Cost per word is a popular means of working out how much you should pay for translation services. After all, it’s seen as a simple way to quantify translation costs. But it doesn’t show you the full picture, often resulting in overpricing and poor quality. 


Glass jar filled with colorful gumballs

Cost per word is not always the same within a single project. That’s why software, such as a Translation Memory (TM), should be instrumental to any translation strategy, as it could influence your chargeable word count.

If TMs are implemented correctly and updated regularly, it is possible to achieve huge savings. So if your partner agency uses a flat cost per word rate and doesn’t take TMs into account, it is likely costing you a lot of money.


Not all translation projects are created equally, so they shouldn’t be priced that way. Taking the following considerations into account will allow you to adopt a more flexible model that caters to your needs more effectively.

1) Type of content

A distinction must be made between different types of content since product descriptions, legal documents and landing pages will all require a different approach – they simply can’t be treated the same way, or the result will be a sub-par translation.

Once the nature of the content has been established, appropriate linguists can then be selected and have a clear idea of what to expect.

Chinese characters on a building

2) Number of quality stages

The second differentiating factor is the number of quality stages a translation undergoes. Typically, there can be up to four, depending on the value of the content. The fewer the quality stages, the lower the cost and the quicker the turnaround.

3) Client feedback and project management

You should include anticipated costs for the number of client feedback rounds and total project management time for facilitating the translation and stakeholder communication involved. Not all agencies are upfront about this fee, so be sure to request that PM time is accounted for in the quote.

4) Translation Memory and glossary updates

TM and glossary maintenance is another thing to keep in mind, should you have these tools in place. To be effective, they need time to be updated with every project, which should thus be factored into the project’s total cost.


Any translation project – even simple, transactional content should be translated well. Poor language can have a negative impact on your company, inaccuracies can even have legal ramifications and more often than not, a poor job requires revisions later on, costing more time and money.

It’s also important to select them according to their compatibility with your brand voice.


Cost per word may seem like a simple solution to working out translation charges, but ultimately, it leaves out crucial information for determining translation value and producing quality results. Having an honest conversation with your partner agency at the start of your project allows you to set expectations so that everyone is on the same page.