Establishing translation rates - What is behind the price of a translation ?
I often receive comments from potential future clients who are surprised by the quote established for the translation of their project, whether it is a simple administrative letter or a more complex translation. Very often, this is linked to the fact that these clients do not realise the amount of time necessary for a translation (a professional translator does not use Google translate and a few clics when translating!). These "few pages" full of technical vocabulary and tables with figures written in anglosaxon typography, or this non editable PDF require a lot of research and layout.
The average turnover for a translator is between 300-400 words (one page) per hour, or 2000-2500 words (7 pages approx.) per day, without taking into account revison, correction and layout. This means that is it not possible to translate a 43 pages annual report in 2 working days for instance. For clarity purpose, please find here-under the key steps of the translation process.
1. Request for collaboration - Establishing a quote
A first contact is made between the client and the translator, who defines with the client what are their expectations, theirs needs, delivery dates, and clarify any point... A wordcount is made as well as an evaluation of the time necessary to deliver the project according to the clients requests.
The translator translates the text, makes all necessary terminology research, verify their sources, adapts punctuation and typography to French standards, and eventually comes back to the client in case there are any questions relating to the project. According to the technicity of the text, the time spend on this step can be doubled.
The translator revises their own translation or delegate this task to an externa revisor (to be defined before launching the project). Sources are verified and validated a second time.
Once the preceeding steps are completed, the translation is then reworked in order to be identical to the orginial supplied document. When simple Words documents are concerned, this step can be very fast. However, a more complex Power Point or a non-editable PDF document might need more attention and time.
It is therefore easy to realise that translators do not just "translate" (unless this is what the client requieres). They makes researches, proofread attentively their translation, and work on the layout of the documents before delivering them. Independant translators in France are also required to pay social taxes (amounting to 25% in certain cases), anticipate in case of illness or incapacity to perform their work (no social benefits for independant workers), anticipate for holidays (no paid leaves), anticipate for income taxes and for retirement (minimal retirement plans). As such, for one invoice issued by a translator, they will only benefit "fully" of 50 to 60% of their income at the best. All these elements are taken into account when establishing a tarification grid.
Hence, independant translators (as well as any independant worker) have all the reason to estimate that they should not work under a specific threashold - whether hourly or daily - that would not grant them enough money to live decently. Also, one should not forget that translators usually are post-graduates and qualified and well trained professionals.