Which are the most important factors that determine translation rates?

The three most influential factors determining translation rates for any translation service are word count, the level of difficulty, and the projected deadline.

Influence of Text Length on Translation Rates

Clients often assume that translation rates are solely based on volume. Unfortunately, this is not feasible.

The volume of a translation project (measured in words, characters, lines, or pages – all precisely defined) indeed forms the basis for quotes provided by translators. However, the quoted translation rate – the cost per unit (whether words, characters, lines, or pages) – relies on numerous variables. It’s important to note that only ONE of these variables pertains to the document’s volume.

Minimum Charges

Moreover, if the volume falls below a certain threshold, the translator will apply a minimum rate. Though this threshold can vary among translators, it’s generally based on an hour’s work. This acknowledges that even for small translation tasks, there’s a minimum amount of time invested. Hence, translators include time for various associated tasks in their rates. This encompasses responding to emails, evaluating the text, providing a quote, translating, revising, invoicing, and sending it all to the client. Nevertheless, the minimum rate is often negotiable for repeat clients or very small/simple translation tasks.

Impact of Formatting Complexity

Certified translations must be manually prepared, with formatting closely replicated, including sidebars, headers, and footers. A certificate with intricate tables requires more time compared to a standard text page.

Influence of Source Document Type

Typing over a Word document is straightforward. Dealing with a PDF is less so. While some PDFs can be easily converted to editable text or Word files, this is especially true for PDFs initially generated from Word files. Yet, if your PDF originates from a design program or complex software, an OCR converter produces editable text that mirrors the original format but has distinct underlying formatting. Typing this with varying sentence lengths from the source language results in erratic text layout or potential disappearance. Stripping the formatting and starting anew is time intensive. Sometimes, manually recreating the document is simpler, although not necessarily quicker.

Role of Specialisation in Translation Rates

You, the client, might perceive a text as simple due to your daily interaction with the subject matter. However, if you’re in the business of crafting aircraft seats, the specific vocabulary might not be familiar to most translators. Hence, they’ll categorise the vocabulary as “specialised”. Similarly, if you deal in 19th-century steam-operated printing press materials, few freelance translators would be versed in that area, warranting a slightly higher quote.

Why does this matter? The less common the vocabulary in your document, the more vocabulary research the translator must undertake. To accommodate the extra time required, the translator increases the rate per 1000 words or per line of 55 characters (a prevalent pricing method in Germany). This accounts for the longer duration needed to comprehensively translate less familiar language. Naturally, professional translators decline work that’s completely beyond their expertise. However, most texts demand some level of terminology exploration. Alternatively, finding a specialist translator in the niche area may incur higher costs.

Effect of Deadlines on Translation Rates

Generous Timeframe

Why is providing ample time for translation advantageous? Firstly, when translators aren’t rushed, they’re more likely to offer quotes with reasonable rates. Additionally, less stress contributes to fewer errors and enhanced quality.

While a translator can indeed produce a substantial word count in a short period if pressured, we’re all familiar with rushed work leading to subpar results, regardless of the industry. To attain top-tier translation, avoid dictating a completion date unless absolutely necessary. Instead, consult your translator/project manager for a reasonable timeframe to achieve optimal outcomes.

Tight Deadlines

Conversely, when you request a quote from a translation agency, they often adhere to established norms. If their in-house translators can complete, say, 2000 words within 24 hours, that’s the given deadline. If in-house translators aren’t available, they’ll contact freelance translators from their list. Consequently, the translator might receive the job several hours later. Moreover, the translator might have prior urgent commitments. These tight deadlines impose stress on freelancers, leading to less than ideal working conditions. This highlights why Iolante believes the best translation results arise from direct collaboration between clients and freelance translators, circumventing intermediaries.


Pricing Structure for Certified Translations in Germany

In Germany, court-set rates for legal translations also apply to private certified translations for many translators. Statutory rates are based on lines, with 55 characters constituting one line. At the time of writing (March 2023), these rates stand at €1.80 for editable text and €1.95 for non-editable text. Additional charges encompass document certification and postage.


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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