Technical translation - How much to charge
Thread poster: Anne-Renée Bouchard

Anne-Renée Bouchard
Canada
Local time: 13:51
English to French
May 3, 2014

I am a student (still 3 classes until I get my degree).

I have been approach to translate a user manual for unmanned air vehicle from French to English.

There are about 10 000 words in the document. I am not sure how much I should charge the company.

I would like some advice.


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ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 20:51
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Here it is. May 3, 2014

1. Go to the 'Tools' menu at the top of the ProZ page.
2. Click on 'Community rates' which gives the statistical rate information.
3. Look up the rates corresponding to the language pair.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
More important questions May 3, 2014

Considering that you are just beginning in the profession (correctly me if I am wrong), the main question here is not what you should charge, but:

- Should I tell the customer that I have no experience? [my opinion: definitely!]

- Do I know enough about aviation / mechanics / engines / technology / military (assuming the vehicle is for military purposes) to translate this manual?

- How long will it take me to do this work with my present knowledge/experience? [my opinion: 10-12 days at a minimum, working 8 hours/day]

I do not mean to discourage you, just to help you step back for a moment and try to see the full picture. This way you will avoid the risk of messing up the job and ruining a potential long-term cooperation with the customer.


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:51
Member (2003)
French to English
Professional ethics May 4, 2014

All of us, whether we're just starting out or have been in the profession for years, need to ask ourselves some questions when we're offered a job. One of those, as Tomás indicates, is "Do I have the knowledge, skills, resources and time to do the job, and do it to a professional standard?" Another is "What are the consequences of getting this wrong?" You can look at the codes of conduct of the professional bodies (such as CIOL and ITI in the UK or the ATA in the US) for guidance, even if you're not a member.

A "user manual for an unmanned air vehicle" sounds like a highly specialized text and you need to be 100% confident that you can handle it to a professional standard – and to be honest, I'd want to look very carefully at a company that's offering this kind of work to someone who isn't yet qualified or experienced.


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Egils Turks  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 20:51
English to Latvian
+ ...
100% May 4, 2014

Karen Stokes wrote:
...
A "user manual for an unmanned air vehicle" sounds like a highly specialized text and you need to be 100% confident that you can handle it to a professional standard ...


If I waited for 100% confidence, I would never start a single translation job!
Working makes a doer.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 18:51
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Professional ethics May 4, 2014

Karen Stokes wrote:

All of us, whether we're just starting out or have been in the profession for years, need to ask ourselves some questions when we're offered a job. One of those, as Tomás indicates, is "Do I have the knowledge, skills, resources and time to do the job, and do it to a professional standard?" Another is "What are the consequences of getting this wrong?" You can look at the codes of conduct of the professional bodies (such as CIOL and ITI in the UK or the ATA in the US) for guidance, even if you're not a member.

A "user manual for an unmanned air vehicle" sounds like a highly specialized text and you need to be 100% confident that you can handle it to a professional standard – and to be honest, I'd want to look very carefully at a company that's offering this kind of work to someone who isn't yet qualified or experienced.



I have been translating for over 30 years and I would need to have a good look at this manual before accepting or refusing (most probably) the job... It's not easy for a novice translator to land the first job, but it's far better to start with a job well done for a client, who might come back to you if he was satisfied with your work.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:51
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My 2 cents May 4, 2014

abouchar wrote:
There are about 10 000 words in the document. I am not sure how much I should charge the company.

It's really very difficult to say, so the figure I give is really just a guesstimate, but I'd say you should be looking at around 1500 CAD. That's for translation only. You might want to include extra for a professional proofreader as it's your first assignment.

Now, that's an awful lot of money for a first job, particularly bearing in mind that you won't (presumably) be able to work full time, so you'll be working for a long time before you see the colour of this client's money. Of course, you could try for an advance payment but I wouldn't rate your chances very highly. So, it's a client you may not know (you say they approached you - it would be interesting to know what the basis was for that), and one you haven't worked for before. Do you have any evidence they pay on time? If it's an agency, perhaps you can check their record on the Blue Board here or on similar sites' listings.

If it's simply a contact out of the blue, then you really have to wonder why they chose you. I'm afraid it could be that they think you won't act as cautiously as an experienced translator. With your training, you'll probably do a passable job, but will they pay you a passable rate at the end of the day?

One comment, if I may, about the difference between what you've been taught to do, and what you should do as a professional freelance translator. Without knowing anything about your training, all I can do is guess that you've been taught to translate in all subject areas, in both directions between French and English and maybe in other language pairs too. That would be normal and a very useful grounding. However, it's something that virtually no professional translator does.

An in-house translator may work in all their language pairs but in a very restricted subject area; so might a freelancer with a niche specialism. But a client looking for a freelancer who works in your pairs has many thousands of professionals to choose from, so they expect each of us to do what we do best, and only what we do best. That's why there's the endless debate about "native language". Most of us write in one language better than we write in our other(s), even if we speak perfectly fluently in the other(s), so clearly that's the one that should be the target language; and for most of us that's our native language, although it's important to acknowledge that there are exceptions to that rule.

Maybe you want to start general, as you may not really have any specialisations yet. That's fine, but it would be wise to start on material that isn't too technical, and/or small jobs with fast feedback from agencies where you know your work will be proofread by subject specialists.


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KateKaminski
Local time: 18:51
German to English
Non-members can't see those rates May 4, 2014

ATIL KAYHAN wrote:

1. Go to the 'Tools' menu at the top of the ProZ page.
2. Click on 'Community rates' which gives the statistical rate information.
3. Look up the rates corresponding to the language pair.


I would say charge around CAD 0.15 per word. Have the translation proofread by an expert in the field before handing it over to the client.

It does not matter if you are a student or have been translating / building unmanned air vehicles for the past 30 years. You simply need to be able to provide a professional, accurate translation for the customer.


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Ala Barkar  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:51
Member (2015)
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Check the rates of other translators May 4, 2014

Perhaps the field is too difficult for a beginner, maybe you should start with something easier. I also started translating when I was a student and now when I read my old translations I see some silly mistakes that I made due to the lack of experience. If you still want to accept the order, you should analyse what are the rates of other translators of this pair in Canada. When I just started my rates were very low and I think this is how it should be. In any other occupation on the world you start with little money, even in large international companies; there often is a probation period, and only then step by step you gain experience along with the increase in your salary. It took a lot of time and hard work to feel confident in what I am doing and only then could I increase my rates.

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DLyons  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 18:51
Spanish to English
+ ...
Technical translation can have consequences. May 4, 2014

Egils Turks wrote:

Karen Stokes wrote:
...
A "user manual for an unmanned air vehicle" sounds like a highly specialized text and you need to be 100% confident that you can handle it to a professional standard ...


If I waited for 100% confidence, I would never start a single translation job!
Working makes a doer.


What if the vehicle crashes and kills someone?


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 19:51
Danish to English
+ ...
Charge a decent rate or don't take on the job May 4, 2014

In my humble view, it really doesn't matter whether you are a student or a professional translator with many years' experience: either you are capable of doing a professional job or you are not.

If you are, charge a decent rate.

If you are not, you shouldn't take on the job. UNLESS the client is fully aware that you are not capable of finishing the job completely on your own, and they expect to have to do some post-translation editing and proofreading themselves. If this is the case, you should make sure this is agreed clearly before you start working on the translation, so that you don't end up with an unfortunate situation where the client claims that the job needed so much post-editing that they refuse to pay you...


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Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:51
Spanish to English
+ ...
Reviewer May 5, 2014

First check to make sure that you will be paid. Then ask a highly experienced technical translator how much they would ask to review your work. (maybe one of your professors can recommend someone, or maybe you can find someone on ProZ.com. Add this person's per-word fee to a relatively small one that you would keep for yourself, and quote this as your charge to the client. In other words, the client will pay a good solid rate for work that is first translated by you, and then thoroughly reviewed by an expert. They will be happy with the result, and you will earn some money, plus have access to the changes and corrections made by your reviewer. You'll be off to a great start. Good luck! -- Sorry, I see that Kate made the same point previously. Well, I second her opinion

[Edited at 2014-05-05 01:56 GMT]


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:51
Russian to English
+ ...
Are you able to translate the text--accurately? May 5, 2014

It does not matter, whether you are a student, or have a PhD, if you can translate the text really well. If you can't--you cannot charge anything, but rather decline the job. That rates for technical translation are somewhere in the range of $0.12-0.30/word, in my experience. If you are able to translate the text well--you should charge a regular rate, not any student rate.

As to having the text proofread by an expert--don't count on it. Just for reading 10,000 of that type of material, a real expert (an aviation engineer) would charge probably more than you get paid for the translation.


[Edited at 2014-05-05 09:25 GMT]


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Egils Turks  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 20:51
English to Latvian
+ ...
Be brave Jun 9, 2014

DLyons wrote:

Egils Turks wrote:

Karen Stokes wrote:
...
A "user manual for an unmanned air vehicle" sounds like a highly specialized text and you need to be 100% confident that you can handle it to a professional standard ...


If I waited for 100% confidence, I would never start a single translation job!
Working makes a doer.


What if the vehicle crashes and kills someone?


Of course, starting a translator's career would be easier with a fairy-tale, not a specialized manual.
But still, you can hardly be 100% confident for any job. Take a plunge.


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Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:51
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Terribly sorry, but... Jun 9, 2014

As an engineer who later went back to university to get a linguistics degree and who now almost exclusively carries out technical and scientific translations, I am afraid the following holds: if you are a good linguist AND have a very good understanding of the technical area you are about to carry out technical translations in AND have the necessary experience so that over the years you have little by little gathered the necessary background information, there is no reason for you not to deliver a decent job (although it is extremely tricky if the subject matter proves to be somewhat "slippery" - as it frequently happens and we often only realize that once we have started).

Whether it is justified or not (and I personally think it is not); technically skilled people will not even notice wrongly used punctuation or even spelling mistakes or sentence constructions gone completely wrong, as long as the technical idea is there and is expressed logically and without glitches. From what you wrote, I think it is safe to say that you will not be able to do that (now). There is no reason to think that you will not be able to do so once you have the necessary experience and are confident in a specialist technical area. By the way, even then, do not even begin to think that you will be able to accept ANY kind of technical or scientific translation! Even for people with a very broad technical background this is impossible.

To draw an analogy: it is not because I look up some symptoms on the internet of a disease I think I have, that I can go to the doctor and TELL him that I want this or that treatment because I have already figured out what is wrong with me. And when my car breaks down, I go to the garage to have it fixed, although I might very well more or less know what is wrong with it. I think in English there is a saying "Cobbler, stick to thy last", and although I do not always agree with that, it would be wise, I think, not to wander to far from it. Especially not if you are just starting out...My two cents worth...


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