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Due to strict regulations across life sciences industries, a company cannot compromise on quality, miss deadlines, and risk incurring additional expenses because they have chosen the wrong translation provider. Balancing all these three competing factors in a project no small feat.

Quality, time, and money are connected, as visualised for managing translation projects in the Iron Triangle (also known as the Triple Constraint or Project Triangle). As described by Dr Martin Barnes in the 1970s, how the project is managed depends on the the client’s priorities.

All three elements must be completed on time, the quality of the translation must be high, and the cost of translation should be fair. However, it is impossible to change one side of the triangle without it affecting the other two. The equation seems unsolvable: it is impossible to achieve the ideal of a fast, high quality, and inexpensive translation.

So, you are faced with a difficult decision:

you can have only two of the three things at the same time.

This means:

  • Fast and cheap work will result in a lower quality.
  • The project will be (much) more expensive if you want a quality translation done quickly.
  • It will take longer than usual to produce something good for a low price.

To what extent is this true? Well, cheap, fast, and good translations don’t exist, just as there are no unicorns. But if you have clearly defined objectives with the right language services provider (LSP) in a true spirit of collaboration, you will receive quality work within your timeline and at a fair price – the results will most definitely be far superior to using a cheap vendor.

The cheapest translation may eventually cost you more if your project is delayed or you are forced to pay extra to have your low-quality translations reworked.

So, if you replace “cheap” with “fair”, you are no longer chasing a mythical creature. Rather, you are on your way to getting the best possible result: an error-free translation that meets your budget, when you need it.


What steps can you take to ensure you receive a high-quality translation with a large scope?

  • First, work with a reliable and competent LSP. This is half the battle.
  • Provide as many relevant reference materials as possible, such as a glossary and a style guide. Ideally, explain how you would like them to handle industry-specific jargon and acronyms. This will ensure consistent translations in line with your preferred terminology.
  • Before sending your documents, make sure they are linguistically sound and correct content-wise. To avoid confusion, if at all possible, do not introduce changes once the translation process has already started.
  • Explain the target audience and the purpose of the
  • Keep an open line of communication with your LSP at all times: before, during, and after the translation process.

Most importantly: keep in mind that delivering a large translation in a short time will usually require sacrifices in quality. Multiple translators may need to work on it to meet the deadline, running the risk of inconsistencies. One translator might work above their usual capacity, which increases the likelihood of pressure-related mistakes. Such translation projects are also usually more expensive, so due to budget constraints the LSP will be forced to select less than ideal linguists, which might also influence the quality of the translation.


If you need your translation as soon as possible, first determine your absolutely final deadline. Make that deadline known to the LSP and take steps to avoid creating a false sense of urgency. For example, if you need a document translated within two weeks, avoid asking for same-day delivery. If your translation is really urgent, what can you do to make the process easier?

  • Inform your LSP of the situation as soon as possible. You can ask for a quote at this stage, even if you have not received the final version of the document. Say when the final version will be ready, what changes will be introduced, and ensure your document is completed in time.
  • Provide your LSP with all the reference materials they will need to reduce the time spent on research and enquiries.
  • Work with an LSP who has the essential tools to improve the translation process, such as translation terminology management and quality assurance software, which are usually included in computer-aided translation (CAT).
  • Be available for any questions the translator or project manager may have during the translation process, and aim to answer them in a timely manner.

Urgent translation orders are generally more expensive, since they demand adapted workflows and extra care to produce the same quality in a shorter time.


There are techniques to ensure a quality translation while minimising additional expenses, even if low cost and quality are sometimes seen as contradictory (e.g., rush charges and extra hourly charges for linguistic and formatting all increase the total cost). How can you make the most of your translation budget?

  • Plan the translation order as early as possible. This will help you organise your materials and your team.
  • If possible, provide the LSP with the files in their original format (g., sending an IDML document instead of a PDF). This speeds up the translation process as it may at least decrease the need for converting graphics into text.
  • Work with an LSP that uses CAT tools. These tools allow previous translations to be “reused” and detect repetitions within the text. This enables you to make the most of your material, as well as save time and money.

We know that projects do not go according to plan for a variety of reasons, and sometimes you needed a translation yesterday. A qualified LSP will do everything in their power to help you; however, keep in mind that a good, cheap, and fast translation is impossible. Remember that the whole process of revising and re-working a poor-quality translation is much more expensive and time-consuming than making sure it is done properly the first time around. If you follow the advice above, you will receive exactly what you want – a high-quality translation on time and at a fair price.

While it is helpful to draw attention to all the constraints on a translation project, it is even more crucial to suggest ways of overcoming them. Be proactive before placing the translation order and give feedback after the translation process when you see quality of the final translation. While these additional steps take time, in this project and in future they will ensure better quality – saving you time and money too.

Which of the three factors is usually most important to you – time, cost, or quality? Which two do you usually choose, when, and why? We are interested! Feel free to comment below or drop us a line at