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


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. Simply put, 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 equal, so they shouldn’t be priced that way. Think about the following considerations, and you can adopt a more flexible model that better caters to your needs.

1) Type of content

You should know the difference between 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 is clear, appropriate linguists can join the effort and have a clear idea of what to expect.

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 something else to keep in mind. To be effective, they need time for updates with every project, which should be factored into the project’s total cost.


Any translation project – even simple, transactional content – should be of high quality. Poor language can have a negative impact on your company. Inaccuracies can 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.