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How to Budget for Translation and Localization

Translation and localization are critical when you are taking your product or service to global markets, and every step you take must be intentional and strategic. This means not just planning for how to get it done with teams and processes but also figuring out what it costs so you can budget for it.  To do this, you have to get clear on what services you need a vendor to supply and the costs for those services.  Determining the budget for these complicated and highly specialized services can be difficult.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the steps you need to take to create a budget for your translation and localization project.

Define Your Goals

First, consider what you hope to accomplish with the content you plan to translate and localize. Are you trying to meet legal requirements, reach broader audiences, attract and retain customers, or a combination of these? For example, you might want to increase awareness of your brand or drive sales with multilingual marketing materials, meet regulatory requirements by providing educational materials in various languages, or make your website multilingual to tap markets around the globe. By clarifying your goals, you can begin to understand the types of translation and localization services you will need.

Assess Your Translation Needs

Now, identify and prioritize the specific types of content that will require translation and localization as well as the languages and markets in which you’ll be using the translated materials. Think about questions like these:

  • Are the materials to be translated text only, or do they include audio and/or video?
  • Do you need translation of digital content, such as website pages, social media posts, and marketing emails?
  • Do you need software to be localized?
  • Will you need your translation provider to conduct testing to ensure localized materials are suitable for your target audiences?

Next, assess the volume and frequency of the translation needs you’ve identified. Consider the word count per item, the number of items to be translated, and how often new translations or updates will be needed. All these factors will affect your overall translation costs.

Consider Your Existing Assets (such as past translations)

If you’ve had materials translated in the past, consider whether you can use any of this work for your future needs.  Leverage—re-using existing translations—is a great way to reduce costs. For example, if a document has been translated before and only needs updates, then you only need to translate the new parts. You may also be able to use pieces of previously translated content in new materials. However, those past translations have to be of high quality. 

Determine What Kinds of Translation and Localization Services You Need

Translation and localization encompass a variety of services. After identifying what types of content need to be translated, you can start thinking about the services needed to accomplish your goals for those materials.  The services  could include the following:


Translation converts written content into a new language, using equivalent words to convey the original meaning. Technology such as machine translation (MT) or translation memory (TM) can play an important role in this process and help control costs. However, a human touch is always needed to catch nuances like humor, sarcasm or double entendre and ensure industry-specific language is translated properly.


Transcreation is creative translation or adaptation instead of a faithful rendering of the source, word for word. It’s necessary when it’s important for the tone and spirit of a message to come through in the new language.  The result aligns with the culture and not just the language. 


Localization adapts your website or software for end users in another location. It includes not just translation but also engineering and testing to make sure that your software or product is optimized for the target location. It may involve changes like resizing of forms or dialogue boxes to support different writing systems, using different calendars or other systems of measurement, and accommodating the demands of local APIs. For example, you might swap images to reflect the landscape, people, and culture of the new market, adjust currencies and time and date formats, and reformat pages in languages that flow right to left, such as Arabic.

Multimedia Localization

Many businesses want to adapt multimedia materials like elearning modules, videos, infographics, animations, and slideshows. Localizing these assets so they convey their intended messages in other languages and cultures is an extensive process and more complicated than other types of localization.


Testing makes sure your localized product works the same as it does in the source language. This is particularly important for software localization, since errors could make these products unusable.

Technology Implementations

Tools like computer assisted translation (CAT) tools and translation management systems (TMS) can streamline the translation process and reduce long-term costs. Most mature localization programs use extensive tools to speed up processes, improve quality, and bring down costs. 

Request Quotes

Now that you understand your translation and localization needs, goals, and the services required to attain them, it’s time to reach out to potential translation and localization service providers (LSPs) for quotes. Usually this is done in a formal request for proposal (RFP). You will have already shortlisted possible vendors based on web research and will send specific remaining questions out to those potential vendors for inputs.

Ask for detailed breakdowns of each provider’s localization service costs, including translation, editing, proofreading, and project management fees. Getting an itemized price breakdown will allow you to conduct side-by-side comparisons for specific services so you can avoid mistaking a lower bottom-line quote for better value. Make sure services include maintenance of your translated assets in the form of translation memories and glossaries to minimize the need for future services.

Consider Internal Costs So You Can Calculate Total Projected Costs

When determining your translation and localization budget, make sure to consider internal project management costs as well. You may need to hire a project manager to help you manage the localization program. They will coordinate and communicate with your vendor and oversee the process to help make sure it progresses smoothly and successfully. When you gain a sense of the total cost of your localization project, you can begin to understand the return to expect on your investment.

As with most complex projects, a budget is just a starting point. Actual costs can always vary based on unknowns such as changing market conditions, business priorities, and unexpected issues that come up during the process. Be sure to build flexibility into your budget to accommodate this possibility. Understand that localization can’t be done cheaply, have clear priorities for your project, and keep an eye on your KPIs so you know when you need to adjust your strategy.

To learn more about implementing a successful translation project, explore Language Network’s free resources.

About Language Network

Language Network is a language solutions company specializing in interpretation, translation, and localization services for government, healthcare, and international businesses. Language Network provides critical language access and support in over 200 languages. For more information, visit www.languagenetworkusa.com.

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