Examining the Costs Behind Freelance Translation Rates in 2024

May 3, 2024
Examining the Costs Behind Freelance Translation Rates in 2024

I want to talk about translation rates today. It’s a subject that clients, understandably, want clarity on.

A huge range of factors can influence the translation rates per hour that agencies charge. As such, I’m going to break down what goes into setting translation fees, so that you can see precisely what they involve. I’m hoping this article will also serve as a handy resource for translators who need to explain to their clients how the cost of translating documents stacks up.

Factors That Can Affect Average Translation Rates

How much does a translator cost? It seems a simple question. However, as we’ll explore below, this can’t be answered without a great deal more information. The translation price will depend on how long the document is, what format it’s in, which languages are involved, how specialized the copy is, and a whole heap of other concerns.

Let me break this down a bit.


Length is the biggest driver of the cost of translation services. The longer a document is, the longer it will take to translate, so the more it will cost. That said, there’s also potential to negotiate a discount when it comes to large and bulk translation projects, so it’s always worth asking about this when you’re getting quotes for translation rates (I’ll talk more about getting a fair translation price below).

Language Pair Rarity 

The next biggest factor to influence translation prices is the languages that you need. The language services industry is subject to the pricing pressures of supply and demand, just as other sectors are. In simple terms, the more speakers a language has, the more translators it has, so the lower the cost will be.

Spanish, for example, is natively spoken by at least 360 million people. As such, when it comes to translation costs, English to Spanish will be far cheaper than English to a language that has just 100,000 speakers.

Rare languages are priced differently because of the steps needed to translate something to the target language. Let’s take Santiagueño Quechua, for instance, which is spoken by between 60,000 and 100,000 people in the Santiago del Estero region of Argentina (for more on Santiagueño Quechua and the other languages of Argentina, click the link below).

Santiagueño Quechua only has bilingual translators that can translate from Santiagueño Quechua to Spanish. But say you needed a translation from Santiagueño Quechua to German. The steps required to go from Santiagueño Quechua to German, are Santiagueño Quechua to Spanish and then Spanish to German. More translators are involved, meaning the project will take longer and the translation fee will be higher.

Read more: What Languages Are Spoken in Argentina?

Domain Expertise

Technical texts require a certain level of expertise on the translator’s part in the subject matter of the text. A legal contract, for example, will need a translator with legal experience, while a medical report will call for a translator with medical expertise. As such, translator qualifications are a major factor in the cost of the translation.

Rush Translations

If you need a translation at short notice, that can also drive up the price. Express translations mean that translators will have to rearrange other work they’re doing. They may have to work outside of their usual working hours to complete the job on time, which can disrupt their personal life. As such, translation rates for express translations tend to be higher.


The use of the translated copy also plays a role in translation costs. There are various reasons behind this. Marketing copy, for example, may require special formatting and desktop publishing skills – or perhaps even transcreation (click the link below for a detailed explanation of transcreation and its uses). Specialist skill requirements will raise the professional translation service price.

For translation documents that are going to be used in legal settings (courts or immigration applications, for example), sworn translation might be a requirement. This would add to the translation fee, as it requires specialist input from additional individuals.

Read more: 7 Common Pain Points in Legal Translation and How to Address Them

The use of a translation may require the translation agency to undertake additional steps as well – additional quality checks, for example. Any such steps that clients request will increase the translation rates that projects incur.

Read more: What Is Transcreation?

Cost of Living

Even the location of the translator can impact their translation rate per word, and thus the overall cost of the job. This local element to pricing means that translators in countries where the cost of living is higher have to charge more than those where it’s lower.

While this might lead to a temptation to use translators based in other locations, it’s worth remembering the value of local knowledge. If you’re trying to crack into a new market, it’s the translator who serves up the local language and stands the most chance of enabling you to connect with local people. Using translators elsewhere can mean your copy is out of touch with local expressions, terminology, and popular culture references.

Differing translators’ costs are, of course, something that translation agencies have to factor into their pricing. Let’s take a quick look now at other translation costs that arise from the agency’s side.

Translation Costs from the Translation Agency’s Side 

A translation company like Tomedes (for example) provides added value on top of the translation work being undertaken, which may affect the translation pricing. Of course, these additional elements also deliver extra value, which is why so many clients opt to use translation agencies to meet their language-related needs.

Below are a few examples of the added extras that agencies like Tomedes deliver as part of their work, impacting the average price for translation services that they charge. I’ve also included some ways in which using a translation agency may be able to save you money on your translation rates as well.

Project Management and Maintenance 

Having the agency act as the bridge between you and a dozen language professionals is one of the many perks that businesses get when they use a translation company. Project managers and other team members provide a wraparound service that delivers oversight of the project from start to finish. This is invaluable for large-scale projects and those that involve multiple linguists and other professionals (developers, desktop publishers, and so on).

Furthermore, maintaining translation glossaries for prolonged collaborations is a part of translation agencies’ remit. This means that, for your future translations, the agency will have a bank of terminology specific to your business. This can deliver outstanding consistency across your documents, as well as speed up future work.

Translation Tools 

Computer-assisted translations skew the cost of translations to the cheaper side – good news when it comes to your translation rates. Translation memory tools, as mentioned above, can also speed up the process and enhance the quality of your translations.

Read more: A Comprehensive Guide on How Translation Management Systems Propel Business Growth

Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE) 

What is MTPE? It’s a combination of machine translation and editing by a human translator. Done well, it can deliver faster results at a lower translation cost per word.

Say you need to translate a 1,500-word document. Our research into average translation speeds shows that translators most commonly deliver between 1,500 and 3,000 words per day. However, machine translation engines can churn out millions of words of translations almost instantaneously.

The caveat is that the quality of machine translation, especially for resource-poor languages and specialized domains, can be low. So, while translating with software is significantly cheaper than human translation, it also needs an editor to work with the resulting copy. Even so, the overall process can still be faster than using human translators alone. This means that the enticing cost of machine translation can be used for the purpose of professional translations.

I take a deeper dive into the merits of MTPE in the post below. It’s well worth a read if you think this is a service that could be of benefit to you.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Machine Translation Post-Editing

Quality Assurance

Staff such as project managers and customer service personnel are all part of the outstanding customer experience when you use a translation agency like Tomedes. They work together with translators to ensure the quality of your experience from a language perspective and a management perspective.

At Tomedes, our ISO certifications are also part of our quality assurance offering. They deliver peace of mind to each and every one of our clients.

24/7 Service

I mentioned customer service above. This is something that Tomedes provides around the clock. We follow the sun with our staffing so that there’s always someone on hand that you can talk to, no matter which time zone you are in or how early or late you prefer to call. It makes our service more comprehensive and convenient for our clients. Serving our global customer base in this way also has to be priced into our overall translation services cost.

How to Get Fair Translation Prices

If you’re on a tight budget (in these tough economic times, who isn’t?), then there are steps that you can take to ensure that the translation price per word that you pay is one that you can afford. Follow the steps below to ensure that the translation rates you pay are as fair as possible.

Explore More Options 

It serves to shop around when you buy translation services, just as it does with other products. Compare costs and pricing from different agencies, as companies often have varying capabilities and prices. Just be sure that the translation agency you choose ticks all the right boxes in terms of any specialist expertise that you may require.

Build Up Long-term Relationships

In business, long-term relationships can sometimes result in preferential pricing. As such, it’s time to think strategically about building up a long-term relationship with a translation company. Getting a quote for a job that incorporates 20 documents might generate a discount, for example, but feeding documents piecemeal to the agency is unlikely to do so. Thinking strategically about your translation needs and forging ahead with a partnership mindset could therefore pay dividends when it comes to the translation rates per word that you’re quoted.

Consider MTPE

As I mentioned above, MTPE can deliver a faster turnaround time and enhanced quality (with the right machine translation editor), as well as an attractive translation price. If you’re still torn between MTPE and more traditional translation methods, the post below could help you weigh up the advantages of each approach.

Read more: Google Translate Expansion Opens Up Machine Translation Vs Human Translation Debate Once More 

Prepare Your Documents for Translation

The other thing that you can do to ensure you get the best translation rates is to prepare your documents for translation. Things like taking out unnecessary text and using a simple file format could help to reduce your overall translation cost.

Get a Free, No Commitment Quote as Part of Your Translation Rates Assessment 

Comparing and evaluating your options is a tedious process but a necessary one. At least obtaining a quote with Tomedes isn’t onerous – you can simply fill out our quote form and get an instant price online.

Wrap Up 

I hope that the above has helped to explain why translation rates can differ so much from language to language or document to document. I’ve covered:

  • Factors that can influence translation rates

  • The value that translation agency costs can add

  • How to ensure your translation price is fair

If there’s still more that you would like to know, feel free to get in touch. We would love to hear from you.

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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