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How Much Should a Translator Cost?

When seeking the right person or firm to complete a translation job, one of your primary concerns will be the cost of the service.  While it is never a good idea to hire someone to do a job just because they will do it for the lowest amount of money, you also don’t want to spend excessive amounts of money on a top-notch translator when you just want them to translate a short, simple form letter.  Most of all, you don’t want to spend significantly higher than the industry average if you could have gotten the job done for far less money. 

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to the question of how much a translator should cost.  There are a number of factors that must be considered before a translator can give a definite answer about the cost of the translation. 


Translation Agency or Freelance Translator?

One of the biggest factors affecting the cost of a translation job is whether you decide to use a freelance translation professional or a translation agency.  Freelancers tend to cost less because there is less overhead when you are in business for yourself.  There may be exceptions to this general rule if the translator is at the very top of his profession, but in general freelance translators will charge less money than agencies.  Agencies have more costs to worry about, including the costs associated with operating an office as well as employee benefits and payroll. 

From this it may sound like it’s always less expensive to use freelance translators.  This is true in those cases where you only need your materials translated into one other language.  If you need your materials translated into multiple languages, agencies can do the job more efficiently and at a lower cost when you factor in the amount of time and money it would take to find the right freelance translator for each language you need.


Other Factors Affecting Cost

Another major factor is what language you need the document translated into.  Translations into some languages are much more expensive than others, for example English to Chinese can be more expensive than English to Spanish.  The region you live in can also affect the cost.  Translations will cost more money in a region where demand exceeds supply. 

You can hire translators from a different region or nation in order to reduce the costs to your business.  Additionally, the nature of the material that needs translating is an important factor.  If your material is straightforward and includes a lot of repetitive phrases, you may be able to get the job done at a discount.  Complicated or technical material may cost more.


Is the Price Right?

The best way to find out whether or not a price you are quoted is fair is to do some comparison shopping.  Many translators and translation agencies have websites, and can offer an estimate if you give them information about your translation job.  Compare the prices and be sure to factor in the reputation of the translator or agency when making a decision.  Keep in mind that the estimates may not be completely accurate until the translator or agency has seen the material you want translated. 

Remember that the cheapest quote is not necessarily the one you should go with, as it will cost your business even more money to hire a second translator to do the job right.  It’s a good idea to ask for a sample translation and have someone that is familiar with the translated language look it over before you make a final decision.


Can you Use Translation Software instead of a Translator?

Automatic translation software programs are designed to reduce the cost of translation. Translation software technology has become a lot more accurate in recent years and is used by many freelance translators and translation agencies.  Software can provide you with a gisting level translation that should be proofed and edited if you require 100% accuracy. Software is not designed to completely replace a human translator.  There is a big difference between a gisting level translation and a publishable translation.

Many global companies use a combination of both, a translator and translation software. If you have a project that requires translation you should check all the options to find which one would be the most cost effective for your situation.  You may hire a professional translator for some projects and be able to use software on other documents.


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