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5 Translation Budgeting Mistakes You Need to Avoid

October 12, 2021
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How much should you realistically budget for translation?
There are various common mistakes you can make with translation budgeting. These can lead to you overbudgeting or underbudgeting for your content translation. Neither is advisable.
If you overbudget for translations, you can end up spending more than you need to on specific translation services. By depleting your translation budget unnecessarily, you miss opportunities to create more, higher-quality localized content.
If you underbudget for translations, you will end up searching for the extra budget to pay for it or being forced to select translation services that aren’t fit for purpose.
When you understand the potential mistakes you could make, you can prepare to avoid them.
When you budget correctly, you ensure that you get the most from your translation budget.

An unhelpful question to ask when budgeting for translation

“Where can I find cheap, fixed-cost translations?”
This is a rather common question from global companies. If you’re concerned about spending too much on translations, it’s understandable that you might consider looking for services with fixed, low-cost prices.
All of us prefer clear prices when we are trying to source new services. As humans, we are averse to uncertainty and risk. Going with translation services that blatantly display their “cost per word” on their website or provide simple cost calculators feels like it has less risk…
… but, really, it has more risk.
The problem is that fixed, low-cost translation services hide a multitude of sins.
Managing translations and localizing content is a complicated process. As a result, various factors influence how much you ultimately need to budget to complete a particular localization project. If you want your localized content to truly achieve your global goals, you need to be more strategic about how you budget for translation services.
And that includes avoiding common mistakes.
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5 translation budgeting mistakes you need to avoid

The reason companies often make budgeting mistakes is entirely understandable — there is a lot of bad and missing advice out there!
Sometimes, it can seem like a huge portion of the translation industry is set up to mislead companies about the factors that are important when budgeting. However, with a little bit of knowledge, you can ensure you don’t fall into these common traps.
Here are 5 common translation budgeting mistakes you need to avoid…

1. Fixating on cost per word

The most common figure you will see when sourcing translations is the “cost per word” for a particular language pair (a “pair” being to translate from one language to another). Lower-end translation services often quote this figure on their website.
It’s tempting to fixate on the cost per word in your budgeting. You assume that you only need to multiply the cost per word by your total number of words to calculate the total cost of translation.
This is a bad way to budget for translation.
The problem with this approach is that it neglects all of the other factors that will influence the true cost to localize your content.
Sometimes, the quoted cost per word figure will be overinflated, meaning you could achieve much more with your budget than your calculations suggest. Other times, the quoted figure is unrealistically low. You end up being charged much more than you had budgeted for.
Of course, your budget will certainly be influenced by the cost per word for each of your language pairs. But, it is only one factor among several.

2. Using free translation cost calculators

A related mistake is to rely on the simple translation cost calculators provided on the websites of some translation providers.
These oversimplified calculators can be tempting. They appear to promise a clear, no-nonsense figure for the cost of translation services.
In practice, they are usually worse than unhelpful.
The problem with such calculators is that they cannot incorporate all the subtleties of budgeting for translation. They are almost always based on the cost per word and their prices are overinflated to account for this.
There are many more extra savings you can make in your localization that won’t be reflected in such calculators.
Such extra savings include:
  • Improving source content consistency so you only need to translate it once.
  • Removing expensive human touches from the process by automating.
  • Reducing the engineering work need to process translations.
To make these savings, you need a knowledgeable global content strategist to look over your project. They can help you to identify specific savings for your unique situation.

3. Forgetting engineering costs

One factor that many people forget when budgeting for translation is the associated engineering cost.
Who will carry out all the extra engineering required to handle the translations?
Will the translation provider cover the extra engineering? Will you need to hire a third party?
Or will your team do all the extra engineering? If so, how will that impact all the other work they do? And how much will that lost productivity ultimately cost you?
These are the sort of questions that you need to be asking yourself when you are budgeting for translations. There are always associated engineering costs with translation. If you don’t include these in your budget, those costs will likely come back to bite you later on.

4. Not addressing translation as a revenue driver

Are you looking at your translation budget in the wrong way? Many global companies are. A very common budgeting mistake that people make is to view translation as a fixed cost.
This can lead companies into a vicious cycle…
They try to reduce the “fixed cost” of translation ➡ this reduces translation quality and effectiveness ➡ so the translated content works badly in their international markets ➡ so they assume translation isn’t worth the amount they’re spending on it ➡ and so they try to find even more ways to reduce that cost.
It’s much more effective to view translation as a revenue driver.
This leads your company into the virtuous cycle of…
Translation drives your revenue in international markets ➡ so you look for the most efficient way to keep increasing that revenue ➡ which involves choosing strategic, high-quality translation services ➡ so the translated content works well in your international markets ➡ and so your revenue continues to increase.
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5. Translating the wrong things

What is the purpose of creating an accurate translation budget?
Surely, we create budgets so we can find out how much we need to spend to grow our business internationally?
Regrettably, companies often waste significant portions of their translation budget because they are not translating the right content in the first place.
It doesn’t matter how much or how little you spend on translation if your translated content doesn’t help you achieve your global growth goals. This is why it’s so important to include global content strategy as part of your translation budget. You can only get a clear picture of your budgeting needs if you know what you are trying to achieve with your content.

How to get the most from your translation budget

How do you avoid these common mistakes?
How can you ensure that you get as much as possible from your translation budget?
When working with our clients, we find that we can make the most savings for them when we don’t focus primarily on translation. Instead, we go further back in their process by looking at tooling, content creation, hand-offs, and other specific factors.
By doing this, we help them to:
  • Streamline their processes.
  • Increase the efficiency.
  • Reduce waste in their content creation.
Improving your upstream processes is where the real cost savings can be made!
You can make similar changes to your own content workflow. But, it can sometimes be hard to get an objective view of your situation when you are so close to it.
It’s often helpful to talk with a knowledgeable partner about your translation project and your available budget. They will help you to identify which translation services you really need to achieve your global goals. They can also help you to budget for your strategic goals, rather than simply budgeting for translation services.
Talk to one of our global content strategists and they’ll be happy to help. To book a call, just enter some details of your project here.