Counting words, file delivery and invoicing

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Once you have finalised your translation and feel confident and happy with its quality, you will want to send it to the customer. But first you want to know how much you have earned, and possibly send an invoice together with your translation. It is a good idea to send your invoice together with your file because this makes it easier for the company to process your invoice, and helps ensure timely payment for you. If you send the invoice at a later date, it might take a while before the email gets processed properly, and may need to be confirmed with the project manager who assigned you the translation whether you were truly assigned this project. This all causes further delays, but if you send the invoice together with the translation, the project manager can quickly forward that attachment to the accounting department.

Most agencies are satisfied with an invoice created in a Word file. You can spend a few hours one day beautifying your invoice, making sure you have your business license details, payment information and contact information on the invoice (in case the accounting department needs to contact you). But don’t go overboard with choice of fonts, because it will not look how you hoped on the customer’s end if they do not have the same fonts on their system as you do. Or you can download free software such as Nitro PDF Creator which can convert through the print function any file (such as Excel) to a PDF file, which looks better as an invoice and cannot be accidentally altered (such as your bank account number).

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Once you have beautified your invoice, you can save it somewhere as a template and always use the same file when creating new invoices.

You can Save As each new invoice to create a copy and store it for your own accounting needs, or in case the customer loses it and asks for it again. You can even get fancy and create fields which hook up to an Excel file or other accounting system.

Once you are ready to issue your customer an invoice, you should include their project/order number (so that they can quickly know what job the invoice refers to), the date of delivery, the payment due date, and the word or other count.

Counting words

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For counting words in a Word file, simply go to File > Properties > Statistics tab. Since I do this frequently, once again I have created a shortcut key for this through the usual Tools > Customization > Keyboard. The word count statistics should usually suffice. If your customer is paying in some other way, such as by the page of 1800 keystrokes (East Europe and Russia) or by the line of 55 keystrokes (Germany), you can use the other statistics. But note that a keystroke includes the space, tab or ENTER mark after every word – essentially any key you press on the keyboard. Different versions of Word count these statistics differently, so make sure you test some files to find out how your version counts it. If you find out that the character statistics count does not include the space etc. after every word, simply add the character count to the word count first, and then divide the total by 1800 to get the number of pages. For your reference, I find that the average page of 1800 keystrokes usually works out to around 250 words. If charging by the line of 55 keystrokes, simply take the total keystroke count and divide it by 55.

However, some customers like to charge by the source text, meaning not by the target text, which is what you translated. Usually the customer will give you a source word count at the beginning, which you can double check using different software.

If you locally charge VAT on your services but your client is from another country (or outside Europe, if you are European), you usually do not need to charge VAT. This is because you are exporting a service, and most governments do not tax exports, because they want to encourage exports. You do not want to make yourself unnecessarily expensive to your foreign clients, and you certainly do not want to pay more taxes than necessary, so look into this before issuing your first invoice to a foreign client.

Sending your files

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When sending your file, it is a good idea to quadruple check that you have the necessary files attached to your email. There is nothing worse than being satisfied with the quality and timely delivery of your translation, and then go off to lunch or celebrate for an evening, only to come back to your computer the next day to find an angry email that there was no attachment with your email. All your efforts for timely and quality delivery have been wasted and now you must deal with damage control.

You might also consider zipping (the WinZip program on our Download Translation Programs pages) the file(s) to compress it/them to about one tenth their size. Not only does it cost less internet time for you and your customer, but sometimes very large attachments tend to wander in cyber space, arriving to their destination at a delayed time, or sometimes not at all. Or perhaps fill up your customer’s online email inbox to the point that it gets bounced back to you, causing unnecessary delays.

When you are finally ready to send, you can also put your own email address in the BCC (blind carbon copy), meaning that a copy of the email is sent back to you, this fact hidden from your customer. This way you can double check that it has been sent off properly. Or if you have a smartphone, you really do go off to lunch or partying and find out your customer did not get the file, you can forward to them the email with attached file that you sent to yourself and confirmed that you received.

If you have the means, as a backup, you can also upload your file somewhere to the web and send a download link to the customer. In such cases, or when sending larger attachments, I usually like to send two emails to my customer: one with the attachment, and the other without the attachment but informing the customer I just sent them the file as a large attachment (with the download link in the email if I am using that as a backup).

Once you have received your BCCed email back and double checked that everything is okay, then you can go to lunch and party all evening with a clear conscience. However, it is always a good idea to be available for some time after you deliver a translation. Perhaps you can check your email from your mobile phone, or you can give your customer your mobile phone for sms text messaging. Things can often be found wrong with your translation, such as some missing text you have overlooked, or some problem. Until the project is finalised and confirmed by the customer, the job is not done and it is good to be on standby over the next few hours in case the customer needs your help finalising something. You can also make sure your smartphone has all the necessary software to edit such documents.

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madmin

Head Honcho at KENAX
After translating and managing translation projects for more than 20 years, I'm happy to teach others the ropes and move on to other interests. My greatest perk from this profession is that it has given me the freedom to work when and where I want, and eventually to loosen the straps and travel freely around the world.
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