Which factors influence translation services rates?

Why is it so difficult to find precise translation rates quoted online?

Many clients search the Internet for information on translation services rates because they wish to find out how much a translation project may cost before actually asking for a quote. However, they very rarely find concrete translation rates listed online. This is not only a fact for UK websites but also applies to other European countries.

While websites exist that will boast with their very low prices, these sites tend to give flat rates for any translation job, often just based on the language pair. Yet they disregard the subject, the degree of specialisation or any other important factor. In contrast, clients will find very few high-end translation agencies willing to give prices online.

So, why are some agencies able to offer such low translation services rates? They may either completely underpay the translators who do these jobs or they employ translators who live far away in a non-European country. They may also cut corners by not proofreading texts or employing under-qualified translators. Increasingly, they may be using translation programmes and only use translators to post-edit the text. And while machine translation has become increasingly sophisticated, this also makes it harder to spot errors. When these errors include reversing the meaning of a sentence or missing out a key word, they can be catastrophic. Therefore I recommend: handle with care!

Why the reluctance to publish rates online?

There are many reasons why translation agencies, as well as freelance translators, are reluctant to publish their translation rates. Most importantly, translation prices are so variable because there are so many factors that agencies, as well as freelancers, must take into account.

Some of the factors influencing UK rates for translation services are quite obvious, such as text length and language pair. At the same time, common European languages like French, German, Italian and Spanish are often within the same price range within one country. However, rarer languages like the Scandinavian languages, Mandarin, Arabic or Thai usually command higher prices.

Yet other factors are less obvious to spot. Iolante has therefore undertaken a detailed analysis of why it is almost impossible to apply or quote online a one-fits-all translation rate.

You can also find an interesting article on translation rate calculation on the BDÜ (Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer e.V.) website.

Factors not included in my calculation

The above-mentioned pages do not cover factors like living costs in-depth.

Because living in a western European country means high housing costs and high daily living costs in general, translators living in the UK, for example, cannot compete with freelance translators based in India on cost alone. Therefore, UK-based translators will stress their know-how and first-hand knowledge and experience of not only the language but also the culture that comes with it. What is more, they invest in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and pride themselves in delivering first-class services.

Translation rates calculator

Aspiring translators might be interested in this tool from Proz to help them calculate their translation services rates.


Accurate, confidential, efficient and reliable English-German translations

Professionally qualified German translator into English and English into German, offering first class translation services for commercial, industrial, governmental and private clients.

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