How much does a translation cost?

Translations are not ready-made products that you take off a shelf, drop into your shopping cart and then check out at the cash register. That’s why it’s not possible to put a set price tag on a translation – at least not before you become familiar with the text, the source and target languages, the degree of urgency, the purpose of the text, and the target audience. But I’m happy to provide a free quote if you send me your text – which will of course be treated confidentially – along with the information mentioned above. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

There are, however, certain factors that have an effect on the cost of a translation. Read on to find out what these are, and what you can do to lower the price.

Some factors that determine the costs of a translation include:

  • The length of the text – this is probably the most obvious factor but is mentioned here for the sake of completeness. Of course, it makes a difference whether you need just one paragraph or an entire book translated.
  • The kind of text – it is not just the length that plays into the cost of a translation. A slogan may only consist of 5 words, but translating these five crucial words into the target language can take a lot longer than translating 500 words of continuous text – just like finding your slogan in your own language probably took you a long time, and you might have hired an expert to come up with an intriguing and compelling piece of text. The more creativity is needed, the more time it will take, and the higher the costs will be.

Just think about how much time and effort you put into writing your original content. While you might have a whole team working for weeks on your marketing content, slogans, and everything else that shows the public what your brand stands for, you likely only need a minute to write an informal email to a colleague. This same rule holds true for translations.

  • The difficulty of the text – How much specialized knowledge is needed to translate your text? It’s not just about the words, it’s about their meaning. Translating is not just a process of encoding words in a different language. In order to produce a decent translation, the translator has to understand the meaning of the text. Highly specialized translators are harder to find, often busier, and thus might be more expensive. The more specialized your content is the more knowledge your translator needs in order to get the message across.
  • The degree of urgency – if you need your translation really fast, you’ll probably end up paying more. Translations take time. An average translator has an output of 2,500 words – maybe more if they are very familiar with the subject. If you need more done in a shorter time, it might be possible to divide the text between several translators (which will also be a bit more costly because extra time will be needed to make sure that terminology and style are consistent across the translations, and to coordinate the tasks), or to find a translator who is willing to work longer hours, on the weekend or through the night – but of course, this involves costs for overtime.
  • Quality – what do you need your translation for? Maybe you just need to get the gist of a private letter you received – that can be done quickly, or you can even use Google translate (yes, I said it – not every translation task needs a professional). But if you want your marketing content translated – or anything that will be published and will reflect on your brand, your image, your company, and the quality of your work – you will want it to be as flawless and polished as possible. In this case, you would be well advised to book a package involving a second pair of eyes, i.e. a proofreader. You can apply the following rule of thumb: The more effort you put into your original piece of content, the more effort should go into the translation.

How you can help to lower the cost

There are two things you can do to lower the cost of the translation:

  1. Provide a workable file – if your text is in a pdf format, we will need more time – even for determining the word count before providing a quote – and for formatting the final document.
  2. Give us access to your terminology – if you have a terminology list (either multilingual or just explaining company-specific terminology in the source language), we will need to ask fewer questions and do less research – this might not just lower the price, but also ensure better quality.