4 Reasons Why a Translation Company May Charge a Rush Fee

rush feeClients often ask us whether our Chinese translation company charge a rush fee if their files require a fast turnaround time (TAT). Quick TAT is typically needed for urgent content like alerts or recalls, or changes that need to be implemented immediately to make a product release. Occasionally there’s a heads-up that a rush job will come, but usually no certainty as to when it will come. Working within these parameters is understandably more difficult but does “challenging” equal “higher cost?”

In order to show how the demand for a fast TAT can influence a project, it is important to explain throughputs. Standard productivity for translators is 2,000 words day, more or less, depending on the quality and complexity of the source content and the source language. Unless you’re willing to sacrifice quality (yeah, right!) — translators can’t simply work faster to enable fast TAT. There are a few ways to speed turnaround, and yet, translation is not unlike pregnancy: One woman can grow a baby in 9 months, but 9 women can’t create a baby in 1 month. You can’t just speed up the process of translation — it takes what it takes.

Let’s take a deeper look at the types of schedule-challenged jobs, the other complicating factors, and why this all can justify a higher cost.

Quick TAT on small jobs

A “small job” contains fewer than 2000 words, and may need to be completed in a day or less. Sometimes we are asked to turn around jobs in 4 hours. This work requires an immediate response along with a translator on call to complete the work. It may require skipping the editing process, just because there is no time for it.

Quick TAT on large jobs

For larger jobs, adding translators will achieve quick TAT. If a 100,000 word job is required in a week, then the job needs 10-12 translators. But using that many translators requires some project management time to divide the work into chunks, and then reassemble the chunks once they’re translated. What’s more, each translator may have a slightly different voice and style, so the reassembled content probably needs an edit for consistency and cohesiveness. But again, a quality process might not be possible given the time constraints. The expectation of top quality is not realistic.

Higher prices for this kind of work?

Clients justifiably ask: if the solution to the need for quick TAT is not increasing the translator throughput then why do you charge a rush fee? The translators aren’t rushing! They work at their normal speed.

I agree. We shouldn’t call it a “Rush Fee.” Let’s update the nomenclature to reflect the reality of the situation. This is a “Complexity Fee.” There is a lot more to completing rush work than just finding available translators.

More coordination needed.

Especially if there are a high number of languages, then coordination takes more time. A PM may need to be dedicated to that project through its duration. Also, for large projects, dividing and assimilating the work takes up some of the schedule.

On-call resources may need to be paid a retainer fee.

This is an especially good way to go for small, urgent translations. A retainer fee is fair if a translator has to drop everything to handle that job, or they have to be on call when a job comes in — maybe even in the middle of the night. We have set up systems via which a translation request comes in through a text message, and the translator can respond quickly. It is even possible for a translator to complete work ON their cell phone, from wherever they are (so they can have a life).

People may need to work late or on weekends, causing overtime fees.

You can’t expect a translator to work voluntarily during their time off. But if you give regular, steady work then translators may not charge ‘rush’. High volume makes it even sweeter for them.

Automations may need to be put in place.

Processes may need to be changed. Having a vendor set this up and maintain it reasonably bears a charge. Automations can include:

    • Integrating systems (for example a CMS with a TMS) so that content can be pushed to the TMS and pulled back into the CMS after it’s completed. This saves the file-shuffling time.
    • Creating scripts to convert native formats to localization-friendly formats, and back again. Also a script can pull jobs from emails and push them to a TM or redirect emailed files directly to a translator.   A script can also perform some QA checks.
    • Using Machine Translation (MT). Some durations are just not possible for large amounts of content unless you use Machine Translation, but there are plenty of reasons to be careful with this.

Do I have to sacrifice quality for speed?

Now that you accept that rush work is more complicated, let’s talk about the issue of quality. How can you deal with that?

  1. Have your translation vendors use assets likes Translation Memory and glossaries to make sure their work is as consistent as it can be.
  2. Get an SLA in place to make sure both sides understand quality.
  3. Agree to skip QA steps and/or automate as many QA checks as you can.

If you are a translator, what other factors can make a rush job complex? If you are a buyer of translation services, how have you avoided rush fees?