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How to Reduce Translation Costs

Learn the factors that affect the pricing of translation services so that you can make informed choices, avoid overspending, and maximize ROI.


Black woman with dreadlocks working on a MacBook Pro - photo by Christina Morillo via Pexels
Photo by Christina Morillo via Pexels

The translation industry has long had a reputation for opaque pricing. Until recently, if you needed a translation there were only two options: do it yourself or ask a specialist. Traditional agencies enjoyed a captive market. They added hidden costs and created loopholes in their pricing to maximize profits. Although new services are disrupting their monopoly, the increased number of options has made it even tougher to know how much translation costs.

The different pricing systems of these disparate services make it difficult to gather the information you need to make a good decision. Below, we’ll explore some of the factors that affect the pricing of translation to help you make a more informed choice and increase the profit margins on your investment.

5 Factors Affecting Translation Costs

Whether you’re considering working with an agency, freelancer, or crowdsourcing service, they are all subject to the following constraints.

  • Population: If there is are fewer translators for a particular language pair, then the price will go up. Conversely, for a language pair such as English to Chinese, many translators are competing for the same pool of jobs, so rates are lower.

  • Specialization: The more specialized and technical the document, the fewer translators will be available to handle it, and so prices rise.

  • Using English as Bridge: For translation between some languages, you may not be able to find a qualified translator. In this case, English may need to be used as a bridge. First, the text will be translated into English, and then from English into the final target language. Since this is double the amount of work, prices will be higher.

  • Cost of Living: If the population of translators for a particular language tends to live somewhere with a higher cost of living, then average prices will be higher. The reverse can be true also.

  • Volume: The more text to be translated, the higher the cost. If the agency you are using is unable to meet your deadline with in-house resources, they may need to source and hire freelancers to help them complete the job. This will add cost.

  • Formatting Requirements: Some materials may be in document formats that not so many translators are familiar with. For example, you may have a brochure in Adobe Illustrator format. If you require a translator who can use the software and adjust the layout to fit the new character length, then the cost will be higher.

Startup team mates shaking hands - photo by RawPixel via Pexels
Photo by RawPixel via Pexels

Cost Factors for Traditional Agencies

When considering working with a traditional translation agency, it is important to be aware of the following cost variables.

  • Content Genre: To survive in today's market, agencies tend to specialize in fields such as legal, financial, medical, or IT related texts. Clients must ensure they are sending work to an agency that has expertise in their field, otherwise, additional costs may be incurred.

  • Document Type: Different items cost more than others. For example, translating emails tends to cost less than marketing content. When hiring an agency, be sure to ask about the cost of each document type to ensure you’re getting value for money.

  • Staff: If the agency has traditional office space with full-time staffs on the payroll, these are overheads which the agency is hoping to cover by adding a margin to your orders. Innovations such as crowdsourcing can eliminate these costs.

  • Pricing System: Be sure to confirm for each job how you are being charged. Pricing systems include per word (most common), per page, per hour, or a flat fee. Many translation agencies won’t list prices, claiming that every project is unique. A good agency will be transparent about their pricing.

All this complexity and costs can make it tempting to simply hire your own team of translators. However, this can greatly increase your overheads. These people will also need to be taken care of and managed properly.

Crowdsourcing Translations

Since the early 2000s, traditional agencies have been gradually displaced by translation crowdsourcing platforms. In a nutshell, these online services automate the following steps:

  1. Giving a cost estimate for translation within a specific timeframe at an agreed quality level

  2. Invoicing and processing pre-payment

  3. Sourcing an available qualified translator

  4. Chasing the translator if they don’t submit the translation on time

  5. Ensuring the translator gets paid after the client approves the work

  6. Allowing the client to submit feedback on the quality of the translation

These platforms provide several advantages to buyers:

  1. They have a constant stream of work, which attracts a pool of qualified translators ready to take on jobs 24/7/365

  2. Since the process is automated, you can order a translation and have it completed even at odd hours, on weekends, and national holidays

  3. Since the platform operator has no need to keep full-time translators on staff in a traditional office, their overheads are relatively low, allowing them to pass these savings onto buyers

  4. The platform operator’s staff can mediate in the event of a dispute. If the work is late or poor quality, they may give a refund or have the translation re-done by another translator at no additional cost

However, a good platform operator goes beyond these functional aspects and works to continually recruit the best translators and educate them on how to improve their craft. In addition, they will provide superior back-end tools to help translators produce higher quality work in less time.

Man's hands typing on a laptop - photo by Maxwell Ridgeway on Unsplash
Photo by Maxwell Ridgeway on Unsplash

Our Services

Xtra, Inc. offers three services that cater to different needs. Each has clear and competitive pricing.

  • Conyac is ideal for more nuanced content. This crowdsourcing platform enables you to hire multilingual freelancers for a broad range of tasks, including those related to translation and localization.

  • QuickTranslate is a platform for crowdsourcing translation work that involves the Japanese language by experienced bilingual translators that are expert in particular industries, fields, or content genres.

Not sure where to start? We love helping businesses of all sizes find the best translation solution for their needs. Feel free to contact us and tell us what’s on your mind.


The Xtra, Inc. blog brings you inspiration and tips on how to achieve more while reducing costs and growing profits. Be the first to get our latest content by subscribing to our newsletter (scroll down to sign up). Or, if you're listening to this article off-site, visit (that's "xtra-dot-global") to join.


Written by: DLKR


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