How to Save Costs When Updating Translated Content

You know that professional content translation comes at a price.

The more content you need translated, the higher the price will be.

It’s a direct relationship between the number of words being translated and the cost associated with translating those words.

If you need to translate only a few documents or other content pieces per year, this may not seem like a big deal.

However, if you have content that needs to be translated frequently and then updated on a yearly basis, the costs can add up fairly quick.

Would you like to learn some methods for reducing your overall translation costs?

If you do, read on.

I will show you how to save costs when updating translated content. You can then take the money you save on translation and use it elsewhere in your organization or just have it fall to the bottom line.

Business Case of Saving Translation Costs

Let’s say you have an employee handbook that you need translated into Spanish.

Many organizations do, since they employ Spanish speaking employees who may not have the best command of the English language. Making HR content available to your employees in their language is not only a good practice, but also may be a matter of law.

Employee Handbook

An employee handbook is perhaps one of the most important documents you use with your employees. It’s essentially a contract that your organization and its employees must adhere to.

You probably had several people work on your handbook and most certainly had it reviewed by your attorney, right?

And I bet that you’ve already spent valuable time and money creating the handbook in English and are now ready to have it translated. Not to mention, you have other related documents such as workplace policies, procedures, training materials and employee communications that also need to be translated.

You’re Ready to Translate Your HR Content

You find a language service company to translate the content into Spanish and get a quote for the work. The company comes back with a fair quote and you approve the project.

Let’s assume this company you’re working with has a great reputation, resources, technology (such as translation memory) and works with professional linguists who have subject-matter expertise to work on HR content, so you’re in good hands.

You get the translated content back and it looks great! You’re ready to implement it in your organization and do so immediately.

What happens next?

A year later, your attorney recommends a few changes to the employee handbook, or your training department changes the content of the English materials.

Editing existing content

You now scramble to have your Spanish materials updated, but for some reason can’t remember the language service company that originally did the work. Or you simply decide to try another language service company to see if you can save costs.

You find a new language service company to complete the work, but are shocked when you see the quote. The new company quoted you to translate all of the content from scratch.

That doesn’t seem fair to you. And you’re right. It’s not.

It doesn’t need to be like this. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your budget from over-paying for translation services when updating your content.

1. Avoid “Free” Translation Tools

If my assumption was correct, you’ve already spent a significant amount of time and money in creating the English versions.

Why cut corners on the translated versions?

Trusting a free online translation service with your HR material is like not having your original English employee handbook vetted by human professionals, such as your lawyers.

Are you prepared to invest in quality translations?

By doing this, you’re opening yourself up to potential lawsuits. Or worse, your employees may not understand what you’re trying to communicate to them due to poor quality of the translated content.

This will create a poor user experience and lower employee morale.

There’s a place for free online translation tools. However, that place is not in your business.

Since you’re quality-focused, trust your translations only to humans who know what they’re doing. It will pay off in the long run.

Savings Tip: Content that was created by professionals should be translated by professionals.

2. Save All Editable Files

If there’s only one thing you can do to help you save money on updating your translated content, do this.

Make sure you save and keep track of all native files. This includes your English source files, as well as the files that have been translated into other languages.

A native file is any file that can be edited with a native application it was created in.

Microsoft Office for Multilingual Content Creation

For example, a DOCX file is native to MS Word and can be edited. An INDD file is native to Adobe InDesign and can be edited.

Here is an example of a file that cannot be easily edited. It’s a PDF file that has been distilled from another format such as DOCX.

Or worse, a PDF file that was created using a scanner. Sure, there are ways to edit such files, but they will not save you money. In fact, they will likely add formatting and typesetting costs to your project.

Just remember, if a file can be easily edited in a native application, it will help you save costs.

Make sure to always provide all native files to the translation company you’re working with. If the native files are not available, be prepared to pay for formatting and typesetting costs.

Savings Tip: Always work with native files that can be edited in applications they were originally created in.

3. Remember Your Translations

You probably took a few foreign language classes in high school and all you remember is how to count to ten.

I know I did and that’s the best I could retain from two years of learning Japanese. Luckily, that was years ago and you’re not being tested on it.

The memory I’m referring to is translation memory, also known as a translation memory system (TMS).

Kilgray memoQ Translation Memory

Your language service company should be using one. If they’re not, you should look for one that does.

Here’s why.

Using translation memory in your process will help you save costs.

HR content and other types of business content will generally have a lot of words to be translated.

Once that content is translated by human translators, it is stored in the TMS. A translation memory is essentially an asset that you own and your translation service company manages for you.

Here’s how you save money with a TMS.

Last year you had your employee handbook translated into Spanish.

Roughly 30,000 words of content!

You now have some edits you need to implement, which come out to about 1,000 words. Your translation service company will then make sure that the new content is translated and the existing content is updated respectively.

You need to make sure that the savings are passed on to you.

Why pay for 30,000 words at full rate, when you can pay that for only for 1,000 words and get a substantial discount on the rest?

Savings Tip: Make sure your language service company uses a Translation Memory System (TMS) and creates a dedicated translation memory for your organization.

4. Make Friends with Templates

Chances are good that your content will contain a lot of redundant and repetitive text across many documents.

Instead of creating such content from scratch every time, get in the habit of creating templates.

Editable Templates

For example, in HR settings you may have a disciplinary action form and policy that can apply just to about any employee. Instead of writing a new one up every time, create a fill-in the blank template.

You can then share the templates with your language service company and have them translated. Once the templates are translated, they can be reused by you without incurring additional costs.

Remember, the more words you need translated the more expensive translations will get. Using translated templates will help you reduce costs.

Savings Tip: Use translated templates whenever appropriate to save time and money.

5. More is Better than Less

If you just have 1,000 words of edited text to implement in a 30,000 word document, you’re better off doing it all at once.

If you decide to do 100 words here and 200 words there, by the time you get to 1,000, you’ve already requested at least 4 to 5 revisions – each of them potentially charged at a minimum fee rate.

Volume discount when you buy translation in bulk

Translation service companies treat such revision requests as separate projects and bill you out accordingly.

Whenever possible, combine as much work into a single content update project as you can. Not only will you save money doing it this way by avoiding minimum fees, you will also save yourself time in getting everything done and published.

Savings Tip: Combine all updates and edits into a single project to reduce costs and improve turnaround time.

6. Communicate with Your Partner

The translation service company you’re working with is your partner.

Any successful partnership requires good communication. If you’re not communicating your exact needs to your translation partner, you’re likely to spend more money on translation services and not get your desired results.

Communicate with your partner

The reason behind this is simple – You’re leaving it up to the translation service company to figure the scope of your project out for you.

Conversely, your translation partner should be actively involved in figuring out your project scope and making sure both of you are on the same page. It’s not unheard of for a translation company to decline projects it’s not qualified to work on.

Savings Tip: Communicate your project scope clearly, because the more you leave to interpretation the higher the cost may be.

Can NWI Global help you save on translation costs?

Let’s find out together. Contact us.


You’ve now learned 6 methods for how to save costs when updating translated content.

Whether you’re in human resources, or any other business sector that requires translation services, you can learn and apply these tips to save costs.

If you only have one or two documents that you translate here and there, some of these tips may still be useful to you.

If you require translation revisions and updates on a larger scale, you’re looking at saving some serious money. You can then spend this money elsewhere.

What is your experience with updating content and then having the updates translated?

Please share in the comments.

2 replies
  1. Gio Lester
    Gio Lester says:

    Great recommendations. As for personal experience, a client sent me a 30-page contract to translate. They forgot I had translated it for them originally – it had been so long. I compared the documents and there was only one new clause to be added. Not even a comma had been introduced to the rest. So, I translated only what need to be translated, and charged them only for that, as if they had sent me only the amendment. That’s is the right thing to do.

    However, I have had clients who did not send editable material, did not flag the changes and I was forced to read documents from beginning to end to identify a word change here, new punctuation there, new phraseology over there… I did charge for my detective work.

    Good piece!


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