I don’t have fixed rates for my services. Instead, I offer flexible rates that best reflect the project’s volume, type and complexity, as well as my level of expertise. Contact me for a quote.
Why no fixed rates?
When it comes to subtitling, setting rates is not as straightforward as one might think: on the one hand you want to get paid the same amount of money for the same amount of work, but on the other hand your client needs to know in advance how much your service will cost and if it’s within their budget. Let’s take a look at the four most prevalent rate types and see if they manage to achieve both:
Per runtime minute
This is by far the most popular one, used across the globe by subtitlers and agencies alike. Calculating the project’s cost with it couldn’t be simpler, and the client can quickly decide on whether to hire you or go look somewhere else.
But what about the subtitler? Well, they get the short end of the stick here, because more often than not there’s no way to tell beforehand how much work that one video minute will involve:
1. Dialogue density
For example, in WALL-E, a Pixar animated film about two robots falling in love, there’s barely any dialogue, so one could translate it in a day. Quite the contrary, dialogue-heavy Reservoir Dogs by Quentin Tarantino has about the same runtime but would take at least 10 days to complete.
2. Linguistic complexity
Terminology, humor, slang, subtext, dialects, references, etc. — they all make it harder to translate a video. You can get something simple like a Brazilian telenovela or something challenging like the comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway in which the performers crack puns pretty much non-stop. The latter, of course, will require much more effort.
3. Subtitling complexity
Since people can understand speech much faster than they can read, we subtitlers can’t translate verbatim, because if we did, the viewers wouldn’t be able to keep up with the subs. So, we have to translate succinctly, segment the text at natural points and choose very carefully when to display each subtitle and for how long — and the faster the dialogue, the more work it takes to keep the subs comfortably readable.
4. Amount of research
Apart from the subtitling process itself, we translators also have to spend time doing project-related research: analyze a complex auteur film, study a documentary’s subject matter, investigate dated language to be able to avoid anachronisms in a period drama, read a book for a show that’s based on it, do name- and fact-checking for a news program, and so on. Such research can take a while, and its amount doesn’t always correlate with the runtime — I once spent five days trying to make sense of a 17-minute David Lynch film I was working on.
So, all things considered, the “per runtime minute” rate is not ideal, because it’s hard to tell how effortful subtitling that one minute will be.
Championed by the French Association of Audiovisual Translators and Adapters, this rate type works better for the subtitler — it takes into account dialogue density, so you get paid more fairly. For the client, however, it’s a puzzle — since you can’t tell how many subs the subtitler will end up producing, you don’t really know in advance how much the project will cost.
Per work hour
Getting paid on an hourly basis does seem like a fair approach, but it’s not without a couple of shortcomings: a) as mentioned above, you don’t always know how much time exactly a job will require, and b) some clients don’t fully trust the translator (that they’ll log their hours accurately) and want to monitor them via tracking software or have them fill out reports, which either makes you uncomfortable or leads to a lot of admin work.
This rate type is the most accommodating one — it gives full financial control to both the subtitler and the client, but there’s a pitfall: the client has to know the video’s word count to calculate the cost, which they often don’t, as they’ve no script.
So, as you can see, none of these rate types are ideal, so instead I offer tailored rates that take into account all the different details and nuances of your project.