Price to ask for a 20-page literary translation for non-commercial purposes
Thread poster: EnricaNA

EnricaNA
Local time: 20:56
English to Italian
+ ...
Mar 20, 2013

Hello everybody,

I am a graduate student in Translation (University of Bologna at Forlì, Italy), a few months away from getting my MA, and I already have a BA in Translation and Interpreting. I have recently been asked to translate from English into Italian a 20-page excerpt from a novel on 16th century Italian art. The excerpt is a very long monologue, and my client is an American post-doctorate who does acting and would like to learn the monologue in Italian and perform it in an informal setting in Italy later this year. He's asked and obtained permission from both the author and the publisher. However, we both are unsure about pricing. I myself have never done such a long literary translation work, being still a student; my mentor suggested $20 per double-spaced page, but she wasn't sure either. Most importantly, my client is paying out of his own pocket and might not be willing to pay such a price (it would turn out to be close to $400 for a non-commercial translation).

Do you have any suggestion? This guy cares a lot about this project and I really want to help him in the best way possible, including asking for a reasonable price even if it were lower than I could expect.

Thank you for your help!

Enrica


 

lisa kramer taruschio  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:56
Italian to English
Formulate negotiable estimate by word count Mar 20, 2013

Enrica, to get to a somewhat objective starting point in finding a fee for this fellow, figure this way: start with a per word count (on Word from source text); for someone who can pay but isn't rich, the fee might be might be .10 euro cents per word (figured on the source text).

[In my opinion, page estimates are worthless pie in the sky because a page means too many different things to different people, involves endless calculation (by character, by line, by word--a real hassle].

Once you arrive at the .10 euro cents fee for the whole job, scale it down to as low as you are willing to go--.05 cents per word, for example.

There are no hard and fast rules to setting fees. But a price per word is a good place to start because it's streamlined and easy to understand and calculate for both translator and client. (Patti chiari, amicizia lunga.) Just don't go so low that you no longer believe in the job and feel you are not being recompensed adequately.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:56
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Charge an editing rate, and the pay an editor Mar 20, 2013

EnricaNA wrote:
However, we both are unsure about pricing. I myself have never done such a long literary translation work, being still a student; my mentor suggested $20 per double-spaced page, but she wasn't sure either.


USD 20 per page works out to USD 0.10 per word (very roughly), and the "community average" rate for English-Italian at ProZ.com is USD 0.11 per word. And the "community average" rate is at the low end of the market already.

Look, you have all the time in the world to do this job, right? Do 500 words per day, and pay an editor to edit/review it for you. This way it becomes a learning exercise for you. You are a student, after all.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:56
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi,. I think $0.10 is too little for a specialized Art History piece of writing Mar 20, 2013

I would personally charge about $0.15/word, which is still quite a low rate for that type of writing. Every detail is important, if it is to be used for a thesis, and it has to be written really well.

I would not charge by page -- this can create confusion. Some clients think that a single-spaced page (about 400 words) is still a page only. I would definitely charge by word.

About $500-600 will be very fair.


 

Kipale78
Italy
Local time: 20:56
English to Italian
+ ...
Always specify your price in your currency Mar 20, 2013

Just as a side note: always name your price in your currency, in this case Euros. Otherwise you also take upon yourself the risk of fluctuations + conversion fees. Personally, I learnt the hard way.

My 2 cents.

Also, consider that the language might be very difficult, and that it might need to be adapted by an expert, so that it is really "readable" aloud. That's very important when it comes to act. Although hugely underrated by non-performers.

Buon lavoro!

Alberto


 

Stuart Hoskins
Local time: 20:56
Czech to English
+ ...
you're doing each other a favour Mar 20, 2013

When I was a student (over 20 years ago), I translated a reasonably well-known Czech play for a cash-strapped English theatre group - they wanted their own version from me so that they would hold copyright (to avoid royalties). They paid an absolutely minimal amount, but for me (as a student) it was a great challenge and I got a superb reference for my CV when I was starting out.
If it were me, then, I'd aim low rather than as high as possible because simply having such a reference will be worth thousands of euro (lira?) in the long run and you'll make a friend for life.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
Pie in the sky Mar 20, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

EnricaNA wrote:
However, we both are unsure about pricing. I myself have never done such a long literary translation work, being still a student; my mentor suggested $20 per double-spaced page, but she wasn't sure either.


USD 20 per page works out to USD 0.10 per word (very roughly), and the "community average" rate for English-Italian at ProZ.com is USD 0.11 per word. And the "community average" rate is at the low end of the market already.

Look, you have all the time in the world to do this job, right? Do 500 words per day, and pay an editor to edit/review it for you. This way it becomes a learning exercise for you. You are a student, after all.



Going by my own rates for Spanish-English translation, I'd say that the 11 cent rate proposed as "community average" for Italian must in many cases be mere wishful thinking. My own REAL rates are currently 8 cents a word, which I consider fair to average for Spain. I'd hazard a guess that most people claiming to charge 10 or 11 cents a word are also giving discounts for reps (which I don't do), so at the end of the day we will be making more or less the same. It's all subjective.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Do you see it as the start of your career? Mar 20, 2013

EnricaNA wrote:
I am a graduate student
. . .
my client is an American post-doctorate
. . .
my client is paying out of his own pocket
. . .
This guy cares a lot about this project


Those extracts from your post make me think that perhaps you don't see this as the start of your career. It sounds rather as though you want to help this person first and foremost; secondly it will be good experience; thirdly, you'll be getting some money in. At the same time, you don't want to do yourself and the industry a disfavour by agreeing to a professional job for ludicrously low pay. Is that how you see it? Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

If I've assessed the situation correctly, I think the next most important point to consider is whether this client will himself be making profit from your translation, or whether anyone else will benefit from it financially. If so, then you really ought to charge professional rates. You can't let other people profit from your labour without sharing in that profit.

If there simply isn't a profit element, I think you really have the right to charge whatever you want. Later, when you're acting as a professional freelancer, you need to earn professional rates. For now, you're a student. You've been translating for free during your studies, even paying the college, although I wouldn't imagine they are selling your work on (I hope not, unless you're benefiting from that sale).

However, there's one last point to consider: your time. What would you be doing if you weren't spending time on this translation? If you'd be working in a shop or in other paid employment, you ought to cover that loss of earnings.

What I'm trying to say is that you can prepare for a career as a business person by starting today to think of rates more seriously. It isn't just "what's the market rate?" or "what can the client afford?". These might determine what we charge for individual jobs, but in the end, if the market rates and our clients' pockets don't provide us with enough to live on then we're in big trouble. You need also to factor in "how much do I need to earn?".


 

EnricaNA
Local time: 20:56
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I am in the US, so ok with dollars right now Mar 21, 2013

Kipale78 wrote:

Just as a side note: always name your price in your currency, in this case Euros. Otherwise you also take upon yourself the risk of fluctuations + conversion fees.


The reason I named the price in dollars is that I'm currently based in the United States (although not for much longer), so I can easily cash a check with no additional fees or have the money directly deposited on my American account. But yeah, Alberto, you're absolutely right, and I'm going to think in terms of euros as well.


 

EnricaNA
Local time: 20:56
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all! Mar 21, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Those extracts from your post make me think that perhaps you don't see this as the start of your career. It sounds rather as though you want to help this person first and foremost; secondly it will be good experience; thirdly, you'll be getting some money in. At the same time, you don't want to do yourself and the industry a disfavour by agreeing to a professional job for ludicrously low pay. Is that how you see it? Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

If I've assessed the situation correctly, I think the next most important point to consider is whether this client will himself be making profit from your translation, or whether anyone else will benefit from it financially. If so, then you really ought to charge professional rates. You can't let other people profit from your labour without sharing in that profit.

If there simply isn't a profit element, I think you really have the right to charge whatever you want. Later, when you're acting as a professional freelancer, you need to earn professional rates. For now, you're a student. You've been translating for free during your studies, even paying the college, although I wouldn't imagine they are selling your work on (I hope not, unless you're benefiting from that sale).

However, there's one last point to consider: your time. What would you be doing if you weren't spending time on this translation? If you'd be working in a shop or in other paid employment, you ought to cover that loss of earnings.

What I'm trying to say is that you can prepare for a career as a business person by starting today to think of rates more seriously. It isn't just "what's the market rate?" or "what can the client afford?". These might determine what we charge for individual jobs, but in the end, if the market rates and our clients' pockets don't provide us with enough to live on then we're in big trouble. You need also to factor in "how much do I need to earn?".


Yes, your assessment is correct, although I wouldn't go as far as to say that helping this person (whom I don't know personally, I just got referenced by a common acquaintance) is my main priority; the three factors are mixed.
But no, there is no profit element for this person, at least that I know of. So you think I can negotiate a price with him and find a compromise between what we both look for, without necessarily establishing a definite criterion to measure the price (as in per word, per page, etc.)?

Anyway, thank you everybody for your feedback, which will definitely help me ask for a reasonable price!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Define the job and the price Mar 21, 2013

EnricaNA wrote:
So you think I can negotiate a price with him and find a compromise between what we both look for, without necessarily establishing a definite criterion to measure the price (as in per word, per page, etc.)?

I would say so, yes, in this specific case. That would be my personal opinion.

Although be very careful to establish exactly what the job entails. There has to be a limit in terms of time spent, or the number of words translated, or rounds of discussion (they can get out of hand, believe me!) that will enable you to legitimately say "Stop! I've done what I agreed to do for the price.". And don't forget to make it clear to your client how and when he needs to pay you, as well as how much. He may be getting it cheap, but you still want on-time payment, and you don't want to use a method that's going to make more profit for the intermediary (e.g. bank) than for you!


 

Ros Schwartz
Local time: 19:56
French to English
Rates for literary translation Mar 21, 2013

The Translators Association of the Society of Authors has a minimum 'observed' rate (we're not allowed to set rates) of 88.50 GBP per 1000 words. It is up to you to agree on a fee that your client can afford and you find acceptable. Most of us have a sliding scale depending on a whole range of factors.

For advice on contractual issues and fees: http://www.societyofauthors.org/translators-association


Ros Schwartz


 

EnricaNA
Local time: 20:56
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Mar 21, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Although be very careful to establish exactly what the job entails. There has to be a limit in terms of time spent, or the number of words translated, or rounds of discussion (they can get out of hand, believe me!) that will enable you to legitimately say "Stop! I've done what I agreed to do for the price.". And don't forget to make it clear to your client how and when he needs to pay you, as well as how much. He may be getting it cheap, but you still want on-time payment, and you don't want to use a method that's going to make more profit for the intermediary (e.g. bank) than for you!



You've been very helpful! Now I have a better idea of what factors I should take into account.


 


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