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Translation Pricing: Per Word, Hour, Page, or Project



Are you confused about how translation projects are calculated?


No worries - even new translators are confused about pricing in the language industry.


So, here I’ll discuss the different methods for calculating translation project costs, their pros and cons as well as cost factors you may not know about.


Methods for Calculating Translation Costs


Price per Word


Price per word is arguably the most common method of calculating translation project costs. Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages:


Pros

  • You and language service provider know exactly what to expect regarding budget. You won’t receive any expense surprises at the end.


Cons

  • Pricing per word doesn’t take into account the text difficulty – perhaps a text looks rather simple or short when in reality it’s a technical text full of special terminology.

  • Pricing per word is not reflective of the work invested for creative translations, such as marketing, advertising, and website content.

  • For instance, German sentences are often longer than English ones (you could end up paying more per word for the project when the end result is much shorter).

  • On the other end of the spectrum, Chinese is often compacter than English, creating the illusion that the translations should be simpler.


Price per Line/Page


Price per line calculations has many of the same advantages and disadvantages of pricing per word.


Pros

  • You and language service provider know exactly what to expect regarding budget. You won’t receive any expense surprises at the end.


Cons

  • Same as for price per word

  • You and translator need to discuss how font styles, page margins, and font sizes affect the total end cost.

  • Overall, there is more room for ambiguity (e.g., Should bullet points count as one line? Should sentences that run onto another line count as a second line?)


Price per Project


Price per project typically sounds like a great option for you if you know exactly what and how you would like something translated or adapted.


Pros

You know exactly how much you will need to pay at the end and can budget accordingly.


Cons

  • Costs related to unexpected changes or add-ons could come as a shock at the end (i.e., additional text, rephrasing, strategy change, etc.)

  • Translator must calculate in total estimated consultation time and may not be able to provide you as much one-on-one time as you would wish/expected.


Price per Hour


Pros

  • You have the most flexibility in terms of end text style as well as revisions.

  • Pros:::""::::likely hav:e almost unlimited access to your language service provider to discuss additional texts, strategy, style, and revisions.

  • Overall, the opportunity to create an end result that satisfies your expectations is great.


Cons

  • Total project costs are difficult to calculate prior to project start.

  • You may feel uneasy about how your language service provider calculates their hours.

  • You could be hesitant about revising the end text due to budget constraints.


Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of each price calculation method, let’s take a look at some factors that can affect your overall translation costs.


Your language provider may or may not share these with you. If not, don’t be afraid to ask!


Just like when you shop for other products or services, the better you understand the “how,” the more likely you can:

  • reduce frustration

  • save money

  • produce the results you want


Things that can affect your translation cost:

  1. Text Volume

  2. Complexity/Specialization

  3. Translation Specialty (transcreation, localization, etc.)

  4. Language Pair

  5. Deadline/Timeframe

  6. Machine Translation

  7. Repetition

  8. Quality of Cooperation

  9. Add-ons (revision, editing, etc.)


Text Volume


We’ve already discussed text volume in the above methods for calculating the cost of translation. It is logical that the more words or pages you have in your text, the more it will cost.


Industry Specialization


It may surprise you to know that not all translators are made of the same cloth (or maybe it doesn’t surprise you). My point is, like within a company where each person has their specialization, so do translators.


If a translator or language service provider tries to convince you they can translate any type of text, you may want to be wary.


As our parents and teachers told us when we were young: You can’t be good at everything.


Because further education and background knowledge is required for some texts, these projects often come with extra costs (Think plumbing, railway engineering, linguistics, etc.).


Translation Specialty (transcreation, localization, etc.)


Don’t confuse industry specialization with translation specialty. Translation specialty is the kind of specific translation process applied, such as transcreation or localization.


If you’re unsure about these terms, check out my article talking about the differences here.


As creative translations and product/service localization requires additional steps in the translation process, such as further research, greater contemplation about style, and sometimes complete rework of the text, these can be more expensive than general translations.


Language Pair


The world economy fluctuates with time – the status of languages does as well. This, in turn, affects your end costs.


Currently, there is great demand for languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, and African languages and dialects. In other words, having texts translated from or into these high-demand languages will likely cost more than from or into other languages.


In order to make the most of your budget, carefully consider in which languages you truly want your content. Simply because a language is “in trend” doesn’t necessarily mean you should adapt all your content for that language and culture.


The trend could be completely different in a couple of years – who knows.


Deadline/Timeframe


You probably understand where I’m going with this.


Planning and organization can save you money. A translation that needs to be completed within 24 hours will definitely be more costly than one to be completed within a couple months’ time.


Machine Translation


Many companies are opting for machine translated content for general texts. My own opinions on machine translation aside, by choosing machine translation you can seemingly decrease your overall project costs.


Machine translation unfortunately does not produce ideal results for creative areas, such as marketing, advertising, and social media content.


Some language providers offer machine translation post editing (MTPE) as a service.


While fast and (often) cheap, the quality of these texts are generally not high; these “small projects” are often outsourced to smaller language providers where speed is valued over quality.


Repetition


Logically, you can be charged a discounted price or not at all for repetitive words or phrases within a document. This can be beneficial for restaurants with variations of certain dishes (e.g., salad with chicken, salad with shrimp, etc.).


Quality of Cooperation


Do you think that our virtual social lives mean that networking and relationships are dead?


Not so! In fact, you can use the quality of your relationship with your language provider to your advantage. This is especially the case when working directly with individual translators.


Oftentimes, the less complicated the communication (i.e., you > translator, not you > big agency > small agency > translator), the greater the chance of receiving discounted offers for long-term collaborations.


Add-ons (revision, editing, etc.)


Translation add-ons, such as extra revisions or editing can affect your final project costs. Generally speaking, at least one round of revision should be included in the project price. However, it’s always good to double check with your language provider to get a better idea of their cost structure.


Phew…

well, that’s an overview of translation project costs.


Hopefully, it helps you to budget and find the best services for your project.


Do you have other questions regarding translation? Let me know in the comments or send me an email.