Translation Costs: Avoiding Common Hidden Fees and Costs

March 15, 2023

When it comes to hiring any type of service for your retail or gaming business, the cost is always a critical consideration. Translation and other language services are no exception, and it becomes all the more exasperating when translation costs are inflated by hidden fees.

On average, businesses spend around 1% to 4% of their marketing budget on translation and localization services. In our global economy, making your English sales material, training content, games, websites, and other documents available for speakers of Spanish, French, or any other language is an important part of caring for your customers.

Some translation companies charge hidden fees that increase the total cost of translation services. What are the most common hidden translation fees, and how can you avoid them?

1. Project management fees

The most common hidden cost in translation projects is the project management fees that typically range between 10% and 15% of the overall quote. So if your retail or game translation project is worth $3,000 based on the standard per-word rate, you can expect to pay an additional $300 to $450 for project management.

When choosing a language service provider (LSP), go for one that clearly mentions any project management costs in their translation pricing. Ideally, a translation company shouldn’t charge an additional project management fee and must already include it in their rate for translating your work into the target language. That’s because project management is an assumed component of any project.

2. Rush fees

Translation agencies charge rush fees when the volume for translation goes beyond the typical daily translation capacity. This is especially true in the case of video games that require the translation of hundreds and thousands of words including legal and technical documentation, game dialog, and manuals. You may also be charged a rush fee when the LSP has to prioritize the processing of your project over other projects.

To avoid this cost, you can ask the translation service provider to split the translation among multiple translators. However, this approach will only work if unified style and tone aren’t a big concern.

An alternative is to ask for post-edited machine translation. In this process, a machine completes the translation while a human does the editing. Depending on your document type, it may be much quicker and less expensive than traditional professional translation. This is because proofreading is cheaper and faster than having linguists translate the document.

3. Engineering costs

Many translation companies also add different types of engineering costs to the overall project price. For example, they may charge an additional fee for reviewing files and preparing copies for localization within the computer-assisted translation (CAT) environment. Likewise, you may have to pay extra if their engineers have to extract text from a scanned image or PDF to produce translated content that’s visually similar to the source content.

Engineering fees are quite common when handling digital e-learning modules, complex design files, and content with video, images, and voiceover (such as games). Sometimes translation companies don’t have the in-house capacity or team to handle engineering internally so they farm out this work to a third party and pass on the cost to you.

4. In-country review

An in-country review (ICR) is an important step in the translation process where the translated documents are sent back to the client for review. The client then takes the translated content to a reviewer within their organization or sends them to a native speaker, often living in the country or region where the translations will be used.

The main purpose of an ICR is to ensure that the translation uses terminology suitable for that particular country and industry. An in-country reviewer verifies the translation and suggests terms they think will better suit the target audience.

Some translation companies charge extra for any edits or revisions suggested by the in-country reviewer. Therefore, you should look for a provider that includes any ICR fee in their initial project quote. Preferably, you should only have to pay extra ICR charges when the review process demands substantial changes that go beyond the original project scope.

5. Comprehensive costs

Many retail and gaming businesses that are looking to create a comprehensive, localized website with rich functionality often have to translate a wide range of elements. Many of these elements aren’t stored in their content management system. For example, translation services for retailers include things like metadata and structured data, images with embedded text, multimedia elements, mobile apps, product descriptions, and much more.

Many conventional translation companies don’t have the technology and expertise to detect this content on your website, which leads to incomplete website translation. As a result, your in-house team has to locate, extract, and deliver this data to the provider. Alternatively, either you or your LSP will have to outsource this task to a third party, which will cost you more money and lead to a longer turnaround time.

6. Extra costs due to lack of transparency

Many LSPs today use advanced software tools like CAT tools that improve the actual translation and should also result in time and cost savings for you. Such tools help human translators by “remembering” everything that has already been translated. As translation progresses, these tools suggest already-used solutions, resulting in quick and quality translations.

You shouldn’t have to pay full price for any repetitive content across orders and documents. So before signing on the dotted line, ask if your LSP uses CAT software. Look for signs of CAT or translation memory (TM) savings on your quote. If the provider isn’t transparent about using CAT tools, find another one who will be honest with you.

7. Quality Assurance (QA) cost

High-quality content is crucial for any retail or gaming brand. QA checks help rectify incorrect or poor translations that can make the associated product or business look bad. Along with a terminology check, a QA tester also looks for incorrect or missing numbers, double or missing spaces, character limits, punctuation, etc.

Quality assurance is an important part of a translation project and many translators charge upwards of $20 per hour for QA checks. However, if you’re already having an ICR, you may skip this step.

Ensure cost-effective translation with Unbabel

Consistency is key for your business. You want to make sure that you’re paying the same costs for the same word counts regardless of the subject matter. The cost of translation services is sometimes hard to budget, but it doesn’t have to be.

At Unbabel translation services, we’re upfront about all costs so there are no unpleasant surprises along the way. Our multilingual machine translation and quality estimation empower gaming and retail brands to cost-effectively maintain high CSAT at scale.

We support more than 130 language pairs and offer three different translation pipelines (real-time, hybrid, and specialist) to meet your business needs for speed, cost, and quality.

Want to learn more about how you can reduce translation costs with Unbabel? Get the demo today.

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Unbabel’s Content Team is responsible for showcasing Unbabel’s continuous growth and incredible pool of in-house experts. It delivers Unbabel’s unique brand across channels and produces accessible, compelling content on translation, localization, language, tech, CS, marketing, and more.