Invoicing and word count
Thread poster: PGarciaJones

PGarciaJones  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
Aug 29, 2011

Hi there,

I completed an assignment for an agency last week (my first one with an agency as I have only recently established myself as a full-time freelancer). As it was a court case, the original document had been scanned and saved as a jpg file. Before accepting the job, they told me it was an 8,000-word document and I agreed to a price per 1,000 words.

As I am not able to do a word count on the computer, I did it manually to double-check before sending out the invoice and it turns out that the total number of words is 5,200.

I would appreciate some advice as to whether I should say something about it. I believe in being honest but I am taking a big pay cut on the rate that I requested and the one that I was offered so I am not sure about what to do.

Thank you!



Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:26
Italian to English
Honesty pays Aug 29, 2011

Or more precisely, dishonesty tends to cost you in the long run.

If you agreed a lump sum with the agency, you might just about be able to justify charging the full amount but, if it was just the rate per 1,000 words, I should come clean.

Agencies like dealing with people they can trust - in all respects.

You could always ask whether, if they quoted the end client a lump sum, there was room to adjust the agreed rate closer to your normal one, in view of the fact that the job was not as profitable as they had originally suggested.

Incidentally, there are much less labour intensive ways of doing a wordcount. They have been discussed previously (e.g. here: ) so I won't repeat them but send me a message through my profile if you need more detailed help.

Good luck


Sandra Peters-Schöbel
Local time: 06:26
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Are you sure? Aug 29, 2011

I agree that it should be fair on both sides, so if I encounter that an agency did a wrong calculation I usually tell them.
But most of my agencies send me a detailed Trados wordcount, so I actually do not check that again...

Nevertheless, are you sure that your manual counting is correct? that is not a very handy method.
I could try converting your original document with ABBYY Fine reader into word and see what comes out, if you like. Just send it to my via

If I am dealing with PDF documents I am counting the final target text, as you always have tables or images not converted into text...
And when I am translating official certificates etc. I try to charge per hour, as the layout work is often taking time, while the pure text is only a few hundred words...

So I would try to get another count on your document do check if the agency really is wrong, if so, you should be honest and tell them..

I hope that helps,


Dave Bindon  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:26
Member (2010)
Greek to English
As above... Aug 29, 2011

As Sandra said, are you sure you've counted correctly? Doing a word-count on your translated text, how close to 5,200 are you? If the difference is greater than 4-5% then I think you need to have another look at the source (and take advantage of Sandra's offer to run the source through ABBY).

As for honesty... Yes, be honest (but make sure the honesty doesn't make you a "doormat"!). Before you invoice for 5,200 words at the rate-per-1000 you originally quoted, ask yourself:

Would you have quoted the same rate if you had known it was only 5,200 words?

Were you fully aware that the source text was in jpg format when you quoted? If not, how does the additional time spent formatting 5,200 words compare to the total time you'd have spent translating an 8,000 word pre-formatted Word document?

Once you're sure of the number of source words, look at how long you spent in total not just translating, but also agreeing the contract, setting up the files, formatting the text (and don't forget about invoicing). Compare this Euros-per-hour ratio to what you were expecting when you quoted. If it's lower, go back to the client and say "The number of source words is lower than you said. Because of factors X, Y, and Z my original quote per 1000 would have been higher, so I will still charge the same total price for the translation. I hope that's OK". Decent clients will be very happy with that. Others might haggle for a discount, but DON'T accept a pro-rata discount without a (polite) fight!

And remember: we provide a service that they (clients and agencies) need. We are businesses, and we set our own rates. They are customers, not employers.


LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:26
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Are you billing on source or target words? Aug 29, 2011

If you are billing on target words, what is exactly is the issue? It cost the agency less than they thought, possibly (but not necessarily) the customer spent less than they thought, and you spent less time than you were going to working for a rate that you weren't exactly thrilled with. Seems like everyone came out ahead vs. the original scenario, so I'm not sure I understand the problem.

Or did you agree to a billing based on the presumed 8000 source words? It's pretty clear-cut if an obvious oversight has resulted in, say the same document in a batch being scanned twice, but here it's a bit murky. Do you want to work for them again? How much of a discount did they force on you?

However, are you sure that they were not simply using the 8000 as a reference figure and are actually expecting you to submit an invoice based on final target count? This is a far more common scenario for scanned documents than for an agency to base a fixed lump sum on a round figure like "8000 words". Usually they'll run an ocr/count themselves and come up with a specific figure that you can agree or disagree with.

[Edited at 2011-08-29 18:42 GMT]


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 22:26
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Target word count Aug 29, 2011

In the past, if the agency could not give me an accurate source word count, I used to agree to go by the target word count (even though in my language pair that put me at a disadvantage). However, since I have ABBYY converter, that is no longer necessary. I would thoroughly recommend it - it's not terribly expensive. I must warn you, though, that in one case, in the time it took me to convert the document and give a quote, the agency had already assigned the job to someone else! So respond first, convert second.


PGarciaJones  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
Thanks a lot Aug 29, 2011

Hi everyone,

Thank you very much for your thoughts and advice. I am sure about the word count and indeed we agreed on a fixed rate per 1,000 source words. The e-mail they received from the client (which they copied to me) stated that the job consisted of 8,000 words in English to be translated into Spanish so I am not sure as to whether they will be invoicing the client for 8,000 words or not.

However, in the interest of professional integrity, I would prefer to be open and honest with them and to gently request their advice as to the final amount that I should invoice them for, stating the fact that the reduced rate we agreed upon was a direct result of the 8,000 words that the document was supposed to contain. I think I will leave it up to them to decide what I should do and if I need to take a pay cut in order to keep my options open for the future, then I will need to bithe the bullet and do so.

I am still learning about the many different aspects of freelancing...and it looks like nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems.




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