Translation prices: 9 factors that drive down prices in the translation industry

by | Mar 14, 2016 | Translators' Column

Talk to any translator and they are likely to agree wholeheartedly that translation prices are often too low to be sustainable for someone based in the UK.

But why?

There are hundreds of reasons for the low value that is put on translation jobs.

Let’s just have a look at a few.

Factors which impact on UK translation prices

  1. Clients have no idea how much knowledge, skill and time it takes to transfer their original text into an equally good (or better) version in the target language.
  2. ┬áThe only “guide prices” in the industry are those paid by agencies. A lot of translators are dependent on agency work. So they believe that this is the only rate that’s achievable.
  3. A lot of translators have never been trained in how to run a business, therefore, they often pitch their translation prices too low.
  4. Freelancers often lack negotiating skills. They fear losing jobs if realistic rates are requested.
  5. The translation industry suffers an oversupply of translators. This leads to a large number of people chase a smaller number of jobs. This severely impacts on price levels.
  6. At any one time there are hundreds if not thousands new people with language skills trying to enter the profession. Offering low prices to them seems the only way into this very competitive industry.
  7. Translators living in countries with much lower living costs undercut western European prices by far.
  8. When it comes to the translation of literature, there often is a great deal of prestige involved. Translating a revered author is a matter of pride. So publishers know that translating “enthusiasts” will always be available to work cheaply.
  9. Often neither translators nor their direct clients are aware of the skills a translator brings to the table. Translators therefore don’t sell these skills. Clients don’t know what level of expertise, service, background research into the most appropriate vocabulary, skill levels etc. they are buying.

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