Translation Time and Translation Cost: How to Win the Game

Feb 09, 2018

Content how to win the game

It’s every freelancer’s dilemma – how much to charge, and whether to charge by a piece rate or by the project. And translators are no different. Actually, they have three options – by the word, by the hour, or by the project. And these options often find translators struggling with translation timings and costs.

So, how does a translator actually figure out what to charge and still generate a fair wage for his time?

Let’s look at the options and what may work best for you.

Industry Averages

One way to begin the process of finding the balance between work and cost is to look at the average for the industry. At least this gives you a start point. You can access these averages through Proz, a freelance translator association. Here you will find that the average cost of translation per word ranges from $0.08 - $0.11 per word, depending upon the source and target languages. By the hour, the range is $26 - $56, again dependent upon the languages involved.

What this chart does not show, however, are other factors, such as the technical difficulty involved in some translation work, or the cost of living where the translator may live. For example, a translator living in Mexico has lower costs than one living in California in the U.S. So, translation services cost also depends upon the going rate in countries or regions.

Deciding How To Charge

Here are some things to think about:

  1. Do you work fast? Have you developed the skills and do you use technology to create better translations faster? Then you might want to consider a per-project cost. This option also incentivizes you to work faster.
  2. Do you often take on projects that are tougher and more time-consuming? Then a per-hour rate may be better. Especially if you do a lot of technical translation, and you must spend time using research tools (like niche dictionaries) and spending lots of time reviewing for absolute accuracy, this charging option may be better. Be warned, however, that when you charge by the hour, you may have a tendency to work a bit slower, and clients may not be happy with the final price tag.
  3. Consider how a cost is presented to a client. There is a psychological impact of how you charge. If you tell a client that your charge is $50 per hour, that client may see that as really pricey and begin to look elsewhere for a cheaper rate. If you price by the project, however, a total price of $400 for what you know will be 8 hours of work, may be far more palatable from the client’s perspective.

How are You Managing the Translation Process?

If you are a newbie to translation, you may not be using all of the CAT software that eases and speeds up the entire process of translation. You need to do some research and figure out which tools will help you work faster and more efficiently, providing quality as well as speed.

Once you have tools in place, you will find that you can use any of the options that will work best for you, because every project you take on will be made more efficient by the technology you use.

There is No One Option

What most translators find is that they have to be flexible in their pricing options. Some projects will be more lucrative from a per-word pricing; others will ring more revenue by the hour; still others are better served by charging a flat fee for the entire project.

And if you are wondering how much do freelance translators earn, you are looking for an answer that is just not there. The best that you can do is the following:

  1. Set your income goals – how much do YOU want to make? Then break that down to how many words you will need to translate at a specific rate in a year’s time. That will at least give you a more detailed plan.
  2. Go after clients and projects that will get you there
  3. Make a decision about how you will charge based on the unique details of each project – be flexible in your pricing options
  4. Look at the industry averages, but do not be completely fixated on them. Consider where you reside, your cost of living, and what the going rate is for your area, not internationally.
  5. Charge what you truly believe your work and your expertise is worth, no matter which pricing option you choose for types of projects.