Written by Julia Hohwieler, translation by Eliot Reiniger

9 tips for saving money on your translations

Anyone who’s ever had anything translated knows that it can be confusing to understand the price breakdown. That’s why it’s particularly important to understand which services are covered in the price. Prices per line or per word often include a range of services, such as translation by native speakers, project management, answering follow-up questions, revision by a second translator, proofreading, adaptation of a text to specific cultural aspects, technical review, etc. To be able to properly do a price comparison, you should know to ask what services your translation company offers. And before submitting your enquiry, it’s helpful to consider what you expect from your translation service provider. Any good agency will be happy to offer you advice!

1. Don’t just do it yourself

Surely you can just translate your document on your own since you had English in school, right? Or maybe your colleague who spent five months in London last year can take care of it? Preparing a translation within your own company carries with it the risk that, should it turn out to be sub-optimal, the whole project will become more expensive in the end than if a trained translator had been commissioned at the start. Firstly, translation professionals are exponentially quicker in their work than anyone who only has the opportunity to try their hand at it now and then. Bear in mind how much time you would need to complete a translation yourself and what this would cost your company — especially since you wouldn’t be able to take care of your normal tasks during that time. What’s more, professional translators have sound linguistic, technical and cultural knowledge to aid them in making sure that no embarrassing mistakes fall through the cracks which could end up ruining your reputation.

2. You get what you pay for — and vice versa

All too frequently, translations are only published in part or not at all. When time is scarce, translations get ordered before actually clearing up which texts or which parts of a text are actually needed. You can save time and money by carefully considering what you actually need — if sections of text are not needed in another language, there’s no need to have them translated, because in the end, you pay for what you order.

3. A picture is worth a thousand words

To make a text shorter and thus cut costs, a simple image, symbol, diagram or infographic may be the right solution. They are often easier to understand and convey more information than convoluted descriptions.

4. Wait until your text is finalised

Changing the source text you’ve already submitted means added work for your translation service provider and therefore higher costs for you. Even if you only change one sentence, the project managers have to let everyone involved with the project know — that’s at least one translator and one revisor per language! This means that the translators have to interrupt their workflow to adapt the context accordingly. And if the text is being translated into several languages, the time needed is multiplied. If the translation is so urgent that the process must be started before the text is finalised, time-consuming misunderstandings can be avoided by at least marking the various versions in a clear manner, for instance by dating them.

5. Plan ahead

If possible, plan your translations so that they don’t become too urgent. Ordering a translation over the weekend, overnight or on holidays can cost a pretty penny — translators sometimes charge up to twice as much as their normal rate. On the other hand, some translators may offer a price reduction for more involved projects. A single translator can translate an average of 1,500 words per day, but translation agencies are often in a position to arrange for multiple translators to work on a single text, enabling a speedier process from the same mould, as it were.

6. Ask about bulk pricing

Some translation service providers are willing to offer a discounted price for longer texts since larger projects frequently involve proportionally less administrative work and the translators require less time to research the subject matter at hand in relation to actual translation time.

7. Find the right format

For translation service providers, PDF, PowerPoint and JPEG file formats are more cumbersome than Word files because the layout needs to be recreated before and/or after the translation process. You can keep costs down by submitting text files (e.g. .docx or .rtf).

8. Submit relevant background information to supplement the text

Provide your translator with as much information as possible. Where is the translation going to be published? Who is the audience? What do you wish to achieve with it? Do you have any resources on the text’s topic? The better the translators understand the material, the quicker and more accurately they can find the right words.

9. Build a relationship with your translation agency

If you work with a single translation company long-term, the translators have a better chance of becoming more and more familiar with your company’s philosophy, products or services. Technical resources such as computer-assisted translation tools (CAT tools) ensure that you won’t pay double for content that you may have already had translated. By briefing the translators and project managers on your products and regularly providing them with feedback on their translations, over time you will see a noticeable decrease in the time you have to spend adapting their work to your company’s values and terminology.