How To Calculate Transcreation Prices

Last updated Jan 22, 2024
By Gwenydd Jones

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? Is It Different to Marketing Translation?”)

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 example transcreation project to illustrate what I mean: a transcreation of a brand tagline for a fruit company. I write about the actual project this example is based on in my article “Don’t Make This Rookie Error with Your Marketing Translator”.

In their brief, the transcreator has to research the background to the tagline, brainstorm ideas and come up with three possible suggestions.

Below are my time estimates for this job. I’m offering two time scales. One is for a “simple tagline”, so easy to understand, with equivalents available in the new language. The other is for a “complex tagline”, so with e.g. rhyme, humour or cultural references, meaning the new language doesn’t offer direct equivalents.

1. Transcreation quote and brief (not billed)

Preliminary emails. Possible phone call to clarify the brief. Quote production. 30 mins.

2. Preparation time (billed)

Investigation of existing website material/reference documents to understand the tagline. Possible queries and clarification with the client to make sure the tagline is properly understood. Thinking time. Simple tagline: 30 mins. Complex tagline 1 hour.

3. Production time (billed)

First brainstorming session. Term research, dictionary and thesaurus. Shortlist results of brainstorming. Simple tagline: 30 mins. Complex tagline 1 hour.

Further review sessions, more thinking and more research, as needed, until the final three options are identified. This will involve going away from the project and coming back to it. Proofread the final three options. Simple tagline: 30 mins. Complex tagline 2 hours.

4. Delivery and post-delivery (not billed)

Delivery to customer. Response to any queries. Invoicing. 30 mins.

Total times

Time on project not billed: 1 hour.

Time on project billed: simple tagline, 1.5 hours; complex tagline, 4 hours.

Share of unbillable time spent on freelancer’s business (30% of total time): simple tagline, 0.75 hours; complex tagline, 1.5 hours.

Total time for calculating gross earnings: simple tagline, 3.25 hours (3 hours 15 minutes); complex tagline, 6.5 hours (6 hours 30 minutes).

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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 may involve other tasks, 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. In the case of the simple tagline, the transcreator in this example has to work 3.25 hours to be able to bill for 2.5 hours. With the complex tagline, they work 6.5 hours to be able to bill for 4. My point is that 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.

Check out my webinar New Getting Your Prices Right 2018 available on demand on Spending an hour deep in thought on pricing will pay for itself a hundred times over. Sign up for our monthly newsletter in the column to the right for updates on our best posts.

Written by Gwenydd Jones

Gwenydd Jones is a Spanish- and French-to-English translator, an SEO blogger and a course creator. She is the founder of The Translator's Studio and the lead teacher on its courses. Connect with Gwenydd on LinkedIn or contact her through this website.

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