I must admit, when I first graduated, and just like all my other colleagues, I used to charge per page, because when you still have no experience, you take it from those who’ve been there and done that before you.
Charging for language services per word was and is still very rare in this part of the Earth. The concept is still somewhat new and might I say even confusing for clients. The main reason why most Lebanese translators still charge per page is because, in my humble opinion, they think that clients will find it weird and even unfair.
Before I list the reasons why charging for linguistic services per word is better than having rates per page, it is worth noting that most language service providers agree that a page consists of 250 words (although some translation agencies count one page as 330 words, because they want to make bank at the expense of the poor freelance translator, but that’s another story for another day)
Here is why I think it is better to have rates per word and not per page:
1- For more exact invoicing:
Often times, the project at hand does not consist of an exact number of pages. So it is really irritating to have to invoice for three quarters of a page for example (I blame it on my OCD).
2- It’s fair for both parties:
When you charge per word, both the language service provider and the client will be satisfied. You as an LSP will be getting exactly what you worked for, and in turn, the client will be paying for exactly what they had and needed.
3- It’s fairer for the translator:
Sometimes, translators find themselves spending hours (yes, HOURS) trying to find the exact equivalent of a word in a target language. So it is only fair to charge per word and not per page.
4- You don’t always know the exact number of words in a source text
Sometimes, the project at hand is not in a Word Document format and therefore one cannot count the number of source words. What I tend to do in this case is charge per target word.
5- It’s particularly fairer in the case of copy-writing
Sometimes, clients ask me to come up with a slogan or a press ad. Such things usually have a limited number of words and the rate is a pretty high one, because it takes creativity and sometimes a lot of time to come up with something quite catchy and spot on.
Now to convince clients that it’s better to give a rate per word…
It is our job as language service providers to educate our clients and show them the advantages of charging per word. It is really a matter of communication, and I found it helpful to explain to my clients that they pay for exactly the number of words they want translated/edited/proofread, etc. So far, I’ve never had an issue with a client who insisted I give a rate per page instead of one per word, which is great.