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When I read on the Internet about translations, the words “hefty sums”, “expensive” and synonyms pop up quite often. While it’s true that the price of translations may look high (and some of them are, indeed, overpriced), there are reasons behind every translator’s fees. I understand, however, that not everyone might know what these reasons are, so I decided to write this post in order to give you an idea.

The first – and most important – factor behind a translation’s price is time. A translator has to work for weeks, maybe months to turn your manuscript into another language, and during that time they have to keep the lights on, the house warm and the dogs fed (tip: you don’t want to be in the same house with a hungry Springer Spaniel. They are noisy little buggers). Normally, translators don’t charge by the hour, simply because we have no way to prove to the client how many hours we spent on a project. But time is definitely a factor when we have to determine our price for a translation.

Woe to those who fail to feed the Beast

Woe to those who fail to feed the Beast

Then there are expenses. Yes, translators have expenses. For example, I employ a proofreader to make sure that everything I produce is up to the highest publishing standards; her services alone cost me about 25% of what I charge. Then there’s translation software and its updates, the cost of continuing education, and so on. It’s easy to forget how much money one has to spend in order to be able to perform their job properly. That, in turn, is reflected on what a translator charges. Chances are the little money will get you little quality.

Finally, don’t forget that translators are self-employed, meaning that all the money we earn from our work still has to be taxed. Depending on where in the world a translator lives, taxes can eat a substantial amount of their income, and what remains has to be enough to justify the time spent translating. Otherwise, our activity risks to shift from a laborious job to a laborious hobby, and we can’t afford that.

I hope I managed to help you understand why a translator has to charge certain amounts of money for their work. There may be other reasons, of course, but generally speaking, time, expenses and taxes are the three main reasons behind a translator’s rates.