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Finding a price per line.
Thread poster: colorpower

colorpower
Italy
May 26, 2014

Hello everyone,
I was trying to find advice on per line costs and I came across this website. I would like to ask for your opinion on this matter because I'm really unsure of what to do.

I've been hired by a woman who runs a small family business (just her and two daughters), they make costume jewelry, scarves, etc to sell on ebay / amazon and their own store. Last month I had to translate from English to Italian a big spreadsheet (it was nearly a million words and only a few thousands were repetitions of the same sentence) for only $140. I usually work for $0.05/word (the website takes 10% of my earnings), so that was a huge let down and an immense waste of time.

Today she asked me to quote a price per line for a file of 180 lines in which some have a few identical columns, some others are completely different. The average word count per line is 100. What should I do?

Thank you for your interest,
Elene

[Edited at 2014-05-26 20:43 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-05-26 20:45 GMT]


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 17:35
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
First May 26, 2014

You should delete the link to the file.

 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:35
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
It's a challenge May 26, 2014

Don't be too severe, Lincoln,

Elene could have earned enough for a year last month and decided to charge 140 USD. She needs a bit of guidance while negotiating further discounts.

Cheers,
Gerard


 

Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:35
English to Spanish
$0.00014/word - less than 2 hundredths of a cent per word May 26, 2014

colorpower wrote:

Last month I had to translate from English to Italian a big spreadsheet (it was nearly a million words and only a few thousands were repetitions of the same sentence) for only $140.

Elene


That is $0.00014/word (0.014 cents/word).

We are talking about cents of cents here!

Did you work, say 8 hours a day, 20 days of one month on this project? That would be 1,000,000 words / 160 hours = 6,250 words / hour.

I do not even know what to say...


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. May 27, 2014

The only way you can translate a million words in a month is to use machine translation.

 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 12:35
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
What is YOUR line? May 27, 2014

A standard line of text is 55 characters, about 8 words in English. For that line I would charge at least 1.00 Euro. In Italy prices might be low, but 0.50 Euro would be fair.

 

Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:35
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Didn't you negotiate a price May 27, 2014

before you started that huge job? Wow! To be disappointed, even hugely, by such exploitation is more than generous of you, because that is next to nothing for the time and effort you spent doing it. Frankly, I don't know of any professional translator who would have even looked at such a low-paid project, much less do it. 1 million words seems pretty unusual to manage in only a month, but I won't ask how you did that. What seems to be more urgent is that you gain some knowledge about how to run your business, as it appears you are a bit inexperienced - so lucky for you, you have come to the right place! Not soon enough to have spared you such a massive letdown, but in time to not repeat the mistake.

You can learn a lot about the ins and outs of running a business right here on Proz, by reading the "Getting established" forum posts. I highly recommend it.

Heinrich Pesch's description of the line calculation is right. 55 characters with spaces is the standard, but I'm curious about why a line count is being used for English to Italian - I thought it was only applicable to German (and perhaps other languages I don't know about) because of the very long words / compound nouns. Don't accept less than he suggests for the project, because if the owner starts looking for alternatives by asking for quotes from agencies or other translators, she will be shocked by how much such services usually cost. You are still offering her a very good deal. Don't sell yourself too short!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:35
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Why did you have to? Who made you? May 27, 2014

colorpower wrote:
I had to translate from English to Italian a big spreadsheet (it was nearly a million words and only a few thousands were repetitions of the same sentence) for only $140. I usually work for $0.05/word

How did a woman and her two daughters have enough power to make you do that? Unless they held a gun to your head (literally or figuratively), then you didn't have to do anything of the sort.

You say it
was a huge let down and an immense waste of time

and yet you now go on to say
Today she asked me to quote a price

I'm really surprised to hear that you want to have anything more to do with this client. She is either totally unaware of the price of translations or she's deliberately using your naivete to get 1,000 words translated for the price of just one.

But as Woodstock says, you've come to the right place to learn how things work when you're running a professional translation business. Please take time out to change your mindset from some sort of slave worker to that of a business partner. Meanwhile (because you have so much to learn that it will take a considerable time), why don't you just get an accurate word count of this latest job, then charge your normal rate per word? It's a low one, but it's a whole lot better than the one you got on the first job. You certainly can't quote on the basis of averages.

One thought: do you use a CAT tool? It sounds as though you would gain considerable savings in time from one on this type of job, and you'd be able to allow your client to benefit to some extent (not 100% though) by offering a discount on repetitions and almost-identical sentences (in addition to the benefit of better terminology consistency). It would also give very accurate word counts to help you establish your quote.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:35
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Simple math May 27, 2014

colorpower wrote:

Today she asked me to quote a price per line for a file of 180 lines in which some have a few identical columns, some others are completely different. The average word count per line is 100. What should I do?

Thank you for your interest,
Elene

[Edited at 2014-05-26 20:43 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-05-26 20:45 GMT]


It is amazing that you did this job for... not even pennies per word. She definately took advantage of you, your work and your time.

Although your rate is rather on the low side, and if you really want to continue to work with (NOT for!) this lady, then your quote should be like: EUR 0.05 x 100 x 180 = EUR 900.00. In any case, it's EUR 5.00 per line. You could go ahead and offer EUR 4.00 - 3.50, if you really want that job.

You chould also estimate how long it would/will take you to complete this 18,000 words project, then base this on your hourly rate broken down by how many lines you can complete in one hour. After all, you do want to make a living, don't you?icon_wink.gif


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 17:35
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
The problem May 28, 2014

Gerard de Noord wrote:

Don't be too severe, Lincoln,

Elene could have earned enough for a year last month and decided to charge 140 USD. She needs a bit of guidance while negotiating further discounts.

Cheers,
Gerard

What I wrote had nothing to do with pricing and everything to do with posting a client's file online for the public to download.


 

colorpower
Italy
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you May 28, 2014

Thank you everyone for your input, I'll reply later when I have a minute.



Lincoln Hui wrote:

Gerard de Noord wrote:

Don't be too severe, Lincoln,

Elene could have earned enough for a year last month and decided to charge 140 USD. She needs a bit of guidance while negotiating further discounts.

Cheers,
Gerard

What I wrote had nothing to do with pricing and everything to do with posting a client's file online for the public to download.

As for sharing the file, the client herself uploaded it on a website for all freelancers to download, without restrictions. Any person with access to the internet could have downloaded it, that's why I didn't think it would be a problem. Nevertheless I deleted it right away.

Same goes for pricing, the amount I've been paid for the translation of that huge file is public.


 

EUyounglady
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:35
Korean to English
+ ...
I think there's a misunderstanding May 28, 2014

I think the topic starter did 1000 (mille in Italian) words for 140 dollars and not a million words. That price is still too low but for an afternoon of work it's not such a terrible price as 140 dollars for a million words would be.. Nobody would do that, come on people. A million words equals quite a pile of books and would take months if not years...

 

Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:35
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Something is off... May 28, 2014

EUyounglady wrote:

I think the topic starter did 1000 (mille in Italian) words for 140 dollars and not a million words. ...


Something is wrong with the numbers, but your interpretation doesn't explain "a few thousands were repetitions of the same sentence". I hope the poster will come back to clarify the strange figures. I hate being left hanging in the middle of a mystery!icon_smile.gif


 

colorpower
Italy
TOPIC STARTER
Hello. May 28, 2014

We're straying from the topic here, luckily a handful of people answered my question (thank you). What I did not state is that I am not done with the first translation yet, I'm at a good point and the client has already received a big portion of it. I did not find it necessary to discuss the terms of that contract because I mentioned it only as an example since I am talking about the same client.

Miguel Carmona wrote:

Did you work, say 8 hours a day, 20 days of one month on this project? That would be 1,000,000 words / 160 hours = 6,250 words / hour.

philgoddard wrote:

The only way you can translate a million words in a month is to use machine translation.


So to answer the questions above and in order to defend my professional integrity as a freelance translator:
- I worked on it for more than 8 hours a day for the first three weeks (nearly 12 hours to be precise) and then I decided to take my time because it was not worth it.
- I do not use machine translation. If I did, I would be done with the job already.

Woodstock wrote:

before you started that huge job? Wow! To be disappointed, even hugely, by such exploitation is more than generous of you, because that is next to nothing for the time and effort you spent doing it.

Sheila Wilson wrote:

How did a woman and her two daughters have enough power to make you do that? Unless they held a gun to your head (literally or figuratively), then you didn't have to do anything of the sort.

I'm really surprised to hear that you want to have anything more to do with this client. She is either totally unaware of the price of translations or she's deliberately using your naivete to get 1,000 words translated for the price of just one.

Although I have a Bachelor's Degree and could become a professional translator, I'm actually only a freelancer because I'm (obviously) unemployed.

I applied for this job twice and on both occasions somebody else was picked, but in the end they did not accept the job. The third time I applied for the job I decided to further lower my price (it was very low to begin with-- but there were other freelancers who offered to work for less) and the client picked me. I really need money, so I accepted. If I had a job I wouldn't be slaving off like this, but unfortunately nowadays getting hired in Italy isn't a piece of cake. Thank you very much for your encouraging words.

Sheila Wilson wrote:

One thought: do you use a CAT tool?

I don't, but I will consider it. Thank you!

EUyounglady wrote:

I think the topic starter did 1000 (mille in Italian) words for 140 dollars and not a million words. That price is still too low but for an afternoon of work it's not such a terrible price as 140 dollars for a million words would be.. Nobody would do that, come on people. A million words equals quite a pile of books and would take months if not years...

Haha my English isn't flawless, but I really did mean a million, not 1000/mille. And yes, people who desperately need money would do that. Luckily I managed to convince the client to give me more time after three weeks because it was humanly impossible.

And what you all don't know is that she was convinced a person could translate the entire file within 2-3 weeks. I sacrificed too much during those three weeks and right now she's offering to pay $0.30/line. I asked for $0.50 - which would be acceptable since there are a few dozens of repetitions - but if she doesn't accept, I won't take the job either.


Again, thank you to those who answered my question and/or left encouraging words.


 

Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
Are we really supposed to believe this? May 30, 2014

colorpower wrote:

So to answer the questions above and in order to defend my professional integrity as a freelance translator:
- I worked on it for more than 8 hours a day for the first three weeks (nearly 12 hours to be precise) and then I decided to take my time because it was not worth it.
- I do not use machine translation. If I did, I would be done with the job already.



I am sorry, but I can't, if I understand properly: You worked nearly 12 hours a day for three weeks and only then you realised how little (140 dollars for the whole job, i. e. much less than what a translator normally gets in one single day) you would be earning, is this correct? Rates in Italy may be low, but not to such a point...!

If ever before starting you were not aware of the discrepancy between the length of the text (and the time it would cost you) and the amount you were to be paid, you should have stopped at the latest after the very first day if not the very first hours, giving notice to the customer or trying to negotiate an appropriate rate for this job.

With all due respect for your will to stick to the agreement, but in my opinion you were no longer bound to it once you realised that the job turned out what it was: sheer slavery.


 
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