word count and proofreading
Thread poster: Veronique Cubilie-Ratio

Veronique Cubilie-Ratio  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
Feb 12, 2013

Hello everyone,

I was wondering if anyone could spare some advice about how to invoice for a proofreading job.

When offered the job, I was told that the source document contained about 1,500 translated words that needed to be checked against the source document. I have now finished the job but I am not sure whether I should account for non-translated text in my quote (I still needed to include this non-translated text in my final submission and it involved some editing work from my part). To give you an idea, when I ran wordcount the total amount of words in the source document came to around 2,500. This is a big discrepancy with the amount the client mentioned originally.

As I am charging per source word, it can make a substantial difference in the final amount.

Thank you for any piece of advice you can provide.


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:15
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Hmmm Feb 12, 2013

First of all, the job you were asked to complete was not a proofreading assignment, which never requires a source text, but an editing/revision project.

Also proofreading and/or editing work should best be charged by the hour, or at least, if the client insists on a price per word, this word count should be taken from the target text.

Hope this helps.



Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:15
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Lots of clients CALL it proofreading... Feb 12, 2013

You always have to check with the client exactly what they mean when they say proofreading.

It is all very well for people to tell you what printers and monolingual publishers mean by proofreading, but as soon as there are two languages involved, it seems to be an open question. Everyone has their own understanding of proofing, revising and editing.

I dislike proofreading without the source to check against... because if I make changes or even move commas, I might change the meaning!

In your case, I would definitely try to invoice by the hour rather than the word count.

Word counts may be useful for guesstimating how much time you need, and whether you are available for the job at all, but it is extremely difficult to know in advance how long an assignment will take, and thus whether a quote for a rate per word is reasonable or a rip-off (for you or the client!!).

I quote for something like 1000 words an hour, and then add a little, depending on how big the job is. I tell the client I will charge less if I take less time, and I do so, even if it is only a token!

I send a file with tracked changes, and you can see how much time is spent working on that.
What you can't see is the amount of time spent working on paper, checking terminology in dictionaries or elsewhere... and so on, so it is a matter of trust.

Quote for at least three hours, depending on how much you have to work on the untranslated sections.

Just my suggestion out of the top of my head!


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:15
Member (2007)
+ ...
A bit late now? Feb 12, 2013

Whilst agreeing with Christine, I'd say that it's probably too late to do anything about this particular job, as it seems you had already agreed terms and they are likely to take a very dim view of you suddenly charging quite a bit more.

Always make absolutely sure you know what the client is asking for. I always check the following with the client:
- bilingual or monolingual work?
- to involve corrections only (clear faults in grammar, spelling, punctuation...), or style and/or register changes, too?
- language variant to be used (if applicable, as it is in English)?

and then I check the text for word count and quality of writing. For the latter, I check various places in the text - sometimes, page one is much better quality than page 150!

I've learnt by bitter experience how important it is to find out the client's requirements prior to "proofreading".icon_frown.gif

BTW, I'm happy to charge by the hour or by the word, but only after seeing the complete text. Of course, the two are linked: I know how much I want to charge by the hour, so I just estimate how long this number of words will take and calculate the per-word rate from this. The same applies to translation, but the rate per word is less likely to change. In proofreading, it varies dramatically depending on quality of writing, bilingual or monolingual work, and degree of polishing required.

[Edited at 2013-02-12 18:36 GMT]


Carl Carter
Local time: 00:15
German to English
Talk to your customer about their count Feb 13, 2013

Hi Veronique,

As Sheila has indicated, I'm afraid you're in a bad position now because you didn't discuss the terms of the assignment carefully enough with the customer before you started it. Next time, measure the source text yourself once it has been sent to you and if there's a discrepancy between your count and the customer's, phone the person and find out what it's due to.

When I did this once, I found out that the agency I'd been working for hadn't counted any of the numbers in the text and didn't intend to include them in the charge, which is nonsense (because you still have to check them, of course). How words are counted also varies from one (CAT) tool to the next, so that may also be a reason for the discrepancy. Plus the fact that it's only human to make mistakes, and your customer may have made one when they counted the file. So count the file yourself and then confirm or reject your customer's own count before you start the job.

Christine and Sheila have provided some sound advice here regarding the approach to take when proof-reading/copy-editing. I also think it's wise to charge on an hourly basis, in which case you need to have a sound idea of how much time you're likely to need to check a particular kind of text. That obviously varies, depending on the length of the text, the quality of writing, your own familiarity with the subject matter and - last but not least - what the customer wants you to do (if you're not sure, then ask).

Hope this helps a bit, at least in future. As for now, give the customer a call and discuss the discrepancy; perhaps you can sort things out by talking directly to the person and will earn a bit more money as a result. It's worth a try...




Veronique Cubilie-Ratio  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:15
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
sorry I might not have explained very clearly... Feb 13, 2013

Many thanks to the 3 of you for your feedback and for sharing your own experience as proofreaders. It's most useful and I will try to take this into account next time I quote for a job.

However as Sheila said it is a bit late to amend my business terms for this particular job. I must admit that I did not have much say in the matter to start with. This was a job I got contacted for via ProZ and I was asked to quote both for translation and proofreading work (per word) the day before the deadline. I did not hear until 3 hours before the deadline for submission that I had been selected to do the proofreading work. I suppose I should have rediscussed the terms that the client had set out before agreeing to do the job, but I was left with very little time to decide and felt compelled to accept the client's terms and conditions (per word as opposed to per hour and a bilingual revision instead of a mere proofreading job). As I am new to ProZ I didn't want to turn the job down while having bid for it. Looking back and seeing your comments I realise that it was a bit foolish to go down with it considering the tight deadline and amount of work but one learns from his mistakes I suppose.

Going back to my original question, the "untranslated text" I am referring to in my first post (asking whether I should charge for it) was not left for me to translate but was meant to remain as untranslated text in the final document. In other words it was embedded in the text to be proofread (Spanish to French with untranslated text in English to be more precise). What's the usual practice for this? would you include this in the wordcount for a proofreading job?

Thanks a lot.


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