How much time do you need?

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Direct clients rarely know all the steps involved between their sending you a document and your returning it translated.

This can make it difficult for them to appreciate the level of service you are providing or to understand why a 24 hour turnaround time for 3,000 words for publication is a dangerous thought. Many clients or prospects appreciate it when a translator takes the time to explain the care that goes into meeting (exceeding?) their expectations.

This post outlines most of the steps involved in this sample 3,000 words for publication assignment where style is paramount and the time allotted to each.

1. Receive client brief and document; review document: 15 mns
2. Seek colleague who will review your translation and agree on fee: 30 mns (with luck)
3. Prepare and send quote to client; if new client,
send along your general terms for signature : 15 mns
4. (sometimes) Respond to client questions by phone or email : ?
5. Wait for signed purchase order and terms : ?
6. With PO in hand, set up client project and administrative folders: 5 mns
7. Review document more closely; spot terminology research and questions to client: 60 mns
8. Translate (terminology research time is included): 600 mns
9. Write email to client with all questions and suggestions to clarify the source text : 30 mns
10. Review client response, make changes if any to the source text and review translation: 60 mns
11. Spell check and proofread on screen (comparing with source text): 180 mns
12. Print translation and review for style (often aloud): 240 mns
13. Send translation and source text to colleague: 5 mns
14. Colleague conducts final review: 240 mns
15. Review colleague’s revisions : 60 mns
16. Prepare invoice for client: 15 mns
17. Send translation and invoice to client: 5 mns
18. Respond to client comments and questions

SUBTOTAL: 1560 mns (26 hours)
19. After page layout, final review before production : 360 mns
20. Receive invoice from colleague and issue payment : 15 mns
21. Receive payment from client
TOTAL: 1935 mns (32.25 hours)

Even if some translators can work at higher speeds, please note this scenario does not even include buffer time in case of computer or Internet problems, lack of response from the client to critical questions, or any of the pitfalls professionals can face during a project.

The rule of thumb in the industry for *for publication work* (I’ve heard this from several professionals whose opinion I respect) is 1,500 to 1,800 words a day.

It fits: this sample assignment is a two day job.

If the client insists on having it done in one day, it is the client’s responsibility to state clearly which quality assurance steps should be ignored, and the translator’s responsibility to consign those choices in the purchase order for the client’s signature. The same suggestions apply should the client’s objective be to reduce costs rather than time.

Quick, good, cheap: you can only have two out of the three.


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  • I bookmark this really interesting post and will use it as a reference to define my own timing scheme. Thank you!

  • […] often take longer than you think […]