A Guide to Translation Pricing

It can be confusing to know how to price a translation project or what to expect to pay. Am I being ripped off? Is this quote competitive? How did they get to that figure? We know there is a lot of information out there so we wanted to try and consolidate some of it for you here.

First and foremost, translation pricing is not one-size-fits-all. It is based on a series of factors, namely the following:

  • The service type
  • The language pair
  • The complexity of the text
  • How quickly you need it
  • Document format
  • The word count

Things to Consider

1. Service Type

There are several different types of translation service and the tiers will generally be priced accordingly, for example, standard translation, certified translation, technical translation, localisation etc. Usually, a project is more expensive if it is a 100% human translation as opposed to a machine-assisted translation. Also, if you want it checked or double checked and proofread by a second translator, it will cost you more.

2. Language Pair

Consider the languages you need your document translated to and from.  Western and romance languages are always less expensive to translate to vs. some of the complex Asian or Arabic languages.  Those tend to be more expensive because of their complexity of characters and fewer linguistic resources to use when translating. 

3. Complexity

A general document with non-technical terms will always be cheaper to translate than some of their difficult and technical counterparts like patents, contracts, legal and medical documents where specialist knowledge and access to particular resources is required.

4. Deadline

Projects will always be more expensive if you need them completed urgently.  The longer you can give your translator for the project, the better and usually cheaper it will be.  When you need a project to be completed quickly with a tight deadline, you will likely be charged a premium for it.

5. Location

This one may not matter to you much, or it might matter a lot.  Where are you located and where is your translator located?  Do you require in-person meetings or can you work via chat, email, phone or another way?  How will you interact with each other and what time zones are you both located in? 

6. Format

There are other factors to consider as well such as the format you expect your project to be delivered in.  Some formats that are more difficult to work with will cost more as there is a lot more work involved formatting-wise.  If you can keep your project in a standard, easy format such as a word document, then usually it will be cheaper.

7. Word Count

The most important element is the word count, that is to say, the quantity of work that needs to be done.

Pricing Structures

Pay-per-word

Most companies work with a pay-per-word structure.  Those fees can vary from 0.5-0.25 pence per word, depending on all of the factors mentioned above. The basic rates charged for a project will usually be determined based on the total word count of the source file (the file in the original language).

Translation companies should not charge based on the target file word count (the file in the newly translated language). This is considered somewhat inaccurate, as it can vary greatly depending on the translator’s style and the language in question (some languages take more words to express the same idea). However, the main problem with this method is that you won’t know how much you need to pay until the translation has been completed.

Monthly retainer

Some companies will allow you to pay them a monthly fee to keep them on retainer for on-going translating.  This will generally be limited to a maximum word count per month, and you will still need to pay for the months even when you don’t translate anything.

Flat-fee or an hourly fee

Other projects will be charged on a flat-fee for project basis regardless of word count and other projects will be charged per page or even at an hourly rate.

We don’t necessarily recommend these methods.  Every project and document is different and you may be overpaying or underpaying your translator.  The number of words per page can vary greatly and not every country uses the same font size, paper size, or page structure.  Also, when you are paying someone hourly, this also may not be a good representation of what you are paying for. 

New translators may take a lot more time than their experienced counterparts.  Also, some translators are much slower, or really take their time when they are looking over their sentence structure or trying to proofread a project before submitting it.

To Conclude...

When you use the pay-per-word method, you take out the possibility to be over-charged for time or page structure and your project becomes more predictable and transparent.  Make sure you know what you are going to pay going into any project.  There should not be surprise or hidden fees that pop up that you weren’t aware of beforehand. Also, the price usually doesn’t fluctuate very much once a price has been determined. 

There are however a few instances where a project does change during the translation period.  If the scope of your project has changed, be diligent in renegotiating a price before the project continues.  The last thing we want is for either side to feel like they were overcharged, or underpaid for services completed. 

Most companies will also offer proofreading and editing rates.  If you already have a translated document but want someone to edit and proofread it, that’s always an option.  These services typically run about half the cost of doing the translation.  If you find someone that wants to charge you the same rate to edit and proofread as they do for translating the project, move on and find someone else. Always make sure you have discussed schedule and price and have agreed to the terms of the project before either party starts.  This will save you time and hassle in the long run. 

Try to be respectful of your translator’s time and effort.  Be clear, honest and transparent in your desires.  Protect yourself as well; there have been known scammers in the industry of translating.  We suggest a billing arrangement that allows you to put a partial payment down up front and then the rest of the payment is due on the delivery of your project.  That way both sides feel like the other is trying to show good faith.  

Needing a translator is a great thing!  It usually means your product or business is growing, expanding or moving into new territories and that’s exciting.  Just use this guide to give you a better sense for how the translation business is set up and run so that you can find a translator that is fair, honest and will get your job done with the specifications you’ve given. 

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