Reading Translation Invoice in translation companies made easy

Translation Invoice: what you pay for when getting translation service

When it comes to getting services, especially when you get translation service, you should be able to determine what you pay for in that translation invoice you are getting from a company or a freelance translator and what different elements and records mean on that invoice. Reading and comprehending a translation invoice is not so difficult and is pretty comprehensible, but sometimes we need help knowing what these elements mean and whether you actually need to pay for that service on a row on the invoice that costs you a couple of bucks.

The most important factor in any translation invoice: time

As a translator, we don’t have any material to sell. The most important resource that we are selling is our time and knowledge (which comes with time!). So in any case, when you look at different items on that translation invoice, you are paying for our time. Let me break it up a little by a tangible example: I spend time translating every word (that is just the unit of payment these days – not the way we/I translate!), then spend more time proofreading it, and then, again, I spend time and make my translation better by going on and translating more words and having more keystrokes on my keyboard. So even the quality of my translation is a factor of time. Those who have less experience and low-quality translations will get less money because they haven’t spent enough ‘time’ to make their translations better and charge more for their services.

So, up to this point, we made it pretty clear that the most valuable resource we are selling and charging money for is our time.

Note: If you have a professional translator friend, don’t ask him/her to work for you for free! Like I said, we don’t own any material to sell underpriced (or make a discount just for you!), we are actually selling our time! And, believe me, sitting on a couch and drinking a cup of coffee while watching a funny TV show, is preferred over translating for free my friend.

Items on a translation invoice

In general, there are three categories for which you pay money: Linguistic part, Technical Sophistication, and third, Project management fee. let’s get started with the category of linguistics.

Linguistics: this is the part where you pay for the parts of translation that are purely linguistic. for example, the count of words within the text (see definition of text and what we mean by it), the degree of difficulty, field and etc. Comprehending this part is so easy, because not every translator can work in any field, in any project size, and, in any difficulty level.

Technical Sophistication: This category is about the technical sophistication of the translator for working on the project and is not to be confused with the field or subject of the source text. To work on some projects, besides linguistic and language competence, a translator should be familiar with other technical skills. For example, translating from a simple PDF file is different from translating from an SRT subtitling file. In more complex instances, translating a website or an app requires more sophistication to implement. So here you pay an extra fee for implementing and translating a text from the technical point of view.

Project Management: This part is devoted to the way project proceeds and mostly applies to the company for which the translator works. Usually, you pay a percentage of total cost of the project. This is the fee for designing the way the whole system works and how it delivers services right on time and how they manage translators and their interaction with other parties involved in the process.

Not all translation projects created equal, some need more and some need less sophistication, linguistic burden and comes with easier or more difficult management process. Tell me your ideas about how a translation invoice works and if you ever had difficulty comprehending it.

p.s.: Header image cropped from

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