A joined-up translation budget

14. August 2015

You can’t make a successful business without a joined-up budget. A controlled and planned budget is the basis for any successful organisation. It is common in business (read: compulsory), to keep a precise record of operating costs. One part of the product costs is related to the services offered; the second part is support services. These are fields that don’t bring in money directly, but are still essential to manage the main activities, for instance, expenditures on premises, software, office supplies etc. How should a translation service, as an expenditure item, be classified? In general, translation services are regarded among tedious additional services, therefore, companies tend to cut back on such costs. Is that reasonable?

Translation service is part of your product

It is unimaginable while attending a trade fair or a conference, that you wouldn’t bring along business cards or promotional materials about your company. This is part of the sales process and your company’s identity. Well-designed visual materials express your appreciation to your potential client, and take the first step toward a successful sale. Equally important is the text or the written message.

A well-translated text, which is in compliance with the identity of the company, is like a nice packaging that supports your product sales. Thus your translation service should be regarded as part of your product, which in turn means that you should think very carefully about how much time and money you spend, and how much a joined-up translation service could increase your sales. After realising this, you can see that your translation service means not only costs but also potential income and an opportunity to earn money.

Yes, translation may seem expensive and benefits might not be measurable and recognisable at first. In the long run, however, commissioning of a joined-up translation service is an investment in a company.

Confusion with the budget

Lots of companies don’t order their translation services in a joined up manner, often by encouraging undercutting and underbidding among several companies. Usually, companies have a fixed budget for cleaning services and buying office supplies, but their translation needs haven’t been met and there is no budget for this. It can happen, when you order services unsystematically from diverse providers, that they won’t meet your expectations, and your costs seem excessive. It is unthinkable that you might replace your auditor every year. It is also inconceivable that you start undercutting in order to hire an attorney.

How to overcome this situation?

We are accustomed to thinking that European companies are selling knowledge, innovation and ingenuity. It’s time to be really smart in designing your own product or service, involving wisely ordered translation services in this process. How to do that?

Start with figuring out the needs of your organisation by answering the following questions.

  • Do you order translations regularly?
  • Do you mainly order a translation service in one language direction?
  • Do you use the services of a particular translation company?
  • Are translation orders done by one person or randomly by several people?
  • Are the already translated materials and texts terminologically and stylistically consistent? Do they reflect your company’s identity?

Next, select one of your existing translation partners. If it seems that none of them fits, find someone new.

Ask yourself the following questions when choosing a partner.

  • Do you order the translations in all language combinations from the same translation company?
  • What about pricing? Are translation memory programs used in the translation process? Are there any discounts to you for that?
  • What services are included in the final price? Does your chosen partner really offer all those services as promised?
  • Does your partner have a quick and easy management system, which can save your employees’ time and provides an overview of the orders?
  • Does your chosen company have a quality management certificate?

All these questions will help clarify your expectations on the translation company and make it easier to find the ideal partner.

And lastly, prepare your budget by answering the following questions.

  • Do you have a translation budget, which is consistent with the company's actual translation needs?
  • Have the existing orders been justified? Has something important been left untranslated or poorly translated?

After you have rearranged the method of ordering of your translations, you will notice pretty quickly how your company’s texts are becoming increasingly better, the service faster and the end result is that bills are getting smaller, but quality does not suffer.

What is needed is just a little bit of analysis and planning – a joined-up policy – and before you know it your translation service will be working in your best interest and will no longer be a tedious expenditure item.

Inge Rätsep

Inge Rätsep