Not All Translation Projects are Created Equal: What Influences the Translation Rate?

Translation Rate

If you are searching the internet for information on translation services and are looking to find websites with quotes to help you price your translation project, you will be disappointed to find out that these are not listed online. There is a good reason for this: each translation project is unique, and there are a number of important factors that need to be taken into account before giving a quote to the client.

Language Combination

Usually, rates determined by language combination are governed by the law of supply and demand. Languages in high demand (i.e., popular language combinations) and high supply (i.e., a large number of translators) will result in lower translation rates, while languages in high demand with a low supply of translators will equate to higher rates.

Delivery Date

The sooner you need a translation project to be delivered, the higher the cost will be. There is an exception to this rule; in case you hire an LSP with a large team of freelancers who will be able to distribute the workflow between several translators. Common Sense Advisory, a leading independent market research firm, has found that 88% of LSPs charge a high premium for urgent projects, which can range between 10% and 200%.

Total Volume

Some agencies grant discounts for large volumes of work and ongoing collaboration. Usually, if your project is longer than 100 pages you may get a discounted fee by your LSP, though it is not a universal occurrence.

Subject Field and Subject Matter Expertise

The type of content required to be translated also plays a role in the final cost of the translation. Usually, translating legal, medical and technical texts will be more expensive than translation of general content, as it requires special skills and knowledge. If you need highly technical content to be translated, you will need to pay for subject matter experts, which will add to the final cost. The importance of subject matter expertise should not be overlooked due to cost concerns. Rather, subject matter expertise should be discussed as part of the budget from an initial stage of the translation workflow.

Target Audience

The target audience is also a determinant factor in the final cost of a translation, as the document can be subjected to additional processing stages depending on the final target audience. For instance, if you need to translate a scientific article for publication in a foreign scientific magazine, the translation quality controls will need to be higher than if you need to translate a general text for consultation or internal use. In the case of translation of a scientific article for publication, additional quality controls as well as review of style, terminology and formatting involve additional actors in the translation workflow (i.e., proofreaders, technical translators and DTP specialists). This significantly drives up the final quote.

File Format and Desktop Publishing (DTP)

Files that are handed to translators are not just Word documents or Excel spreadsheets, but can come in different formats. For example, they can come in Photoshop, AutoCad or other software, and the choice of a translator needs to be directed at somebody who is proficient in the software. Thus, additional charges may apply. Additional cost will also be added for PDF files or OCR handwriting. In this case, translation service providers need to provide DTP services after the translation.


Many clients search the internet for information on translation services rates only to find that translation firms do not list their prices on their website. Each translation project is unique, and before determining the quote several factors need to be taken into account by the translation service provider. Beware of low translation rates, as many companies might be trying to cut corners by not proofreading texts or employing under-qualified translators.




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