The ultimate guide to understanding localization costs

If you’re just getting started with all the preparations for your international expansion, localization is likely to be somewhere on your agenda. However, it can be challenging to understand localization costs and to find a way to optimize them, especially when you’re new to the game.

Localization costs

Localization costs

The ultimate guide


The ultimate guide to understanding localization costs

Unfamiliarity with the localization process, not knowing who the key stakeholders are, and feeling generally confused about what you’re actually paying for – all these things can drive you away from localization or make you undervalue it.

We feel there is a lack of transparency when it comes to localization costs, which is exactly why we decided to create this comprehensive guide for you.

Localization costs: Expense or investment?

When working with clients, we try our best to explain why localization is an investment, not an expense. The difference is that, while it does require upfront costs, localization pays off long-term.

Localization fuels your business’ growth because it helps you adjust your product, marketing communications, and your company narrative to different locales. This is how you can ensure your core brand stays consistent while resonating with various audiences.

Simply by bridging the language gap and taking into account cultural values and other specificities, you will get a chance to build meaningful relationships with your customers, both existing and potential ones. When you perceive localization through this type of lens, it becomes clear that the return on investment will be satisfactory.

The idea that “everyone speaks English” is a logical fallacy. English may be the largest language in the world when you take into account both native and non-native speakers. However, looking exclusively at native speakers, Mandarin Chinese is first, followed by Spanish,
and then English.

Of course, it all depends on the markets you’re targeting. But you should aim to communicate with your customers in their mother tongue and with respect for their social and cultural values. It’s something that’s expected in the 21st century.

Breaking down localization costs

All localization costs can be grouped into seven big categories:

● Cost of internationalization (i18n)
● Cost of technology (e.g., a translation management platform, CAT tools)
● Cost of translation
● Cost of localizing non-linguistic elements (e.g., multimedia, graphics)
● Cost of quality assurance (QA)
● Cost of consultancy services
● Cost of project management

How high your localization costs will be also depends on the type of project and the level of ownership you plan on taking on in-house. For example, if you’re not localizing an app but only your marketing materials, you won’t need to invest in development, so you can skip the internationalization step entirely.

Localization cost #1: Internationalization (i18n)

Internationalization (i18n) is the technical foundation for the localization of software products. It is the necessary prep work that’s typically handled by software developers. For example, if you are to localize a date format that is written differently across your target markets, internationalization is what prepares the codebase that enables dynamic fields where localized content should be placed. Placeholders are replaced with the correct, localized texts.

In general, good internationalization practices rely on placeholders, incorporating cultural formatting into the source library, maintaining a clean source code, and employing the chosen
programming language in an optimal manner.

Maybe you’re not that tech-savvy, but we still wanted to give a brief overview of what i18n entails. And, you’ve guessed it, it costs money. Developers can cost anywhere between $40- $60 per hour, but it depends on the seniority, country, specialization, and the languages you’re localizing.

Localization cost #2: Technology (e.g., a translation management platform, CAT tools)

Today, translation technology has become very sophisticated and diverse. From translation management platforms, machine translation, and CAT tools, to different project management solutions – there’s a lot that localization professionals rely on to optimize their work. While technology expenses are necessarily included in the price, they also present the main means to save a lot of money. See the table below for a few examples:

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Localization cost #3: Translation

We’re going to say something you probably aren’t going to like, but there is no universally set translation rate that would be applicable across all potential projects. There are too many variables you need to consider: from language pairs and deadlines to actual project scope, type of content, and the industry.

The average English translation can cost anywhere between $0.10-$0.22 per word, but the number and type of language pairs you need will determine the price. Additionally, subject matter, volume, the number of edits, required translator expertise, and translation formats – all these factors have an impact on the end price.

If you’re looking for a rough estimate, we can try to provide one. Let’s say you have 100,000 words that you want to translate into 5 languages. That will amount to 100,000 x 5 x $0.22 = 110,000$. This is not an amount of money you can easily disregard, but as we said it’s an upfront investment that pays off.

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Localization cost #4: Localizing non-linguistic elements (e.g., multimedia, graphics)

If you’re localizing a piece of tech or a video game, you’ll need to localize multiple elements: video, audio, and graphics (e.g., characters). Depending on whether you choose an LSP or a specialized game localization company, you can expect to pay anywhere between $50 and $150 per hour. This is a pretty delicate task, especially if the game includes graphic violence or offensive language, which is not welcome across all cultures.

In other use cases such as localizing an app, you might need to rethink user experience, colors, fonts, visuals, and more. This is why you need help from someone who has detailed knowledge of the cultural context of your target market.

Localization cost #5: Quality assurance (QA)

Quality assurance is a necessary step in the localization process. As a matter of fact, it’s so important that it’s usually available as a standalone service. Quality assurance helps you achieve brand consistency across all your markets while also eliminating translation errors. Linguists and other experts check your content for accuracy, precision, style, and fluency. Given the fact you can only leave a first impression once, QA is the key to ensuring it’s a good one when you launch internationally.

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Localization cost #6: Consultancy services

A localization consultant can help your business in many different ways, but we’ll touch upon the main ones:

● They can help you make the most of your tech stack and resources, and propose a way to minimize localization costs. This can include custom workflows and recommendations for automating parts of your process.

● They can help with in-country review and cultural consulting to ensure your content resonates with your target audience.

● If you need someone who can lead your localization project, define processes, reduce costs, improve your efficiency, and more – then an outsourced localization project manager can be a smart choice.

● Some localization consultants and LSPs also provide machine translation engine training services, in case you want to develop a customized MT engine for your projects.

In most cases, consultancy services are optional, but they can make a difference both in terms of the quality of output and in terms of cost optimization.

Localization cost #7: Project management

Unless you explicitly want to handle localization project management in-house, you should also factor in the price of project coordination fees. Localization project managers are responsible for managing the entire process, tracking progress, and ensuring that quality standards are met. They typically create and assign translation tasks, set deadlines, and maintain a healthy project pace. An experienced localization manager can also help you optimize costs by leveraging glossaries, translation memories, and automation where possible.

Looking for a reliable LSP that can help you optimize your localization costs? Reach out to Ciklopea to Schedule a Discovery Call.

You could be in great company.