Explaining Translation: Why Translation Bills Differ So Much


Translation companies charge different money. The first question you’d logically come up with is “Why do prices for such a simple task vary so significantly?”. It this article we’ll uncover you the many elements a translation price may include.

Translation Prices

So, you will see that it is more about translation workflow, rather than regular competition.

Your wisest decision would be asking your translation provider: What do they include into their price? Sometimes they will include additional services, or even a deep subject research. In other cases, the translation company will ask you to prepare materials before translation. This may result in a lower cost. Such preparations may include:

  • Preparing reference materials;
  • Extracting or converting files for translation;
  • Writing instructions;
  • Setting any specific requirements, etc.

Per Hour vs. Per Word Pricing Models

Another important concept to keep in mind is a basis of payment. The rate can be hour-based or word-based. The general rule is as follows:

If you can count the words in your text, you pay for words, if not – an hourly charge will be applied.

Mixed scenarios, e. g. when DTP is required, are also common. Additional services like DTP, creating a glossary or translating texts contained in specific files (like AutoCAD) are usually charged on an hourly basis.

Let’s suggest, you have some scanned text in a PDF format. Here are three situations requiring different translation pricing approaches.

. You will get a translation in text format. The translator will just use the scanned copy as a source file. In this case an hourly rate will be applied.
2. You recognize the PDF file into text using special software. Translators will use a CAT tool for translation, so the process will also go faster. The layout of the text in the final format will be almost the same or nearly the same as in the source text. This translation is due to standard price per a source word.
3. Your text has schemes, pictures, drawings etc. In this case you’ll pay a word-based fee for the texts. Also, the hourly charges will apply to visual materials translation and to DTP – the final layout correction (which is an option, but you’ll most probably need it).

The Structure of Translation Prices

Translation prices are mostly complex and have several services implied in them. You may have already heard of TEP. It is a very common system (Translation-Editing-Proofreading) implemented by the majority of translation companies. In this case you pay three services in one.

Also check out our visual Translation Workflow Scheme

Translation Editing ProfreadingIf you have ongoing translations, you can’t do without project management. In this case you will have a person assigned to work with all your projects. This is also included in a standard price.

The factor of office rent as a part of translation price is absent if you entrust translation services to freelancers, not companies. For some languages freelancers’ work is cheaper than that of companies. On the other hand, freelancers provide translation only, i.e. editing, proofreading and additional services are not offered.

Here are some additional services from your translation provider:

  • layout QA;
  • after sales support;
  • support with entering the local market;
  • translation or language advice, etc.

If You Have a Highly Specific Text

One more thing to remember regarding the price is a subject field of your text. Generally specialized texts are rated higher than standard ones. They can include medical, scientific, public marketing texts, etc. Linguists working with specific texts are more expensive, which affects the price.


Translation prices for some languages may differ dramatically. You should understand what you get for the money paid. But first of all understand your needs. Sometimes you just won’t require all those additional services: just a well-translated and edited text will be enough. Anyway, if you have any request regarding translation prices or anything else – contact us!

This article belongs to the vast “Explaining Translation” cycle. We aim to help you understand translation as a process. Check other Explaining Translation articles to learn everything you need to know about translation and localization. Don’t miss our upcoming blog updates – follow us on Twitter!