Thursday, 25 September 2014

How to Save on Translation Costs

Every purchase and every managerial decision is determined by one thought only: to spend as little as possible. In the pursuit of saving and cost cutting, many fall into nasty traps I was warning you against in the previous post (5 Myths of Cheap Translation). Time to move on and see if there is anything you can do to spend less on translation.

Stick with one translation provider

Take some time to do a proper research and find a solid and reliable translation provider, then hold on to them till your pension do you part.


Over a period of time of working for you, your translator will develop a large terminology base specially tailored to your needs. This will ensure terminology consistency and high quality of translations. With a strong correlation between terminology and branding, appropriate terminology management is an added value, if you work with one translator only.

Now, a more measurable saving is a reduced rate that translators are willing to offer their long-term clients. With regular projects coming in from the same client, the turnaround time gets shorter; and this is because a translator becomes familiar with the style and terminology specific to a particular company. Therefore, translators will more readily offer a slightly reduced rate to a long-term rather than a one-off client.

Once you’ve done your homework and hired a reliable, sustainable translator on a retainer basis, you will soon notice that your translation related expenses gradually go down, while the quality remains at the top level.

Don’t go for the cheapest quote

With some rare exceptions, the cheapest service means rubbish service. Low quality translation of your website, brochures or catalogues will give a negative impression of your unreliability and lack of professionalism. Eventually, you will lose plenty of new clients who will be put off by your poor copy and simply go somewhere else. Not to mention how things can go horribly wrong if translation of a legal document is flawed.

I will always remember one client who had a very unpleasant experience with another translation provider and contacted me desperate for a proper translation of his contract, as he was on the verge of being sued over a gross breach. Least to say, the client lost thousands of pounds as his client had refused to pay for some of the services rendered, because of the breaches that resulted purely from a poorly translated contract.

The price only should never be a determining factor in choosing a translation provider; look for other features as well, such as level of expertise, testimonials, portfolio and the level of communication with you (responds within reasonable time, polite, informative etc.).
The bottom line is that cheap service won’t bring you any savings; on the contrary, it can have disastrous effects on your professional image as well as your budget. In order to prevent losing money, do not go for a particular translation provider only because they offered the lowest rate.

KISS – Keep it Simple (and Save)

If you are limited by a tight budget, it might be a good idea to edit your text to simplify it and remove everything you don’t really need before sending it for translation. Those simple changes will reduce the word count and cut down the time your translator will spend on your document, which means that you will spend less.

Here are a few tips on what you can do to make things simple and cut the costs:

  •  Use short and unambiguous language
  •   Use the same terms to refer to the  same items
  •  Avoid rare or unusual abbreviations, or explain what they mean
  •  Keep the formatting simple (get rid of unnecessary spaces, tabs, line breaks, etc.)

Taking those steps will make your text translation friendly; it will facilitate clear segmentation by the software and ensure consistency in building a term base. It is also very important to make sure that your text is the final version before you send it for translation. Any changes made afterwards will result in additional costs. It’s also a good idea to have your text revised before the translation process gets underway.

Work with your translator

Smooth collaboration with your translation provider from the very start means a time and cost efficient service. The more translator knows about your company, products, services, needs, target audience and style, the better. Providing information and setting out clear requirements at the very beginning, will bring you not only savings on the cost of translation, but also contribute to the quality of the finished product.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Provide the translator with company, product or industry-specific glossaries
  • Send supporting materials and background information
  • Let your translator know about any sources of additional information or materials
  • Appoint a contact person for any communication with the translator (they usually ask questions and even make constructive suggestions to your source text – all for the benefit  of the end products: a perfect translation and your original documents)
  • Prepare a style guide for your company that identifies the practices, preferred terms and even jargon that you use in your corporate communication or marketing materials.

Introduce those practices to your translation purchase process and you should notice instant as well as long-term savings on your translation costs. You will also prevent any significant losses resulting from poor, inconsistent and low quality translations.

If you have any questions or would like to receive specific advice on how to spend less on translation, contact me, and I will be happy to provide more information.


  1. Excellent post and very good points! A really good read and a must-read for any client.

  2. Thank you very much, Sarai. I am glad you found the post interesting. Feel free to share it with others!

  3. Thanks for sharing these good practices about saving money on translation, good reading, thanks! It is also relevant to avoid marketing mistakes when focusing on translation, I've been reading here an useful opinion about it: