At a certain translators and translation conference I attended back in 2009, there was a lot of buzz about how translators and translation companies should charge. It is not about the amount to charge for translation, but whether translation services should be charged by number of words, by hour or by project.
Charging by number of words is still the norm in our translation industry. The benefit of charging by source word count is that both client and the translator or translation company know in advance exactly how much the translation is going to cost before the project starts. Furthermore, billing by word count benefits more experienced and more specialized translators who are faster at their work. It also encourages translators to incorporate productivity-enhancing tools into their work flow. However, the disadvantage is that makes translation look like a commodity. Instead of selling a professional solution, it makes translation service providers look like they are selling a basket of words. And then there is this question about repeated words and discounts for repetitions.
So what about charging by the hour for translation? Translators and translation companies used to charge by the hour for tasks like editing and proofreading, but for translation…..well, it seems like a good idea. At least it makes translation service look as professional as services rendered by lawyers, accountants and consultants who charged by the hour. Billing by the hour benefits translators who work slowly. It also allows for very thorough research, and time for reading background material. However, billing by the hour also gives rise to the question of what is billable? Is phone time, e-mail time and revisions billable? Moreover, it is hard to know exactly how much time is required to accomplish a given job. So, this may lead to disputes later on when the actual time spent does not meet initial expectation or estimation.
Is billing by project the way to go then? Billing by project means there is no breakdown of words or hours. This method has the advantage of allowing the translator or translation service provider more flexibility without having to deal with number of words translated and time spent doing the translation and research. Using the project billing method also gives the client one number to focus on. On the other hand, it locks the translator and translation company to a fixed bid. There’s no room to manoeuvre even if the project takes twice as long as expected to translate.
So what is the best way to charge or be charged for translation services? At Sage Languages, we advise clients based on what best serves their needs and what’s most cost effective. To find out more, contact us now!