When a client needs to have a document translated, he or she will almost invariably ask the translation company for two things, i.e. a cost estimate and turnaround time.

In our previous post,

[How Translators Determine Their Fees], we analyzed several alternative ways in which a translator may determine his or her fees and, based on that, be able to estimate a translation’s cost.

Most translators charge per word (either of the source text or of the target text) but in many cases this is simply not applicable considering the amount of work that may be involved in the translation of a text with very few words, such as a jingle or a slogan. Depending on the nature of each project, a translator may decide to charge per hour or may determine a fixed amount for the entire project which, in any case, is also based on the number of hours the translator estimates the project will take him or her.

Translation Cost and Turnaround Times

Even though I personally do not agree with the per-word cost-estimation system, in this matter we flow with the current. It has its advantages; for instance, it is easier for clients to check how many words a text has but they have no control over the hours of work billed to them. Also, when something has turned into a usual practice in the industry, it is hard to implement something new even if it is for the better. There is always resistance to change. As our clients respect us and we have built up trust over many years, they are more accepting of any changes. They know we will not cheat them and will bill exactly the hours the project has taken us. Rules must be clear and the client needs to understand why we choose any given cost-estimation system in every project.

As regards turnaround times, all translators should know their translation capacity, i.e. how many words he or she can translate, for instance, per day. It is said that a translator may translate around 2,500 per day. That is a fair estimation, but a generalization as well. I remember once, one of the top authorities from the Buenos Aires Translators’ Association told us that no translator can translate more than 3,000 words a day and deliver good quality. Well, that is definitely not true. Our best translator is able to turn around 9,000 words in a day producing the best quality ever. Our clients have congratulated us many times on the amazingly fast turnaround time and excellent quality of her translations (she won’t let me name her). How does she do it? I’m not sure. Is it doable? You bet.

Summing up, if you want to stay on the safe side, it is okay to calculate 2,500 words per translator per day. If a project will take many days, the number of words a translator may translate daily may vary. A project may involve many translators; usually a team of up to 4 or 5 people may work perfectly well if coordinated by a competent Project Manager.

These are all factors we always explain to our clients so that they can make informed decisions as to whether they prefer to have the document translated ASAP even if it has to be split among many translators, or whether they prefer to extend the deadline to have it translated by only one translator. Setting priorities together with the client based on a cost-benefit analysis is a must.