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Translations: price per line, per word, or per character?

16 November 2016

When you want to have a text translated, the price question always comes up first. How is this calculated; per character, per word, or per line? It’s an easy decision to make.

Avoid discussions about short or long words

The client wants to keep the overall price as low as possible, while the translator wants to be paid a fair price for their hard work. In a situation like this, each party is looking for arguments to drive their point home. Trite discussions about the length of words can ensue quickly. For example, the translator is told that they’re usingcumbersome wording that reduces the readability of the translation. By working with a translation rate per word – and not per character or letter – you avoid it ever reaching this point.  

Price per word = the most transparent price

When you agree on a word price for a translation, everybody knows the score right from the start. The client knows the invoice amount immediately. And the translator knows that there won’t be any pricing negotiations after the fact. There is no distinction between short and long words. It doesn’t matter whether the spaces are counted either. Moreover, you can use a word processor or an online app to easily count the number of words. It doesn’t get any more transparent than that.  

Use the source text as the starting point of a translation

It’s obvious that the number of source words determines the translation’s overall price. And yet, some translators or agencies use the target translation as the starting point. This can lead to discussions over the invoice. In this case, you could even have a translator deliver a needlessly wordy translation. If you base yourself off the source text, you nip these kinds of situations in the bud.

A translation rate per character leaves a distorted impression

One critical argument against a character or letter rate for translations: without even realising it, you come across to your client as incredibly greedy. Like you’re wanting to get paid for every press of a key. It’s excessive. It may be purely psychological, but a translation rate per word makes a much more reasonable impression on a potential client. 

Tailored quote

Need a translation? Or would you like a free test translation (maximum 300 words)? Contact Johan Noël: +32 (0)11 49 04 68 - johannoel@elanlanguages.com. He will be pleased to help you. Or request your no-obligation quote here!

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