How Long and How Much?

And Why We Give Free Quotes!

Great turn-around time and excellent prices! Why didn't you tell me about NOW Translations before?

This page covers how long a given project takes to translate and what it might cost. While some agencies promise you the moon, NOW Translations wants you to now the facts.

These are general numbers just to give you an idea. NOW Translations is happy to provide a free proposal based on your actual project. Just click here: Request A Free Quote.


Technical, Lists, Strings 100 - 200 words per hour (depending on complexity of the original)
100 - 200 words per hour (depending on complexity of the original)
200 words per hour


Technical, Lists, Strings 500 words per hour (inc.: incorporating changes and a spell check)
500 words per hour (inc.: incorporating changes and a spell check)
750+ words per hour (inc.: incorporating changes and a spell check)


Most Subjects 1500+ words per hour (may take longer if lists, numbers, tables are involved)


Most Subjects Depends on size of project, keying, phone calls, detail verification by client

If the original document is poorly written or uses a lot of jargon (or both), this slows down the translation process. These "challenges" affect editing and proofing as well.

Overwriting an Existing File (primarily word processing documents) and Desktop Publishing (primarily InDesign, Xpress, FrameMaker, etc., files)

Overwriting Simple Text with an occasional graphic, no call-outs, no charts or tables:
4-6 pages/hour
Overwriting Moderate
Text with occasional tables, call outs, minor bit-map or EPS retouching:
2-3 pages/hour
Overwriting Difficult
Text with many graphics, call outs, charts, etc.: 1 page/hour
Creating From Scratch Depends on the complexity of original page, the need for scanning, readability of the original; this is invariably more expensive and time consuming than overwriting an existing file.

We Want it Yesterday
In the 40s, a staff composer at a Hollywood studio was given a tight deadline. "How can I create a good score in so little time?" he asked the studio's music director. The director replied, "They don't want it good. They want it Thursday."

Of course, the studio really did want it good. Had the composer taken "they don't want it good" to heart, he'd be out of a job. So he delivered the best he could in the time allowed, all the while wishing he'd been given the film earlier, ensuring not just a met deadline, but better quality, and fewer trips for ice packs and aspirin. Translation agencies are often asked to produce quality work with time-bending schedules. Tight deadlines are sometimes impossible to avoid, but it helps clients plan projects when they understand how long quality translations take.

Say you have a user's manual that's 140 pages, 40,000 words. For technical copy, a translator who's knowledgeable about your technology averages about 200 words an hour.

This means the translator needs 200 hours on the project. Just as a writer doesn't spend all of his time writing, the translator doesn't spend all of her time translating. Among her duties:

1 original and target texts must be continuously compared
books, periodicals, and your company glossaries, sales sheets, and advertising must be referenced
conceptual and usage questions must be addressed
4 technical contacts within your company may need to be consulted

When Roger told me he was saving money by using a full-service agency, I had no idea!

How Much?
Ah, the age-old question, what will it cost? And better still, can I have it tomorrow?

"Translation is expensive." This quote is from Developing International User Information; A Digital Guide; Digital Press, 1992. Is it true? And if it's true, why does it cost so much (and how can I make it affordable)? Fear not, we're going to answer those questions.

What's the Fundamental Unit for Costing Translations
First-time shoppers for translations invariably think that agencies figure projects by the paragraph or the page. Translation costs and times are calculated by the word. Why not by the page? A page can have any number of words, from a few to a thousand.

What? No Price Lists?
Every job is different which is why we don't publish prices. We need to get detailed information from the client before we can give you an accurate (and we mean accurate - no one likes surprises) proposal.

All quotes are based on word counts, subject matter, the target market and language, file types, etc. This information helps us give you an dependable proposal. It also gives us ideas of how the project can be done more economically for you, something you can't get out of a price list.

Still, you want to know what a project will cost you and we want to be accurate in our numbers. That's why NOW Translations offers free quotes. Just click here: Request A Free Quote.

If the material you need quoted on is of a sensitive nature, please have us sign a non-disclosure agreement concerning the project.

We're Happy to Tell You What Your Project Doesn't Cost
If someone tells you they're going to "throw in" the translations if they're allowed to distribute the product, you might want to ask them if they think you're an idiot. You've seen above how many hours go into doing a project. Who does this for "free"?

It isn't available for minimum wage, either. Keep in mind that "professional" level language people make real wages, just as writers, artists, and sales personnel do. If they translate for peanuts, you should be suspicious).

Getting an Idea of a Project's Price
If you're required to get more than one quote for a project (not a bad idea), we recommend you contact at least four different companies around the country. All of the agencies should make proposals which are close in price.

If one agency comes in too low or one is too high, you might want to make sure that agency understood what you wanted. If there's any major quote discrepancy, contact the agencies again to make sure they understood everything involved in the project.

Finally, base your decision not just on price, but the company's customer service, reliability, project management, years in the business, and whether or not they actually care about your project. NOW Translations does.

NOW Translations keeps an eye on your projects, no matter the size, from start to finish.