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Rates in Translation Industry

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April 21, 2019

Warren Buffet's quote: "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."

It is verified that 1% improvement in your pricing strategy can add up to 11% to your profits. With bad pricing, you’re missing out on profits. Pricing is also a big factor in your branding and reputation. Prices that are too high can make you come off as arrogant, while prices that are too low can call the quality of your product into question.

In translation industry, a project requires accurate pricing based on its distinct features. Some companies offer a price guide for their clients. We researched the rates in the translation industry and identified the following pricing structures:

  1. Per word

This is the most popular and common equation you will find in the industry. Per-word pricing is very convenient and fair for all parts involved. According to a survey on overall average rate across 10 target languages and across 75 LSPs (language service providers), it turns out, in the United States, USD 0.21 per word is the magic number. Another survey on rates on Germany’s market for translation and interpretation displays a remarkable consistency across language combinations. For translation services the magic number seems to be around EUR 0.15—still a fairly solid price point considering that many global agencies now offer end-clients a lower price.

Based on industry experience, for instance, translation from English to Spanish is more expensive. 2,000 English words all become 2,400 Spanish words after translation is completed and the price comes closer to the sky.  Some companies quote “per thou” aka per thousand words. Therefore, if charged on U.S. territory, a 2,000 words article will cost around $420.

  1. Per line

In Central Europe, prices are often based on standard lines and the target language for the translation. This is the normal basis of calculation of normal difficulty translation, so it makes price comparisons easier. A standard line contains 55 characters including spaces between words. In this case, prices vary from EUR 1.50-2.20.

Let’s take German as an example. When you translate a text from German to English, the target text is going to have more words than the source text. Many agencies prefer to charge by DIN line, where, according to European standards, 1 line = 55 characters with spaces in the target language. This seems to be the standard, and calculation is as easy as clicking on “word count” in a Word document to determine the number of words, characters, lines, paragraphs, and the number of pages.

It gets tricky when we need to compare rates for words vs. lines. In the case of German to English translation:

German text = 1 line = approximately 8 words.

  1. Per page

Some companies charge based on the number of pages the document contains. Per‐page pricing works well for documents where an electronic word count cannot be obtained. A good example of this would be any documents that were scanned to a PDF file, such as medical records, court documents. The language services company quotes about $100 per page.

Let’s use Italian as an example. Many translation agencies prefer to calculate the cost for their translation projects by the page. Again, European standards measure 1 line = 55 characters with spaces in the target language. So, a documented translated from English to Italian is going to have more characters in the target language. It’s got to be worth it, though, for such a romantic language!

  1. Per hour

Not so often companies charge for translation services by the hour. It’s hard to estimate the amount of effort each translation project will take. Per‐hour pricing is more suitable for editing and updating content that has been translated already.  Sometimes it doesn’t make economic sense for the language services provider to charge for such updates per word. Instead, the updates should be completed on an hourly basis. And this usually works in favor of both parts.

  1. Flat fee

A flat fee can be agreed upon when it comes to translation of Chinese, or other CJKV characters (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese) texts. Per‐word and per‐page pricing don’t make sense for such a project since the contents are files with CJKV characters.

It is worth noting that certain projects cannot be calculated per page, but are better calculated according to volume or quantity. These projects usually require additional project management, research, and additional services. Such projects often include handwritten texts, scanned pages, engineering content, and retyping projects.

  1. Minimum price

Minimum fees charged by language services companies are usually for small projects, considered to be any document that contains up to 250 words of content.

  1. Customized

There are some other factors that shape the price of translation service to suit an individual project:

  • the complexity of the subject matter that needs a specialized expert in a specific industry for the high technical content of the document;
  • the language combination, especially for Asian languages, request an increase in service price;
  • a discount can be negotiated for an ongoing commitment with a client looking for partnership based on the consistent volume of work;
  • quicker turnaround time for translation service demands a rush higher fee. It may carry up to a 50% charge above the regular rates;
  • to provide accuracy and precision of the project results efficient project management is required. A project manager will be required to plan the budget, track the workflow to ensure the project is completed on time, and control all the phases of the project to make sure its outcome will meet the client’s requirements. Usually, projects as such can be charged on an hourly basis or for a fixed price for the entire project.
  • editing and proofreading are related services and can be priced separately in specific cases. This service might require the use of a second translator in each language to edit and proofread each file

As far as translation companies are in the red ocean with buyers the only figure to look at is the bottom line, no matter how you did your maths. Therefore, now that you got some detailed information about the models and structures of translation service rates we hope that you will design your service’s price too good and too attractive to be true.

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