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Charging per hours
Thread poster: Elisa Fernández Vic

Elisa Fernández Vic  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:10
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jun 19, 2015

I have recently been thinking about best practices when charging per hours rather than per words, and I would like to share my thoughts and see what you think.
I think some jobs are much better suited to this kind of rate, i.e. proofreading (as the quality of the text can vary widely), AdWords translation (as a lot of thought goes into each word, but the amount of words in each ad is tiny) and advertising slogans translation (same). What jobs do you charge by the hour and what ones by the word?
A doubt that comes to mind is which task should be considered 'active time' and charged for. At the moment, I'm not charging for project management (emails and such), reviewing style guides or researching the topic at hand: I only charge for time spent proofreading or translating, not including breaks. Is this an standard policy?


 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:10
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Sounds reasonable Jun 19, 2015

That sounds reasonable.

I also charge per hour on jobs that are very complex (i.e. lots of untranslatables or code mixed in with translation text) and definitely charge per hour for translation of termbases, glossaries, database entries, catalogue entries etc. where you have a list of things but almost no context so research will be extra intensive and time-consuming.

I also charge per hour to prepare complex files for translation or do post-processing on complex files. And I charge per hour for DTP, although usually I estimate the time I think it will take for DTP or get a quote from my handy DTP guy, and then convert that into a fixed one-off fee for the client when I quote. But with DTP it is easier to know how long it will take.

In terms of charging per word, I am starting to go away from that model and charge fixed amounts per job, taking the word count, general complexity and time I know it will take me to complete. But for agencies I still charge most translation jobs by the word.


 

Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
All time spent working should be charged Jun 19, 2015

Elisa Fernández Vic wrote:

I'm not charging for project management (emails and such), reviewing style guides or researching the topic at hand: I only charge for time spent proofreading or translating, not including breaks.


Why not count administrative tasks? Having to answer dozens of emails from a PM about a job certainly takes up active work time and it's hardly leisurely to invoice and do everything else related to a project. This is why a minimum price is important.

Try to get a mechanic to just check one thing on your car, do you think he'll just charge for 5 minutes? Most minimum rates are per hour, however for us, a minimum is based on half an hourly rate is enough.




[Edited at 2015-06-19 10:20 GMT]


 

Alexander Chisholm  Identity Verified
Italian to English
+ ...
Trouble Jun 19, 2015

The only trouble I have with charging by the hour is that very often clients and agencies tend to set the amount of time a job should take, and you have to argue your case to get them to listen.

As you say the quality of translation can be very variable. I usually estimate about 1000 words per hour, but a bad translation can be three times that sometimes even longer. I've had some translations so bad it would actually be better or cheaper to re-translate the document.

Make sure that the client will be receptive if, after a few hours, you start to realise its going to take a lot longer than their estimated time.

HTH


 

Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Formatting charges Jun 19, 2015

For jobs that might not have a high word density but have excessive formatting, while maintaining a per word rate, I am also regularly paid for 'formatting' at an hourly rate above the cost of the final word count. This keeps things fair icon_smile.gif

 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Variable charge Jun 19, 2015

When I charge by the hour, I don't bill for how long it actually takes but for how long it would have taken working at a normal pace. Fairer to both parties.

 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:10
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
By the word for translation, by the hour for "proofreading" Jun 19, 2015

I charge per word for translation and per hour for what agencies call proofreading and I won't deviate from per hour for proofreading. Agencies don't like agreeing to per hour rates but ... tant pis ...
It's ghastly work anyway.


 

Elisa Fernández Vic  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:10
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting... Jun 19, 2015

Chris S wrote:

When I charge by the hour, I don't bill for how long it actually takes but for how long it would have taken working at a normal pace. Fairer to both parties.


How do you calculate that? I find it to be quite subjective.

Regarding minimum fees, I usually charge one hour minimum. Otherwise the time spending in project managing and invoicing is just not worth it. I might make an exception and charge half an hour if the project / client is interesting for some reason though.


 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:10
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Admin is part of overhead Jun 19, 2015

DJHartmann wrote:

Why not count administrative tasks? Having to answer dozens of emails from a PM about a job certainly takes up active work time and it's hardly leisurely to invoice and do everything else related to a project. This is why a minimum price is important.


While I agree with you that answering emails takes up time, I think it's unfair to charge for answering emails and taking phone calls, provided one client is not sending an unreasonable amount of email or expecting a blow-by-blow hours-long discussion about every job.

If I make a short, reasonable phone call to, say, my optician, to ask about my contact lens prescription or make an appointment, I would switch providers quick-sharp if they wanted to charge me just for giving me the time of day to answer a question or make an appointment! If they don't make the appointments, they don't get the customers, so paying someone to answer the phone and make bookings has to be part of their overhead.

Likewise for us. If you don't answer an email, you don't get the job, so the time it takes to reply to their emails or answer questions or whatever is part of your overhead. Again, if they are being unreasonable, you may have to be assertive (but professional) about limiting the time they get to monopolise for free, but if it's within the realm of normal, I think it's unfair and rather stingy to charge for time spent on email.

And invoicing might not be your favourite thing to do, but seriously, a small investment in invoicing software makes it a 1-min per client per month process, plus if you don't invoice obviously you don't get paid. It's a bit cheeky to charge for the time it takes to invoice. ("I'm going to charge you for charging you!")

Minimum fees are a different story because while they do the job of covering the admin costs of a small job (where the admin takes up a far greater percentage of the overall cost of the job), they also play another important role: they discourage clients from sending in little files here and there and everywhere, essentially forcing the client to be a little more organised, which makes everybody's life easier.

IMO, admin to a certain extent should be part of your overhead, and if you wish to reflect that in your rate, fine. But don't include simple admin tasks that are just part of customer service or the general running of your business on an itemised list of per-hour charges for the client.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:10
Russian to English
+ ...
If translators charged for the actual time Jun 19, 2015

they spend on the projects, working at a reasonable, health-friendly speed, most agencies would go bankrupt. I think a reasonable pace of translation is about 1,000-1,500 words per 8 eight hours, and then one extra day to make any corrections. So, about $0.40/word, at least.

[Edited at 2015-06-19 13:22 GMT]


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
Way too slow Jun 19, 2015

1,000-1,500 words per 8 hours, and then one extra day to make any corrections?

That's way too slow. No one should expect to be able to make a living with that level of production.


 

The Misha
Local time: 23:10
Russian to English
+ ...
+1 Jun 20, 2015

Henry Hinds wrote:

1,000-1,500 words per 8 hours, and then one extra day to make any corrections?

That's way too slow. No one should expect to be able to make a living with that level of production.


Wake up, Lilian. There's a thing called competition. The someone eating your lunch thingie.


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:10
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
What is a translation "worth", anyway? Jun 20, 2015

Funny story... Client sends me two files, one as a bilingual export from their somewhat obscure CAT tool, and another, similar file as a suboptimally scanned PDF. PM apologizes for not having an editable version of the pdf, knows there are some cross-file reps, but because there's no way to leverage them, he will pay the full word rate for both files. Fair enough. After I turn in the file, the PM's supervisor e-mails and says, "We will just pay for 'time' spent on the pdf file, because they are so 'similar'". Notwithstanding the fact that the only reason I was able to leverage anything was because I own expensive software that I have spent countless hours learning to use, how is it that the translation was obviously "worth" 2x on the first communication, and then suddenly only 1.5x because I (supposedly) did the second file (of similar length) more quickly than the first?

I was tempted to tell them that next time I would make sure to inscribe the translation on a clay tablet and ride my donkey to hand-deliver it to them, so that there would be no absolutely no question that they were getting their money's worth out of me.

Therein lies the trap of hourly billing vs. word or project rates. If you set your piece rate correctly, you should never make less than your minimum acceptable revenue per hour and rarely make less than your average per hour. Sometimes, you will make double or even triple that.

However, if you state that your rate is xxx per hour, then you will never, ever make more than xxx per hour for the rest of your career. You can always reject jobs where the revenue/time ratio is not in your favor based on your word rate, and you can always find ways to increase your output per hour, but you can't add more hours in the day.

The key is to establish a firm minimum charge, and make sure that your word rate covers your overhead. Moreover, be firm in rejecting jobs where the revenue/time ratio is not in your favor, and don't let yourself get bullied into accepting them.



[Edited at 2015-06-20 09:48 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-06-20 09:52 GMT]


 

Maija Cirule  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 06:10
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Thanks, Rudolf Jun 20, 2015

I was tempted to tell them that next time I would make sure to inscribe the translation on a clay tablet and ride my donkey to hand-deliver it to them, so that there would be no absolutely no question that they were getting their money's worth out of me.

These words just made my day. Cannot stop laughing:)

[Edited at 2015-06-20 14:43 GMT]


Kiana Christie
 

Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:10
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Beg to disagree Jun 20, 2015

Henry Hinds wrote:

1,000-1,500 words per 8 hours, and then one extra day to make any corrections?

That's way too slow. No one should expect to be able to make a living with that level of production.


That is how I choose to work, at a reasonable per word rate. Translating 2000-3000 words a day, a number that somehow became an accepted/expected average, would literally fry my brain.


 
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