Defending Your Quotation or Invoice as a Translator

Defending Your Quotation or Invoice as a Translator

It is always a good feeling to receive requests for translations. It feels great that people ask you for help. Unfortunately, I occasionally receive an odd demand too.  I may even use the word outrageous for it. Some prospects send me a document with the message: “This is the number of words, but I use the word [X] very often, so you only have to include that in the total price once.” Sometimes, they even add: “My translator German/French/Spanish does the same thing.” There. Take it. Create your quotation or invoice with this demand in mind!

I still appreciate you, Prospect With Weird Demand, so this blog is for you. Let me be clear: I understand you. You do not want to pay too much for things. I do not either. Still, this request is taking things too far. I will explain why. You will not pay too much. You will pay exactly the right price.

Defending Your Quotation or Invoice as a Translator

A translation is a full text

The prospects requesting this for a quotation or invoice assume that since the rate is per word, you pay for a translation per word. This is not the case. A text is not just a linking of words. Each of those words has a meaning. That whole of words has to do with nuances, culture, and intent.

Dear prospects, you do not pay for a translation word-by-word but for a beautiful, high-quality, coherent, total, meaningful, well-structured, and effective document. The requirement happens to be that you have to pay for the document with a rate per word. This does not mean that you can just pick out some words and say that you do not have to pay for those or that they do not need to be translated.

If you are of the opinion that a translation is word-by-word, I have the perfect solution for you! It is called Google Translate. It translates per word and it is even free!

Translation and payment per word explained

I will give some examples of how these prospects’ requests work out in practice.

  • “That word is only translated once, so I only have to pay for it once.” What I could do is make a list of all the words in the text, one after the other. That way, each word is used only once. That is how I know for sure that I am not translating words for which you will not pay me anyway. This is disadvantageous for two people: the client and me. The client does not have a good document and I have a lot of work sifting through the text, making sure that I do not do redundant work.
  • “That word is only translated once, so I only have to pay for it once.” This prospect emphasizes this particular word. This is THE word that only has to be translated and paid for once. Woopsy, this prospect forgets so many other words! What about the, a, an, and or? There is so much more money to save, especially on those often repeated words! Should I tell?
  • “That word is only translated once, so I only have to pay for it once.” Of course, Sir/Madam, I will. I will translate the whole piece of text. Then I will go through the whole piece of text again to count how often that word is used. I will deduct that from the piece of text at the rate of 7 cents per word. That means the prospect will actually save a Euro! Me? Well, in addition to that Euro, I will lose a quarter of a work hour and consequently, the salary associated with that time.


Prospects and clients, it is a little give and take. I offer everyone the same affordable rates. Please give me the gift that we do not have to bicker about a few words more or less or a few cents more or less. What you want is a nice, well-structured, high-quality text and that is exactly what I provide. Let’s not make it more difficult, ok? To those translators who do deduct the chosen word from the price of your quotation or invoice, I say: unless you ask a much higher rate than I do, you must be out of your mind!

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