2 Simple Ways to Calculate Your Translation Budget

Lucy Xu
December 6, 2023
7 min read

As with any business project, investment in a global presence will require creating a budget. When creating a translation budget, your expenses will be mainly driven by two components: the content you select for localization, covering a range of sources from software to websites, and the ongoing maintenance required after publishing your content.

The good news is that regardless of the scale of your localization project, your translation budget can be calculated through some straightforward equations. For your launch and annual maintenance budgets, simply identify the translation method you will be using, then consider aspects such as translation rates or certified translation requirements, and lastly, follow the two equations below.

Calculating Translation Launch Budget: Rates and Costs

When calculating your launch budget, the biggest factors to take into consideration are the number of source words and the cost per word for the translation method you have selected. Depending on how you will be sourcing your translations, the explicit cost of translations can range from nothing (if you’re crowdsourcing translations from your user base) to 30-40 cents per word for the highest service-level from a professional translation agency for normal business content (something we typically see being used in enterprise localization projects). Highly specialized translations can cost even more.

Translation Cost Calculator

Here’s the full calculation for determining your launch budget:

Translation Launch Budget Equation

For additional information on various translation options for your particular needs, our website translation guide will walk you through all the fundamentals of selecting the right translation resources.

Translation Maintenance Budget for Website, Apps, and Software

After you’ve launched your project’s localization, the next budget to establish is your annual maintenance budget. In short, how much will it cost you for the upkeep of your localized content (e.g., site updates, new content). To calculate your annual maintenance budget, there is one main difference from the launch budget calculation: you must determine the frequency of content refreshes on your site that you want to deliver to your target launches and countries (the number of revisions per year).

Here’s how you can calculate your annual maintenance budget. Once you have your translation budgets calculated, you’re ready to start translating!

Translation Maintenance Budget Equation

Start Budgeting & Localizing

If you’re still in the stage of exploring the main ways to translate your content, a great place to start is understanding the three main ways to translate your content. If you have already started evaluating translation management software, make sure you think about the features you want in your future TMS.

The world of tools and resources available to you for your translation project are endless. Always remember that various translation tools will give you different types of flexibility and control when it comes to managing your localization project (from translation budget to launch to maintenance). 

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Is it Better to Pay Per Word or Per Hour for Translation Services?

Deciding between paying per word or per hour can be tricky. Each method has its benefits, depending on the project. Paying per word is straightforward and predictable, especially when you know the exact number of words in your source document. This method is transparent, letting you budget effectively from the start. On the other hand, paying a professional translator by the hour might be beneficial for complex projects where the scope isn’t clear-cut. This allows for flexibility in dealing with unexpected changes or additional work. Ultimately, the choice depends on your project’s specifics, the language pair, and your preference for predictability or flexibility.

During the calculation of both the launch and annual maintenance budgets for your project, it will be best to start researching the pricing model offered by language services providers that best fit your needs.

What Are Some Ways to Reduce Translation Costs Without Sacrificing Quality?

As you progress with your project, an important consideration is managing the cost of translation services effectively while ensuring quality work. Reducing expenses in language services does not have to mean compromising the quality of the translated text. In the following section, we will explore various strategies to achieve cost-efficiency in translation without sacrificing the integrity and quality of your localized content. These strategies are particularly beneficial for those dealing with larger projects or specialized and technical content like product documentation, marketing material, or other similar content.

Strategies for cost-effective translation without compromising quality

While content adaptation can be costly, there are many impactful strategies to achieve efficiency without compromising quality.

Quality Assurance Systems: Implementing robust quality assurance processes can ensure accuracy while reducing the need for costly revisions.

Leverage Machine Translation (MT): MT can be a cost-effective solution for localizing less critical content. Advanced MT technology can streamline processes and reduce translation time, even if it’s followed by multiple human reviews for accuracy and cultural relevance.

Provide Context: Giving your translators enough context from the start can reduce revisions and delivery time. This happens most commonly through glossaries with frequently used terms, brand style guides, and even with comments on the source text.

Build Partnerships: Partner with reputable language service providers (LSPs) to access professional translators and specialized services. Request LSPs to obtain the best possible rates, considering project scope, turnaround time, and volume discounts.

Utilize Translation Memory (TM): TM is a fantastic way to save time and resources. This tool reuses previously translated segments when there is a new match. In other words, as you translate more, you’ll also get more automated translations tailored to your brand.

Consider Crowdsourcing: It’s helpful to assess the option of engaging online communities to help you in your translation project.

Evaluate In-House Capabilities: It’s very common to have native speakers of multiple languages in your team. Before turning to translation agencies, check the language skills of your team in relation to your project.

Seek Funding: Look for government grants or other funding opportunities, especially if you’re part of a Research Institute, University, NGO, or other.

How Much Do Translation Services Cost in 2023?

On average, professional translation services range between $0.10 and $0.35 per word, depending on the target audience and type of services required for the translation. In 2023, the cost of hiring a translator remains linked to the following factors: the source and target language, word count, turnaround time, and the specific subject matter of the source document. Less commonly spoken languages still tend to have higher rates due to the scarcity of available translators. Prices for human translation haven’t increased much in recent years, as the introduction of AI in localization and advanced Machine Translation technology reduced the demand for language services in certain cases.

Explore the Full #TranslationMustKnows Series

This post is part of the #translationmustknows series, built to equip everyone in your localization process – from developers to localization managers – with the knowledge and resources necessary for achieving translation and localization success.

Explore the full #translationmustknows series to catch up on other posts and learn everything you need to know for translation success:

Achieve Website Translation Success

Website localization is a complex task. That’s why we’ve put together a guide that breaks down each key step of your software localization process from start to finish. Download the guide for action items and best practices for website and app localization, and an overview of the results that effective localization can drive for your business. Whether you’re a digital marketer responsible for all the facets of your company’s website or a webmaster responsible for the infrastructure and processes behind the scenes, this guide will walk you through all the critical steps of localizing your content.

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Lucy Xu
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