Planning a budget for translation projects

How much does it cost to translate a document? A fixed and straight answer does not exist, but it is possible to have an idea of the price, considering the following variables:
–  Language pair (e.g. from English into Italian)
European languages, with their alphabet, can be cheaper with respect to Arabic or Japanese, which are character-based languages and need more time to be interpreted correctly.
Type and format of source text
Leaflet, user manual, software strings, .docx, .ppt, .xml, .txt, .pdf files, handwritten copy, as well as a document with more complex layout, tables, images, and highly technical content need different amount of time to be translated and processed.
Number of words or pages
It is possible to base a quote on word count for large documents or page count (A4),  e.g. in case of a PDF with few pages containing few paragraphs.
–  Day and hour you need the translated document back
Generally, a translator with full availability can handle up to 3,000 words a day. If the translator has multiple jobs to manage at a time (which is the most probable scenario), more time will be necessary.
Requesting a service which involves working on weekends or national holidays  can increase the rate even of 30%. Best practice is to plan the translation assignment 10-15 days before the day you expect to place the purchase order.
Presence of translation memory, glossary, reference material
Always send to the translator clear instructions and any useful reference material, such as previous translated documentation, abbreviation list, company or product specific glossary, data sheet, letters, orders, contracts, etc.
Type of language service provider: freelance translators or translation agency
Usually translation agencies charge at least 30% more than freelance translators, but probably they can handle projects involving many language pairs at the same time or offer desktop publishing (DTP) services. In case of several language combinations, e.g. from English into all Western European languages,  it is also possible to contact a translator team, so that a group of freelance translators providing each one his specific language combination, and manage invoicing process with only one of them having the role of project manager.

Considering all these aspects, it is advisable not to pay less than EUR 0.05 per word or EUR 20 per page (A4) for freelance translators, and EUR 0.12 per word or EUR 28 per page (A4) for translation agencies, for a simple reason: keeping quality at the top.
Personally, I prefer to apply an hourly rate, in particular for editing, copywriting, proofreading services, or added services to simple translation tasks.

Asking for a discount
Discounts can be applied when using a translation memory (TM) into a Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tool. A CAT tool is a software capable of break paragraphs and sentences into translatable segments, stored into a memory; then it applies the same stored translation unit (TU) into the whole document based on percentage of similarity to the source text. If a segment is 100% similar to other 3 segments, the software propagates translations automatically, translator doesn’t have to retranslate them, and you don’t have to pay them again at full rate.
Another way to get a final discount is to pay the invoice in advance, e.g. 20% discount if the invoice is paid 15 days before the due date. These two ways are generally not applicable to the same translation project.


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