Hourly jobs - the faster you deliver, the less you make?
Thread poster: Frank Feng

Frank Feng  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 16:01
Member (2016)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Sep 14, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

My situation of delivering a job too fast (http://www.proz.com/post/2679050) reminds me a different set of questions regarding delivery speed of jobs.

I charge most of my jobs by word count, but there are some clients insisting that I quote an hourly rate. I don't really get the point of this - shall I be paid less for doing a job faster?

Colleagues, do you quote by hourly rate? If so, how do you decide the rate? If I calculate my hourly rate by dividing my by-word-count price by the actual hours I spent to deliver, the rate will be much higher than the client's expectation. How shall I deal with such situation?

Thank you very much!

Frank


[Edited at 2017-09-15 11:45 GMT]


 

Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:01
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Don't raise flags Sep 14, 2017

Hi Frank,

I read your other post as well. I can see why it is a problem for you to quote in hours then. If you have a magic formula for how to do things twice as fast in an hour than everyone else, you would have to double your hourly rate, but that doesn't look good when someone is comparing your rate with others. The only solution is to keep charging "per item" and not per hour. And just don't deliver a 5K job in less than 24 hours to avoid raising flags.


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 16:01
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
I provide an hourly rate for the sake of convenience Sep 14, 2017

There has been exactly one time in my career where I felt that charging by the hour rather than by item was justified, and that was a 2 hour teleconferencing consultation call.

I do have an on-paper hourly rate for reviews and similar tasks, but I always check to make sure I'm not charging any less than I would if I charged my standard per-word rate. If I have to charge by the hour, I simply do an internal conversion of what a normal translator might expect to spend on the same task. If I actually converted my translation rate to my hourly rate, I don't think I have a single current client who would be willing to pay it.

My work-break blocks are 30 minutes long at most; I don't remember the last time I actually sat down and worked for an hour straight.


 

Frank Feng  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 16:01
Member (2016)
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good point Sep 14, 2017

Lianne van de Ven wrote:

Hi Frank,

I read your other post as well. I can see why it is a problem for you to quote in hours then. If you have a magic formula for how to do things twice as fast in an hour than everyone else, you would have to double your hourly rate, but that doesn't look good when someone is comparing your rate with others. The only solution is to keep charging "per item" and not per hour. And just don't deliver a 5K job in less than 24 hours to avoid raising flags.


Thank you Lianne.


 

Frank Feng  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 16:01
Member (2016)
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Sep 14, 2017

Lincoln Hui wrote:

There has been exactly one time in my career where I felt that charging by the hour rather than by item was justified, and that was a 2 hour teleconferencing consultation call.

I do have an on-paper hourly rate for reviews and similar tasks, but I always check to make sure I'm not charging any less than I would if I charged my standard per-word rate. If I have to charge by the hour, I simply do an internal conversion of what a normal translator might expect to spend on the same task. If I actually converted my translation rate to my hourly rate, I don't think I have a single current client who would be willing to pay it.

My work-break blocks are 30 minutes long at most; I don't remember the last time I actually sat down and worked for an hour straight.


for sharing the insights. I do the "rate conversion" as well and the hourly rate I got is not attractive at all ... icon_smile.gif


 

Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:01
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Actually... Sep 15, 2017

Frank Feng wrote:

Lianne van de Ven wrote:

Hi Frank,

I read your other post as well. I can see why it is a problem for you to quote in hours then. If you have a magic formula for how to do things twice as fast in an hour than everyone else, you would have to double your hourly rate, but that doesn't look good when someone is comparing your rate with others. The only solution is to keep charging "per item" and not per hour. And just don't deliver a 5K job in less than 24 hours to avoid raising flags.


Thank you Lianne.


What you charge per hour can be the same as everyone else and no-one needs to know that you do in half an hour what everyone else does in an hour. You just need to ignore the actual time it takes you and charge the number of hours that is standard. Bottomline is that there are standards for performance and they are pretty fixed. So 5000 words is say 16 hours and you'll do the job in 7. Fine.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My hourly rate is too low Sep 15, 2017

Frank Feng wrote:
I charge most of my jobs by word count, but there are some clients insisting that I quote an hourly rate. I don't really get the point of this - shall I be paid less for doing a job faster?


All I can say is that my hourly rate is much lower than my per-word rate, and I wonder if this is true of many other translators. If I were to charge an hourly rate for my translation work, I'd have to triple my current hourly rate to get the same amount of money.

My current hourly rate is reserved for jobs where a per-word rate wouldn't make sense anyway, and where the client's estimate of how long the job will take, is generous. I rarely invoice less than the estimate, even if I had managed to do it in less time than the estimate. The only time that I would invoice for actual time spent is if the job was open-ended, i.e. when there is no prescribed estimate. By the same token, if there was an agreed-to estimate, and the job takes 10-20% longer, I don't charge for the extra hours.


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:01
Member
English to French
I wonder too Sep 15, 2017

Samuel Murray wrote:
...All I can say is that my hourly rate is much lower than my per-word rate, and I wonder if this is true of many other translators. If I were to charge an hourly rate for my translation work, I'd have to triple my current hourly rate to get the same amount of money...


I set my hourly rate precisely to make sure that I earn roughly the same amount per working hour while editing at my hourly rate or while translating at my per-word rate. If people ask me to virtually unbend paperclips or play a FPS game all day, I'd also do that at my usual hourly rate.
This is based on the principle that I only work a finite number of hours per day, and each hour is worth as much as the next. As each hour is potentially spent working at my "max." hourly rate, I don't have any "max.", and every hour is "max."

This solves Frank's issue, and too bad if his hourly rate is deemed "too expensive". People will assign him per-word assignments, it won't change anything for him, and the client will not come back with this kind of request "oh since you've been so fast, we'll pay you by the hour!"

But my logic may be flawed. Or different from agencies'. My hourly rate has often been "rejected" whereas my per-word rate was accepted.

Samuel, how do you justify to yourself that some of your hours are more lucrative than others, whereas the work could potentially be exactly the same?

Philippe


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:01
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
What are you NOT including in the time you charge for? Sep 15, 2017

You are probably able to translate fast because you spend a certain amount of 'unpaid' time studying your special subject areas, keeping your CAT tools and TMs up to date, and doing your administrative work efficiently so that you are ready to start translating as soon as a client asks for it.

Don't forget to include that time in your calculations of your hourly rate. What you charge clients for a week's work must also cover the time spent on those necessary tasks that do not directly earn money.

If a client calls me and asks how fast I can deliver a translation of about 500 words, I will tell them something like two hours at most, depending on what kind of text it is.
I might even charge the client extra for a rushed job, and I will almost certainly deliver it within 1½ hours, if they really need it at once.

Normally, I would finish whatever I was doing when the client called or mailed, then translate the text, and take a break before proofreading and checking it. If possible, I would check it again and deliver it the next day.
___________________________________

I know I can translate something like 2000, maximum 2500 words a day. So I need a day's pay for 2000 words, no matter how long they take me in practice to translate.
I also have to spend time negotiating with clients about rates and deadlines, keep a few statistics about my work for tax and invoicing purposes, and all those other little tasks that take time.

I spend time studying my specialist subject areas, so that I do not need to look up so much while I am actually translating. Clients do not pay directly for my studying time etc., but they get better quality translations as well as faster deliveries. So in fact I can charge HIGHER rates.

If I deliver fast, that does not mean the client pays less for the administration time in the background. That is added to the translation time, and you can calculate it in proportion to the number of words AND the difficulty of the text.

Work out how much of that unpaid time you need to do for each hour of straight translating, and make sure your hourly rate covers that too.

A sensible principle is that a translation can be good, fast or cheap, but never more than two of those at the same time!


 

Frank Feng  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 16:01
Member (2016)
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all Sep 15, 2017

Thank you all for the valuable insights, they are indeed quite helpful to me.

 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Maths Sep 15, 2017

The commodity you are selling is your time, not your output.

So if I think I'm worth £50 an hour, that's my hourly rate.

If I translate 333 words per hour on average, then £0.15 will be my rate per word (333x0.15=50).

My word rate will always be derived from my hourly rate, because my time is what they are buying.


 

Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:01
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
A little bit flawed Sep 15, 2017

[quote]Philippe Etienne wrote:

This is based on the principle that I only work a finite number of hours per day, and each hour is worth as much as the next. As each hour is potentially spent working at my "max." hourly rate, I don't have any "max.", and every hour is "max."

This solves Frank's issue, and too bad if his hourly rate is deemed "too expensive". People will assign him per-word assignments, it won't change anything for him, and the client will not come back with this kind of request "oh since you've been so fast, we'll pay you by the hour!"

But my logic may be flawed. Or different from agencies'. My hourly rate has often been "rejected" whereas my per-word rate was accepted.
Philippe


Each hour is worth exactly the same as the next in life on a strict time scale (although I do hope that even then some hours are more valuable than others). But if you have a very valuable skill that few others have, reality is that you are worth much more for that same hour. There are people who get $6000 for flying to New York and doing a half hour photo shoot. I wouldn't want to miss out on comparable opportunities in the language field. I have charged $100 a few times for about 5 words, e.g. a slogan or title, something more creative. If my words can be converted to great profits, they are worth more, but it would be hard to ever know the real time I spent on being able to produce them. That's where the economics of demand and supply come in.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Chris and Philippe Sep 15, 2017

Chris S wrote:
The commodity you are selling is your time, not your output.


This may depend on the country you're in, and what it is that you're doing, but where I'm sitting, as a translator, I'm selling my output. I may calculate the price of that output by taking into account the time it takes to produce it, but ultimately I'm not selling time.

Philippe Etienne wrote:
Samuel, how do you justify to yourself that some of your hours are more lucrative than others, whereas the work could potentially be exactly the same?


Much in the same way as I justify working for clients from different markets at different rates.

You could choose to offer just one single type of service in just one particular market, but for me it makes sense to spread my risk by offering a bouquet of services. Some of these services yield more profit than others, and of course I have to watch out that I don't sell too many loss leaders.

Casting a wide net means being flexible enough to accept jobs on an hourly basis instead of a per-word basis. A service will only sell, however, if its price is market-related. And market-related per-hour rates tend to be completely out of sync with per-word rates.

The weird thing (and this is truly weird, as market attitudes can only be) is that the same client who would baulk at the tripled hourly rate may well be perfectly happy to pay a per-word rate that works out to the same price in the end.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:01
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
lump sum Sep 17, 2017

Like others, I base my hourly rate on how much I could earn being paid per word during that time. But then I don't get 5,000 words down in a day.

If the work can't feasibly be done on a per word basis (proofreading /editing/ whatever you wish to call it, transcription...) I prefer to give a pessimistic estimate, factoring in all possibilities (bad translation, technical difficulties, poor recording for transcription, because you often can't really gauge the difficulty until you get going). Then if ever things go smoothly, I can spend the time turning fit-for-purpose copy into something really great. I can also hand the thing in early and bill less than I said I would, which is always a pleasant surprise for the client.

Make sure that you don't hand it in too early though! I remember my boss handing in a book she had proofread, and the client ringing up to say "you billed 24 hrs but I only sent you the book 20 hrs ago"!


 


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