How much does a translation cost?

What can you expect to pay for a translation? Read on to find out.

When you realise that your project is going to need a translation into a foreign language, and that you’re going to have to find a translator or translation agency to do the work, the next question naturally is “how much of my budget is this going to cost?”.

I can tell you right away that you can expect to pay per word, in most cases. That is, per number of words in your files, known in the industry as the “source wordcount”. Agencies will charge you fees on top of that for project management, their margin etc., but that is often taken into account in the per-word fee.

Depending on where you source your translation the price can also vary wildly. The so-called emerging countries, BRIC etc. are offering cut price translations but the quality has historically been more of a risk at those price levels.

In terms of actual figures, you can expect to get good work done, provided your translation provider has the relevant credentials (university degrees, association memberships etc.), of between around $/£/€ 0.10 and 0.20 per word. The former being the freelance rate, the latter being closer to agency rates.

The more specialised the subject and the more rare the language requested, prices will rise as you’d expect with standard supply and demand laws. You can get cheaper, and you can get more expensive, but this is the ballpark and it hasn’t actually changed much in recent years, with downward pressure on supply prices, despite a growing market.

Awareness of translation through automated and machine translation services may be up, but awareness of what it takes to get work akin to the kind of native, effective copywriting you get in home markets remains low. I’m hoping this series of blog posts can do something to address that, if I can get them to show up for the relevant queries in the search engines!

As an example, then, you can see that translation costs (£100-200 per 4-5 pages) will not break the bank compared to your IT or other technical expenses. And this will get you native, effective writing that conveys your project themes exactly and suited for the target audience.

I hope that helps, and get in touch for a chat if you have any other questions about the industry or a specific project you have in mind.

Thanks for reading. I do translation from French and Swedish to English, so if that's useful to you, feel free to connect and message me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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