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Pay per character, word, page or hour? The ins and outs of a translation quote

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Pay per character, word, page or hour? The ins and outs of a translation quote

Translation quotation pricing, translation quote, price for a translation, how to understand a translation quote

I find that many people who go to a translator in search of a translation quote, already have an idea of what that quote will be based on. I have had customers ask if the quote is made based on how many characters, words or pages the original document has or on how many hours it will take to translate. There are many reasons why you would quote a certain way over others, but I would like to share with you how I like to do it and why.

1. Per character

I don’t think I have ever found someone who quotes based on the amount of characters on a page. A character doesn’t have any semantic value whatsoever and, thusly, I don’t think you can put a price tag on translating a character. If you have done this before or know of someone who does, I would like to know. I am honestly interested in how you would be able to make this work well, as I don’t think it is possible. In my opinion, I think this is more like a stab in the dark, as you honestly don’t know how much content would need to be translated if you choose this option.

2. Per word

This is personally my favourite way of giving quotes. A word has semantic value to it and you can calculate how much content there is exactly in a document (excluding images of course). This means that both the translator and the client will receive a fair price for the translation, as it is the actual content that needs to be translated that will be used to make the quote.

You can even pick and choose the content you want translated. If you only want half of the text on a page to be translated, then you will only be paying for that half.

3. Per page

This method is mostly used by big publishing houses and used when translating large documents. It can also be pretty handy if you want to give the customer an easy way to know how much the translation will cost. If you give a quote based on the amount of words in a document, the client may not know how to calculate the total cost for the service. However, if you do it per page, it is simply a matter of counting the pages that need translating and multiplying that by the cost per page.

I have to say that I am not a fan of this method. It is true that this method is probably the easiest to understand for the client, but it has, in my opinion, some important flaws. For example, you don’t know how much content appears on a page. Maybe there is hardly any text on the pages at all, but you are paying for a page with a normal amount of text. This means that the client would be paying more for the translation than he or she should. However, if the page is full of content, then the translator may be the one losing money as he or she had calculated fewer words per page than actually appear on the document. This means that the translator may have to spend more time and effort on the translation than intended.

There is also the issue of the paper size. This is generally a small issue as I think that the translator would realise that if you are working with A3 instead of A4, there will probably be more content that needs to be translated. I only mention this to remind you to never give a final quote without seeing the original document first.

In spite of these flaws, I have met quite a few clients and translators that only want to work this way. I understand the reasons why translators would want to do so (easiest for the client to understand, don’t have to rely on word counting software, easiest type of quotation to give). However, I have never understood why a client would really want to do it this way. I could understand it maybe for a very large project, but not for anything else, as you will probably be losing out. Remember, any translator with a bit of experience will attribute a word count per average page and the word count would probably be a relatively high one. So, the translator won’t lose out. Though this does usually change on very big projects.

4. Per hour

In my opinion, this is the second-fairest way to give a quote. You know how many words you can translate an hour after a few years of working in the sector, so you can have an estimated output per hour and give your client a fair quote based on the actual work carried out. If you have a difficult translation, then it may take you longer and, thusly, the price will go up. If it’s laughably easy, then the price will come down.

The thing is that you won’t really know how much the translation will cost until you actually translate the document. This means that you will probably have to translate the document before getting paid and that the client won’t know how much the translation will cost exactly until the translation has finished. The problem is that, after finishing the translation, the client may not want to pay so much for the translation and could reject it. This means that you would have been working for hours without getting paid.

The only real way to give your customer a quotation in this case is to actually do a word count and then calculate how many hours it would take you to translate the document. However, I find this to be a bit pointless. If you are going to do a word count, might as well just base the quotation on how many words appear in the document.

So, there you have it. A little rundown of the 4 main ways I know of giving a client a translation quote. This is entirely my view of the situation, but I would be fascinated to know if you have found another way of putting a price on a translation.

If you are looking for a translator, I suggest you check out the rest of my website. I offer an array of linguistic services and I quote per word.

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