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Poll: For translation projects, how do you usually charge?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 14:21
Dec 11, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "For translation projects, how do you usually charge?".

This poll was originally submitted by Anne-Sophie Cardinal. View the poll results »


Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:21
French to Spanish
+ ...
Per target word... Dec 11, 2015

... because, especially if the translation is a certified/sworn one (but non only), target text increases the amount of words at least in 10% in my pairs. If a customer asks me to get paid by source word, I increase my rates. This might be why some translators are more expensive than others. Just sayingicon_smile.gif.

[Edited at 2015-12-11 08:15 GMT]


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Other Dec 11, 2015

Per source 'character' for J>E translation

Some LSPs advertise with rates per 'source word' and 'target word' even for J>E translation, which is proof that they know absolutely nothing. Owing to the nature of the Japanese language, the end result can fluctuate between 10 to 25% or even 30% sometime. HTH


Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Exorbitantly Dec 11, 2015

Ever since I stopped relying on a spare laptop and a memory stick and got myself a sensible back-up system (seven 652 TB quad-pro ultra-core HDDs with PDQ and 600 rpm JHR, HHJH and OCER systems with added quintuple cloud redundancy together with three BS double-block security HHRs and four HJ screen ERERs with triple-duplicated SSdS KKJ dark net functionality), my electricity bill and burglability seem to have shot up, and so have my prices.


EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:21
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
Depends, but Dec 11, 2015

to my local direct clients (= my choice), per target normalized page. As to agencies, not only they have different systems as to page/word and source/target (or even flat rate), but for these using pages, they have different definitions of a page and different rules for rounding the result up/down. I have a complete DB of agency requirements as to units, calculation rules, special invoicing requirements...
Oh yes, and a very sophisticated conversion table between various units depending on the language pair (the ratio characters/words is language dependent, and the lenght of the same text is not the same in different languages), currency, payment method...

[Edited at 2015-12-11 08:52 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Local time: 22:21
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It depends! Dec 11, 2015

In general, for editable formats I charge per source word and for uneditable formats per target word, but over the years I have also charged per character and per project…


Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 00:21
English to Russian
+ ...
per target page (1800 characters with spaces) Dec 11, 2015

Per target because target is always in editable and countable format.
Per characters because its is much more accurate than per word. In English, for example, wordcount is at least 20% larger than in Russian (not to mention German) due to the abundance of articles and prepostions


Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:21
German to English
MS Office Word words in source text Dec 11, 2015

This unit leads to a discussion in 0% of my projects, and that is why I like it the best.

- At least 90% of my clients are Office-"savvy" enough to make the two clicks necessary to count the number of words in their document. Adding the step of making sure to look at the total for "figures (including spaces)" and then dividing that total by 55 and rounding up to the next whole number cuts that rate down. And who can be bothered to reformat the entire file so that it has 30 lines of exactly 60 characters (including spaces) per page?
- Basing my fees on the source text means that there is no estimate, just a price.
- Lines and (depending on the client) pages are significantly more common in Germany, Austria and at least the German-speaking part of Switzerland, but the definitions for both units vary.

I generally round first-time offers to a new client up or down to a normal-looking round number, and I also sometimes make an offer based on lines or pages to make things easier for clients who need to compare the prices of offers from various translators (the math for the conversions is not difficult).

Psychologically speaking, it is true that German prices per word look more expensive than they are: 0.20 EUR/ word German > English is significantly (+/- 10%) less than 0.20/ word English > German, but the final sum is what ultimately matters to the clients.

Edited after reading Mario's post: I also use an hourly fee fairly often for entire projects or, more often, for parts of projects where the number of words obviously has very little relation to the amount of time needed.

[Edited at 2015-12-11 14:17 GMT]


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:21
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Dec 11, 2015

All my clients but one use source word count except for PDFs, for which I typically charge the target count unless they have OCR software to count the source.

That said, my biggest client, from which some years I get as much as 40% of my work, pays by the target count.


Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:21
Member (2008)
English to Italian
It depends Dec 11, 2015

My clients have different ways
- target page
- source words
- target words

No prob for me.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:21
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Are characters more 'objective' than words? Dec 11, 2015

I often wonder.

The standards I see are 1800 strokes and 1500 strokes, presumably with and without spaces. I convert this roughly to 250 words per page.

In practice the average word length (in Danish) may be about 6.5 strokes for legal documents, and more like 5.5 for marketing. And that is a big difference in percentage. The legal text may be a lot harder to translate than the marketing, but the word count per page is lower, so you get paid less if you work for a flat rate per word!

(These are personal counts, made with pages in Danish.)
Over large volumes of text, there is an average difference of 20 - 25% between English and Danish.

The agency I worked for used to pay 0.72 Danish Kroner per English word and 0.85 per Danish word at one time - they did a lot of calculations when they changed from charging for target words to charging for source words.

In fact they had a lot of figures and formulae in their system already, as they charged different rates for different languages, but they ran statistics on our work and checked anyway.

However you count them, 1000 words of medical records are very different from 1000 words in a tourist brochure...

I usually charge by source words, but a lot of other factors should be taken into consideration too.

[Edited at 2015-12-11 10:13 GMT]


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:21
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
It depends Dec 11, 2015

Teresa Borges wrote:

In general, for editable formats I charge per source word and for uneditable formats per target word, but over the years I have also charged per character and per project…

Same here. Special projects, e. g. translating poetry, are charged per line regardless of the number of words in a line.


Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:21
English to Spanish
+ ...
How about per hour or per project? Dec 11, 2015

I've been meaning to build a My Rates page for my website for some time now.

In America, we usually charge by the source word count (most agencies market their services like that). For my desktop publishing services and minimum translation/proofing services, I charge by the hour. I have the luxury of charging about 40% more than the average DTP Joe because Joe is monolingual and I can handle multiple languages for typesetting purposes.

A few years ago, I was able to stick a project fee to a translation + InDesign typesetting job.

Within multiple typesetting, I charge different hourly rates depending on the complexity of the language involved. German? An European language fee. Bahasa Indonesian or Burmese? An Asian language fee.

I recently completed a copywriting job writing an ad for a beverage company and I charged a set fee of US$300 for a few hours of work.


Gudrun Maydorn  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:21
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
Mostly per project Dec 11, 2015

I have one or two clients who want to be charged per source line or per target line, but in the majority of cases I quote a fixed charge for the entire project.

The amount of time involved in researching and translating a text of a given length can vary so greatly, depending on the complexity of the subject matter, that I prefer determining a fixed price per project.


SteveMcD  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:21
German to English
Source word count Dec 11, 2015

I charge by source word for my regular clients. It's quick and easy for an estimate and simple enough to deduct anything that doesn't get translated (addresses, phone numbers, 100% TM segment matches, etc.) In my mind, it's more about how many words I have to read and translate, not how many I end up typing. My regular clients generally save a little money as well since DE>EN translations often end up with a larger target word count.

When working with agencies I accept whatever system they normally use. That is, after I do a quick source count to see if it meets (or exceeds) my standard rate.

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