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Detail of Royal typewriterThe translation job from last week was the third in a series of three conference papers I’ve translated over the past few weeks. All three are headed for the same conference, and all three are subject to the same page count.

So they were all ten pages long, single-spaced, in 11 point font, with one inch margins. However, the first counted 3,817 words. The second had 4,379, and the third, a whopping 5,692 words. I’ll do the maths for you. The third paper had 49.1% more words than the first, in the same number of pages.

This incredible feat was achieved by making the title and all headings the same size as the body text, and using a simple carriage return between headings and paragraphs, instead of the usual carriage-return-line-feed. Needless to say, it was one of the less readable articles I’ve worked on.

More importantly, if I’d charged by the page, I would have been paid 50% less for the third paper than for the first and I probably spent more than 50% of the time on it. It’s clear to me that pricing by page is a very bad idea.

When pricing by page is a good idea

On the other hand, I’ve spent the morning editing a letter applying for a PhD position. It’s only around 300 words, all on one page. Using my price-per-word formula, I’ve charged just over ten euros. To be honest, that hasn’t even covered the admin costs of asking and answering questions, and saving and opening the document. Maybe pricing by word isn’t such a good idea either.

I’ll have to think about this 🙂