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Translations - 6 Mistakes that Cost You Money

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Lauren Nemec photo1. Choosing the Cheapest Provider

In the translation industry, there is a per-word cost below which it is unlikely to receive a quality translation. When you go below this cost, you risk spending much more time and money than anticipated. Let’s figure out the true cost of getting a cheap, poor quality translation:



Initial translation of 1,000 words

$0.03 x 1,000 = $30.00

Internal review of translation*

$35 per hour x 1 hour = $35.00

Negotiating discount with provider*

$35 per hour x 1 hour = $35.00

Translation discount of 50%

50% of $30.00 = ($15.00)

Editing translation, 2-4 hours

$30 per hour x 3 hours = $90.00

Total Cost


Save money by spending money - and save the headaches. Buying the translation from a reputable provider at $0.15 per word could cost less than having it done poorly for $0.03 per word. 

* Time is money, so any time that you and your colleagues spend rectifying this situation will cost your company (calculated by a sample hourly wage).

2. Not Using Translation Memory

Translation Memory (TM) can be a valuable asset for your company. Translation Memory improves quality and consistency of your translations by building up your preferred multilingual terminology and phrasing. It also gives direct discounts off your translation rates; because a TM increases with every project, the more you translate, the more you will save through TM matches.

After building their Translation Memory with Translatus for one year, our clients realized TM savings at an average of about 2-5% per project. Over a greater period of time, consistent use of your TM can cut translation costs by 30-50%.

3. Poor Organization

A well-organized project will not only save money, but will reduce stress and help to ensure a quality translation. Before you begin:

  • Review the original document to cut out parts that may not be necessary or relevant to your target markets. This will improve your materials and save money.
  • Finalize the document before sending it for translation. Changes to the source material during the process can be messy and expensive.
  • Send the right document for translation. It sounds obvious, but we have proceeded with a translation only to have the client realize they sent us the wrong file. Unfortunately, when something like this happens, the client must incur the cost of any translation that was done.

4. Setting Unreasonable Deadlines

When you submit a project to your services provider, set reasonable deadlines to avoid incurring rush fees.

When setting deadlines, consider that a translator can usually translate about 2,000 words per day and a proofreader can proofread about 8,000 words per day. Therefore, for a 4,000-word translation, you should allow at least two days for translation and one half-day for proofreading.* Pushing these limitations will likely result in a rush fee, so don't do it if you don't really need it. Most language services providers will charge rush fees of 20-50% for non-standard delivery times.

* When possible, it’s always a good idea to add an extra day or two to your deadline.

5. Not Providing the Original Documents

When a client does not provide an original document for translation, language services providers will often tack on additional charges for transcribing or extracting text, converting formats, and correcting layouts.

These documents are frequently submitted to language service providers and are difficult to work with, costing you more money:

  • PDF: It takes a matter of seconds to convert an MSWord document into a PDF. However, it can take hours to extract text from a PDF document and re-create its proper layout in MSWord. When possible, submit the original document from which the PDF was created.
  • Fax: It can take many hours to transcribe text from a faxed document into a word processor. This is made especially difficult when the fax is grainy or hard to read. When possible, submit the soft copy of the document.
  • JPEG Graphics: Desktop publishing specialists can usually work with any graphic in any format, but without the original file it will take more time and cost more money. When possible, submit the original Photoshop (.psd) file. It’s cheaper and the quality will be better.

6. Not Asking for Discounts

If you buy strategically, you should never have to pay full prices for anything. This can be true for buying translation services.

  • Considering a new provider? Ask for a free test translation.
  • Working with a new provider? Ask for a “new customer” discount off your first paid project.
  • Receive a better offer from a competitor? Ask your provider to match or beat that quote.
  • Haven’t worked with a provider in a while? Ask for a "Welcome Back" discount.
  • Just ask! Simply asking your provider to give you a more competitive rate can often result in at least a 5% discount.

Remember, it never hurts to ask.

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