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Charging Standard Rate for Articles and Prepositions: Is it Fair?

We charge for translation mainly per the number of source words. This means that for each source word—whether it’s something as long and seemingly difficult as “pregelinatined” or as short as the article “a”—a client pays the same rate. Charging a single rate might appear controversial to some clients, resulting in a sticker shock: “Why would I pay the same rate for those words that require little or no work?” At first glance, such pricing does seem to make little sense. For instance, with English to Russian translations, you don’t translate the articles “a” and “the,” but simply omit them. Here is a possible explanation of why this pricing method is generally accepted as fair:

Besides those simple words, almost any translation job involves more challenging words that, in contrast, require effort beyond the standard rate. Examples include:

  1. Words that don’t exist or have no commonly accepted counterpart in the target language, e.g. “matrix team” in Russian.
  2. Words that are extremely difficult to translate because they don’t have an identical equivalent in the target language. One of my favorite examples is the word “leadership” which is now often used instead of “management.” The literal Russian translation “лидерство” doesn’t carry any meaning of “management” at all. The closest match is probably “руководство,” but it doesn’t fully convey the meaning of “being a leader”. For more information about this kind of translation challenges, I invite you to read this post.
  3. Unclear or incorrect wordings which appear to say one thing, while the author actually had in mind something completely different. I don’t think any example is necessary in this category because misunderstanding is so common in all aspects of life. Just ask yourself: do I get my message across to others correctly 100% of the time?

To illustrate, let’s make a simplified calculation based on the assumption that you translate on average 300 words per hour. This means approximately 5 words per minute or 1 word in 12 seconds. At the rate of $0.1 per word, you make 300 x $0.1 = $30 per hour. And it’s natural that you want to make $30 for each hour spent on translating.

Now, imagine yourself working on a text so challenging that you occasionally have to spend 5 or 10 minutes on a single word instead of 12 seconds. Gradually, you are falling behind your expected productivity level. If you continue to get many challenging words downstream, there is no way you can achieve your average amount of 300 words per hour. You might end up making $20, $10, or even $1 per hour instead.

This is when simpler words come to improve your performance. While spending too much time on the challenging words, you also have a certain amount of articles, prepositions, and similar words that you can translate much, much faster. With these words, you don’t need 12 seconds per word, but rather just one second or less. By spending less time on simpler words, you can make up for the time you lose on the more difficult ones. So, one possible rationale for charging the same rate for the “little effort” words is to assume it’s a form of compensation for the more difficult bits of the text.

If you like a combination of a great translation and affordable rates, we might be a perfect match for your English to Russian translation needs.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.