You are in charge of hiring a translator for your company, but after long searches on the internet and reading many different websites, you feel a little lost. There are so many companies out there; they offer the same services, how can you know if their price is correct or too expensive? The last thing you want is to be robbed, and your concerns are legitimate. I’m writing this article to help you better understand how the prices are calculated in the translation industry and avoid bad surprises.

First of all, the number one factor that affects the price of your translation is the language pair. The rarer the pair, the more expensive it is. For example, it is much cheaper to translate from English into French than from Japanese into Finnish. If you target Eastern markets with languages that are considered “less common,” you need to take this parameter into account with your budgeting.

Another factor affecting the price of your translation is what we call the “subject matter complexity.” If your content requires a specialist knowledge to be understood, then you need to hire a translator specialized in your field. You won’t pay the same price if you want to translate corporate documents and a report on nuclear physics. Technical or highly specialized documents are obviously more expensive. It is also true for projects where you need a lot of creativity, and cultural adaptation, for example, marketing campaigns and slogans or poetry.

A third factor is the delivery time. If you expect your document to be translated within 24 or 48 hours, you’ll pay for the so-called rush charges because the translator will have to change his/her schedule to be able to take your order. Just a tip here, you can often save a significant amount of money if you leave a few more days to your translator. Try to prepare everything in advance and optimize your workflow so that there is no tight deadline.

Difficult file formats are also a reason why the translator will charge more. Be careful here, a difficult file format is not necessarily what you think (InDesign file or development file). “Simple” PDF or JPEG documents are considered by translators as difficult files because they are not editable. They need to be converted in an editable format before they can actually be translated. Of course, this conversion takes time and specific OCR programs. PDF is even the most dreaded file format for translators because the OCR conversion is never perfect and you need to make many corrections manually. To save money on your order try to provide your translator with an editable format right from the beginning, so that s/he will charge for translation only and not for office work that you can do with your staff.

The last factor is a complex layout. Obviously, the translator won’t charge the same for translating a simple MS Word document and an annual report with charts, tables, graphs and a complex layout. Some languages are wordier than others, and that’s what we call the expansion or contraction ratio. For example, if you translate an English text into French, you’ll find more or less +20%. You guess that it is a lot of adjustments to make to the layout!

You are now aware of the different factors affecting the price of your translation. The good news is that you can easily lower your price if you organize yourself in advance. Remember, no tight deadlines and avoid having the translator work on office work your in-house staff can do. Your budget will be optimized if your translator works on translation only.

I hope this article helped you understand better how the prices are calculated. If you still have some questions, get in touch! I’ll be happy to offer advice.