Translation Pricing: How Much to Spend on Any Project

Translation Pricing: How Much to Spend on Any Project

Translating the content within your product into new languages is a proven route to growth. After all, you’re reaching out to a million more people. But as with any investment, you have to consider cost along the way. How much do translation services cost?

Well, there is a standard range. But the price you pay may vary massively depending on the specifics of your translation project.

To help you navigate the vagaries of translation pricing, we decided to create this comprehensive guide. Keep reading to discover how to calculate a realistic estimate, and how to choose the right service for your needs.

How Much Does Translation Cost?

As with any professional service, the price of translation depends on the scope of your project and the type of provider you choose. However, the calculation here is more complex than you might imagine.

For a start, translation can be priced in several ways. The most common methods are per hour and per word, although you may come across per character, per line, or even per page. Picking the right pricing framework for your particular project can make a big difference to the quote you receive.

There are also multiple different types of translation to choose from. Machine translation is an automated service that trades away some accuracy in favor of affordability and speed. In contrast, professional translation is conducted by human linguists, who often provide better accuracy at a higher price.

machine translation or professional translation

Just as importantly, there are many different types of content that can be translated. Let’s take a look at some of the most common.

Website Translation

For any business with international ambitions, website translation is an essential first step.

The cheap and easy way of translating your website content is machine translation.

If your site is based on WordPress, you can use a plugin like TranslatePress for under $100 a year, and connect to Google Translate and DeepL. These machine translation services are both free up to a certain amount, and then just a few dollars a month.

However, even today’s advanced machine translation algorithms don’t get it right 100% of the time. This is why we generally recommend professional translation for the final version of any published content.

For most professional website translation, you can expect to pay between $0.04 and $0.35 per word. Hourly rates usually range from $20 to $100 per hour.

Lower rates are generally offered by companies that use translators with little experience, while the top end of the scale is usually reserved for e-commerce content. High-quality product descriptions for a top online store can be worth four figures.

Mobile App and Software Translation

Your choices are fairly similar when it comes to app and software translation.

As with websites, you can access machine translation through plugins. If you choose a dedicated solution like OneSky, you can take advantage of a translation API. In both cases, machine translation is free or very affordable.

Professional translation for software and mobile apps generally costs between $0.04 and $0.40 per word or $20 to $100 per hour.

That said, the average price for software translation is probably a little higher than for website translation, because some projects require an understanding of the development process.

Game Translation

It would be fair to say that game translation is quite a specialized skill.

Not only does the gaming community have its own unique vocabulary, but in-game content is very different from anything you would find on a regular website or app. For instance, your average company site doesn’t mention bloodthirsty zombies or level 25 hordes.

Multiple services offering machine translation for games have sprung up in recent years. Most charge fractions of $0.01 per word. You can also find apps that will connect Google Translate to your game — and that’s free to use.

But if you want to provide a decent experience for players outside your home market, professional translation is a must. In the gaming niche, you can expect to spend $0.06 to $0.30 per word or $20 to $80 per hour.

The specialist knowledge required for gaming translation means that the average price is a little higher in this niche. However, you won’t find the top-end prices seen in e-commerce.

Document Translation

While relatively little content is printed nowadays, document translation is still a vital service for many businesses. From legal contracts to medical literature, the content in this niche varies wildly. As such, pricing usually ranges from $0.02 to $0.40 per word or $20 to $100 per hour.

Sometimes, you will find document translation priced per page — although a page is often defined as a set number of words.

professional translation pricing

Translation Cost Breakdown: 8 Key Factors

As we have seen, the cost of translation can vary enormously even within each category. So, what influences the final price you pay? Putting aside market forces, here is a list of some of the key factors:

1) Machine Translation vs. Professional Translation

The biggest influence on price is whether you choose machine translation or professional translation. The reasons are obvious — algorithms don’t need to charge a living wage.

As mentioned earlier, machine translation has limitations, but it rarely costs more than one cent per word. The price is also fairly standardized. In contrast, professional translation starts at $0.04 per word and it is heavily influenced by the factors in this list.

2) Language Combination

If you use machine translation, your source and target language have no bearing on the bill.

But with professional translation, the price you pay will vary according to your chosen language pair.

English is by far the most popular source language for translation, and is a language spoken by many professional translators. These economies of scale mean that English is the cheapest language to work from. Other popular options include Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, and French.

In contrast, languages like Japanese, Norwegian, and Korean are spoken by fewer people. In addition, native speakers of these languages generally live in countries with a high cost of living.

Consequently, translation is more expensive. The difference in price can be 50% or more.

affordable vs expensive languages

3) Content Type

Earlier in this post, we talked about broad categories of content. However, you will have noticed that the price within each of these categories was actually pretty large.

To get a more accurate measurement of price, you need to be even more specific.

Take website translation as an example. The price per word of translating a blog post will be considerably lower than the price for translating a product description. This is because every choice of word really matters in e-commerce copy. It could mean the difference between a sale and a lost customer.

Whenever a translation project calls for great accuracy or industry knowledge, you can expect to pay more.

4) Quality

It’s not fair to say, “You get what you pay for,” in translation. But quality is definitely linked to price.

While some translators have professional certifications and a wealth of experience, others are merely regular Joes who speak two or more languages to a respectable standard.

If you want to work with certified translation experts — who usually produce much more accurate translations — you shouldn’t be looking in the bargain basement.

cost of inconsistent translations

5) Geography

Take two translators who possess the same level of skill in the same pair of languages. They should offer similar pricing, right?

Well, that depends on where they are situated. As with other remotely-delivered services, the cost of translation is influenced by geography.

If you choose a language service provider who primarily employs people from poorer nations, the price you pay will be lower than that for a service provider that relies on translators in rich nations.

Of course, many big translation companies recruit translators from around the world. But smaller translation agencies usually work with locals — so you should have a better idea of likely pricing.

6) Turnaround Time

Thanks to CAT (computer-assisted translation) technology and translation memory, most professional translation today is pretty fast. However, there is a limit to how much work any given translator can get through in a day.

As a consequence, translation usually costs more if you require a quick turnaround, such as within 24 hours.

Because the big language service providers have a large network of translators, they often provide rapid delivery times as standard. With smaller translation providers, you may need to pay a premium for a rush job.

7) Word Count

In some cases, you will find that translation service providers charge a lower price per word as the volume of work increases. In essence, it’s the same idea as a bulk order.

Word count discounts are particularly common with smaller outfits, although you will find some larger LSPs that provide similar offers.

8) Extra Services

When you come to create a final cost estimate for your translation project, bear in mind that you might want some extras.

For example, we highly recommend adding a review or proofreading to your order. This is where a second professional translator checks for mistakes, and looks for areas that might be improved. It’s like getting a second opinion.

For language service providers that offer reviews or proofreading, you should expect to add between $0.02 and $0.08 per word to your bill.

The Price of Translation

Figuring out the likely price of any translation project is no easy task. But with the help of this guide, hopefully you should be starting to get a feel for the going rate.

Before deciding on a provider, make sure to shop around and weigh up the best options for your particular needs and your budget.

Why You Should Budget for Localization

Translation is an important step in reaching out to new markets. However, it’s still only a piece in the larger jigsaw.

Another key service you might want to consider is localization. This process goes beyond simple word-for-word translation. In fact, it extends beyond your content.

The purpose of localization is to optimize your entire product for your target audience. This means translating content, adapting designs, changing currencies, and a whole lot more.

In terms of pricing, the overall costs of localization are a little higher than for translation alone. In part, this is because localization covers more aspects of your product.

But the statistics show that you actually get more bang for your buck in the long run.

If you want to learn how to localize your product without spending a fortune, download our free ebook today: The Beginner’s Guide to Minimum Viable Localization (MVL).

The Beginner’s Guide to Minimum Viable Localization (MVL) ebook

OneSky: High-Quality Translation and Localization

If you are looking for high-quality translation or localization at an affordable price, OneSky is worth your attention.

Our platform offers an end-to-end workflow that is perfect for websites, software, and games. Our translation API hooks into your code directly, and you can use OneSky with many popular development tools.

On the content side, we have over 1,000 experienced language experts ready to help you with translation and localization. Only one out of every 30 translator applicants passes our tests, and we have a 99% satisfaction rate across 50 languages.

Want to give it a try? Sign up free today to discover how easy and affordable translation can be.

Mandy Fong

Head of Sales, OneSky

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