If you need translation on a regular basis, it’s happened to you: you send your files to three translation providers and ask them for quotes. Vendor A quotes you $1,500, Vendor B quotes you $500, and Vendor C quotes you $4,500.

Now, you probably think I’m exaggerating with these ranges. But based on my experience and what clients have told me, this is not uncommon. Normally, when you ask three vendors for quotes you expect them to be more or less in the same ballpark, and this helps you gauge what the project is actually worth. But not in this case.

At TransForma, we’re asked to quote documents large and small on a daily basis. On many occasions, we’re told by the prospect that they went with someone else because the other guy’s quote was one-third the price of ours, or half the price of ours, or something to that effect. My reaction is: that’s fine. If they can do an excellent job on your contracts or tax returns or financial statements at those prices and deliver excellent work, then they deserve to win your business. My company, unfortunately, cannot compete with that pricing.

Here are some factors that may account for those wide pricing gaps:

  1. The “cheap” translation provider may be using machine translation. We all know about Google Translate and yes, it can be useful. And despite what I’ve said in the past, I’m not a Google Translate hater. I’m more of a Google Translate realist. And while anybody is welcome to use it (and billions of people do), a reputable and honest translation service will never upload your entire content to this or any other machine translation engine, even if the content is not confidential. No translator that I’ve ever known has a good opinion of Google Translate; they look down their noses at it. It actually creates more work for them. Many fear it will eventually put them out of business. But let me repeat: Google Translate will not put an end to anyone’s translation career.
  2. The “cheap” translation provider may really want your business and is willing to sacrifice profit. This happens not just in the translation business, but in any business. You come across someone that really wants the project and is willing to cut pricing in the hope that you’ll accept and become a regular customer. The downside here, however, is that the provider will not be able to sustain this pricing and eventually their quotes will be more realistic (read: expensive). More than likely, this will send you back to looking for quotes from other vendors.
  3. The “expensive” translation provider may not be taking full advantage of translation technology. If you get a quote that is much higher than the others, chances are that your provider is translating everything manually, or may not have a large enough pool of translators, editors and proofreaders to divide the work and do the QA post-translation. There are lots of boutique agencies out there that do not rely on multiple translators and are not set up with desktop or cloud-based technology. Both go a long way toward increasing efficiency, and they make a provider competitive when it comes to pricing.
  4. The “expensive” translation provider may be inexperienced. By inexperienced, I don’t necessarily mean incompetent in translation. I mean, inexperienced in the business side of translation. This is an unregulated industry with virtually no barriers to entry, and many people that are fluent in two languages set themselves up in business as translators. There is no legal requirement to opening a translation agency. Both of these inevitably result in sub-par work. Even when the provider is highly competent, he/she may not be aware of market pricing; many qualified translators do this as a side hustle, not necessarily intending to launch a formal business or depend on it for full-time income.

At TransForma, we believe that the best translation provider is the one who can give you the best quality for the best price. Sometimes we’ll beat the competition, and sometimes we won’t. But we will always give you the best price we can, and you already know that quality is a given. Send your documents to request@transformaonline.com for a free quote, or contact us at (305) 722-3827.

Carmen Hiers is founder and managing partner of TransForma Translation Services.