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Rates for Translating vs. Editing: what is a reasonable relationship?
Thread poster: Fabio Descalzi

Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 15:45
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Jun 23, 2008

This post has a lot to do with money matters, but nevertheless I decided to post it here, in order to discuss it from a professional point of view, leaving the "final price" question apart.

My question goes like this. Take these three examples:
a) A low-budget agency works with rates "USD 0.03 for translating, USD 0.02 for editing"
b) A rather good-paying agency works with rates "USD 0.10 for translating, USD 0.025 for editing"
c) A mid-of-the road freelancer offers spontaneously "I charge USD 0.06 for translating, USD 0.04 for editing".

Which is the reasonable RELATIONSHIP between both rates? Is it about 3 to 2? Or is it about 4 to 1? Or whatever...? (And always keep in mind: both professionals are meant to work with both source AND target languages).

This is no small question. Implicitly it means: "which task has more responsibility". If we consider that "the main responsible is the translator", then it would be "about 4 to 1"; but if the idea is to clearly share responsibilities between translator and editor, then the editor deserves a better pay...

Suggestions?

[Edited at 2008-06-23 15:04]


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Vadim Poguliaev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 21:45
English to Russian
my 2 cents Jun 23, 2008

I usually charge 40-50% of master rate. Typical example is 0.05 USD for editing, given the translation rate 0.11 USD.
25% is far too low IMHO, even for good translation editing can be tough job — usually we need to check the translation against glossary, and other mandatory sources, google for similair docs to catch the subject etc.
And when translation sucks, and a customers wants to have some kind of QA form filled, 25% turns into waste of money, no matter what your master rate is.

Cheers
Vadim

[Edited at 2008-06-23 13:34]


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Laurie Price  Identity Verified
Mexico
Spanish to English
+ ...
Perdoname for saying this but ... Jun 23, 2008

I think in general that most people and agencies, too, don't really know the difference between any activity having to do with language.

How many times have I read a job post here, as well as on other websites, asking for a proofreader, when what they were looking for was a translator ...
and usually, the pay offered for proofreading is less than for translating, when sometimes, what is being requested is neither, or both, and then some.

In all fairness, proofreading is a sticky word when you're talking to people who don't know what it actually entails. And there are many levels of proofreading, if you insist on using that word rather than differentiate between various editorial activities by also using the words copyediting and editing.

I think it is as valuable as translation, and can often make the difference between a translation that is merely adequate and one that is solidly well-done. I think the rates for proofreading and translation should be pretty close, but then again, it always depends upon the particular document ... because sometimes you end up just cleaning up the document, and other times you end up having to make a complete re-translation.


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Kerstin Roland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:45
Member (2003)
German to English
Tough topic Jun 23, 2008

This is indeed a tough topic and your time spent on proofing or editing a document depends so much on the quality of the translation.
Sometimes you can edit the document within a reasonable amount of time, while other times the translation is so poor that you have to re-write the entire text.

My minimum rate for editing is about 35% of what I charge for translating, and the average is about 40%.

I also have a rather large percentage of clients (about half) who pay for this type of work by the hour because they feel it is fairer, so this is something you could consider proposing too.

Hope this helps,
Kerstin


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Vadim Poguliaev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 21:45
English to Russian
houly payment Jun 23, 2008

Indeed, when translation is REALLY bad, hourly payment is the only option.

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
Reasonable relationship Jun 23, 2008

I don't think there is a reasonable relationship, Fabio. It all depends on the quality of the material you receive, and that can be quite variable. I detest editing or proofreading (the line is not well-defined) and the few times I have reluctantly done it I have charged 50% of what my translation rate would be for the same material and found it to be too little, and that has been for work that looked fairly good. On top of that, it could not be said the final product really looked like my work because I had to draw the line somewhere on making changes.

In most cases I just say throw it in the trash and I'll do it over, or get someone else to edit it.

My credo is, "do it right the first time".

So in any case, to answer your question, there is no magic number. It depends on the job.


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Kemal Mustajbegovic  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:45
English to Croatian
+ ...
Apples and oranges Jun 23, 2008

For translating I charge per word, everything else - proofreading, editing, "DTP-ing"... - I charge per hour. Simple as that.

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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 15:45
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Editing VERSUS re-translating Jun 23, 2008

Thanks to everybody for your posts. Especially, thanks Laura for your very simple and clear comments. I'll try to reply to your post.
laurprice wrote:
I think in general that most people and agencies, too, don't really know the difference between any activity having to do with language.

Agreed. "Most" people, of course; and at least "some" agencies too.
In any case, what we are trying to do here is: define reasonable criteria FOR the language industry = for good agencies and good freelancers.
laurprice wrote:
In all fairness, proofreading is a sticky word when you're talking to people who don't know what it actually entails. And there are many levels of proofreading, if you insist on using that word rather than differentiate between various editorial activities by also using the words copyediting and editing.

Once again: I prefer not to talk about "proofreading" here, but rather about "editing", i.e. the activity entailing the comparison of source and target text and the correction of the translator's job.
laurprice wrote:
I think it is as valuable as translation, and can often make the difference between a translation that is merely adequate and one that is solidly well-done. I think the rates for proofreading and translation should be pretty close, but then again, it always depends upon the particular document ... because sometimes you end up just cleaning up the document, and other times you end up having to make a complete re-translation.

Sometimes (this should be the usual practice, though...) agencies specify something like this in their instructions: "if the editor considers that the translation was really bad, then s/he will re-translate the document and charge accordingly for that; and the extra charge will be accordingly deducted from the honoraries of the translator".

What do you think about including this clause? That way, the translator will know in advance "OK, here we will only accept good work, otherwise don't complain"; and the proofreader can start with his/her own reasonable expectations, and provided the thing is bad stuff, then the solution to that possibility is clearly defined.

[Edited at 2008-06-23 15:23]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
Clause Jun 23, 2008

Clause is probably unnecessary. In the first place, no quote should be given until seeing the text, and if it's a throwaway (borrón y cuenta nueva) then you contact the agency and say "it's better to translate it from scratch".

Then the agency decides whether it wants to do it or not.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:45
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I charge, but I say Jun 23, 2008

Fabio Descalzi wrote:
Which is the reasonable RELATIONSHIP between both rates? Is it about 3 to 2? Or is it about 4 to 1?


How long does it take to edit a 1000 words? How long does it take to translate a 1000 words? There's your relationship... very simple.

Now I must admit that my editing rate is 1/3 of my translation rate, yet I tend to spend about 1/2 as much time editing as translating. The reason for this discrepancy has to do with market forces (and that is also why I don't accept editing jobs when there is a good spell of translation work available).

This is no small question. Implicitly it means: "which task has more responsibility". If we consider that "the main responsible is the translator", then it would be "about 4 to 1"; but if the idea is to clearly share responsibilities between translator and editor, then the editor deserves a better pay...


I disagree. It has little to do with responsibility. Both editor and translator have a responsibility to deliver an adequate piece of work. Their responsibilities are equal.


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:45
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
The rates make no sense Jun 24, 2008

Of course most outsourcers know the difference between editing and proof-reading. When I started out as a translator I had very little comparison for my rates. Since I wanted to make a difference and wanted to be clear on my website, I calculated 50% of my master rate for editing and 25% for proofing. I have yet to receive an editing assignment.

In the translation industry the word proof-reading has devaluated to the point that it now means: make it right and publishable. With the exception of three translation agencies who always send me top-notch translations to proof (and are often willing to pay by the hour), "proofing" takes me half the time translating would, sometimes just as long.

An additional problem is proof-reading poor translations. Three times out of ten I accept to proof-read translations that in retrospect turn out to be nightmares: when I glance over the document the translation looks near perfect, but when I actually start editing time runs through my fingers. I should have taken on a translation job or should have quoted by the hour, but I didn't.

Regards,
Gerard


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Walter Landesman  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 15:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No relationship Jun 24, 2008

Fabio,

There is no relationship. They are two different things to me.
Translation and proofing are charged by source word, whereas edition is charged by the hour. At least that is what I do.

Hope it helps.

Salu2,

Walter


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Stephanie Sirot  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 10:45
English to French
+ ...
Proofreading, editing and translating are 3 different tasks Jun 25, 2008

Most people don't know the difference between proofreading an editing. The latter usually requires more work, so the rate should reflect this.

I believe a rate per word for proofreading and editing is not a good plan. It is more realistic to apply an hourly rate. At least, you are paid correctly for the time you really spent on doing it. And it is better for both the client and the translator. At least it is more honest and fair.

Sorry, I don't see any "price relation" between translating, proofreading and editing. These are 3 different tasks and should have 3 different rates, non-related to each other.

You never know what kind of material you are going to receive.

Stephanie.

[Edited at 2008-06-25 02:51]


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Carlos Umaña  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sticky topic Jun 29, 2008

It is indeed very hard to establish a rate for proofreading yet one is expected to have one.

No two texts are the same, and it is generally accepted for one's rate to increase if the text is too complex, requires excessive formatting or is not so legible (i.e., needing more time than a "standard" text normally would); hence one's proofreading rates are subject to the same variations.

...and how should one calculate the *standard* rate?
I would suggest to use a translation of a medium quality (not excellent or terrible) and establish how long it takes to proofread it, then calculate a rate per word based on your standard hourly rate. Thus, your standard rate, which, it should be specified, is subject to changes depending on the text.

In theory, proofreading is *easier* than translating, yet this can vary enormously depending on the topic at hand and the quality of the translation. Many outsourcers also request that one make comments and back translate every change one makes, making proofreading a rather tedious task that can potentially take up more time than a translation. This should also be specified before one can make a quotation.

One learns the hard way to weigh the possibility of losing a potential client vs. wasting too much of one's time. Clients who do not appreciate the work proofreading entails will probably end up being bad payers.


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 15:45
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sticky topic - but an issue worth defining for practical purposes Jun 29, 2008

Thanks Carlos for your point of view.
Carlos Umaña wrote:
...and how should one calculate the *standard* rate?
I would suggest to use a translation of a medium quality (not excellent or terrible) and establish how long it takes to proofread it, then calculate a rate per word based on your standard hourly rate. Thus, your standard rate, which, it should be specified, is subject to changes depending on the text.

An idea worth considering. Because, after all: no matter how much we insist upon the fairness of a "per-hour rate", I have the impression that, in general, agencies insist upon a "per-word rate" for practical reasons. And I am thinking about "reasonable" agencies...
Carlos Umaña wrote:
One learns the hard way to weigh the possibility of losing a potential client vs. wasting too much of one's time. Clients who do not appreciate the work proofreading entails will probably end up being bad payers.

100% agree - many clients consider proofreading/editing as a "waste of time" or as a "quick task just in case". But those of us active in the language industry (especially if we are used to time pressure) value a lot the need for "two more eyes"

And now, a quick comment on Sephanie's post:
stephanie45 wrote:
Most people don't know the difference between proofreading an editing. The latter usually requires more work, so the rate should reflect this.

When I started this thread I mentioned a "low-budget agency". Believe me: even in the low-budget segment, there are good and bad agencies. The example given, USD 0.03 for translating and 0.02 for editing are really low rates; but at least, that agency recognizes the need for editing (bilingual), as a different activity from proofreading (monolingual).
In my first year of activity as a freelance translator (and so I wasn't well aware of many important facts that have been brought forward in this thread) I did some work for a "bad low-budget agency" that paid EUR 0.03 for translating and 0.005 for proofreading. The price for proofreading should have been meant for "monolingual proofreading" - but that was not the fact; they actually pretended the proofreader to edit AND proofread for that terribly low rate.

[Edited at 2008-06-29 19:03]


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