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How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Translator?

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Translators are linguistic specialists who translate documents from one language to another. Often quite important ones such as business contracts, marketing documents, medical forms, and legal documents.

But the prices for a translator can range from under a cent per word to quite expensive for translators working in specialized industries! It can be hard to know what is a fair rate, and how much you should be looking to pay for a translation service.

So, you may have some questions, like “how much does it cost to hire a translator?”  We’ll dive into the answer to the first question below. 

If cost is a non-factor to you, then there’s always the option to go ahead and start looking at different freelance translators offering their services, such as the Spanish translators for hire we have here on Guru.

The Cost of Hiring a Translator

Per-Word Cost

Most professional translators charge by word for their translation services. The American Translators Association reports that translators in the United States should demand a minimum of twelve cents per word to reflect the certifications and year of training they require. However, the cost of hiring a translator also varies by geographical location and the translator’s area of expertise and years of experience. Some literary and legal translators don’t use computer-aided translation (CAT) tools. Thus, their flat per-word rate ranges from five cents a word to thirty cents a word.

Computer-Aided Translations

Most professional translators use CAT tools, including Wordfast, Across, and Trados. When using this type of software, translators enter terminologies and create a lexicon or “term base” they can reference in future documents. After the translation of a word, it’s saved forever in the term base. So, CAT tools enable translators to translate text multiple times faster than when using old-fashioned methods. By implementing CAT software, many translators are able to process about 3,000-8,000 words per day, depending on the level of difficulty of the text and the language pair. 

When a translator enters their document into the software, there are matches that appear automatically for words that have already been entered. For any repetitions, a translator typically is paid a small fee, rather than their full rate.

  • For 100% matches, the pay is $.02 per word.
  • For 99% to 95% matches, the pay is $.03 per word.
  • For 94% to 85% matches, the pay is $.05 per word.
  • For 84% to 75% matches, the pay is $.07 per word.
  • For 74% to 65% matches, the pay is $.10 per word.
  • For 64% or fewer matches, the pay is $.13 per word.

Per-Page Rate

Some translators charge fixed rates for specific standard forms and documents once they have a clear idea of the resources and time needed to complete the translation. For instance, a translator may charge a flat rate of forty dollars per page for most official forms and documents, including marriage, birth, and death certificates, or academic and police records.

Keep in mind that freelance translators and agencies each set their own prices, but within the United States the approximate cost per word is $.10 to $.30, based on the subject matter, the language pair, the text to be translated, and the deadline. Rush translations will cost more, with a lower end rate starting at $.15 cents per word. When a translator charges by the hour, a typical hourly rate ranges between $35 and $60 per hour. 

Factors That Affect the Cost of Hiring a Translator

1. Scope of the Translation Project

The first factor that influences the cost of translation is the volume of the text you want translated. Translation requires patience and takes time to get right, so if you’re tackling a large inventory of product descriptions or thousands of articles for your marketing campaign, be ready to spend a ton of money.

Even though your translation project seems straightforward and lacks tricky tone considerations or technical terminologies, high-volume projects must be budgeted for and scheduled to allow extra time for proofreading.

2. Target Language

It’s not a secret that some languages are more widely spoken and understood than others. The most commonly spoken languages across the globe include Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, and English. Thus, there are many translators for these languages and more accessibility to translate the languages accurately using CAT tools, which sometimes prevents the need for a translator. 

For example, since a large global population speaks Spanish, there are widespread Spanish translators and more competitive prices. According to BunnyStudio, in 2019, Spanish translations demanded the lowest rates out of the major languages, with Spanish translators and agencies on average charing between $0.09 to $0.32 per word, 

With that in mind, if you need translation of rare or difficult languages, expect to pay more. Bi-lingual speakers for countries with smaller populations are hard to find, and smaller populations mean fewer translators. Since there’s more demand and less competition, these translators typically charge a higher rate. Rare languages also rarely have any sort of reliable CAT software available, so they often require a completely manual approach to their translation. 

Final Thoughts

Translators charge varying rates depending on both the language of origin and the target language, as well as the geographical location, translator’s area of specialization, and years of experience. It’s always best to consider the qualities of a good translator when hiring.  So, if your translation project is complex and full of tricky tone considerations and technical terminologies, be ready to scale up your budget!

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