What determines the price of translation?

What determines the price of translation?

How long and how much – quite possibly two most frequently asked questions in translation industry

The thing is, people usually expect a straightforward response to both of them – when there’s no fixed answer. Any person working in the field will assure the beginners that providing a quick and general cost estimate might prove to be a tremendous mistake that will entail significant financial consequences. Employing all of the cautionary measures, a professional project manager will usually kindly ask a person to send the text for a quote and closely investigate both character count and its content – not because they’re particularly curious about it, but in order to determine whether it does not require the help of specialist within the field of law, medicine, chemistry or technology. It might seem that translation price depends solely on word count or the number of pages, but as we investigate the matter closer, we discover a number of factors that influence this seemingly simple issue.

Good and fast probably won’t be cheap. Is it always the case?

When it comes to lead time, translation agencies usually offer their clients various modes of order execution. The more time you have, the more likely it is that the price of a translation will be lower when compared to orders completed literally overnight. Standard mode usually equals preparation of 5 pages per day, leaving out weekends and national holidays. Anything widely considered as “express” translation basically means that the whole order will be completed within the tight deadline set by a client, as long as they agree to cover additional cost (sometimes amounting to 100% of a basic price). Sometimes clients demand express translation thinking that the timeframe has absolutely no influence on cost; it is worth to include information about shorter and longer lead time in the e-mail, as they might decide to use our services, just not deciding for the express option.

specialist translation

Investigating the content: specialist translation vs. service cost

Language services, be it translation or interpretation, are rarely limited to linguistic issues only; it is specialist vocabulary, dissonances between legal systems or cultural gaps that constitute the core of the problem. This is precisely why project managers have to select appropriate specialist to carry out a given task, considering their education, work experience, additional training and expertise in the field. Literary translators would quite possibly submit a fairly poor medical translation; someone who does brilliant work during pharmaceutical conferences is more than likely to get lost in the intricacies of law. That being said, general content usually requires less specialist knowledge gained through countless hours of additional trainings and education – unlike texts requiring thorough knowledge about modern technology, IT, science or, believe it or not, culinary arts. Each of these disciplines requires careful preparation and wise usage of available resources, contributing to higher rate per word/page, consequently increasing the overall translation price. Accessing the document that is supposed to be translated helps in determining its specialist character, therefore allowing the person working for a translation agency to prepare a precise cost estimate.

What else does the price include?

“Translation” as a service is usually used as an umbrella term that embraces a range of activities aimed at the timely delivery of a perfectly prepared target text. Professional agencies rarely offer their clients just raw translation – which would be the case should no proofreaders and native speakers be involved in the process. For majority of companies, it basically equals a multi-stage procedure and multiple specialists’ joint effort. Receiving a completed order you are probably looking at the result of harmonious cooperation supervised by an experienced project manager; a text which underwent translation, proofreading, and sometimes was even polished by a native speaker. Considering how many people were involved in the execution of that one project and how many years of education, as well as experience were used, the price of a translation seems to make far more sense now.

Send the text for a quote – and never be afraid to negotiate

Translation cost is mainly influenced by word/page count, text content and chosen deadline. These three factors are fundamental to every quote prepared by a project manager, therefore accessing the document is crucial for a precise estimation; submitted documents are always treated as confidential and will be discarded, unless you decide to proceed with the order. There is nothing that a potential customer should fear: quotes are usually offered free of charge and there is always a chance to ask for a discount. Negotiations are an option as well, so remain open to discuss all of the possibilities. It is never easy to lead an open debate on finances, but it helps to at least try to understand the other person – their experience gained through hard work, years spent on education and thoughts on training that is still ahead.  


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