Ways to save big

11 Translation Secrets Every Buyer Should Know

Here are the top 11 secrets EVERY TRANSLATION BUYER should know:

1. Professional translation takes time

Asking for a 50,000-word document to be translated overnight will only make you look like a person who lacks common-sense. A professional translator will translate an average of 2,500 to 5,000 words per day depending on subject matter and complexity. Even a team with multiple translators will still have limits, so you should plan yourself ahead of time.

2. Schedule your translation for before you need it

This way, if your project gets delayed, you will not be affected. Translation projects are managed and provided by human beings. Human beings get sick, and different than some people think, no translation companies keep a team of translators sitting idle as a backup for when this happens.
Be diligent and avoid being caught in one of these situations. When this happens, many providers will simply tell you that “if they rush the quality of your project will suffer”…leaving all the loss and responsibility with you.

3. Translation memory will save you the most

Your provider should retain a memory of previous translations to avoid duplicate work in the future. Translation memories (aka TMs) will enable you to save money across documents and projects. Savings may be as high as 70% for clients. Note that translation memory is NOT the same as machine translation.

4. Translation and Interpretation

Translation is writing-based. It may be a hard-copy or a digital file being translated. As long as it is “writing” we will call it Translation.
Interpretation is the act of conveying the meaning of a spoken sentence in a different language. Interpretation is not translation. And, when you call a language service provider mixing up such basic terminology they will promptly know you don’t know a thing about the language services industry.

5. No serious translation company will sell you ‘Google Translation’

To think that a company will take your money and at the end deliver a machine translation like the one provided by Google Translate is simply naïve.
Most translation providers will deliver what we call TEP, which means Translation + Editing + Proofing. Translation is done by the main translator(s) while the editing is done by another translator (or translators if a project is large), and finally the whole material will be proofed before delivery.

Human translation remains pretty central to the translation service industry.

7. Machine Translation is actually useful for few specific purposes

Machine translation is mostly helpful for “exploratory translation”. In cases where a client would need hundreds of thousands of pages translates a human translation would be economically unfeasible. In such cases the client usually need to know the meaning of the documents without a quality required for publishing. There are some steps that can increase the quality of machine translation and make it substantially better than what you would get from free tools such as the Google Translate.

8. Make sure you really need everything translated

In some cases you don’t actually need a translation. For instance, when a law firm needs to go through several evidences in a foreign language to decide what to use in court. In such cases, a translator could provide a “summary” of each document after reading the batch. This would enable the law firm to decide which documents would really need translation saving big bucks.

9. What is the right price for translation?

Large language translation providers usually charge the most. You should ask yourself if you really need all the whistles and bells they offer. And, some of your money will be going to things such as expensive advertising and rock-star sales people that you don’t necessarily need.

Tiny small translations or individual translators, on the other hand, may represent a risk that do not justify the lower rate. Such providers, when facing unexpected situations like problems in their families or a missing main translator, may take the decision to outsource your job to amateur translators instead of letting you know about the problem.

Medium-size translation providers without the high overheads that large companies have and with enough resources to safely take care of your assignments are usually the best choice.

10. Avoid the temptation to do it yourself

Professional translation is a technical business. Just because you have a bilingual in your team it doesn’t mean you can get a document professionally translated.
The value added by a translation company includes translator recruiting, project management, quality control, desktop publishing, conversion of currencies and measures, and operations with different kinds of files and software.
That’s why teachers, academics, and students will not be a good choice as well.

11. Must requirements for the translators work in your project

These requirements are the minimum acceptable for a professional translation to be published: (1) translator is native in the target language, (2) translator is experienced in the subject matter being translated, (3) translator is committed to provide quality translations.

Learn more about buying translation

If you want to learn fast about buying translation, your best choice is reading 5 Ways to Save Big and 10 Facts Every Translation Buyer Should Know.

Don’t forget to also check:

The “Translation: Getting it Right” guide

Translation: Getting it Right is the main publication from the ATA – American Translators Association developed as a tool to educate buyers of translation services. Click on the booklet cover to download a PDF version of this wonderful guide.



Get your questions answered here


Don’t be afraid of asking for a discount

Most providers will be happy to provide you with a discount in exchange of a long term relationship. This may be achieved by means of a contract or a simple commitment of your company to buy a certain amount over a certain period of time.

Another reason why translation companies provide discount is the fact that translation demand is not stable. There are peaks and valleys in demand. If a translation provider has idle capacity they may be willing to work at rates considerably lower than usual.

In this article you will learn all you need to know to confidently and successfully ask for a discount!

Comparing apples to apples

The first thing to pay attention to is what kind of items are being charged in your translation project.
To compare quotes you should have at least a high-level understanding of what you are being charged.

The most common types of items in a translation project are:

  • Translation: main activity
  • Quality assurance: editing, proof-reading, and in-country review
  • Management: project setup, project management
  • Style: glossary and style guide related tasks
  • Desktop Publishing: file conversion, operations in InDesign, etc.
  • Software engineering: coding, configuration, and testing

Other factors that impact price:

  • Markup files: files that need extra attention / time to be translated, such as: HTML/XML/Others
  • Paper documents: there is a need of scanning physical papers
  • Localization/Transcreation: when measures and dimensions should be converted or content should be changed substantially due to cultural-related specifics
  • Urgency fees: if you need people working overnight on your project price may increase substantialy

You don’t need to become a translation expert and learn about all these components. But, you should be able to realize what your providers are charging for and make sure you are getting what you are paying for.

How willing are providers to give me a discount?

A lot. As you may see pricing translation is not an easy task. Because there is such complexity and always a certain level of uncertainty of the work to be done, it is common in the translation industry for providers to play safe and add additional hours and words to your quote. Knowing this fact and answering as many questions from your provider as they may have there is a good chance you may get a discount for simply asking for it!

A few things that will help you land the discount:

  • being flexible with the turnaround
  • possibility of a long term relationship with your provider
  • willing to provide graphic files when requested

Common Sense Advisory, Inc., in their “Translation Pricing” report, reminds us that 42% of the translation providers answering their survey have said they offer “some type of discount, based on customer loyalty, frequency, or volume”.

Is there a reference price table for the industry?

No. There is no such thing as a reference price table for the industry as a whole. Although some entities will publish reference prices for the translation community, you will find a wild variation in prices when asking providers for a quote.

It is important to stress that price is not a proxy for quality, although providers with prices too low will rarely afford high quality professionals.

The main factors impacting the cost of your project

Another thing that is some times difficult to be understood by translation buyers is that even for a same provider prices will vary wildly depending on these four factors:


What it is



It is the subject matter being translated. Main categories are: legal, technical, medical, and business.The technical expertise and time-experience of the translator being required are the two aspects affecting how much you will pay to have access to this kind of professional Do you need a lawyer translating your contract? Or will a paralegal suffice? Or, maybe it is just a standard form that will require neither of these two professionals? For a medical protocol, will you need a translator with a MD? Or maybe a translator specializing in medical is enough?What kind of translator should be assigned to a manual for avionics components? Will someone with only 10 years of experience in technical translation suffice? Or will you need that senior technical translator who has spent the last 30 years of his life working exclusively with this type of translation?


How much time will you allow for translation? Work done late hours and during weekends cost substantially more.Translation is a human activity that takes time. If you want things to be rushed expect to have to pay for that How many people at your company would be willing to work overnight? And, If you find someone willing to do so, how much extra would they charge for their time.Translation is a human activity. It takes time to be done.To make things more challenging you cannot simply “add lots of translators” to a project to get it completed sooner. As you have additional people, there is an increased challenge related to consistency and quality…you will need translators to spend more time referring to a glossary, extra editing, and proofreading…all of that done at a rush pace. Adding translators to a project have only a marginal increment in output.


There are two main “standards” for quality in translation: “for information” and “for publishing”It is difficult for buyers to understand how translations may have so many different levels of quality. “For information”, which means a translation with the main purpose as enabling the reader to understand certain content. This translation is not going to be “published” or “used as a companion to a product in the market”. Think about emails being exchanged by a foreign client and your company. All you want is to understand the sender’s message. You are not concerned if a few typos or style issues are present in the translation.“For publishing”: think about the text on a magazine or the directions on a manual for machinery. Typos and issues with style are not acceptable. This kind of translation will require multiple levels of work such as the “TEP”, which means Translation plus Editing plus Proofreading.From the example above, it is easy to understand why “for-publishing” is always more expensive than “for-information” translation

Language Pair

Costs for different languages are different. It is a matter of offer and demand.If there are lots of translators into Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese, then rates are driven down by competition. Very difficult to find professional translators for languages such as Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish? Yes, so expect higher prices for them.Besides the difference in costs caused by the abundance of professionals in Latin languages such as Spanish and Portuguese and lack of tem in Western-European languages, location and historical context also play a role. When pricing translation into/from different languages, providers will have their own costs as start point. And, provider costs are based majorly on how much the actual translator will be compensated.A Spanish translator working in-house for a translation company in Florida will be less expensive than a Norwegian translator also working in-house for this same company out of their branch in London.When we think about freelance translators, who also work for translation companies, this will stand out even more. How much compensation will a Spanish translator based in Argentina need for a high-standard living? Certainly, it will be just a fraction of how much the Norwegian translator will need to keep a basic standard of living in Norway, one of the most expensive countries in the world.

The Translation Company – a Translation Company in New York

Whether you need a translation agency in New York or a Silicon Valley translation service we got you covered. From technical German to English translation to language desktop publishing we have all you need to go global.

The lowest bid may cost you twice

Quality translation costs money

Think about the person who will translate your document. This person should have a working knowledge of the subject matter being translated. It is not uncommon for engineers to be assigned as translators for technical document translations and MDs to be assigned for medical translations. How much do you think professionals of this caliber cost?

The usual wrong choices

Some translation buyers assume from the beginning that translation is cheap. When this happens some buyers will desperately try to find a cheap translator provider to justify their guessed budget.

Cheap translation is mainly provided by:

  • mom and pop shops: some times representing operations being run from a basement, these providers do not have access to basic tools to support project management and quality control. Quality may be fine some times but if one of the owners become sick or busy with personal matters you will quickly realize you chose the wrong provider
  • companies abroad: providers in low-cost labor countries don’t have the same approach to quality and timeliness that providers in the US have. Quality may suffer so a low price may be possible and a deadline doesn’t mean as much as you would like it to mean
  • machine translation: it is not uncommon for us to hear from a client that a translation they bought cheap was actually a poor-quality machine translation. This is not so common in the states, although it happens quite often when buyers try to save money buying from providers abroad

The illusion of “hiring a translation company to improve an in-house translation”

Translations are not binary procedures. Although technical terms tend to be translated the same, each translator will have a different choice of words in general. When a company try to translate in house and ask for a professional translator provider to polish this translation afterwards, the final cost is usually much higher than the single translation cost.

This happens because the editor translator usually need to change large chunks of the translated text besides updating the translation glossary and other documents that may exist related to the document being edited.

Translation providers will hardly accept a proposal to revise the work done by someone else. And, many times when they accept such assignments they will be charging as much as they would to translate the entire project from scratch – since this is actually what they may end up doing!

Costs associated with a translation project that goes wrong

When you get a low quality translation that you need to send to the trash, it is not the money waster you will be losing. Other costs associated with the need of redoing translation are:

  • Extra time required for the translation to be redone; this could take more time than the original assignment, particularly if you asked for a rush translation the first time (which may have collaborated for the first project to go wrong)
  • your time cost for sourcing a new provider, placing a new order, interacting with your vendor through the life cycle of the new project, etc.



Make sure your provider keeps a memory of your translations

Why a translation memory?

A translation memory is the single thing that can save you the most when buying translation. Such memory represents a retrievable archive of everything being translated for your company. This way, when you need a slightly different version of something already translated in the past you don’t need to pay for the whole thing again.

One main advantages of this memory is that you don’t need to “remember” that something similar was translated in the past. This is done automatically by the support TMS (Translation Management Systems) that main providers use.

Another advantage is that even for documents quite different some savings may be achieved. Think about things like headers and footers and other information from your company that remain reasonably unchanged over time. You shouldn’t be dinged every time this content is sent for translation. A good TM will retrieve such past translation over and over again saving you big bucks as well.

Translation memories work really well with technical translations. Whether you need a technical German to English translation or a translation from English to Spanish, a translation memory can bring you many benefits.

What is a translation memory?

A Translation Memory is a file that is created at the beginning of your relationship with your provider. After that, this TM will increase in size and content. Today’s technology support a virtually unlimited size for such memories. However, for the sake of manageability some companies will keep a TM for each department or branch – for instance.

This is a copy of how a Translation Memory look like. This one is the most adopted technology everywhere.

Who will provide me with a TM?

Your language service provider is supposed to advise you about that from the get-go. Not all providers share about this memory with their clients altough virtually all of them will use this technology to their own advantage.

It is important that you feel confident that your provider will actually share the savings from this technology with you. A main evidence that your provider will do so is when they share spontaneously about this technology. If you need to ask them about the potential savings coming from repetition, this may be a sign that they will be reluctant about extending this benefit to you.

Remember your provider will be the one creating and managing the memory. It is quite rare for clients – even large corporations – to manage their own translations. However, it is important that your provider do share a copy of the TM every now and then. This way, if you need to take your business elsewhere you are able to that without losing everything you have accumulated in this TM.

Translation memory is not just about savings. It is also about quality and consistency.

Think about a technical document. You don’t want a certain technical term to be translated in ten different ways. You want the same translation to be used consistently throughout a document, a project, or a large set of content veicles.

A translator – even a seasoned professional one – may forget about how he has translated a technical term written 2 months ago. The TM will help by “retrieving” the translation of this term and “showing” to the translator when he reaches such term again.

Now imagine a team of translators working in a large project with hundreds of documents. It is key that a TM is shared over a server so all these professionals may be supported by the same terminology being retrieved when necessary.

Take control of what you can control

Keeping a close communication with the person or area in charge of your publishing can also save you a lot. One of the most famous reasons of waste in translation is the lack of “editable graphics” sent to the translation providers. You don’t need to understand any of these technical aspects. Just make sure you provide a communication bridge between your translation provider and the party in charge of publishing your materials and you will avoid a lot of waste.

Save big by providing the right type of files

Translation companies charge for their time to convert files types when necessary.

The number one cause of extra costs related to file types are the “PDFs”. PDFs are not “editable” so they need to be converted by the translation provider in order to be used in the translation process. To make things worse this conversion is rarely 100% successful so some level of manual post-conversion adjustment may be required.

All this work, as well as a fraction of the tools being used, will be paid by YOU. Therefore, it would be in your best interest to provide the original file, which were actually used to generate the PDFs. The following table shows a few cases and what to do to save big.

File Conversion Savings


Tip: some times you will be charged for this work as a separate item called “DTP”, which stands for Desktop Publishing. Other times, your translation provider will simply built-in this cost into the “per-word” rates being charged for the translation itself.

For corporate buyers of large translation projects

Although a bit too technical for the usual corporate buyer, it is important to note that the graphics usually inside of a “graphic package” should be editable as well. This situation is common for machinery manuals, educational publications, newspapers, magazines, etc.

Think about a jpg or a gif or a bmp graphic. Even the non-technical user usually knows that these formats are NOT editable. If you happen to provide this kind of graphic to your provider they will need to manually edit each one of these graphics. This is easily done with a program such as Adobe Illustrator. However, all the time spent on these editing procedures will be charged additionally to your project.

File Conversion Savings 2


At the end of each translation project just ask for….

…your Translation Memory and Glossary.

These two things will help wonders in case you need to change providers in the future. A glossary will help the new translators to hit the ground running since they know the translations previously used for the most important technical terms.

The Translation Memory will enable the new translation provider to leverage on all the past projects completed for your company.

5 ways to save big in your translation projects

Make sure your provider keeps a memory of your translations

A professionally managed memory of your translation projects will enable you to save the most over time. Whenever you have a segment repeated being sent to translation, your translation agency should be able to reuse the translation done in the past. This may represent huge savings for companies that have similar documents being translated at the same time or different revisions or editions of a document over time.

The lowest bid may cost you twice

Choosing a provider in a low-cost labor country may result in a useless translation. Avoid unusual low bids for your project. A quality sample coming from one of these providers do NOT mean you will receive your final translations with the same quality.

Take control of what you can control

Keeping a close communication with the person or area in charge of your publishing can also save you a lot. One of the most famous reasons of waste in translation is the lack of “editable graphics” sent to the translation agencies. You don’t need to understand any of these technical aspects. Just make sure you provide a communication bridge between your translation provider and the party in charge of publishing your materials and you will avoid a lot of waste.

Don’t be afraid of asking for a discount

Most providers will be happy to provide you with a discount in exchange of a long term relationship. This may be achieved by means of a contract or a simple commitment of your company to buy a certain amount over a certain period of time.

Another reason why translation companies provide discount is the fact that translation demand is not stable. There are peaks and valleys in demand. If a translation provider has idle capacity they may be willing to work at considerably lower rates than usual.

Learn more about buying translation

It doesn’t matter if you are buying German, Norwegian, or Spanish translation services. You are an active part in this savings effort.

Learn more about the basics of how translation works. You don’t need to become an expert. Just make sure you have a good control of the main aspects of translation and we guarantee you will save a large percentage of your budget.

Don’t forget to check our ‘5 Ways to Save Big’ infographic

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