Why are Certified Translations so Expensive?

Posted on: June 6, 2022   in: Certified Translations

Certified translations require several things which regular translations do not:

  1. The translator needs to be certified –
    1. For me, that meant demonstrating 3 years of full time experience, my master’s degree, my CPD for 20 hours every single year, and passing an exam. See the ITI page or IOL page for more information about how we have to join.
  2. The translation itself needs to be certified –
    1. That means I have to feel more confident than usual about the translation, and I have to be more careful than normal in my review process. Even so mistakes can happen, so I need to have a more robust quality control process as well.
    2. I have to put my name and reputation on the line with each certified translation.
  3. Follow-ups
    1. Sometimes, years after completing a translation, judges or experts can approach me to verify a translation I did in the past. I then have to be able to dig through my records (which have to be kept perfectly) and again go through the verification process. This can be very time consuming, but I can’t charge the client at that point.

So, with these three factors, it’s pretty clear why a certified translation costs more than a general translation. They take a lot more time and work on my side. Actually I think I probably make about the same profit from a certified translation as for a general translation.

I still get clients who complain that I’m charging more than they expect. I always give a full binding quote before accepting a job. I have had clients saying “it’s a really simple bank statement, how can it cost so much?” well please read this page and you’ll get an idea of why.

Subject Matter

Certified translations are normally something like a bank statement, academic certificate, doctor’s notes, or legal agreement. All of these tend to be written in non-standard formats, and they can often be handwritten.

This means that the certified translations take a bit more time as we cannot utilize the savings our software allows with Word documents for example.

Certification Process

The actual certification process is normally fairly straightforward, but there are some points we have to note. Firstly, different clients require different types of certification. Universities for example need very specific wording on the certificate. Secondly, even with the same wording, the format of the certificate is crucial, some must be merged PDF’s, with signatures on every page, some have to be signed only on the front page.


Errors and Mistakes

Here’s a common question regarding certified translations. What if we make an honest mistake? Well firstly, there’s nothing to worry about. The client needs to know that it has been done to the best of our ability, not that it’s “perfect”. Even after dozens of revisions published books will always contain mistakes somewhere. They are fine, as long as the key information is correct.

Ideally we would always employ a second linguist to serve as a review, but the cost then doubles, and it’s generally not advised.

The most important thing with errors is to be open to later updates or communications.

How to Save Money

To save money, there are a few tools at our disposal. Firstly, you could arrange for the source file to be typed into Word format. This will save a huge amount of time for the translator.

Secondly, give the translator plenty of time to do the job, and ensure that the translator is well aware of all important deadlines well in advance. That means they can plan their workload a bit more effectively.

Thirdly, make sure you know what you actually need. Sometimes, a notarized translation is required, other times it’s just a certified translation.

Fourthly, don’t waste money. “Buy cheap, buy twice” is incredibly true. About 40% of my work is from clients who have already paid someone else to do it, and now they need an actual expert to do it again, as the certified translation wasn’t accepted by the client. I’ve also heard from clients who used translators who them were not available for follow up problems, or when the final user (eg the Home Office) contacted them for verification purposes.