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How to Calculate the Cost of Translation Services

cost of translation services

How to Calculate the Cost of Translation Services

When you need to get a document translated, it can be quite confusing to determine what you should pay for the service. Estimating the cost of translation services can be very tricky, especially if you have never used such a service before in your life. You want to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth, while not underpaying for a sub-par “quick and dirty” translation. This article will guide you on how to quickly get a rough estimation of the rate you should be paying and a few tips to minimize the cost of translation services for your documents.

The word count of the original document is not the only parameter you have to keep in mind when getting a document translated. There are many other things you should account for, including the target and source languages, the type of text you want to be translated (such as a legal document or a business brochure), how soon you need the translation, and the use of technological tools that aid in translation, etc. Many seemingly similar translation jobs entail entirely different rates.


Read on to find out:

  • How to calculate a good estimate of what you should pay
  • What factors determine the cost of a particular translation job
  • How to minimize the cost of your translation
  • How to retain the quality of translations


How Are Document Translation Services Priced?

In a nutshell, there is no standard cost of translation services. There are a plethora of factors that determine the cost of every job, which we will discuss later in this article. However, there are a few modes in which translators and translation agencies charge you for translations:


Per-Word Rates

This is the most commonly used way of charging for translations around the world for documents that use Latin alphabets. Per-word rates vary for a lot of reasons, but you should expect to pay as low as $0.15 to as high as $0.30 for every word in your document. Any less or more is usually unreasonable, except for when your document is especially time-consuming to translate (like a poem or other literary work).


Per-Character Rates

Languages such as Chinese or Japanese use pictorial characters to convey the meaning of written texts. Each character symbolizes a different word, and while there is no definitive count for Japanese characters, there exist more than 50,000 Kanji entries in the Dai Kan-Wa Jiten (a Chinese-Japanese dictionary)   alone. [1] This makes translations to/from these languages comparatively much harder for the translator. You should be willing to pay more for translations where your target or source language uses pictorial characters. Most companies will charge a per-character rate from the source document but a few companies charge based on words in the target.


Per-Line Rates

You can find per-line rates in many German-speaking countries. We usually define a line as 55 characters, including spaces.

There exist many more metrics around the world. However, these rates are specific to local regions. Charging by the hour, word, or character is a more widespread practice.


Per-Hour Rates

Some freelance translators charge by the hour for each translation job. They usually apply these rates for big projects that take a lot of time to complete, like localizing a website or smartphone application.

In addition, most companies and linguists charge a per-hour fee for services like reviewing and proofreading or even desktop publishing as these are hard to calculate in other ways.


Minimum Fee

In addition to these rates, a translator might charge you a minimum fee for translating a document. For a short document, many translators offer a fixed fee for text up to a certain amount of words or characters. For most linguists and companies, minimum fees apply to documents with under 200 words.


What Parameters Determine the Cost of Document Translation?


Source and Target Languages

Some languages are simply harder to translate to/from than others. Usually, the more widely spoken a language is, the cheaper the translation rate. This is because there are more linguists available to translate the language. Languages of lesser diffusion, as they’re known, have fewer qualified linguists and thus cost a premium to translate. In addition,  a document written in Katakana script will cost a bit more for the translator’s added effort of converting pictorial characters into words.


Subject Matter Knowledge

Certain documents, such as legal papers or medical reports, entail the use of certified translators that have undergone training in those fields. As such, these documents usually cost more than others. You are paying for the expertise of a translator that has the knowledge of different technical terms and codes of conduct used in that field.



Official documents often require the signature of a certified translator to ensure translation accuracy. You also have to get the translated document notarized in many cases, such as when applying for immigration visas, submitting a document to a government agency, court evidence, etc. Many translation services provide certified and notarized translations.



Proofreading of any translation is essential to ensure quality. Every reputable translator will proofread a document before sending it over to you. However, proofreading requires extra time to be put in by the translator and adds to the cost of translation.


Technology Used

The use of technological tools can significantly reduce the cost of translation. Many dedicated translation services use computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools with Translation Memories (TM) to tailor the documents for every client. As you get more documents translated, the TM library builds up, and the service will offer you lower rates for every document.


Delivery Time

How soon you require a document will significantly impact the cost of translation. For extremely urgent cases, services charge a premium fee.


How to Minimize the Cost of Document Translation

Luckily for you, there are a few quick methods to reduce the cost of your translated documents. These methods will also allow you to get a better quality translation in a short amount of time. Here are a few tips you should follow before submitting your document for translation:


Simplify the Text

The first thing you should do is to make the text much easier to understand. The use of simple vocabulary will allow for quicker and more accurate translations of your document. Use shorter sentences, and try to re-use the same words as much as you can without sounding monotonous. This will help build up your Translation Memory and will result in lower rates in the future.


Extract the Text from Images and Diagrams

Translating the text in images requires the use of an additional person skilled in photo manipulation. For this reason, try to keep text separate from any diagrams. If your document has a pie chart or some other graph, make sure that you have not embedded the text in the image. Use a separate label or text box instead.


Change the File Format

Share the file in the format you used to create the file. If you wrote an article in Word or created a spreadsheet in Excel, send the ‘docx’ or ‘xlsx’ file instead of a PDF. It will be much easier to work with the translator when it comes to formatting the final document. Upload a document for translation. 


Choose Acutrans for affordable Document Translation Services

For quick, professional, and accurate document translation services choose Acutrans. We have been in the translation and interpretation industry for over 20 years and provide quality translations in more than 100 languages. We offer notarized translations in fields as diverse as the marketing, legal, entertainment, education, health care, technology, finance, and manufacturing industries.

At Acutrans, we value accuracy above all else. We employ strict quality control protocols to ensure that every document that we deliver meets or exceeds industry standards. Choose Acutrans to translate your documents quickly, accurately, and at the lowest possible cost for you. 


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