When you’re in the planning stages of a new eLearning project that includes localization, requesting a ballpark quote—or several ballpark quotes—is a good way to get a handle on the costs and timeline for the localization step. But ballpark quotes are built on assumptions and preliminary speculations, which means they run the risk of over- or underestimating the scope of your project.
An overestimated ballpark quote might price you out of the competition, and an underestimated one might lead you to set unrealistic expectations that you can’t meet down the road. And, if you’re bidding the translation work, varying ballparks from different vendors that are all based on different assumptions can make the selection process even murkier than usual.
Since not all ballparks are created equal, it’s important to think about how you can get the most accurate estimate and get your project on the right path from the start.
What goes into a ballpark quote?
Making a ballpark quote for something like a technical manual isn’t hard. If you know the number of pages, that’s usually enough—but eLearning quotes are different. The same factors that make eLearning content more dynamic and interesting than a technical manual make them more complex to localize, and all those extras have to be considered in the estimate.
In the end, the quality and accuracy of a ballpark quote depends on how much information is available. The correlation is pretty clear: the more information you have, the better the quote will be, and the more useful it will be in determining your project scope and selecting a localization partner.
The Thin-Air Ballpark Quote
You could tell five vendors that you have “a fifteen-minute course in Spanish” and you’d get five different numbers with five different lists of questions and assumptions and caveats, because there’s a lot of information missing there. What program did you use to make this course? Are there subtitles? Videos? Voiceover? Animations that need to be synced up? A 3-D interactive element that we’ll need goggles to even see? Is it for schoolchildren or astronauts?
Each one of these variations can make a huge difference in the costs, timing, and project logistics, so before your vendors ask you, it’s useful to ask yourself:
The Almost-There Ballpark Quote
If you’ve already started creating your course, you probably already know all the answers to the questions above for a basic ballpark quote. But you can get an even more accurate quote by providing additional reference material.
This is important because it helps define the complexity of the course. Let’s say I ask you how long it would take you to draw a flower. Depending on how you do it, there’s a huge difference in how your flower will look and how long you’ll spend—and the same is true of your eLearning content. Are you creating a pared-down, info-focused presentation, or a fully interactive, animation-heavy masterpiece? Seeing a sample of the content helps estimate the corresponding localization time.
Reference material can include:
From Ballpark to Ballgame
Even if you provide all the right information and every reference file you can muster, a ballpark is still a ballpark. But when you can’t wait for the final files to get quotes, it has its value. If you get lots of ballparks for a project, you might have to compare what each vendor assumed and narrow it down based on a lot of mights. The most important thing to look for is that the vendor made those assumptions, and that those assumptions were based on experience with similar projects. As a vendor, it’s easy to just shrug and throw a number out there, hoping it’s lower than what everyone else says, but when it comes time for the project to begin, things will go much more smoothly if your vendor has already considered all the possible variations in the process and is prepared to handle whatever you throw at them. In the end, you can get the most out of the ballpark by providing as much information as possible and acknowledging the limitations of a preliminary estimate.