How much does a translation cost?
In this article, we will talk about how the cost of translation is calculated, how the amount of text is determined and what the price depends on.
As in any other field, the cost is determined using a simple formula:
Cost = Price * Quantity
How to estimate the amount of text?
It would be nice to have a way to measure the “amount of meaning” in the text, but there is simply no suitable unit of measurement. But there are analogs similar in value.
The number of words
In the prices of various agencies or individual translators, you can often find the exact price per word. The price forming according to the number of words is quite close to the price forming according to the “amount of meaning.” One of the disadvantages of this method is that short function words, for example, prepositions or articles, are considered as complete ones.
Usually, the price is indicated for 1000 characters without spaces (Ch), but some indicate the price for characters with spaces (ChWS). On average, 1000 Ch = 1200 ChWS. Counting by the number of characters allows taking into account different lengths of words.
It’s convenient to talk about standard pages when the text is quite voluminous. A standard page means 1800 characters with spaces or 250 words. This ratio with minor deviations works for most Slavic and European languages.
Used much less frequently than standard pages. One academic sheet is 40 000 characters with spaces.
What is NOT used to estimate the amount of text?
Sentences, phrases, lines, paragraphs. MS Word pages, slides, tables. The reason is obvious and one for all cases - their length is not standardized.
What to do if the translation is needed not for a text?
From time to time, the translation of scans of documents or audio/video materials is needed. In this case, there are two possible approaches:
- To estimate (by eye / by ear) the average density of the text in the document. For example, in characters per page, if we are talking about a photo, or in words per minute if it is an audio. Then multiply the average density obtained by the number of pages or minutes.
- Agree on an estimation of the output text. This approach is practiced quite rarely since it is inconvenient to recognize the cost of work only after it has been completed. But if you combine it with the first method, you can avoid unpleasant surprises. In this case, the cost is estimated approximately, and the deviation of the output text does not exceed 5-10%.
What is allowed to skip when estimating?
The first and the most obvious one. The file provided for translation may contain comments, instructions, or other parts of the text that do not need to be translated. It is necessary to skip them when estimating the amount of text.
You can skip repeated paragraphs or long (!) sentences. But it would be better if the file for translation did not contain them.
You can skip numbers, but this is relevant only if there are a lot of them in a file.
What is not allowed to skip when estimating?
Repeated words, phrases or short sentences. The fact that the word flashes in the text again does not reduce the amount of work for the translator. Moreover, the word is not a universal measure of the "amount of meaning»; different forms of one word are translated completely differently. In general, skipping repeated words is almost as absurd as skipping repeated letters.
This rule does not work if we are talking about the translation of individual words or short replicas. But then, as mentioned above, it is better to make sure that there are no repetitions in the source file.
How is the price formed?
You can answer in one word - the market. As in any other industry, the price of translation balances between supply and demand, although there is considerable variation around the balance point. Let's go through the main aspects of pricing.
The work of a translator
You pay for it always and first of all. Knowing that the average translation speed is about 1 page per hour, it’s easy to calculate the approximate minimum bid. Assuming that the translator wants to work no more than 160 hours per month and receive 40 000 RUR, it will be 250 RUR per page
The work of an intermediary
First of all, it concerns individual intermediaries and translation agencies. This is the share that the intermediary leaves for himself, the salary of managers, directors and other people who do not perform the translation but ensure the possibility of its execution. By the way, referring directly to the translator, you still pay for this item. Promotion of freelance accounts, the commission of safe transactions and money transfers - a translator surely includes all of these aspects into his price list.
The work of an editor
Usually, only intermediaries or agencies practice proofreading. The price can vary from 20% to 80% of the cost of the translation, and in rare cases, proofreading may cost even more than the translation.
Obviously, the work performed should pay back the cost of advertising. This can also include the cost of maintaining the site, the development of freelance accounts etc.
What the price depends on?
Again - the market. There are much more translators who work with the Russian-English language combination than with the Russian-Korean one, therefore, translation into Korean is several times more expensive. There is another feature associated with a language combination. If the price is calculated by the characters of the source text, then you will notice that translation, for example, from Chinese is several times more expensive than into Chinese. The fact is that one Chinese character is much more informative than the Russian one. If the same text is estimated after the translation into Russian, then it turns out that the price is practically the same or even slightly lower.
Technical text is more difficult to translate, fewer people are able to do it qualitatively, so it’s logical that technical translation will cost more.
Many translators will take more for text recognition by ear than for ordinarily written translation.
Two factors are important here. The first one - short urgent tasks. The translator is forced to give up all his affairs, including, perhaps, other projects and sit down for the translation. It is expected that he wants compensation for this. The second is voluminous urgent translations. A project that needs to be completed in five days instead of eight does not require to be started immediately, but you will have to work overtime and possibly on weekends, and this should also be paid at the appropriate rate.
Yes, this matters and matters a lot. If in some region it is quite normal to receive 20 000 RUR per month, then the cost of the translation will be cheaper. For the same reason, proofreading by a native English speaker for example, is sometimes more expensive than the work of a translator from Russia.
What is not included in the price of translation?
Transcription, layout, voice acting are types of work that are often needed along with the translation, but (and this is very important) these are separate types of work, and therefore they must be paid separately.
Why so cheap?
If you have met someone who offers to perform a translation at a very low price, then it is possible:
- This is a normal price for the region where the translator lives, and you just are not used to such prices.
- This is a novice performer who is willing to donate part of the money for the sake of reputation. This is often practiced in freelancing.
- This is a performer who urgently needs money, and he is trying to attract customers at a lower price.
In any case, you should carefully treat such a translator.
Why so expensive?
Prices for the same translation from different performers may vary by 6 - 8 times. Where do high prices come from?
- This is a translation agency, where the translation goes through a full lifecycle: translator - editor - native speaker.
- This is an experienced translator, who usually performs an oral translation and values his time.
- This is just cheating due to the brand.
You should also be suspictive to high prices. In fact, neither the low nor the high cost will not say anything about the quality of work. Real indicators are a portfolio or feedback on (very important!) independent platforms.