Translation Pricing: Per Word or Per Page?

Just recently I have come across the following web page http://www.trustedtranslations.com/translation-company/translation-rates.asp, dealing with the pricing of translation jobs. In this otherwise very interesting text that I can agree with, one thing surprised me.

Let me quote: The pricing for translation projects can be done on a flat fee basis, such as price per page or hourly rate. However, this is not an industry standard nor is it recommended for many reasons. First, as every document is different, the number of words per page can vary significantly. Also, many countries use different sizes of paper. As for hourly rates, each translator has his or her own pace.” 

While I can agree with the hourly rates bit I don’t dig the arguments in favour of the per word pricing.The thing that strikes me most in this context is that “the number of words per page can vary significantly. Also, many countries use different sizes of paper.” I am sure there is something that we call a standard page which removes all doubts about the number of words written on a single page.

A standard page means either 1,500 characters without spaces or 1,800 characters with spaces (which is roughly the same). Given that the number of characters per page is fixed, it’s easy to calculate the exact number of (standard) pages of any translation job. You don’t need to bother with the number of words per page because it’s completely irrelevant. Moreover, per-standard-page pricing is fairer than the per word one, both for translators and their clients. The main reason is that you always get a different number of words in different languages.

Referring to my experience as an English <> Slovak translator I dare say the number of English words is almost always larger than of Slovak words (especially in larger projects). Yet the number of characters (i.e., what the translator really has to write) is fairly equal.  The reason is that English uses shorter words in general as it has minimal inflection to convey various grammatical nuances (and uses prepositions instead) while Slovak, on the other hand, needs different suffixes to convey the same. Thus you get fewer but longer words in Slovak, though the total number of characters is about the same, and get paid less when translating from English to Slovak and charging on the per-target-word basis.

With the per-source-word pricing, the client is disadvantaged in the case of English > Slovak translation, while in the opposite direction it’s the translator who may feel underrated. However, with the per-standard-page rate, both should be satisfied, as the final price always matches the actual volume.

Therefore, I largely prefer and recommend using the per-standard-page pricing over the per word rates as it provides a more objective assessment of the volume of the work done irrespective of whether you calculate the price on a source or target text.

If you have an English <> Slovak translation project and want to see how the per-standard-page pricing works, don’t hesitate and go to www.prekladydontom.com to place an order, or contact me at tomasdonoval@prekladydontom.com.

PS: The bit about “different sizes of paper” made me laugh heartily. Is there anybody nowadays who really assigns a translation job on paper?

PPS: This article doesn’t deal with other factors affecting the rate, such as complexity or quality of translation.

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2 thoughts on “Translation Pricing: Per Word or Per Page?

  1. ribeirojc

    When I had this problem, some time ago, I decided to use per word rate since it was the most common metric I encountered.
    Rates (words/characters/pages) are used to compare bids. If a requester wants a bid in words or pages I convert my basic rate (words) into whatever is required – my statistics of work performed has provided conversion factors – and I comply with the request.
    This reasoning presupposes we’re talking about a single source-target pair. Different combinations have to use different conversion factors.

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