How to avoid hidden translation costs and get more value from your localisation partner

It’s a tough time to be a marketing manager right now. Budgets are getting cut left, right and centre, and everyone’s looking for places they can save a little more. And when it comes to translation, that often means introducing more machine translation or shopping around for which translation partner has the lowest fees.

It’s a risky game to play. Accurate translation that resonates with your audience is so important for getting off on the right foot in a new market, so you don’t really want to think of translation as a cost to cut – otherwise you’ll see the downturn in your sales and growth. Instead it’s better to ask how you can approach the translation process differently. There are plenty of ways you can get more value out of your translation partner and avoid paying any unnecessary hidden costs. Here are some ways to keep your translation process thrifty.


Think about file prep

The reality is that you’ll either need to think about file prep or pay for file prep. It might sound like a small thing, but it really can slow down the whole process if you’re sharing documents that don’t have editable text, or if you’re adding pre-translated text into the bargain, or if your files contain comments and ‘off the page’ text that isn’t for translation. All this doesn’t just mean time lost – it means an extra cost for file prep from both your translators and your graphic design team. For more on this, see our five simple tips for preparing your files for translation.


Keep your design InDesign

When we’re brought in to work on marketing or packaging copy, we always prefer to be sent an InDesign file rather than a PDF file. That’s because we can translate directly in the InDesign file, without having to copy the text out to another document before we can get down to work. Working this way also means there’s less chance of errors cropping up. If we’re not working with the InDesign file, we can’t see how the translation sits in context, or if issues like text expansion are going to cause problems. For more on how to mitigate this, see our best practices for packaging translation.


A file for translation opened in Adobe Indesign
Working directly with InDesign files makes the translation process faster, more efficient and reduces the risk of errors.


Bundle up smaller jobs

Speaking of optimising your translation process, it also pays to plan ahead as much as possible. For example, if you regularly have lots of smaller

pieces of translation work like product labels, it’s usually not a great use of your budget to send them individually. Most translators and agencies will have a minimum fee for anything up to a certain number of words, so if their minimum covers up to 300 words and you’re only sending 200 at a time, you’re effectively paying for 100 words you’re not getting translated. But if you think ahead, you can bundle those smaller pieces together into larger batches and get more value out of your translation partner.


On that note… avoid rush fees

If you’re planning ahead, it’s also a good idea to keep your translation partner in the loop about what you might need in the future whenever possible. Rush fees for urgent translations are a common culprit in driving up translation costs, especially if the agency has to pull in freelancers to meet demand. But if you’re clear about what you need and when, everyone can plan out their resources much more efficiently.


Project management pyramid
The translation project management triangle: Last-minute or urgent translation requests typically lead to rush fees which drive up overall translation costs.


While you’re at it… be ready for scale

Sure, you might only be looking at translating for the German market this year, but is Austria on the horizon? If so, localising will require a different approach. You want your agency to be able to scale with you, since it tends to be time-consuming to have to change agencies as you grow.


Keep a translation memory

If you’re regularly translating things for your website, comms and packaging, it’s unlikely each piece is going to be made up of entirely new copy your translation partner has never seen before. Certain phrases and messages are going to come up again and again, and keeping track of those in a translation memory document can help bring your translation costs down.

Say you’re refreshing your website and will need the new copy to be translated. You probably haven’t replaced every single word on the site – if half of the copy is the same and you have that stored in a translation memory, you can save yourself the cost of asking your translation partner to redo that work.

A translation memory isn’t just good for saving a record of what you have translated – it’s also important for keeping track of what you strategically haven’t translated. Loan words are an important part of translation because they show your understanding of cultural expectations as well as language, especially in the beauty industry – eau de parfum, anyone?

If you’re using a translation plugin for your website (for example, the Weglot plugin for Squarespace or the WPML plugin for WordPress), make sure it has a translation memory feature to help you save costs and keep your translations consistent in the long run.


Screenshot of a computer aided translation tool
Building up a memory of previously translated content leads to lower translation costs over time.


Create style guides and glossaries

To help with the above, you can also set up style guides and glossaries to hand over to your translators. It’ll keep translations in line with your brand voice, and you’ll avoid having to make updates later on when you want to make sure your brand is consistent.


Make sure you’re working with specialists in your field

If you don’t work with translators who know your field, you’re taking a risk that your translations won’t hit the right mark with your customers. You might be missing the loan words that give your copy the right kind of flair, or you might be leading with a message that doesn’t fly well in your chosen market.

This isn’t a question of direct short term cost, but it does have a long term effect. If customers don’t feel like your translations are speaking to them, they can be put off buying your products. That means your sales and marketing team have to work even harder to sell what you do, like a car engine using more fuel because the tyre pressure is too low.

As translators, we work with brands as cultural advisors – helping them not just to get their marketing content translated, but also to sense check their messaging for each market, tailor their international SEO and transcreate country-specific content.

To find out more about how we can help you make the most of your translation and localisation budget to take your products into the EU market, get in touch to book a localisation clinic.