What’s the Real Cost of Translation Services?

March 29, 2021
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How can you tell if the cost of translation services is reasonable?
Perhaps you have just received a new quote and you thought “Is this really the cost of translations!?”
Or maybe you are looking for some guidance to get a better idea of the “going rate” before you ask around for quotes.
One thing’s for sure… it can be hard to know how to judge quotes for the cost of translation services.

Why you should avoid “instant price calculators” for translation services

“Just tell me the going rate for translation services!”
This is a common sentiment when people are trying to source translation services. You just want a clear cost that you can put down on your budget sheet.
It is an entirely understandable desire. But, this way of thinking can lead to several problems when you are looking for the best-priced translation services for your needs.

What are instant price calculators?

The desire for quick pricing has given rise to various “instant price calculators” offered by some translation service providers.
Such calculators allow you to enter the number of words in your source content and the desired target languages. The calculator will then instantly spit out a flat fee for that particular job.
Beware of such calculators!
Most are far too simplistic to get an accurate understanding of your content translation needs. To give you this instant price, the providers often need to inflate their quote to ensure that they don’t lose money on the job.
This way of approaching cost is not conducive to helping you find ways to reduce the cost of your translations, which a good translation services provider will do for you.
With instant-price providers, you are forever tied into the inflated price.

Why instant price calculators are confusing

For all their apparent simplicity, instant price calculators can end up confusing you even more.
Most calculators require you to become an expert in translation and localization before you can accurately judge which services you need.
They might ask questions like: Do you want general or specialist translation?; Do you need extra proofreading from an independent reviewer?; Do you want machine translation or human translation?; or Do you want to charge per page, per word, or per character?
If your answer to such questions is “I don’t know!” … this is exactly the problem with the way many providers approach their quoting.
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A more reliable way to assess the cost of translation services

It’s worth remembering that various factors will determine whether or not a translation services provider is the right one for you.
Cost is only one of those factors.
Providers that lead with their pricing could be masking a “multitude of sins” in other aspects of their services. Unfortunately, some parts of the translation services industry are rife with problems like late deliveries and unexpected extra costs. If your company has been using translation services for a long time, you might be unlucky enough to have experienced this.
What’s a better way to get an accurate cost for translation services?
A more reliable way to assess cost is to look for a provider that asks you the right questions about your content and needs.
You’re looking for a provider that will become a trusted partner in your global business. One that you can rely on to provide the right services to you and will help you reduce costs when they can.
A good start is to propose a project to a provider and see how they handle your request.

What information a provider needs to give you an accurate cost

A reliable provider won’t give you an instant quote if you ask them a question like “Can you translate 1000 words into German?”
This is not enough information for them to give you an accurate quote for translation services. The best providers don’t just translate your words – they provide end-to-end localization services that integrate seamlessly with your existing processes. This requires that you give them more information.
A reliable provider will ask you questions to learn more about your content and your needs. With the information they gather, they will assess your situation and give an accurate quote that truly aligns with your goals as a global business.
Here is some of the information that a reliable provider will need:

The content files

Every piece of content is slightly different. A provider can only give you an accurate cost for translation services if they know what type of content they will be working with and the unique features of that content.
The cost of two similar-looking pieces of content can vary. For example, a 10,000-word training document with lots of repetition will be significantly cheaper to translate than an equally-sized document with no repetition.
If you don’t yet have your content files – which is the ideal situation as it means you’re thinking about localization early – you should talk over the project with the provider so they can understand the nature of the content.

Which languages are required

The cost to translate into different languages varies. There are various reasons for this, including the availability of translators for a particular language, the complexity of the language, and the varying cost of living for translators working in different parts of the world.
A good provider will also help you to reduce costs, if possible, when you are translating the same content into multiple languages.


It pays to start thinking about translation and localization as early as possible in your content creation process. Quicker turnaround times will usually translate to higher costs.
At Rubric, we take an extra step to fully understand the specifics of our clients’ deadlines. Often, we can help to reduce the costs by understanding the stages of your whole project, its key dates, and how translation fits in.
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Your global content strategy

When your provider understands the global strategy of your content, they can provide a much more reliable translation service that truly meets your needs.
Strategy-focused providers are very rare in the translation services industry. At Rubric, we are proud to be one of them. We honestly don’t know how other providers could provide a quality service without this vital step.

Important qualities to look for in a translation service provider

Do you want to learn more about the common mistakes people make when sourcing translation services?
We have created a buyer’s guide titled ‘How to Find the Right Translation Provider for You’ that gives tips on what to look for in a translation services provider.
It includes 9 reliable qualities to look for in a translation provider and 10 questions to ask any prospective translation provider.
Download a copy of the eBook below…

How to Find the Right Translation Provider for You

When you start looking for a new translation provider, you are hit by a wall of choices. It’s hard to make an informed decision when the differences between providers are so unclear.