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How to Estimate the Deadline for a Translation Project

Have you ever needed to have a document translated but couldn’t estimate an appropriate deadline? Don’t worry, that’s totally normal because calculating how long a translation will take is no easy job. Keep reading to find out some useful tips to make it a simpler task!

Factors to Consider When Estimating How Long a Translation Will Take

The rough estimate is usually 2000-2500 words per day, which equals 8-10 pages (of 250 words each, approximately). We are speaking of an 8-hour workday. However, this estimate will always be imprecise because of the number of factors that need to be considered. For example:

  • The complexity of the text: a blog article is not the same as a machinery manual or a pharmaceutical drug analysis. Each type of text requires a different degree of research, terminological work, etc.
  • Availability of reference material: the more reference you provide your translator with, the less time they will need to spend researching and studying before beginning the translation. 
  • How clear the original document is: if the document has unclear or illegible passages, lacks logic or presents any other defects, the translator will need time to make sense of it, solve the problems, consult with you on them, etc.
  • The software used: some professionals translate from scratch while others rely on translation memories to speed up their productivity.
  • Whether you hire only one translator or a whole team: the more people involved in the project, the faster the turnaround.
  • The length of the document: if a project requires several days of work, the number of words a translator can complete per day will vary. It may take them a while to get familiar with the subject at first, and then they will translate more quickly.
  • The specifics of your assignment: if you have hired a professional linguist to only translate a text, they will deliver faster than if you ask them for TEP (translation + editing + proofreading). The rates vary accordingly, as well.

My Translator Says Their Output is 10k a Day

Careful! If this person told you they are working on their own, 10k words a day is unrealistic. It’s highly probable that they are using machine translation to speed up the process! This poses a serious risk to quality, so you want to be wary.

My Translator Asked Me for an Urgency Surcharge

As explained in an article by Nation 1099, most freelancers will eventually have a client contact them to say they need something done urgently. As this restrains the translator’s capacity to deal with other projects or alters their management plan by pulling resources away, they usually charge a rush or urgency fee. In other words, to complete your project in an urgent manner, the translator will need to do one of the following:

  • Spend their time on something that pays less than their usual activities
  • Stop working on their business plan
  • Stop getting more prospective clients into their pipeline
  • Work nights or weekends

This is why the less time you give your translator, the more they will charge you. Take it into account next time you hire a linguist! You now have some useful information to estimate the deadline of a translation project =)

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