How much should you expect to pay for your translation project? And what if your content is more complex than cut-and-dry, low reading level material? Here’s a framework for determining which level of translator you’ll need and how you can estimate your budget.
Cost Factor #1: Scope of your translation project The first contributing factor to the cost of your translation project will be the volume of text you’re having translated. Translation takes time and patience to get right, so if you’re tackling a massive website, a large inventory of product descriptions, or hundreds of articles for a content marketing campaign, be prepared to spend more.
Even if a translation project is seemingly very straightforward—without technical terminology or tricky tone considerations—high-volume projects should be budgeted for and scheduled to allow for extra proofing time.
Tip: With large projects, it helps to go in with a plan and a structure for the translator to label, organize, and submit translated content. It can be arduous to sift through pages of copy, determine text types (headers, footnotes, technical notes, etc.) then reproduce a translated, mirror-image document. Spend the time and effort to create a method or system for the translator to submit the deliverables, so you’re not sorting through them on the back end.
Cost Factor #2: Target language It’s no secret that some languages are more widely spoken and understood than others. The most widely spoken languages from some of the largest economies include German, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Spanish, and Portuguese, to name a few. As a result, there are far more available translators for these languages, and also more accessibility to accurate machine translation which can in some cases preclude the need for a translator. This all leads to widespread availability and more competitive rates.
However, if you need a translation of a rare or particularly difficult language, you might see translators charge higher rates for that specialized expertise. Native language speakers from smaller countries are harder to come by, and smaller populations naturally lead to fewer translators. Because there are less competition and more demand, these professionals can often charge a higher rate. Not to mention, these languages are also more difficult to apply any level of machine translation to, so almost always require a human.
Cost Factor #3: Specialized experience and expertise required More than any other factor, the skill and experience level your content requires will determine rate. Even for a skilled native speaker, translating highly technical content can be uniquely challenging and require vocabulary specifically related to that subject matter. Expect to budget more for translation of content that’s related to software development, manufacturing, healthcare, legal, or financial industries. In some cases, you might even find a bilingual contractor whose primary profession is within that industry but translates content related to that field as a side business.
Similarly, if you need other experience to supplement your translation project—say, SEO and keyword experience to help you optimize a localized website—that will potentially incur more cost. If you are localizing software or APIs, your translator will need to know how developers interact with your UI so they’re translating the appropriate instructions.
Typical Rates Charged by Translators*
|Type of Translator
|Average Hourly Rate
|Popular Languages (Chinese, Spanish, German, Japanese, etc.)
|Niche Languages (Swedish, Korean, Finnish, etc.)
|Specialists (Marketing, Copywriting, Technical, Industry)/More Experienced
*Reflect rates charged by contractors on Upwork in North America with over 1,000 hours and 90% success rate.