How to calculate transcreation prices
Look carefully at your non-billable time when you calculate your transcreation prices.
This article looks at the timings you can use to calculate transcreation prices. It uses an imaginary project to help illustrate the big picture. It’ll help translators and customers understand the pricing process for a freelancer.
Transcreation involves a lot of work behind the scenes. Because the end customer can’t see what we’re doing, it can be hard to defend our prices. This article supplements Lucy’s article Customer guide to transcreation rates. It illustrates a process for calculating transcreation prices. (What is transcreation?)
The price a transcreator charges depends on how long they need to complete the project. But, as a self-employed freelancer, they must also take non-billable time into account when they set their rates.
There is all the time pre-project. Figuring out the brief and creating the quote can run into hours of work. Then, if there are queries or changes post-delivery, this can also add significant time onto the project.
Besides all the non-billable time around a project, when considering your hourly rate, you need to consider all the hours you invest in your business each year. Everything from marketing time to doing your books. I estimate that I invest 30% of my work time in activities that don’t directly generate income.
Example transcreation project
Here’s an imaginary project to illustrate what I mean: a transcreation of a tourism blog article of 1,000 words. There is no proofreader. That means the transcreator has to ensure the highest possible quality for their client.
In their brief, the transcreator has to adapt the heading and contents for SEO; write the new text as professional copy; and make appropriate content changes for the new target reader. They must also perform thorough quality checks.
Below are my time estimates for this job.
1. Quote and brief (not billed)
Preliminary emails. Phone call to discuss the client’s objectives and SEO strategy, and to clarify the brief. Quote production. 1 hour.
2. Preparation time (billed)
Investigation of existing website material. SEO research to select the most appropriate terms. Reading of original article and thinking time. Possible queries and clarification regarding the brief. 1 hour.
3. Production time (billed)
Draft transcreation of the article. Checking of transcreation against original text. Editing of transcreation. Second editing of transcreation. Proofreading and quality checks. 4 hours.
4. Delivery and post-delivery (not billed)
Delivery to customer. Response to any queries. Invoicing. 30 mins.
Time on project not billed: 1 hour 30 minutes = 1.5 hours.
Time on project billed: 5 hours = 5 hours.
Share of unbillable time spent on freelancer’s business (30% of total time): 2 hours.
Total time for calculating gross earnings: 8.5 hours.
What impact do these timings have on pricing a transcreation?
This is an estimate of transcreation times. The actual time would depend on different factors. E.g. the transcreator’s experience, the difficulty of the project and the exact brief. Also, a project like this would probably be part of a series, and so the initial quoting and preparation time would be reduced for the next project.
What it illustrates is that when freelancers set an hourly rate, that amount isn’t what we’re actually making per hour. The transcreator in this example has to work 8.5 hours to be able to bill for 5 hours. We must remember all our costs when we set prices and negotiate. Our hourly rates can’t be compared to that of employees, where all work time is paid.
Knowing your timings will help you in negotiations. If a customer asks you to drop your price too low, one defence strategy is to explain that to earn enough, you have to complete jobs in a certain time. If you reduce your price, you’ll have to work faster. That means you’ll have to skip or rush certain elements of the process. This will inevitably have a negative impact on quality.
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