Today I want to talk about an interesting subject that I just heard about. Is the rate per word for translation and proofreading becoming extinct?
I recently listened to the latest episode from “Marketing Tips for Translators” by Tess Whitty (you can find it on all podcast platforms). She answered some questions from her listeners, including if getting paid per word is a tradition that is starting to disappear.
According to Tess, getting paid per translated or proofread word is not fair. We are not just delivering “words.” We are delivering a whole document in a different language in an understandable way. So, we are getting paid for our knowledge, our experience, our preparation, our talent; not just for “words.”
I have to say that I agree with Tess. As translators, we don’t just translate words. We make sure that those words become a whole that is understandable in our native language (or other). So why should we be paid just by the output of words?
Two alternative options are getting paid by the hour or by project.
Being paid by the hour is a good choice, but you definitely need to know how long it takes you to translate a certain number of words or pages in order to calculate your total rate and your delivery time.
Also, not many agencies accept to pay by the hour, except maybe for proofreading or audiovisual translations. And you would need to work with a timer app that you agree with the client so that you can log in there your activity and the client can verify how many hours you worked on the project.
As a localizer, I usually get paid by the hour. I rarely get paid by word. I can also get paid by project if it is a one-time kind of gig, but if it is a recurrent job, then companies prefer to pay by the hour.
But for translation, I have to say that I might prefer to get paid by project, especially for those that don’t have many words. By examining the source document, you can determine how much you would charge the client. It might take some negotiation, but in the end, you are going to get paid more than per word, and it just makes more sense.
Getting paid by project is getting paid by the whole package, not just by how many words you translate. Of course, it can have a downside. If you don’t calculate properly the amount to charge the client, you are still going to get underpaid. This is why it is very important to take your time to prepare a proper quotation, even if it takes a bit longer.
In the end, the important thing is to get paid fairly for the work we do and make sure both agencies and clients are clear about that. And although getting paid per word might be starting to disappear in some countries in Europe and the US, it is not widespread enough around the world.
So, which kind of payment do you prefer? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe.
Until the next time, take care and stay safe!