As a translator should you get paid by the word or by the hour? This is a question that new translators face when taking a new translation job. Even established translators may occasionally have to make a decision on which of the two modes of payment is best for a particular project.
In most cases, the translation industry prefers paying by the word. Under certain circumstances, established and experienced translators offer some of their services and charge them by the hour. The two methods have advantages and disadvantages. It is important to have the whole picture of the project before deciding on the best billing method.
Considerations to make
Consider these facts before deciding on the best way to charge your client.
- Will the translation job involve a lot of research?
- Does the translation involve other unique aspects such as adjusting it to the marketing needs of your clients’ products or services?
- Does it involve interacting with company staff or are you left to do the job as a remote freelancer?
From the above it is obvious that a translation job is not merely converting a word from a source language to a target language. Much, much more is involved. Look at the job in totality and decide what would be the best way to bill it. Explain to your client why you are going out of the ‘norm’ in your billing method. Let them know the whole scope of the value you are offering them.
Charging translation jobs by the word
This is the widely accepted method of getting paid in translation jobs. The method’s advantages include:
- You know upfront what you will earn from the job
- The client also knows what the job will cost him
- It encourages translators to keep up to date with translation technology and improve on their skill as these will help them to produce more in a given period of time
- Per word translation billing goes for value. It does not make a client feel ‘cheated’ in case the translator takes unduly long with the job. This creates better working relationship and more possibilities for repeat jobs.
A major disadvantage of billing translation job per word is that you are tied to a fixed rate no matter the state of the source document. Imagine receiving a hand-written document that is barely legible that will take you like forever to get the gist of its content. This may take up a lot of your time.
When you have decided to bill your services per word, always be clear with the client whether it is by the word count of the source document or that of the translated work. Remember translated work’s total words can occasionally exceed those of the source language depending on the language combination.
Billing translation work by the hour
If you know the length of time it will take to do the job, then probably you can assess and decide to charge per hour. But this is not easy. This billing method can also bring a translator’s conscience into the matter.
Suppose you estimate that the job will take 10 hours and you charge a certain number of dollars per hour. It turns out that after giving the client your best, you only spend five hours and the job is complete and perfect for delivery. What would you do?
While paying translation work per word or per hour has their own place in the translation industry world, always consider what will give you the true value of your services and what will leave your customer satisfied.