GTE Localize

5 Tips for Minimizing Translation Costs

Posted by Anne Q. on May 20, 2020.

Translation and Localization might not be included or accounted for a large proportion of the budget of many companies. However, at some point in your business, you will need to translate and localize your business documents, website, or app to reach a new potential foreign market. With such a sudden need arises, the question is how to balance a high-quality translation and a limited budget. Or in other words, how to achieve a cost-effective translation project.

Here are 5 tips to minimize translation costs without sacrificing quality.

1. Plan Ahead to Save Translation Costs

Although this step seems obvious, a lot of people still miss it or make mistakes. A good plan is a key to a cost-effective translation project. It gives you time to prepare and find the most suitable resource to implement your translation project. A rush process might raise the translation cost to 1.5 or even 2 times more than a normal rate. Needless to say, planning ahead gives you time to heads-up the translators and of course, reduce the translation costs.

Timing and project scheduling

In the plan, you should include:

    • The scope of your project – What content needs localizing? Which level of translation do you need – Translation Only, Translation + Editing, or Translation + Editing + Proofreading? Do you need Desktop Publishing services? etc.
    • The number of languages – How many languages do you need to translate your content into? If you plan on entering multiple markets, should you test the water first with one or two languages, or translate all target languages at once?
    • The volume – Thanks to the translation memory of CAT Tools, the repetitive content within a project required fewer efforts to handle than a new word. Consequently, money and time for translating are saved. You should consider the number of new words and duplicate words when estimating the volume of your project. If you have a TM, your cost will even be lower. Give your partner all the information that you have, please.
    •  Expected turn-around time – The turn-around time depends on numerous factors, including the metric of a translator or the capacity of a translation agency. Therefore, your company should ask for the information mentioned below from your translation resources to calculate a precise number.
        • The metric of a translator is the number of words they can translate individually a day. For example, if a translator has a metric of 2000 words a day and you only work with one, then it will take about 5 days for the translator to handle a 10,000-word project.
        • Meanwhile, the capacity is the total number of words that a team of translators can handle within a day. For instance, at GTE Localize, we can assign a task for some translators to work on simultaneously, making our capacity of 8000 words a day for Asian language to English language pairs. For a 10,000-word project, you can expect to receive the translation within 1.5 business days.
        • Be aware that the more translators get involved in a project, the more inconsistency risk the project may expose to. From GTE Localize’s experience, we recommend no more than 3 translators + 1 editor should participate in the project to ensure consistency. This rule applies to projects with related content such as websites, user guides, contracts, etc. For projects with unrelated content (such as random strings from the internet for data collection purposes) or low-related content (such as e-commerce product titles), you do not need to worry about this factor. As long as each translator can prove their quality, even 20-30 translators working at the same time are still very fine for the final project quality.
    • The budget – If the quotation you received from your translation partner is out of the initial budget, you can consider cutting down on the number of words that need translating by removing low-priority content from the project scope or negotiating with the partner for a discount.


2. Optimized Source Content 

Most translators charge money based on the number of words they translate. That means if you can cut down on the number of words, you reduce the translation costs. So you should start by optimizing your source content before sending it to translators. This might take you hours to complete but it will be worth it. Below are some tips to have economical translation-friendly content:

      • Reduce wordy sentences and lengthy words. You should paraphrase the original long sentences with shorter and simpler words.
      • Remove unnecessary parts of your content such as idioms, jargon, metaphors, or expressions that are only familiar with your local culture.
      • Avoid text in graphics. To translate the text into a picture or chart, the translators extract the text out of the graphic, translate them into the target languages, and then insert them into the graphic again. The process takes too much time, and time is money. So instead of embedding text into graphics, try using captions.
      • Blank space is important too. The length of your content tends to expand as you translate it from English to other languages. Thus, to keep the eye-catching original format, you should adjust your content and leave enough white space for the additional length.


3. Make the Most of Technology

tips for minimizing translation costs 1

The translation industry has long been mystified as a “human-only” industry while in reality, it is assisted by many software and apps, especially the CAT Tools. Thanks to the Translation Memory (TM) in CAT Tools, you can reduce the translation cost significantly as you only pay for new words that translators actually translate. Also, less time is needed for your translation while the consistency of the translation increases. By making the most of this technology, you can easily achieve both targets: best quality and low costs. CAT Tools are even more effective for long-term translation projects. As the TM is getting bigger and bigger after each project, the money you pay is lessened.


4. Decide to Work with Freelancers or Translation Agencies

To minimize translation costs, make sure that you choose the right translation provider for your projects. In general, freelancers offer a lower rate. However, you have to find the translators, test them and coordinate the project yourself. It can be a time-consuming task. In contrast, working with translation agencies, you can rely on their PM team to do all the coordination tasks. All you need to do is send them the files and they will give you the translated versions. A problem is, that their rates are much higher than those of freelancers. So who should you work with? Unfortunately, there is no right answer. Below are some factors you should consider before making your decision.

Budget No strict budget Limited/Tight budget
Number of languages Many pairs One pair
Number of services One step to the whole process One to two steps
Amount of volume High – Moderate Small – Moderate
(for high-volume projects)
Quicker Slower

You can read more about the advantages and disadvantages of working with freelancers and translation agencies here.


5. Prepare an Instruction for Translators

The success of a translation project depends on not only translators (or translation agencies) but also clients. There are many possible mistakes made during the translation process including typing mistakes, inaccurate word choices, etc. But sometimes, it can go wrong before the translators even start their jobs. It lies in the preparation step from the work giver. Many companies overlook the importance of a guideline for translators. Some prepare foggy instructions while many don’t prepare anything at all. A guideline is somewhat like a compass that helps translators perform the tasks in the right direction. It’s an unskippable step in the process if you want a high-quality translation without wasting too much time or translation costs.

The instruction for translators should include the following information:

Style Guide

A common style guide should cover:

    • Punctuation and spelling (e.g. comma after and or not, British English spelling or American English spelling, etc.);
    • Date and time formats (e.g. dd/mm/yyyy or mm/dd/yyyy or yyyy/mm/dd);
    • Numbers, percentage, and currency (e.g. metric system or imperial system);
    • Acronyms and abbreviations;
    • User interface (e.g. monolingual source, monolingual target or bilingual);
    • Writing tone and styles.

Terminology, Glossary, and Do-not-translate List

A list of frequently used terms and how to translate them is very important to keep your company’s translations consistent and accurate throughout the project. To achieve this, your company can actively provide the translators with a glossary of how you want these terms to be translated. In some cases, translators will propose the translations of the terms to your company. Once approved, they will use this list for the translation process.

What’s more, listing words that shouldn’t be translated also comes highly recommended. Do-not-translate words can be product names, people names, technology, address, or website.


Since the documents you publish are likely to become the voice of your brand, achieving a consistent tone and writing style is a must. Reading references or examples of previous documents or existing translations gives your translators a clear view of what languages they should use to fit your company’s voice.

Other requirements

    • The use of technologies – Most freelance translators and translation agencies make use of CAT Tools nowadays to reduce turn-over time and increase the overall translation quality. If you want to use CAT Tools for your project, which one do you prefer translators use? Trados, MemoQ, Memsource, or other names? Mentioning the tool you want will have you manage and check the translations more effectively. It is also ideal that all your translation management technologies (content management system (CMS), API, CAT environment, etc.) are connected to guarantee a smooth workflow and decrease the time for transferring individual files between you and your translation partners.
    • Design and layouts – Mentioning the file types and layouts of the final files are important information you should not miss when writing a translation instruction. You can find out what to include in the style guide by answering the following questions: Do you want your files in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or PDF format? Do you have any special requirements on the font, word size, indent, spacing, etc.?

Wrap up

Going global to approach new customers and step into international markets is one of the best decisions to boost your business. By choosing to work with trusted translation costs and services, the translation process can be affordable and seamless.

tips for minimizing translation costs 3

GTE Localize offers professional and budget-effective translation and localization solutions for companies of all sizes. To maintain high standards for quality, we only choose native translators who have at least 5 years of experience in the relevant industry. As a recommended company by GoodFirms and an ISO-certified translation agency, we provide you with one-stop language solutions such as translation, localization, transcription, etc., and we have worked with various business customers including well-known businesses like Facebook, Tiktok, Google, Abbott, and many more business in Fortune 500.

Get in touch with our team for further details, a 300-word test, and a quick quotation for your translation and localization project right away.

If you want to learn more about localization strategy for SMEs, you can download our white paper here.