How to Navigate the Impervious Seas of Translation Budgets?

Translation Budget

Saving money on translation services, especially with the variety of automated translation tools that are available nowadays, may seem like a wise decision. However, there is a difference between getting a text of “understandable” quality and one of “publishable” quality. If you are investing your time in getting content translated and your name and reputation is on the line, you might want something good, rather than of merely “comprehensible” quality.

So, how do you make sure you are imagining the right budget for a translation project? Why don’t translation firms write their prices on their websites? What is this “per word” deal?

Let’s start with a few basics.

Translation prices vary according to a few variables:

1. Complexity of the Subject

If you have a highly technical document that requires a specific level of expertise, you will have to pay a premium.

2. Languages Requested

The price varies according to the languages requested, as some languages are more common than others. For example, Spanish is a language that is more frequently requested than, for example, Icelandic. As a result, the Spanish into English or English into Spanish translation price is more competitive than the Icelandic into English or vice versa. This is because there is less demand for some language combinations and there are fewer translators that specialize in those language pairs, so the price is higher.

3. Turnaround Time

On average, a translator can translate between 2,000–2,500 words per day. If you have a lengthy project with a quick turnaround time, you will likely pay a premium.

4. Volume of Work

Translation firms often give discounts for high volumes of work, or if you are willing to make a long-term commitment and become a returning costumer you may also receive discount pricing.

5. Additional Costs to Take into Account

Before a translation project is ready for delivery to the client, it needs to go through editing and proofreading. Adding this up results in the final cost quoted to the client. It is essential that the translation is edited and proofread by additional translators to ensure its impeccable quality.

Also, additional fees might come if your text is not in a simple text format (i.e. MS Word). If, for example, your document is in Adobe InDesign or has visual content, it will require advanced formatting and DTP (desktop publishing) layout services, which add up to the final bill.

Some translators and translation firms will quote you on different grounds according to their preference:

  • Price per Word: Being billed per translated word is the most common option. The rate per word depends on the language pairs and on the type of document (whether it is standard content or technical content). It is important to clarify whether you are being charged based on the word count of the source document or the target document. If, for example, your document is translated from English into Spanish, the target document will have a higher word count than the source one (roughly 20% longer), so it is important to clarify that in advance. Being billed per word ensures that you know the cost of the total job upfront. It also encourages translators to maintain their skills and leverage technology to work more efficiently. Per-word pricing favors translators that are more experienced and drives up the need for translators to specialize and become quicker at their work.
  • Price per Hour Worked: This option usually ensures that the translator is fairly compensated for the amount of time worked. Again, some texts are more complicated than others, so it might take a translator an hour to translate 250 words of a highly complex document as opposed to 600 words of a general document with standard vocabulary.

Whichever option you choose and no matter the type of document and your desired turnaround time, make sure to agree in advance with the translator or translation agency on pricing and always clarify what is included in the price quote. Also, remember that, like in any other highly skilled fields, “you get what you pay for.” So make sure to do your research and if it is “publishable” quality what you are after, do not be shy about paying for high quality work.

This article is written by a professional writer, Ilaria Ghelardoni, associated with Ulatus.  

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