Saving money on translations

Translations and Avoiding Minimum Fees

It can sometimes be difficult in the translation industry to get the translation of a single word or sentence without it becoming very costly. Many agencies and freelance translators have very hefty minimum fees in most cases. The rarer the language combination is, the more expensive it can become. Getting a translation from German to a language like Kazakh for example may be associated with a minimum fee of EUR 50 and more for a single word.

Minimum fees are a difficult thing for anyone trying to get translations done. Firstly, when trying to avoid minimum fees when you are dealing with a freelance translator or an agency, It is important to realize why these exist. Here are a few reasons:

  1. If there are appropriate quality control processes in place, no matter how big or small a translation is, all of these processes should be executed in order to ensure quality. This is time consuming. Time is money. This time is included in minimum fees.
  2. When dealing with agencies, they also have to pay minimum fees to their translators themselves. Therefore, it is difficult to not make minimum fees applicable.
  3. Even for a small translation, a quote has to be issued, a project has to be set up, executed and final invoicing has to take place. In the case of a single word, this is a very tedious and time-consuming process.
  4. A proofreader and a translator both have to be contacted for each translation. In the case of multiple languages, this can result in a plethora of communication and a lot of time-consuming organization.
  5. Translators and agencies are busy. An agency might have more than 1000 customers. Imagine what would happen if their customers all asked for single words. The few dollars they would be making in comparison to the overhead costs of running the agency would not be realistic. If there were no minimum fees, the agency would most certainly go under.

In light of the above-mentioned reasons for minimum fees, what are some methods of avoiding them?

  1. You can try to find the translation yourself. In the case of single words in common languages, there are many online tools to find the translation yourself. This is not possible in the case of very exotic languages without possessing the appropriate language abilities, but with a little language skill, it is possible nonetheless. is a good resource offering a list of previous translations in many different language combinations.
  2. In the case of larger projects, make this known to the translator or agency at the very beginning of the project. Emphasize that there may be little bits and pieces belonging to the project that will have to subsequently be translated. This is frequently the case for website translations, for example.
  3. Framework agreements can be set up with translators and agencies. These are contracts offering a specific volume of work within a certain time period at a special price. Short translations under minimum fees could be agreed upon in the process. Please see the article entitled “Framework Agreement s and Translation Agencies“ on this blog for more details.
  4. If the small translation is part of a larger translation, then make that known. Ask for the small translation to be charged on account until the bigger one comes along a little later. Then, ask if the small translation can just be added to the larger one.
  5. Join a language forum. Very often, there are forums for certain language combinations where questions can be asked. This is a perfect opportunity to ask a native speaker how to say a phrase or a single word. Most people who are active in the forums and native speakers are usually quite happy to answer these types of questions.
  6. If working with an agency or a freelance translator, sometimes it all depends how you ask for the short translation as well. If I have a customer that needs a translation of a single word and I know a translator who owes me a favor, I know I would be more than likely to help. In other words, those who ask kindly might just get lucky.




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