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Can one make money reviewing translations?
Thread poster: David Miller

David Miller
Switzerland
Local time: 13:50
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Feb 13, 2015

I am frequently asked to handle QM-ing or reviewing in addition to my regular translating. I would like to ask if one can make money doing this at the low rates offered and whether the mindset of a translator is suitable for reviewing. When I have occasionally checked the translation of a colleague, I can see the problems he/she faced and tend to be rather forgiving. I take no pleasure in tearing a translation to pieces as I have seen other "reviewers" do. I find translating a voyage of discovery and challenge with each new project. Reviewing strikes me as being a bit of a plodding "picking up the pieces" activity. And, finally, are there effective ways to make reviewing less of a chore?

 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sure Feb 13, 2015

You have to be very experienced translator/linguist to effectively handle editing/proofreading at professional level. If someone is just breaking into translating, I would advise to avoid it.

Can you make good money out of it? That will depend on the approach you decide to take. "Per word" way oftentimes backfires. If you get shabby translation to edit, you will spend a lot of time just to get over a few hundred words. In any case, good standard would be to set your per word rate at half for editing and maybe quarter for proofreading (in relation to your translation rate).

If you decide to skip per word method (recommended), you can start charging per hour. If you translate 300 words an hour at a rate of say 0.10 (for the sake of the exercise), you are making 300 x 0.10 = 30 EUR an hour. So charge 30 euros for one hour spent on editing. Some colleagues charge 35 euros, 45 euros or even 50 euros an hour. Others probably accept 20 euros.

The trick is to never accept a text for editing/proofreading before actually going through it. The risk is high. As we say in Spain "te pueden dar gato por liebre" (pig in a poke).icon_smile.gif


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:50
Member (2008)
Italian to English
The short answer is: not very easily Feb 13, 2015

kyoto wrote:

I am frequently asked to handle QM-ing or reviewing in addition to my regular translating. I would like to ask if one can make money doing this at the low rates offered and whether the mindset of a translator is suitable for reviewing. When I have occasionally checked the translation of a colleague, I can see the problems he/she faced and tend to be rather forgiving. I take no pleasure in tearing a translation to pieces as I have seen other "reviewers" do. I find translating a voyage of discovery and challenge with each new project. Reviewing strikes me as being a bit of a plodding "picking up the pieces" activity. And, finally, are there effective ways to make reviewing less of a chore?


All too often, when reading through somebody else's translation, I come across expressions I'm not sure about. To understand what the meaning was intended to be, this means I have to go back to the original text in the source language, and re-translate.

This is very time-consuming; in effect, it takes just as long, if not longer, than a full translation. For that reason I have stopped doing this kind of work.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:50
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
It depends on your own personal mindset Feb 13, 2015

kyoto wrote:
I would like to ask if one can make money doing this at the low rates offered

If you're running your business by going along with "low rates offered" then you're going to have problems, whatever you're doing. You can only make a decent living if you set your own rates and other terms and conditions, and only negotiate to the extent you're happy with (e.g. maybe a slightly lower rate against relaxed deadlines).
and whether the mindset of a translator is suitable for reviewing. When I have occasionally checked the translation of a colleague, I can see the problems he/she faced and tend to be rather forgiving. I take no pleasure in tearing a translation to pieces as I have seen other "reviewers" do.

I don't think the mindset of a translator makes for a good or a bad reviewer. But translator-reviewers who overlook problems to be "kind" to the original translator, or who tear an adequate translation to pieces just to show how clever they are, are clearly not suitable as reviewers. Every reviewer should be able to focus on the needs of the client and the requirements of the job.


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sometimes no chane is a good change Feb 13, 2015

Sheila Wilson wrote:
But translator-reviewers who overlook problems to be "kind" to the original translator, or who tear an adequate translation to pieces just to show how clever they are, are clearly not suitable as reviewers. Every reviewer should be able to focus on the needs of the client and the requirements of the job.


During my entire career as translator I have only seen one intact file (except few commas) sent by proofreader with a comment: "The source text has been smoothly translated into Spanish". It was actually a test translation.

For the majority of the cases, unfortunately, proofread files are full of preferential changes, sometimes even errors introduced ex novo, or entire sentences deleted and then reproduced with minor changes (which makes a good translation "bleed" in the eyes of the PM).

My guess is that they do it out of fear; if they do not show certain number of changes, PMs will think proofreader did not do their job properly. This is a big mistake and it comes at a price. Precious time and energy are lost to justify the obvious.



[Edited at 2015-02-13 14:04 GMT]


 

Henry Schroeder  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:50
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Strongly agree kyoto - rates for proofreading/QM are too low, it can be interesting, however Feb 13, 2015

You are completely right in my opinion. Even the maximum rate (0.04 EUR/Wort) for proofreading (i.e. comparison of the original and translation) that a translation agency will pay is too low to make proofreading profitable relative to translation. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that the proofreader must adapt his/her mind not only to a new original text, but also to an unfamiliar style of translation. This is too much for the mind at once and requires slower reading - if you are going to pick up the minor errors that all translators make every few thousand words (misreading a word, leaving out a word, altering the tense, etc.). God forbid the translator's text be poor. No matter what, the price you are being paid for the number of words is too low relative to the price you would be paid to translate the inverse amount (see below), so you may as well translate for the most part.

However, it can be very interesting to see the styles of other translators. I do some proofreading for one company that has the stage integrated in their process, but only for the sake of interest - to see what other translators are doing, how they translate, etc.

One must add that a proofreader is critical for the process. Figuring out how to integrate this into a business model profitably and with good quality will result in an exceptional business model. I'll give you one hint on how to do: make sure you don't have any debt payments for the business.

I recently blogged on this subject, partially in German, partially in English. Here is an excerpt:


(iii) Lektorierungsarbeit ist interessant, lohnt sich aber nicht. Es ist super ein bisschen zu lektorieren. Die Übersetzerin von dem XXX Text hat das super übersetzt und bietet dadurch Anreize und Einblick ins Übersetzen an. Die Übersetzerin von den Startup-Incubator-Texten (für YYY Chefs Firma; fällt mir im Augenblick nicht mehr ein) vor einigen Jahren waren auch unwahrscheinlich gut. Aber interessant heißt nicht, dass es sich lohnt. Bei 0,03 EUR/Wort lohnt es auf keinen Fall im Vergleich zum Übersetzen, weil es einfach zu schwer ist, sofort in die neue Sprache schnell hineinzudenken. Es geht natürlich, aber es geht langsamer, als wenn man selber den Text übersetzt (dadurch schon ein bisschen verinnerlicht hat) und dann selbst lektoriert (aus genau diesem Grund sind die maschinellen Übersetzungen wertlos). Das Übersetzen von 3.000 Wörter pro Tag x 0,09 EUR/Wort ist wesentlich leichter als das Lektorieren eines entsprechenden Textes im Umfang von 9.000 Wörter.

http://perypatetik.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-greatest-problem-in-commercial.html


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:50
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Point out some of the good things in the translation Feb 13, 2015

Early in my career I was lucky enough to be shown how to proofread by a very wise colleague. He did not need to earn respect or prove anything - he had done that long ago.

One thing he always did was to find something positive in the translation to mention as well as correcting the errors. And he humbly pointed out the preferential suggestions, saying translators should delete them if they did not agree with them. He sometimes explained why he made changes, but he assumed most of the time people could work it out for themselves.

I always try to do the same when I proofread for others.

This has many effects. It softens the blow, and the person on the receiving end is then more willing to take advice.
It also means the proofreader/reviewer has to work hard, and will not make too many unnecessary corrections.

If you can't find any errors, then it warms the translator's heart and reassures the PM if you point out the best details instead.

It convinces them that you are a serious proofreader, not just interested in finding fault with other people's work.

It can be profitable in many ways, but you can earn money too if you charge by the hour and when the translations are of reasonable standard to start with.

Firefighting and trying to save hopeless translations should not be necessary for professional translators, though unfortunately it is far too common. Beginners should stay at college until they are able to produce work that is basically fit for use IMHO! I don't have the patience for much proofreading these days, but I have learnt a lot from it.

Best of luck, because there is a great need for good reviewers and proofreaders.


 

David Miller
Switzerland
Local time: 13:50
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for insight Feb 13, 2015

Merab Dekano wrote:

You have to be very experienced translator/linguist to effectively handle editing/proofreading at professional level. If someone is just breaking into translating, I would advise to avoid it.

Can you make good money out of it? That will depend on the approach you decide to take. "Per word" way oftentimes backfires. If you get shabby translation to edit, you will spend a lot of time just to get over a few hundred words. In any case, good standard would be to set your per word rate at half for editing and maybe quarter for proofreading (in relation to your translation rate).

If you decide to skip per word method (recommended), you can start charging per hour. If you translate 300 words an hour at a rate of say 0.10 (for the sake of the exercise), you are making 300 x 0.10 = 30 EUR an hour. So charge 30 euros for one hour spent on editing. Some colleagues charge 35 euros, 45 euros or even 50 euros an hour. Others probably accept 20 euros.

The trick is to never accept a text for editing/proofreading before actually going through it. The risk is high. As we say in Spain "te pueden dar gato por liebre" (pig in a poke).icon_smile.gif



Thank you for this valuable insight. The hourly rate may also help to balance out the risk of a poor original translation.


 

David Miller
Switzerland
Local time: 13:50
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Economic sense of "four eyes" Feb 13, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

kyoto wrote:

I am frequently asked to handle QM-ing or reviewing in addition to my regular translating. I would like to ask if one can make money doing this at the low rates offered and whether the mindset of a translator is suitable for reviewing. When I have occasionally checked the translation of a colleague, I can see the problems he/she faced and tend to be rather forgiving. I take no pleasure in tearing a translation to pieces as I have seen other "reviewers" do. I find translating a voyage of discovery and challenge with each new project. Reviewing strikes me as being a bit of a plodding "picking up the pieces" activity. And, finally, are there effective ways to make reviewing less of a chore?


All too often, when reading through somebody else's translation, I come across expressions I'm not sure about. To understand what the meaning was intended to be, this means I have to go back to the original text in the source language, and re-translate.

This is very time-consuming; in effect, it takes just as long, if not longer, than a full translation. For that reason I have stopped doing this kind of work.


As "four eyes" checking is accepted in many fields, one would assume it is good business sense in translating. You have given me food for thought. Thank you.


 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:50
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Yes, you can Feb 13, 2015

Yes, you can and I like it. I work as a translator for direct clients and as a proofreader/editor for a few agencies. In some fields and for some agencies proofreading can really pay well, especially if the documents are to be printed. I make up to 80 € per hour for reviewing... (even when I am the second proofreader...).

I do not go through really bad translations though. If there are to many problems I propose a retranslation instead.

[Modifié le 2015-02-13 17:07 GMT]


 

David Miller
Switzerland
Local time: 13:50
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Made me really think Feb 13, 2015

Henry Schroeder wrote:

You are completely right in my opinion. Even the maximum rate (0.04 EUR/Wort) for proofreading (i.e. comparison of the original and translation) that a translation agency will pay is too low to make proofreading profitable relative to translation. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that the proofreader must adapt his/her mind not only to a new original text, but also to an unfamiliar style of translation. This is too much for the mind at once and requires slower reading - if you are going to pick up the minor errors that all translators make every few thousand words (misreading a word, leaving out a word, altering the tense, etc.). God forbid the translator's text be poor. No matter what, the price you are being paid for the number of words is too low relative to the price you would be paid to translate the inverse amount (see below), so you may as well translate for the most part.

However, it can be very interesting to see the styles of other translators. I do some proofreading for one company that has the stage integrated in their process, but only for the sake of interest - to see what other translators are doing, how they translate, etc.

One must add that a proofreader is critical for the process. Figuring out how to integrate this into a business model profitably and with good quality will result in an exceptional business model. I'll give you one hint on how to do: make sure you don't have any debt payments for the business.

I recently blogged on this subject, partially in German, partially in English. Here is an excerpt:


(iii) Lektorierungsarbeit ist interessant, lohnt sich aber nicht. Es ist super ein bisschen zu lektorieren. Die Übersetzerin von dem XXX Text hat das super übersetzt und bietet dadurch Anreize und Einblick ins Übersetzen an. Die Übersetzerin von den Startup-Incubator-Texten (für YYY Chefs Firma; fällt mir im Augenblick nicht mehr ein) vor einigen Jahren waren auch unwahrscheinlich gut. Aber interessant heißt nicht, dass es sich lohnt. Bei 0,03 EUR/Wort lohnt es auf keinen Fall im Vergleich zum Übersetzen, weil es einfach zu schwer ist, sofort in die neue Sprache schnell hineinzudenken. Es geht natürlich, aber es geht langsamer, als wenn man selber den Text übersetzt (dadurch schon ein bisschen verinnerlicht hat) und dann selbst lektoriert (aus genau diesem Grund sind die maschinellen Übersetzungen wertlos). Das Übersetzen von 3.000 Wörter pro Tag x 0,09 EUR/Wort ist wesentlich leichter als das Lektorieren eines entsprechenden Textes im Umfang von 9.000 Wörter.

http://perypatetik.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-greatest-problem-in-commercial.html


Your post really made me think. And it makes every kind of sense. To my way of thinking, "reviewing* is going to take on increasing importance. Partly because an increasing set of responsibilities is being placed on the shoulder of translators - way beyond the translation itself. Have we not become desk-top publishers by default? And providers of quality translation memories without any consideration of royalty payments for use of same?


 

David Miller
Switzerland
Local time: 13:50
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Re-translation suggestion - excellent Feb 13, 2015

Andrea Halbritter wrote:

Yes, you can and I like it. I work as a translator for direct clients and as a proofreader/editor for a few agencies. In some fields and for some agencies proofreading can really pay well, especially if the documents are to be printed. I make up to 80 € per hour for reviewing... (even when I am the second proofreader...).

I do not go through really bad translations though. If there are to many problems I propose a retranslation instead.

[Modifié le 2015-02-13 17:07 GMT]


The re-translation suggestion is excellent!
And you confirm my feeling that reviewing should be made to pay well.


 

Edwin den Boer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:50
Member (2009)
English to Dutch
Yes Feb 13, 2015

I tend to earn more money per hour from reviewing than from translating (although not as much as Andrea). On the other hand, there are more translation jobs available.

Some relevant factors are:

1. How agencies/clients allocate their budget. Some agencies that specialize in rather technical texts, hire translators that are competent in general translation and rely on editors to ensure that the translation adheres to the client's style and terminology. That makes sense when there's a limited number of experts.

2. How fast you can work - whether you're paid per word or per hour according to a certain standard. The ideal editor has a different personality than the ideal translator - more critical, maybe less creative. I read fast and write slowly, so I prefer editing (or translating a difficult text).


 

David Miller
Switzerland
Local time: 13:50
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
How do you review in practice? Feb 13, 2015

Edwin den Boer wrote:

I tend to earn more money per hour from reviewing than from translating (although not as much as Andrea). On the other hand, there are more translation jobs available.

Some relevant factors are:

1. How agencies/clients allocate their budget. Some agencies that specialize in rather technical texts, hire translators that are competent in general translation and rely on editors to ensure that the translation adheres to the client's style and terminology. That makes sense when there's a limited number of experts.

2. How fast you can work - whether you're paid per word or per hour according to a certain standard. The ideal editor has a different personality than the ideal translator - more critical, maybe less creative. I read fast and write slowly, so I prefer editing (or translating a difficult text).


I still recall proofing galleys against hard copy.
Most work is done more easily on screen now.

Do you use any software tool to help you in your reviewing?
Do you use horizontal or vertical split screen to review?
And do you review in one of the CAT tools?
I would imagine you might have three or four windows open at a time - the original text, the translated text, an Internet window and possibly a notes pad. Meaning a pretty big screen.

I love the "read fast, write slowly" comment!


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 05:50
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Two monitors Feb 13, 2015

I agree with others who suggest charging an hourly rate.

With regard to split documents I would recommend a vertical split but both the vertical and horizontal split make the document smaller, whereas for reviewing you actually need both the source and target documents to be at least 100%, preferably larger. If you are going to do a lot of this work, I would recommend having two monitors. They are not that expensive anymore and well worth the money.


[Edited at 2015-02-13 22:19 GMT]


 
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