Different rates for large volume projects?
Thread poster: Estefanía González

Estefanía González  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jun 3, 2005

Hi everyone,

I have seen very often that clients require a rate reduction for big projects, asking to propose different rates for texts whose word count would exceed a certain quantity.

Is this a standard in our field? Is there any rule of thumb for certain amounts?

It might be an obvious question, but I don’t want to give the impression that I want to extort the client, but at the same time, I would like to make sure that by these discounts no one is taking undue advantage of our services.



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Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:00
Member (2002)
English to German
No rule of thumb Jun 3, 2005

Hi Estefanía,

As always it depends on your own motivation.

My thoughts on volume discounts are:
- The more words I have to translate the more time I have to spend so usually I charge the same per-word-fee.
- Maybe it is easier to translate a large text of the same subject matter though instead of many different small texts. This depends on the text though. If true, that's one reason speaking in favor of discounts.
- The larger the job the bigger the risk of non-payment. If you are getting this job from an unknown client this is a reason why you should actually charge more for larger jobs. If you know the client and he is paying well a large job gives you the advantage of a more certain income for a longer period of time and you might consider a discount.
- In case of a very large job you are exclusively working for one client and won't be able to serve your other customers during that time in the same way as you used to. This will be a problem as soon as the job is finished because your old customers might have gone somewhere else. Another reason for charging more.

In sum: No rule of thumb...

Take care


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Kirsty Mason  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:00
German to English
Generally No.. Jun 3, 2005

I agree with Andy that there is no rule of thumb, but it often does not make good business sense to accept a long-term project that will pay lower than your usual per-word rate. Particularly if you would otherwise be working full time at your normal higher rate, there is little benefit to you in accepting a lower paid large volume job that is essentially going to lose you money (and as Andy pointed out, possibly also customers).

Of course this depends on whether you would in fact have full time work otherwise, and on other factors - how much you want this particular job/customer etc.. Generally, though, I wouldn't invest less time/effort in the translation after the 10,000th word and so would expect to be paid accordingly.

I'd be interested to hear the opinions of any agencies - are they also expected to charge lower rates for higher volumes?

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Ivana de Sousa Santos  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:00
French to Portuguese
+ ...
Usually not Jun 3, 2005

I have a client that sometimes comes with big projects but he also decides a different price for them with his clients before giving me the translation. I usually agree because it's a client I work with since 2002 and it's a very reliable one.

For other clients, I don't accept it, as I also don't take a minimum fee for a small job. It's a way to prevent clients to ask me to reduce my prices too. If I do a 400-word translation at my normal price, the client will have to pay me the same price for a 20 000-word translation.


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Todd Field  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:00
Member (2003)
Portuguese to English
Translation = no economies of scale Jun 3, 2005

Economy of scale: the principle that higher volume production operations have lower unit costs than smaller volume operations

Obviously this does not apply to translation, except in the case of repeated text. So, if it takes you one day to translate 2,000 words, it will still take you ten days to translate 20,000 words, not less.

This is the argument I use when people ask me for volume discounts. I think it is reasonable for translators to stick to their guns in this particular area, as volume discounts are arguably unfair to the freelancer.

Good luck!


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David Sirett
Local time: 21:00
French to English
+ ...
Last documents in project may be the most demanding! Jun 3, 2005

Estefanía González wrote:

Is this a standard in our field? Is there any rule of thumb for certain amounts?

The short answers are "no" and "no".

In addition to the excellent responses you've already received, bear in mind that the terminology and familiarity you build up early in the project (which the client might try to use as an argument for a discounted rate) will not necessarily help you as you near the end.

For example, consider documentation for a warship, hundreds of thousands of words: document 1: Specification of the documentation management system; document 199: hull frame weld inspection; document 999: PCB XXX999B24 I/O installation procedure; document 1999: Wardroom galley waste disposal system acceptance test procedure; ...


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:00
German to English
I'm with Andy ... Jun 3, 2005

You have to play it by ear. A large job over several weeks will eliminate any down-time: you'll be busy without any gaps. There's a benefit to that.

If you use TM tools and are charging a full rate per word, you might be able to leverage your work: a long checklist with yes/no responses can be translated in a few minutes in many cases. Repeated boilerplate is also reusable and takes little time to insert.

Many of my clients don't know/care that I use TM software. I give a small price break if the job is large enough and if I've translated similar material for the same end client (= little or no research, recycled text).

On the other hand, as Andy and others have pointed out, committing yourself over an extended period (many weeks or months) may result in a gap in work later on, since some of your (potential) clients may go elsewhere.

As someone pointed out, a large job doesn't always guarantee that you won't be working just as hard translating the last sentence as the first.

In addition, a lot depends upon what you consider a big job. My concept of "big" starts at 50,000 words. I usually turn jobs larger than that down for a number of reasons, mainly because I don't want to commit for more than a month.

This is one of those things you have to develop a feel for as you become more experienced.

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Michael Bastin  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:00
English to French
+ ...
Sometimes, but more often NO Jun 3, 2005

I believe there is indeed an economy of scale in large documents since you do not normally need to research so much after a while, but it all depends on the document itself. The biggest danger with large projects, and my main motivation for not offering lower prices is the boredom one gets after 40 pages of the same boring stuff. With smaller projects, you get variety but also more invoices.

Isn't is quicker to do just one invoice for the amount of EUR 10 000, than 100 invoices of EUR 100 each ??

As noted earlier, the risk of losing a lot from a big project is there and it all depends of your workload and the trust you have in your customer.

There might also be lots of repetitions, and if you are using Trados and the customer is not talking about fuzzy match discounts, then you will end up translating faster than expected.

The tendancy to ask for lower prices from translator for large projects is sometimes imposed by the budget requirements of the end customers. Of course, there are so many things happening in the relationship between the agency and the end customer that may explain this requirement for a lower price per word for large projects.

So there is definitely no rule of thumb I am afraid.

[Edited at 2005-06-03 22:45]

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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:00
German to English
+ ...
Different rates for large volume projects? Jun 4, 2005

Michael Bastin wrote:

The tendancy to ask for lower prices from translator for large projects is sometimes imposed

"Impose" and "budget requirements" are just negotiating jargon. I can "impose a budget" of 2,000 dollars for a new Mercedes...


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