How Do I Charge For Translations:
Basic Calculations –

(Text) Volume

Descripción: iStock-517110000.jpg

How Do I Charge For Translations: Basic Calculations – (Text) Volume
Different Approaches?

Starting out as a translator can be overwhelming. There are so many aspects that you need to consider, from marketing to finances. Writing your first proposals or bids can also be a frightening experience. But we have some good news – you don´t need to be scared, writing a quote is a piece of cake once you´ve worked on a few. And don´t worry, it´s no science to come up with a good quote or bid.

Aiming for new clients is always a great way to start your career, but before you do so, you must understand the basics:

1. What are my rates
2. How do I apply my rates
3. What is a proposal or bid
4. How do I submit a bid

In this article, we will focus on how rates are applied and how to make a proposal. At this stage, you are already in a serious negotiation for receiving an order, the client might have potentially already sent you the file, after you submitted a quote on his job post in our Job Board.

Usually the client will send you now a document in different document types (word, ppt, pdf, txt, sdlxliff, .po) and asks you to submit him an offer. This generally is the “code” for, give me a flat rate offer.

There are different ways for you to do the calculation. Some linguists charge per word, others per page. To summarize, there is no correct or wrong approach, but this is mainly a discussion between you and the client. Some ways to charge a client are:

1. Per word
2. Per line
3. Per page
4. Per hour (mainly used for proofreading work)
5. Flat rate (see our note)

Whatever you and your client decide to choose, do not worry, as e.g. you can do the math and convert your per word rate easily into a per line rate.

Conversion – It All Comes Down To Characters

Now it is widely acceptable that 1 word consists of 9 characters with spaces. A standard line is considered to have 55 characters with spaces and a standard page has 220 words per page.

Let´s summarize this:

1. 1 standard word = 9 characters with spaces
2. 1 standard line = 55 characters with spaces
3. 1 standard page = 220 words = 1,980 characters with spaces

This should already help you to create a quote for your client.

For proofreading work or review work, translation agencies sometimes offer you hourly rates. This seems to be exciting at the moment, as you might assume this will be a better way for you to increase your profits.

Unfortunately, I must disappoint you here – as translation agencies limit the amount to e.g. 3 hours at your rate, expecting still to have a great result according to your working agreement with them.

Source vs Target Text

Be careful what you are accepting or agreeing upon. You might want to make sure to define in your offer, what you are charging for (source or target text), as the difference in word count can be quite a lot.

There are different factors that play a significant role:

1. Your Client
2. Your language combination
3. Content of text

Your client will ultimately make a huge impact on this, as he might have his own opinion and might insist on that opinion, putting you in a position where you must choose if you can live with that suggestion.

The language combination is an important factor on deciding between the source and target text factor.

Some language combinations might have more target words, while others have more source words. This relates mostly to the different grammar, syntax and other factors. When you translate e.g. from English into Arabic, you usually will find 20-27 percent more text in the target document, compared to the source.

To understand your needs, you should decide yourself according to these factors what is best for you, keeping in mind that some clients have other opinions, forcing you to decide if you prefer accepting their terms to build up a long-term client relationship and score ongoing work.

Submitting A Quote

You are now ready to submit your offer.

Now – at this point you want to be smart. When you submit your offer, do make sure you give your offer either in lines, words, hours, characters, pages and mention your rate for this too, so that if later you find out there is a miscommunication, you can receive the difference.

That means, avoid:

Translation English to Simplified Chinese: 200.00 USD flat


Translation English to Simplified Chinese: 2,500 source words   @   0.10 USD per word   total: 250.00 USD


Editing English to Arabic: 10,000 words @   0.04 USD per source word   total: 400.00 USD

Congratulations, you´ve submitted your first quote!






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