7 questions to ask a translation company before placing your order

Customers buying translation are often doing so for the first time, so it’s easy to be taken in by disreputable providers who cut corners and don’t give the right advice. We don’t want anyone to get caught out by the cowboys, so here are some important questions you should ask before placing your work with any translation company:

Does the price include proofreading?

The best language service providers will include this in their pricing for most projects, as it’s a widely held belief that a translation that has not been proofread is not ready for publication. While there are some instances where proofreading is not necessary; such as for text that will be used internally, or just for information; in most cases you shouldn’t scrimp on this in order to save money.

Is translation memory used on all projects as standard?

Translation memory discounts repeated segments of text to speed up the translation process, improve consistency, and reduce the overall cost of your project. Most reputable translation providers will use translation memory at the quote stage to let you know how much money you can save, and they should do this as standard for all compatible file types. Read more about translation memory here.

Do you offer discounts for regular orders/repeat business?

It costs around 6 times more to win a new customer than to retain an existing one, so your repeat business is extremely valuable. This gives you a certain amount of leverage to negotiate if you know you will be placing a large volume of translation work. If the price is not sufficiently appealing, then do shop around – but make sure you are comparing like with like quotes and don’t forget other factors such as speed of turnaround, standard of translation and (last but not least) the quality of customer service you can expect.

Will I have a dedicated Account Manager?

This comes back to the question of customer service. Many companies will cut their overheads in order to give you a cheaper price, and one of the first things that will be compromised is the level of attention you’ll get from their staff. An assigned account manager will get to know your needs and preferences, and will take pride in doing an excellent job. If the company you choose operates more of a conveyor belt approach where the work is taken care of by the next available person, you lose that continuity and the level of service is not comparable. You need to decide if this is an important factor for you and your business.

Will my project include a review stage?

This will keep them on their toes – any sizeable project (over 10,000 words) should have an extra review stage after proofreading/editing has taken place to ensure the translation fits its intended purpose. Some clients have in-country representatives or other native staff who they prefer to undertake this; alternatively your translation provider should be able to offer a third party review (which is likely to involve an additional charge).

Do you charge a fee for Project Management or File processing?

It’s common to attach a Project Management fee to projects that are large in volume, or that are likely to take a lot of a Project Manager’s time. Additional charges are often made for any files that may need to be processed into an alternative format for translators to work with, or for any work inputting content into a client’s website content management system. Bear in mind that just because the price for the translation itself seems cheap doesn’t mean that you won’t pay extra elsewhere – some project management fees are as high as 20% of the overall value of the project. Make sure the quote includes a clear breakdown so that you can see clearly what you are being charged for what. This will make it much easier to compare with your other quotes.

How soon can you have it ready?

This one is a bit of a trap. Lots of translation providers will promise to deliver really quickly, but if they do, chances are they are not taking very long to select an appropriate translator to work on it, or are pressurising someone to take on the work. A good, honest response is to give an indication of how long it is likely to take, and promise that the Project Manager responsible will confirm once the work has been accepted by a translator.

For reference, a good translator can complete about 2,000 words of text in a full working day – any more and they are probably rushing it.*

By planning in advance and taking into account factors such as print deadlines, you’ll have some flexibility around when you need the translations back, so can give your chosen provider ample time to do a good job.

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Please share any other questions you think need to be asked when negotiating with a translation provider.

*Translation memory does help to speed up the process, but 2,000 words is a good benchmark for an average day’s work.

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