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How does word count work? Help please
Thread poster: bello82

bello82
Local time: 02:35
English to Italian
+ ...
Dec 2, 2013

Dear professionals,

I am still a student and still new with regard to the translation profession. II thought I could ask some professionals here. I have been given assignments by a company: I will have to translate their FAQ pages into Italian and I see it as a great opportunity to gain experience. The assignments are obviously paid.

They have sent me some Excel files and they counted 12, 555 words. Column A has the English text between tags for HTML purposes and they also took repetitions into account. There are some portions of text that have 4 words in English in column A but when I translate into Italian it becomes 7 words in Column B; 76 words in English become 95 in Italian.

I am not sure how I will get paid. Will they pay me by the word count they decided? Or do I have to send an estimate by the new word count that comes up when I translate?
Could you please clarify that for me?


 

Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:35
Member (2009)
French to English
Clarify before starting Dec 2, 2013

No matter what they pay you, you need to establish this in writing BEFORE you start translation. It should come out to a good hourly wage for a professional in your area whether it is expressed in source or target words, characters, lines, cells, or a per project basis.

 

bello82
Local time: 02:35
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jenn for your reply Dec 2, 2013

I am just trying to understand how it usually works. it doesn't really matter how and how much they pay for me. I have a nice job and am still studying, so I don't need the money. I am doing it out of passion for languages. I would like to learn how word counts really works.

 

PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:35
English to Polish
+ ...
Clarify Dec 2, 2013

To emphasise part of Jenn's response:

There are two common ways of getting paid for a written translation:
by volume of the SOURCE text (that way you know before you finish what you expect to get)

or

by volume of the TARGET text (which is known only when you have completed your translation).

You need to agree one of the two with the client.
Bear in mind that there will always be differences in the word count between two languages - some languages are more "wordy" than others.
For example, Polish text is always a bit longer than corresponding English text.
I think that getting paid for target text is more common - you actually get paid for the keystrokes you committed.

HTH,
Pawel Skalinski

[Edited at 2013-12-02 16:50 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:35
Member (2008)
Italian to English
So.... Dec 2, 2013

bello82 wrote:

I am just trying to understand how it usually works. it doesn't really matter how and how much they pay for me. I have a nice job and am still studying, so I don't need the money. I am doing it out of passion for languages. I would like to learn how word counts really works.


So why not just do it for nothing? Why even worry about how much you should charge?



[Edited at 2013-12-02 17:00 GMT]


 

Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:35
English to Dutch
+ ...
Oh please, Tom... Dec 2, 2013

Let's be grateful that a student/amateur is taking this seriously. Too many jobs have been taken off the professional market (often with desastrous results) bij low flying bottom feeders.

So, to answer the OPs question:
You can negotiate anything you want with a client - when both parties agree, you're in. If not, you're not.
In the fields where I usually roam (technical, IT), counting by source word is much more usual than by target word. That way the client knows what he's going to pay and the translator knows (more or less) how long the translation will take him/

By all means, do NOT accept any rate below, say 9 eurocents per word, unless you want to spoil the market even more for professionals who DO need the money.


 

bello82
Local time: 02:35
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to all for your replies Dec 2, 2013

Thank you Pawel,

your answer was really helpful. This time I will stick to the word count by the source language. To be honest with you, I don't want to act as the professional translator who starts claiming and negotiating things because I am not a professional translator. I took a test and they liked my translation , so I am grateful to them that they haven given me a chance and they are paying me (they could have given it to someone else) and besides, I would like to learn how this business works.

To Tom,

the reason I do not do it for free is because I work and am studying as well; this would take my time. I don't care about the money as I mentioned above but a bit of remuneration makes you feel valued and appreciated.

I am not a professional and never applied for this assignment, so my intention was never to deprive professional translators of the chance of applying. They had a professional translator who was translating into Italian but her translations were way too literal from English, even the same sentence structure and she studied at one of the best Italian universities, the University of Forli' (you should know it because you lived in Italy if I am not wrong). So they looked for me and gave me a test to take and I passed it; they liked my translation and they gave me a chance. Why shall I do it for free when that so-called professional wasn't even able to do it?icon_smile.gif

To Jan,

thank you very much for your answer. I will take that into account.

[Edited at 2013-12-02 17:48 GMT]


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:35
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Source words Dec 2, 2013

The document you receive for translation is the source text. The translated document you deliver is the target text. The most common practice is to charge for the number of words in the source document.

[Edited at 2013-12-02 18:32 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:35
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Apologies if you already know some of this Dec 2, 2013

Firstly, congratulations on your first "real" jobicon_smile.gif. It's quite a big one for a first, so I hope you've done lots of checking to make sure they're legit and likely to pay.
bello82 wrote:
They have sent me some Excel files and they counted 12, 555 words.

They clearly intend that to be the agreed word count. It is indeed the most common for files that are countable. Target word count is possible for PDFs or hand-written texts, but normally the client likes to know the price before committing to the job. It also prevents unscrupulous translators padding out the target text.
Will they pay me by the word count they decided? Or do I have to send an estimate by the new word count that comes up when I translate?

They'll expect to pay you that, unless you challenge it. You should always check the word count for anything but the most regular and trusted of clients. So, do you agree with the count? If not, query it with them, but do it before you start work.

What about the rate per word? It should be you who sets that rate, not your client. Some agencies seem to think it's their job to dictate the rate - well, it isn't! In the end, of course, you either negotiate a mutually-acceptable rate or you don't do the job. But don't let clients force you to accept their rate.

Have you agreed on a deadline? They may have an absolute deadline for you to accept or refuse. Or they may ask for your earliest delivery date. Again, don't accept anything unreasonable just because they tell you to! Better to refuse a job than fail to deliver on time, every time.

Two last points: 1) Make sure you agree on payment methods and who will pay for any possible charges (normally each accepts their own end's charges), and when the last payment date will be (30 days is standard, 45 is common, 60+ is unacceptable, IMHO); 2) Make sure you have all the information you need to invoice them before you start work. Some companies have a nasty tendency to go quiet once they have the translation. You'll need their proper name and full postal address (even if you're invoicing by PDF), and possibly their tax details.

Definitely lastlyicon_wink.gif, make sure you have everything in writing (email is OK), including their go-ahead to do the work, before you start work.


 

bello82
Local time: 02:35
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Michele ans Sheila Dec 2, 2013

Thank you for your replies.

they gave me two weeks as a deadline as they understood there is a lot to translate.
I do not work as a translator so I don't really know how much I should charge. They are giving me 0.11£ per word, any good?

I cannot really invoice anything because you start invoicing in the UK after a certain amount. I have just registered as a self-employed because I am starting as a freelance online teacher but I still cannot invoice anything. I guess I have to send them a pro forma or request for payment.

It is a well-know company in the UK and they pay upon receiving an invoice. I trust them because I have dealt with them before with regard to other matters.

Thank you for your piece of advice. I really appreciate it

[Edited at 2013-12-02 18:57 GMT]


 

Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:35
Member (2003)
French to English
Invoicing Dec 3, 2013

bello82 wrote:

I cannot really invoice anything because you start invoicing in the UK after a certain amount. I have just registered as a self-employed because I am starting as a freelance online teacher but I still cannot invoice anything. I guess I have to send them a pro forma or request for payment.



Hi,
I think you might be confusing invoicing and your tax liability. If you're registered as self-employed then you do need to invoice the client (and they'll need you to anyway, for their records) and the income will ultimately go on your tax return for this tax year, but you shouldn't be charged tax on it if your total earnings (from self-employment and any employment) come in below your personal tax allowance for the year (£9440 for 2013-14). Talk to HMRC if in doubt!

Karen


 

bello82
Local time: 02:35
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Invoicing Dec 3, 2013

Thank you Karen.

So, I still have to invoice then even if I don't have to charge VAT.
Great , thank you very much


 

Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 23:35
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
Recommed me for Spanish and I'll be there with bells on! :) Dec 4, 2013

they gave me two weeks as a deadline as they understood there is a lot to translate. I do not work as a translator so I don't really know how much I should charge. They are giving me 0.11£ per word, any good?


Jokes apart, for your pair, that converts to EUR 0.13, which is indeed a rate that sounds too good to be true considering your pair and experience (for comparison, the current average rate for En>It reported by about 7000 colleagues is just EUR 0.09).

It's definitely strange to me that, with that budget and time-frame (since there's ample time to complete the assignment), they didn't choose someone with more experience... just in case, I would double check the company (in various payment practices lists and in the Blue Board here) and all the details provided in their purchase order. (PM me if you want me to look them up here, that section is only available to members).

Metrics-wise, if they provided a wordcount they are definitely expecting to pay according to that, but I wouldn't go ahead without a clear fixed total for the entire project.


 

bello82
Local time: 02:35
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You are right : it sounds too good to be true Dec 4, 2013

You are right Rossana: it sounds too good to be true. It does because my partner, who is Spanish like you 😃, works as a manager of one department, so that's why they know me. I have always been going to staff gatherings. As I said, they liked how I translated and wanted to give me an opportunity to develop myself as they love my partner too, who does a great job in the company .

In Italy we use the Latin expression "Carpe Diem". Having a great deal of experience doesn't mean one is good at translating. As I mentioned in the previous posts, they had an Italian translator who was translating too literally but she didn't understand the source language well either, in this case English.

They had the same problem with the Spanish translator; she was translating incorrectly and apparently she had a lot of experience. I give you an example : she translated " football away-fans" as " los visitantes de lejos". The company wasn't happy about it.

I speak Spanish at an intermediate level and I would have translated it as " Los hinchas visitantes" which sounds perfectly logical to me. She was also translating using the same sentence structure as in English and the passive constructions , which Romance languages do not use a lot, at least not when you are required to stick to simple, down-to-earth language.

That's why I don't believe that having plenty of experience automatically implies that one is brilliant at their jobs. 😃


 

Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 23:35
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
By all means... Dec 4, 2013

if you can command such a rate and you know for sure they're good for their word (which I guess you do since you have an inside contact), then by all means, don't hesitate!

Funny you should use, "Carpe diem", because the full saying, "Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero", is roughly translated as "Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow". That's what I was aiming at; the risk assurance part of this whole business.

That's why I don't believe that having plenty of experience automatically implies that one is brilliant at their jobs.


Indeed; you will find many lousy translators in the course of your professional life. You will also probably find, say, lousy doctors. And yet, you wouldn't want to be operated on by a surgeon who didn't attend medical school and had no experience. So, although formal studies and experience are not the be-all and end-all of our profession, they sure are good indicators.


 
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