Four-Step Approach To Manage Your Chinese Translation Projects

Through the following Four-Step Approach, we are sharing specific advice on

  • how to manage your Chinese translation projects effectively,
  • how to save time & money,
  • and how to improve the quality of your Chinese translations.

Four-Step Approach

  • I. Preparation & Requirements
  • II. Quotation & Order
  • III. Production & Communication
  • IV. Evaluation & Feedback

Four-Step Approach To Manage Your Chinese Translation Projects (Photo: by Chao, Lujiazui, Shanghai)

I. Preparation & Requirements

Things to consider before sending your translation requests:

Purpose & Services Needed

  • Is the translation for publishing or only for information?

If the materials are destined for publishing (website, brochures, press releases, marketing copies, patent application, technical manuals, annual reports), I strongly recommend adding a proofreading stage where a second linguist will double check, or you can choose a suitable service level including this. Some service provider includes proofreading in their high end translation service package already.

  • What additional service you can buy together?

You may have an in-house designer but do not understand Chinese, sometimes, it will be way more efficient to trust the translation agency to do both work of translation and formatting. 

For voice-over projects, you can inquire about the proofreading or even the translation services. I’d seen many flaw scripts provided to the voice artists and it took a lot of time to make corrections back and forth.

Keywords research are much more useful than direct translation of keywords, check the expertise of the provider and see how they could help.

  • What are the right service you should choose?

For full Chinese website translation, I strongly recommend you to do a website localization with careful plan, instead of asking for translation only. It is the 7*24 working salesman for your business and you should invest sufficient money in the right way.

Creative copy will be billed at a higher rate. Some times you will need Chinese copywriting service with detailed instructions for your most important texts.

Dig Deeper: Checklist before you launch your Chinese website


  • What subject is the text about?
  • Where will it be used?

Make sure you decide the right subject of the text, the subject tells the agency to choose the right Chinese linguists with specific expertise. Tell the project manager if you are not sure what subject is.ChineseTrans Instant Quote Steps for Chinese Translation: Choose Your Subject

Entire document or summary?

You have hundreds of pages in your existing text.


  • Are they all relevant for your China business?
  • Do you really need all of them translated?

Do check all the documents by yourself or ask the same questions to your colleagues who provided the texts.


Your current text may be intended for the UK or USA market, and include cultural references that will mean nothing for the China market. Before sending the documents for translation, make sure that the content you choose to be translated is relevant to your business in China and written for Chinese audience. Choose the necessary part only.

If you do not have the right content, you need to write for the market. Only the effective content will sell.

Last year, a medical tourism company sent us a Chinese brochure for proofreading, and we found most lengthy texts are written for the UK and Russia market. It makes no sense to use the same text and no Chinese customers will be interested on these content, it is totally a waste of time and money.

Most translation companies will not judge this for you because this is basically your job to decide what content to be translated. If you are not sure, seek advice from some China business consultant.

This will save the most cost for you.

Dig Deeper: Chinese Business Etiquette 101 for Doing Business in China

Language & Target Audience

The following information will determine the language combination and the style of Chinese translation.

  • What is the source language?

Some people will choose the wrong source language in the very beginning, it will bring necessary troubles of double confirmation and waste of time.

Some Chinese translation agency provide source text language detector when you upload the file or enter the original text.

  • Who will read the translation?
  • Where are they? What country or district is it for?
  • What language they read and write?
  • What language they are speaking?
  • How old are they?

Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese are two different writing methods of the Chinese characters. 

Currently there are over 1.3 billion people in the world using Simplified Chinese, the majority of which are in mainland China, Malaysia, and Singagore.

In Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and in Chinese communities overseas where the combined population is approximately 30 million, Traditional Chinese remains in use.

You know you need a translation from English into Traditional Chinese. But is the translated text going to be used in Hongkong or Taiwan? The two variants are quite different from each other and you should make sure you inform the translation agency about this.

Only with clear information of the target audience, the translator can adapt the translated text to your audience in terms of style, sentence length and the right choice of words.

Dig Deeper: Differences Between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese


Editable documents is quick to handle, If your document is a picture or a scanned .pdf, extra time will be spent on converting the files into an editable format. I understand you may also have special file formats as the source documents. Consider the time on handling this.

Some translation agency can work on most formats, ask the translation agency about the cost and you can decide who will do the conversion.

Be sure you know what final output you need.

  • Whether you want the translated text to be exactly the same formatting as the source text.
  • Whether you need special file formats of PDF, inDesign, Illustrator etc.

You can ask the translation agency to produce the final format for you, it will save much of your time than doing by yourself.

Background Information and Reference Materials

The more relevant background information you provide, the better the translation agency will understand your needs and will be able to come up with the most suitable translation.

Also prepare reference materials (previous translations, company style guide, glossaries of terms) helps a lot in the consistency and will keep the quality at a high standard with much less communication.

You may provide all of just some of the following items.

  • Background materials: website, brochures, catalogs, analyst reports, annual reports, business plan, documentation.
  • Translation style guide: general rules of capitalization, punctuation, abbreviation, spelling, numerals, measurements, dates, spacing and standard usage of words, guides to names, addresses, product names, trademarks, etc, and some examples.
  • Corporate standards guide: your company’s general style of expression and convention for grammar, punctuation and word usage.
  • Glossaries of terms: a list of unique company terms or industry terms, and specialized words.
  • Translation memory: a database of previous translations that enable the translation provider to translate only the changed part of a text.


Always leave sufficient time for translation if it is for business purpose.

A tight deadline always bring issues:

  • Not enough time to do a proper proofreading.
  • The inevitable split of a project between several translators to meet a tight deadline affects the consistency. 


  • Going for the cheapest provider? NO

No, It will hurt your brand image and ruin your business in China.

A very cheap provider always means they are lack of quality control in the whole process.

A poor Chinese translation done at a cheap price will surely bring a negative impact on your business image.

It seems cost effective since you got all the translation, however, it is total waste of time and your money.

  • The highest price means the best quality? NO

Highest price does not a guarantee for quality. 

  • You’ve got a deadline?

Less time will always bring extra cost for express charge, or say, urgent charge. 

II. Quotation & Order

Types of Rates

  • Word count vs. Page vs. Line

For Chinese document translation, you may have seen or received quotes calculated in different ways.

I recommend you trust the way of word count, rather than considering the number of pages or lines.

  • Word count is fair and more standard. 
  • The number of pages and lines can vary depending on the font used (type, size), line spacing, headers, footers etc.
  • Source word count vs. Target word count

I prefer to use the source word count so you will always know in advance how much it would cost.

This is some way you can protect yourself from possible risk.

By using the target word count, some translators or agencies will try to add necessary extra words to produce a lengthy text to get a higher price for the service.

  • Per minute vs. Per hour vs. Per day

These are common ways to quote for voice over, transcription, interpretation tasks.

They also applies for senior translators and reviewers when a lot of time is spent on communications.

A reasonable estimate of hours is necessary to control your budget.

  • Chinese Characters vs. English Words

Word Count

For source word count, you will know exactly how much it will cost before you start.

Make sure the word count result is consistent since different agency use different software to count the word.

ChineseTrans supports automatic word count for MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF, RTF, TXT files.

Images or graphs

Your document might contain some images or graphs with texts. Some times you also want to translate these texts.

You can send human inquiries to project managers to obtain the price including these images and graphs.

Decide whether you will ask the agency to work on the formatting or not, if yes, you need to confirm the font and may other details.


The more technical and specialized the text is, the more it will cost.

Language Combination

A translation from Swedish into traditional Chinese will certainly have a higher translation charge than a similar project from English into Simplified Chinese.

The resources on different language pairs are not balanced.

Service Level & Proofreading

Decide your needed service level according to your purpose.

Both Standard and Premium Service at ChineseTrans includes proofreading stage.

Proofreading is a must for all quality translation. 

If your texts are used for publishing in important scenario, then choose higher service level to request the most experienced resources to work on your project.

Be careful that some Chinese translation agency will charge extra for proofreading, figure this out before you place the order.

Proofreading is also a standalone service, you can request this with your existing translated texts to get second opinion. An additional proofreading stage will also add to the turnaround time.

Estimate Delivery Time 

An average Chinese translator can translate 1,500-2,500 words every day, more or less, depending on the subject, the style, formatting etc.

If it is highly technical or full of jargon, it will take longer to translate.

if there are a lot of formatting to be done, It will take longer.

Rush jobs may incur surcharges, you will need to pay an express charge (rush fee, urgent fee) if you want to catch your deadline.

Prepare sufficient time in advance to avoid rush jobs.

At ChineseTrans, You will always see the estimate delivery time for your specific jobs, it is calculated based on the availability of our project managers and translators.


Sometimes you need to pay for the formatting when you

  • provide scanned handwritten documents, like most medical records,
  • send poor quality images,
  • need special output file format like inDesign, Illustrator etc.

It will take more time to process than a plain MS Word document before they are ready for translation, so it will incur some extra fees and will impact the turnaround time.

Minimum Charge and Discount

Small projects always incur a minimum charge.

The amount of minimum charge will depend on the language combination. Popular languages with more resources means lower minimum charge.

Very large projects may be eligible for discounts. You can contact the project manager to negotiate or ask for a discount coupon.

III. Production & Communication

  • Keep conversation with project managers, and linguists.
  • Answer questions and provide requirements on terms or styles, etc.
  • Do not alter your text after the project begins.
  • If you must cancel a project in progress, notify your Project Manager as soon as possible.

If you provide your Chinese translation service provider as much information as possible in the very beginning of the project, it will avoid frequent communication messages to go back and forth and ask for information.

IV. Evaluation & Feedback

  • Check the formatting and the consistency.
  • Review the delivered texts by you or your team member with required knowledge.
  • Collect internal feedback on the translation quality and discuss with project manager on improvement for future jobs.
  • Compile and improve your style of guide, and common glossary of terms.
  • If you expect to be sending translation requests in the near future, let your Project Manager know as soon as possible.


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