Insights January 15, 2020

When words come cheap. How some agencies offer lower rates.

Living Word
By Living Word

Whether you’re a up and coming Project Manager or a seasoned Global Account Director your translation requirements will always need to come within budget.

You will always face the issue of weighing up price against quality, efficiency and service – not always an easy task!

You may take the sensible decision to send out multiple quote requests to get a more rounded idea of what to expect, especially if your purse strings are rather tight.

It’s always a good idea to do this, but have you ever considered how some translation agencies are always able to undercut their rivals? The aim of this article is to try and shed some light on the quote price differentials you may receive between agencies and to help you make the best decision on who best to choose.


Price cutting.

To feed clients’ need to stick to budgets, many agencies are lowering rates year on year, well below industry standard. However, most aren’t willing to take an equivalent loss in profit margin, so as you might expect, the shortfall has to come from elsewhere. It’s a sad fact of life though, that the agency that is constantly dropping it’s rates will never last long enough in business to become a long-term, trusted partner.

Fixing the low margin problem.

The two main alternatives for recouping profit margins on low rate translations, are either a) to spend less time (hence money) on managing your work, or b) to recruit cheaper linguists and Project Managers. Or even both!


How might this effect you, the client?

Expect that your projects will be most likely handed to a more junior member of the agency’s Project Management team. In which case you may find your interactions with them fairly minimal, after an initial honeymoon period. Their Line Manager will ensure their workload is such that there is limited time for them to service you as you would hope. Not great if you were hoping for a more personal service.

When it comes to the linguists themselves, using low budget cheap translators usually also means inexperienced, or even unqualified. This is an even more dangerous game to play, as the linguists are the lifeblood of any translation agency. If that basic level of professionalism is non-existent, the results could be disastrous for you, the client.

Can CAT save the day?

You may have been given the impression that the super hero time-saving abilities of CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools will automatically make your project more budget-friendly. There is a grain of truth in this, but as a sweeping statement it is a bit of a misnomer. Translation memories can save some time, which we all love, but there are many more interesting advantages to their use, which we talk about here.

There is no such thing as a free lunch though, and those amazing savings you’re making on your translation requests cannot be maintained wholly through the use of CAT and her tools.

You could well be getting a machine translation, or a translation carried out by a non-professional using her as an aid. These will usually be proofread so that it isn’t immediately obvious. But if you were under the impression you were paying for a professional ‘human’ translation, you may feel a little duped.

Cheap project staff, cheaper suppliers and an over-reliance on translation software can lead to price points that are too seductive to pass up, unless you are forearmed with this insider knowledge.

How to make sure you are getting the best deal?

Call to talk to your project manager directly about their linguists and their work processes. You can find out more about what to ask them in the following article “How good are your Translation Agency’s linguists?”.


What about our work practices and professional ethics?

The team at Living Word has a genuine care for the translation business. Almost 20 years of experience has clarified that consistently offering lower rates only necessitates lower production costs which inevitably leads to a higher number of client complaints. This in turn converts to higher overall production rates, bringing the situation back to square one!

If we want to keep our clients, we don’t just want to pretend we care about quality, we absolutely have to place it as our main priority.