to be the most practicable, but: Based on what should I estimate the final length of the target language text? (Yes, I know there are percentages and all, but every text ist different.) Plus an estimate is not exactly "precise"... would I be bound to charge the amount that I estimated (and that would therefore be stated on the PO) or could I still stick to the €/standard page we agreed upon?


Thanks in advance for any helpful responses.


 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:58
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
estimation Aug 23, 2010

Dear KKastenhuber,

If you and your client agreed to use the target text as basis for billing, then you'll have to live with the consequences. All you can give is an estimation (and you are obliged to do as good an estimation as you're able to produce). You're not bound to charge the estimated amount (within reasonable limits).

There simply is no way of including a final price in the PO when you're working on target text length. Just agree on a price for a well defined amount of target text, and tell the client how long you estimate the target text to be. Then, after completion of the translation, you bill for the actual amount of target text produced.

So, the answer to your client asking for a precise amount (in the sense of a lump sum for the translation) for issuing the PO would be: Sorry, you can't have that.

Best regards,
Erik


 

KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 18:58
Russian to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your response. Aug 23, 2010

Thank you for your response, Erik, it is very much appreciated.
I'll try to stick to this advice, it does seem the most reasonable.
I hope that after this "test run" both me and my client will have enough confidence in each other to make this work out and the (by far bigger) rest of the job will go smoothly.


 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:58
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
target vs. source text length Aug 23, 2010

Let me just add the obvious solution to this dilemma: Agree to bill according to source text length. That way, your client can be absolutely sure how much the translation is going to cost him.

 

KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 18:58
Russian to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thought about this Aug 23, 2010

efreitag wrote:

Let me just add the obvious solution to this dilemma: Agree to bill according to source text length. That way, your client can be absolutely sure how much the translation is going to cost him.


Obviously, for reasons of convenience I've thought about this, too. I did some research and found out it was not common for literary translation in the german speaking countries, and decided against it. I might be mistaken, though. (Oh, translation business, how you confuse me sometimes!)
I have to admit I'm already starting to regret the decision I took, but I guess now I'll (have to) go through with it.


 

Mario Gonzalez  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 09:58
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
+ ...
figure out percentages Aug 23, 2010

I have compared source and target files when I finish and typicaly they grow by between 15 and 25% in wordcount, sometimes I quote adding a % to the source count.

 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Aug 23, 2010

I think your customer would appreciate your honesty if you said "Sorry, I think source wordcount would be easier and fairer for both of us."

Mario: Presumably you're talking about English to Spanish, not Spanish to English, when you say they grow by 15% to 25%.


 

InfoMarex
Ireland
Local time: 17:58
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Pricing Aug 23, 2010

Dear KK,

Translation to German from English does not always result in a lower word count - most times yes, but not always.

If you are intent on pricing your translation according to the DE final wordcount, take 90% of the wordcount of the English text, and quote according to your rate.

Under NO circumstances are you to say "I shall do the book for X euro", and clearly indicate that once your translation is done, you must be asked to re-translate such and such a chapter. Your translation must NOT be subject to "editorial" review at the other end, and the text remains your copyright until you are fully paid for it and you formally handover the copyright. Of course, you will be named in the book as the translator.

Ideally, you should be paid a retained of approx. 30% before starting the work, as it will take a chunk of your year out of your calendar, and you must have sufficient in your account to feed the cat!

You should specify these details to the client, letting them prepare a PO, and seeing how much they "pick up" on your wishes and statement of conditions.

It would as appears you have agreed to do a chapter or so of the text. Agree a price - which you should clearly indicate is merely a tentative rate - and TIME yourself when doing the translation. Calculate your fee on time, on source word count and on target word count. Find out which is best, or make an average of the lot, and let that be your fee per word.
Kind regards,

Michael J McCann
InfoMarex


 

David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 18:58
German to English
+ ...
My approach Aug 23, 2010

I am often asked to quote a price for a translation into English. I very rarely go wrong if I count the German text, deduct 10% and then make a quote on that basis. If I'm wrong, it's my problem, but with a book obviously the risk seems greater (but then given its Length it's more likely to work out at the average): However: you don't say what languages are involved.

 

KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 18:58
Russian to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
yes, but Aug 23, 2010

philgoddard wrote:
I think your customer would appreciate your honesty if you said "Sorry, I think source wordcount would be easier and fairer for both of us."


I've thought about this. I'd rather not work on a wordcount basis, as it is clearly not standard among professional book translators here in Austria, but I've been thinking about a source text based approach. I can't help but feel for the client who wants to know how much the translation he's going to purchase will cost.


InfoMarex wrote:
Translation to German from English does not always result in a lower word count - most times yes, but not always.


First off, thank you for your post, that's some really useful advice!
I'm not translating from English, but from Russian (into German). I know that due to the compact structure of Russian (and the not very compact one of German), translations into German often result in longer texts. (A quick comparison of a few translations I have made for university range from 15-25% longer than the source text). I'm thinking I'll add 20% to the source text length to get an estimate.



Under NO circumstances are you to say "I shall do the book for X euro", and clearly indicate that once your translation is done, you must be asked to re-translate such and such a chapter. Your translation must NOT be subject to "editorial" review at the other end, and the text remains your copyright until you are fully paid for it and you formally handover the copyright. Of course, you will be named in the book as the translator.


Thankfully, my client is extremely friendly and has been open for any suggestions I have made so far, so I'm quite sure there won't come up any issues concerning those things.



It would as appears you have agreed to do a chapter or so of the text. Agree a price - which you should clearly indicate is merely a tentative rate - and TIME yourself when doing the translation. Calculate your fee on time, on source word count and on target word count. Find out which is best, or make an average of the lot, and let that be your fee per word.


Again, good advice. I don't plan on establishing a fee per word (seems to be more of an American/English thing) (?), but I will definitely consider your words.


 

Paula Morrison  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:58
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Quote per Source Text!!!!! Aug 24, 2010

Hi KK,

I agree with most of our colleagues.

It's very good that you ask these questions now because once you have negotiated, sometimes things can't be changed.

I have a couple of brief suggestions for the future:

1 - Do a proper word count of the SOURCE TEXT, since from there you will be quoting.
2 - Analyse terminology - Literary terms can be quite challenging and may take time.
3 - Check the format - Some clients have special instructions that can also can take time.
4 - Think about the time that translation will take you. It may be 500 words but if the terminology and the format (considering you are new at this) can take you time, you have to take that into account as well.
5 - Have a minimum fee for small translations. For example, for documents under 300 or 500 words of fields you feel confident with.

With this I am not trying to say that just for a small amount you have to charge a lot for the time, format and wordcount, but you would be surprised how long certain projects can take when despite being small, they have other issues to bear in mind.

Hope this is helpful and if you have a question, I would be very happy to help you.

Good luck!

Paula Morrison

------------------------------------------------------------

Paula Morrison

PM Translation & Interpreting Services

paula@pmtranslationservices.co.uk

www.pmtranslationservices.co.uk



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Cossette
Argentina
Local time: 13:58
English to Spanish
+ ...
Editorial Fees Aug 25, 2010

Hello Everyone!

I know that fees in the editorial market are lower than in the technical. Well, sometimes the difference is huge. My question here is how to charge per word to an editorial which asks me for about 8,000-word medical translations? It's not the same as a book which has about 50,000. But it's still an editorial, so one doesn't know what to do to be in the market, and have chances to be considered for a translation job!

Thank you in advance for your helful responses!!
Regards,
Laura


 


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