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How much does translation cost ?

Updated: Jan 29

...and how to reduce translation costs.

Trying to keep down the cost of a French translation project or of a multilingual campaign is a priority for many businesses. Having said that, there is little point paying anything at all for badly translated copy which won’t deliver on your objectives. So, how much is too much, and how much is too little?

Translation cost
How much should your translation cost?

How much should I pay a translator ?

It's all about how long the job is likely to take. For a relatively non-technical translation, an output of 2,000 words per day before proof-reading is considered reasonably achievable. Technical text and copywriting will take longer: for exemple, a good french copywriter might be able to offer a reasonable output of around 1,500 words per day. A medical translation, which requires much research to ensure all terminology is translated by its rightful equivalent, should offer a similar output

With that in mind, you can expect to pay at least £0.10 per word for a decent translation into a relatively common language such as French or Spanish, and closer to £0.12 for a rare language. For copywriting, expect to pay at least £150 for a 1,000 words piece.

Any other requirements likely to slow the work down, such as specific technical knowledge or research, SEO integration or specific formatting requirement may increase the cost.

How can I reduce the cost of translation ?

Whilst it is never a good idea to cut corners on your translator's time/fees, there are a few things you can do to keep the cost down:

  • Do the leg work in house: Do you have access to an in-house proofreader? A SEO guru? A web designer? Anything you can do in-house that might save your translator time is worth mentioning and might help reduce your translation cost.

  • Share your copy in a standard, easily editable format: If you can, convert any web or creative files into a more standard format to save on your final bill. There is no need to pay your translator to fiddle with obscure file formats when your design team can have it all converted to MS Word in a few minutes. Alternatively, some translators will be able to work directly into integrated CMS such as Wix Site Languages or Localisation platforms such as Phrases or Lokalise. Click here to read more about website localisation.

  • Give it time: Ever heard of the triangle analogy, where you are allowed two out of the three options (quality - speed - price)? Many translators and translation agencies will add an extra 25% or more for urgent orders. Additionally, rushed jobs may compromise on quality, so if you can, give your translator enough time to keep the cost down. Click here to read about urgent translations, and why they should remain exceptional.

  • Avoid counterproductive machine translations: Although they have you believe otherwise, it can actually take longer for a linguist to review and edit a machine translation than to translate it from scratch. So save yourself the trouble and the money and go straight to a human. Click to read about the dangers of Google Translate.

  • Remove the middleman: Translation agencies are useful to manage large, multilingual campaigns or projects, but they obviously need to mark up the translator’s rates to justify the extra service. Going directly to a freelance translator may not only reduce the overall cost, it also allows you to be more involved and to develop a closer relationship with your go-to linguist. They will be free to contact you to discuss details of your copy or terminology choices and, in time, they will get to know your products, your industry, your objectives and your priorities. Click here to read about what to look for in a translator, or click here to get a french translation quote from yours truly.

Should I pay for proof reading ?

Staring at a document for too long will make the best writers or translators immune to any errors. This is why it is recommended to hire a separate proof-reader, which will add to the cost. But if budget doesn't allow, give your translator enough time to take a break so they can do it themselves or offer an in-house proficient french speaker if you have one. Either way, the value of proof-reading should not be underestimated. Think of it as the final touch that will make sure all your translation efforts are not wasted.


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