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Is it strange to charge per target word for PDF files?
Thread poster: Thomas Johansson

Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 18:55
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Apr 30, 2008

A client sent me a PDF file for translation (from English to Swedish) together with their corresponding word count.

Since it is a PDF file, I have no way to confirm their word count (except by counting manually), and I therefore replied that I would need to charge per target word instead. (Which is my standard practice for all PDF files.)

The agency's project manager now replied that she never has heard of any such practice (i.e. charging per target word) during her over ten years of experience as a professional translator, and that they cannot accept this.

Her reply confuses me, since I really wouldn't think charging per target word was such a strange thing and instead a rather practical solution for PDF files.

I wonder how others see this matter.


[Edited at 2008-04-30 23:53]


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Anhilgen  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:55
Member
English to German
+ ...
Not at all May 1, 2008

First let me say that there are easy ways to convert a PDF into Word in order to do the word count (e.g. using special software like Abby FineReader). Or (as in the old times) you could do an aproximate count by counting the lines and multiplicate the result with the average number of words per line.
But as far as I know from personal experience, it's quite common to charge translations of PDF files based on the number of target words. Or at least, it's not strange or unusual.
I often have to quarrel with my clients about that as I very much insist on charging for source words and therefore always convert the PDF into Word and send it to the client as the basis for invoicing.


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Taylor Kirk  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:55
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Weird... May 1, 2008

All of my clients use my target word count for PDFs, without exception. They give me an approximation before I do it, then I invoice them on the resulting word count. Maybe Swedish words are longer and thus fewer in the source and they wish to use that? Not sure. The only thing I know about Sweden is that Ikea is awesome.

[Edited at 2008-05-01 00:09]


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Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 18:55
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
approximately the same word counts May 1, 2008

taylorreigne wrote:
Maybe Swedish words are longer and thus fewer in the source and they wish to use that? Not sure. The only thing I know about Sweden is that Ikea is awesome.

[Edited at 2008-05-01 00:09]


Swedish and English word counts tend to end up approximately the same (+/- 10%). But everything else Swedish is awesome.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:55
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It's a matter of agreeing May 1, 2008

Just to illustrate, sworn/certified translations in Brazil are done at mandatory rates set by law. These are always applied on the target text char count, for a simple reason: the original is usually on hardcopy. It may be a diploma in gothic letters, a handwritten birth certificate from the pre-typewriter days, etc. Even if it's a court ruling generated with a computer and laser printer, it's delivered on paper. Nobody will ask the court for the original files.

On another token, there are statistics between languages. It is a known fact that in my pair text "swells" 0 to 20%. So the midpoint is 10%. One agency I used to work for had a preset rate. If the original was "countable" (viz. Word file), we'd use it. Otherwise (viz. PDF file, typed, handwritten original), we'd count the target text. Anyway, that rate was for counting words in PT. If we counted them in EN, I'd be expected to add 10% to the word count on the invoice.

After all, the client will disburse a lump sum, and the translator will receive this sum. If the two parties agree on a rate per kilobytes of file size, per hour, per cigarette smoked while translating (for chain-smoking translators), whatever, it's your agreement. There is no standard for that. It's just as I buy fuel in reais per liter in Brazil, and dollars per gallon in the USA.


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The Misha
Local time: 19:55
Russian to English
+ ...
You are the one setting the rules May 1, 2008

I am ALWAYS charging per target word - just because I am used to it and it seems natural to me to run it through the MS Word counter in the end (I don't use any CATs). Depending on which way I translate ( I do both English to Russian and Russian to English) I sometimes lose and sometimes gain a little on the word count, but none of my clients has ever questioned the practice. Remember: you work for yourself, you are the one who sets the rules.

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Elin Davies  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2008)
English to Welsh
+ ...
Can't you copy the text? May 1, 2008

This is what I usually do with pdfs to get a word count, then paste it into word (select all, check all text has been selected, copy and paste unformatted into word). I also prefer to have the text to over type in word anyway, so it's useful.

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Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 18:55
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Copy and paste doesn´t work for this file May 1, 2008

Elin Davies wrote:

This is what I usually do with pdfs to get a word count, then paste it into word (select all, check all text has been selected, copy and paste unformatted into word). I also prefer to have the text to over type in word anyway, so it's useful.


Usually I try to do this, but in this case, for this particular document, it doesn't work. When I copy the text and paste it into a Word file, it just comes out as unreadable strings of squares, not words.

Anyway, I often also work with PDF files where the text cannot be copied at all, when the pages are just scanned from original hand- or machine-written documents.

Thomas


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Marina Soldati  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 20:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Try this May 1, 2008

Hi Thomas,

Have a look at this thread. There´s a freeware mentioned here (abracadabra) which counts words in Acrobat Reader, provided the text is not scanned.
I use it and it works fine.

http://www.proz.com/forum/software_applications/74292-word_count_in_acrobat-.html


Hope this helps
Regards,
Marina


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Format May 1, 2008

If they have given you this document in a non-countable (and non-editable) format, then ask them how THEY magically got their word count. If they cannot tell you that, then respond that your charge will be based on target count.

Of course it could have been done by manual counting, which is usually an approximation unless you want to spend all day doing it.


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ChrisGT  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:55
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
I don't charge per target word... May 1, 2008

Hello Thomas,

I do exactly what Elin does. I extract the text from the PDF and dump it in a Word file, get a word count and quote.

When the PDF is locked, meaning that I can't extract the text, I ask my client to provide me with a "workable" PDF file, which means that his/her graphic designer must not outline the graphic file before converting it into a PDF file. When the graphic file is not outlined, then you can easily extract the text from the PDF.

They always comply. If they can't supply me with a workable PDF, then I ask them to give me a Word file.

I never have any problems with my clients when I ask them.

In my opinion, clients should provide the translator with a type of file that he can work with, it's the least they can do.

Hope this helps.
Christiane

[Edited at 2008-05-01 03:36]


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casey
United States
Local time: 19:55
Member
Japanese to English
It's standard practice May 1, 2008

I have never heard of charging for source words when the file is not editable. I used to work for an agency myself, and we always charged based on the target word count for those types of files. I'm with Henry. Ask them where they got their word count from.

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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:55
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I agree, but occasionally it's problematical ... May 1, 2008

casey wrote:

I have never heard of charging for source words when the file is not editable. I used to work for an agency myself, and we always charged based on the target word count for those types of files. I'm with Henry. Ask them where they got their word count from.


I agree. When the source file can be reliably counted, I'm happy to accept the number of source words (usually - but not always - slightly longer in French and Spanish than in English, anyway), but when the source file cannot be reliably counted (scanned PDFs, photocopies of certificates, etc.), then I insist on the number of target words.
Most clients readily accept this, but I'm having a tiffette with a French client at the moment who is trying to insist on an alleged "Trados wordcount" of a Word file after the event, even though I don't use Trados and never said I did (the difference is only a few hundred words).
The great thing is to try to establish precise terms for a job before accepting it, but things don't always work out that way ...
Best of luck
Jenny


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:55
French to English
+ ...
Target count - for German at least May 1, 2008

I always use a target word count for German because the resulting English translation can be anything up to 20% more words, depending on the technical nature of the text! However, I don't see how you can do anything else for pdf files. Even if you convert them, there are sometimes parts which don't convert successfully, e.g. tables or text boxes, which then have to be added at the end and a source count just woudn't do them justice. Complete word count (www.shaunakelly.com/word/CompleteWordCount/index.html ) does include text boxes in Word, but as to whether all agencies use that or a similar method is debatable....

I would stand your ground.


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Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 01:55
English to Swedish
+ ...
Able2Extract May 1, 2008

Extract with Able2Extract!

Charge per source word!

(Normal word count shrinkage En>Sw is 17%)

***********************
Sven Petersson
Medical translator
Website: www.svenp.com
***********************


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