Outsourcing DTP work

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This article discusses situations where a client such as a direct client, translation agency or freelance translator outsources the typesetting portion of a translation job to an external vendor such as an agency, company or freelance DTP specialist/graphics artist. The pre-translation conversion, back-conversion, and typesetting for most DTP formats can follow the procedure below:


  1. The client provides their DTP files such as INDD or QXP. It is also important to provide the fonts and images if applicable. To do so, the respective “Export” feature in the DTP application can be used. Because sometimes the fonts used in the source files cannot be used in the target files, the client also needs to indicate the font to be used or let the vendor choose an appropriate font.
  2. The client confirms the language the files will be translated into (e.g. English to Russian), so that the vendor can use the correct preparation procedures for this language combination if any and set this combination in the translation environment files.
  3. The client confirms the translation environment tool they want to use in this job such as Wordfast Pro or any other tools. Otherwise, the vendor can extract the translatable text into a table with the “Source” and “Target” columns.
  4. The vendor converts the original files and delivers the translatable files and also PDFs for reference.
  5. The client's supplier or translator completes the translation, creating bilingual files and using the PDFs for reference.
  6. The client returns these bilingual files to the vendor.
  7. The vendor back-converts and typesets these files, then sends the PDFs for the client's review.
  8. The client's reviewer (preferably, the original translator) reviews the PDFs and returns them with annotated corrections. Normally, English is used for such annotations, because the DTP vendor often does not know any other languages. If a translation environment tool was used, the client would normally ask the client's reviewer to also correct the bilingual files, so that the client can update the translation memory for future use.
  9. The vendor implements the corrections and creates the final DTP files and also PDFs. If the client's reviewer made many corrections, they may also request or be requested to review the PDFs again to ensure that all corrections were implemented properly.
  10. The vendor delivers the final files to the client and confirms the time spent on this job for the invoice.


  1. It is normally cheaper for the client to send the annotated PDFs after review, but not the updated bilingual files. When the client sends the updated bilingual files instead, the vendor normally has to completely redo the entire typesetting, which usually costs the client more as compared to implementing the corrections to the already typeset files. For instance, when a reviewer made just a few corrections, it will take about 5 to 10 minutes to insert them in the existing typeset files, while redoing the entire typesetting from scratch takes at least 30 minutes and usually more. Additionally, the reviewer is supposed to check the PDFs for formatting issues, but when they return the updated bilingual files only, they obviously do not report any. And the client can only wonder whether theу did not actually find any formatting issues or just did not care to report them. However, sometimes it is indeed easier to redo the entire typesetting from scratch—when a reviewer made so many corrections that implementing them will take more time than redoing the typesetting. Given the above, the client would usually instruct their reviewer to insert any changes directly in the PDFs.
  2. Since this conversion and typesetting process involves many steps and participants, it is normally difficult to establish any accurate deadlines beforehand. If is therefore generally recommended to always reserve as much time as possible for the process.

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