Shopping for a price for translation service?

How much does a translation cost?

Why is it most translation agencies insist on evaluating the job to be done prior to offering a price for the translation?  After all, before you decide to work with a particular translation agency and buy services from it, you’d like to know how much you will be spending on those services. And you are right; you should be able to quantify the value you get for the money you pay, and in order to do that you need to know the price.

The reason why you won’t find many companies displaying prices for translation services on their websites is that each translation project is unique and there are many variables involved in determining its price. Sure, there are companies out there that list their prices for translation services, but I would hesitate to work with them in a professional capacity due to their blind approach to pricing.

So, how does translation pricing really work?

Here is how most translation agencies charge for translation services:

Per word

Price per word is the most common unit for many translators and translation agencies. Per-word pricing tends to be the most fair for all parties involved. The main reason behind this is that paying per word helps you keep project costs in control as opposed to paying per page or per hour.

Per page

Some translation agencies will based their charges on the number of pages your document contains. Per-page pricing works well for documents where an electronic word count cannot be obtained. Per-page price is determined by an estimate number of words on a single page. However, in order for per-word pricing to be accurate, you should provide the language services company with editable files whenever possible and avoid scanned PDFs.

Minimum price

Be ready to pay minimum fees for small projects. A small project is considered to be any document that contains up to 350 words of content.

Other Factors that Determine the Price

Now that you learned about the most common translation pricing models and structures, you must also consider other factors that determine the price. These include:

Complexity of the subject matter

How complex is the subject matter of your content? If you have highly technical content that requires a scientific level of expertise, be prepared to pay for such expert services.
Be cautious of companies that provide you with the same pricing regardless of the subject matter. If it’s quality that you are after, you need to budget for it accordingly.

Language combination

Some languages are more common than others. At, English is by far our most frequently requested language. This applies for both Danish into English and English into Danish translation. As a result, we’re able to offer competitive pricing for those language combinations.

Turnaround time

How quickly are you looking to have your content translated? A good baseline to use for realistic turnaround times is 2,000 words per day. On average, a translator can translate about 2,000 words per day. You should note that this is for translation only. It doesn’t include editing and proofreading by additional translators.

Formatting and DTP requirements

So far we focused on the translation part of the process, with editing and proofreading thrown in as well. In reality, your content may not be a simple MS Word document. You may have charts, graphs, tables, graphics and other visual content. Your document may even be laid out in Adobe InDesign or one of many other popular content creation tools. You’ve now taken a simple translation project and added an extra level of complexity to it. Advanced formatting and DTP (desktop publishing) layout services are usually billed as a separate line item.
Keep that in mind as you create those wonderful brochures in Adobe Illustrator or Microsoft Publisher. You will have to budget to have them typeset. Formatting and desktop publishing services are generally billed for on a per hour basis.

So what’s a Fair Price?

If you come across companies that charge pennies for professional human translation services, it should raise an immediate red flag. I’d certainly question the abilities of a company that is charging such a low price and claiming to provide professional translation services. It simply doesn’t make sense economically.

Comparing Apples to Apples

Why pay more for the same service that others are offering for a lower price? If it’s a true ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison, you should go for the cheaper option, right? Here is where you should stop and consider what it is that you are getting for the price you are paying.

More often than not, it’s not a true ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison. You might see some companies charge half the price per word compared to what others are charging. Whatever their justification for that price difference may be is outside the scope of this article; one thing for sure, it won’t be involving professional human translation. And if it does, you should seriously question the outcome. You think you are paying for a professional human translation, but you might be getting something else. Find out what makes a good translator here.

How to avoid such experiences?

When a company quotes you a price for translation, whether it is per word or any other way, always clarify with that agency what is included in the price. Otherwise, you cannot make a fair comparison. You will end up spending less upfront, but it will cost you more in the long run. Perhaps the best way to avoid bad experiences is to ask for a sample translation of your text. We offer sample text as a matter of course under our ‘Try before you Buy’ initiative.


By now you should be relatively knowledgeable about the price for translation and how it works. You’ve learned about different pricing models and structures, along with the factors that impact translation pricing. Most importantly, with this information you now know what to look for to make a well-informed decision when shopping for a price for translation services. Don’t be fooled by agencies that offer unbelievably low prices. If those prices look too good to be true, they probably are.

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