How to Choose a Translation Agency? - Part 3


The website of the translation agency can look good, and judging by its correspondence, it may seem very professional. Nonetheless, it is in your best interest to check if the company is legitimate and financially stable. What are its confidentiality policies? Is the agency insured? 


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Some of the most important aspects you should consider include:


  • Legal registry. Most countries have public business registers, where you should be able to check, free of charge, whether the company is in the process of cessation, liquidation, insolvency, reorganisation or other legal proceedings.
  • Financial standing. In those same registries, for some fee, full financial reports should also be accessible, if you would like to have a deeper look at company’s financial position. Or simply ask the company to provide you with recent balance sheets. Since this information is public anyway, the company should have no objections in providing you with this information.
  • Third party commercial evaluation. If time and budget allows, legal and financial background checks could also be outsourced to third party company to prepare a commercial evaluation.
  • Professional indemnity insurance. If your line of business involves highly sensitive texts, which could potentially incur serious damages, or, large financial sums are at stake, you should discuss with the translation company if they would be willing to arrange a professional indemnity insurance, if the agency does not already have such a policy.
  • Confidentiality. Ask what policies translation agency has in place to ensure safe and confidential handling of your content and ask for a signed non-disclosure agreement.



A translation agency’s technological capabilities should play a very significant part in your selection of translation partner. Applied correctly, technological solutions will provide substantial cost savings, shorter turnaround times and better consistency.


Smart translation agencies are constantly looking for new and better ways to eliminate costly, manual actions through process automation and system integration. At the centre of these efforts should be you, the customer. 


At the very minimum, your prospective partners should work with:


  • Translation Memory tools.
  • Terminology Management tools.

Taking control of your terminology and reusing the already translated content can help you to decrease costs by 40% or more, depending on the type of texts with which you usually work. Be clear on who has ownership of these informational assets (hint - it should be the customer) and make sure the suggested solution is not too particular to any given application or utility and that it allows for interoperability with other systems.


If you work with a Content Management System (CMS), a translation agency should also be able to offer you integration possibilities with the Translation Management systems (TMS). Likewise, if you have large amounts of content that currently is not being translated because of budgetary or time restraints, ask the agency if perhaps Machine Translation (MT) solutions could potentially help you solve these challenges.




To be sure your potential partners have a sustainable business:


  • Check the legal and financial standing of the company.
  • Research its policies on confidentiality and possible liability coverage.

When talking "tech", ask:


  • What are the agency' s technological capabilities and experience. (TMS and CMS integration)
  • How they can improve your multilingual terminology quality and consistency. (Terminology management)
  • How they can reduce your expenses for large scale projects (MT)

The first part of the article discussed communication aspects, while the second part described what to consider regarding price and references.

How to Choose a Translation Agency? - Part 2

While standardised pricing models are becoming increasingly popular in the translation industry, most translation agencies will not display a pricelist of their services on their homepage. Why? Because prices typically are tailored to each individual client, or even project. 



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Factors such as service range and complexity, expected quality level and application, subject area, text type or volume will all be considered when estimating the base prices.




A more efficient approach than asking for standard price list is to ask for a quotation, i.e., a price estimate for the services you ask to be provided. The quotations you receive should be comparable, so the information in your quotation request should indicate at least the following:


  • the languages in which the service is required,
  • preferred delivery time,
  • how the translation will be used.

If possible, submit all content that you require translated, so that agencies can take into account the whole volume and analyse the amount of repetitive and similar content.


Pay attention to what services the prices include, as some companies will charge for Project Management as a separate service, while others will include it in the translation costs.


Specific quotations will also provide a good means of comparison if your intention is to find a long-term partner or you have a very particular set of requirements. Inform the prospective partners about your yearly volumes (even better if you can give some statistics of translated materials from previous years) and about your long-term translation needs, as it has significant impact on how translation the agency will construct the price proposal.


Either way, be wary of very low prices - professional translation agencies have made considerable investments (human resources, technologies, quality standards etc.) to ensure professional service. So, unless the agency can give a credible explanation, a significantly lower price may indicate some corners have been cut.




All translation agencies will claim that they offer excellent quality and are simply the best with whom to work. Do not just take their word for it, but rather see what proof there is for such claims. Go to their websites and look for:


  • Case studies. Look for case studies of clients in your industry or accomplished projects that are similar to your projects.
  • Certifications. While not an automatic guarantee for quality, certifications according to standards such as ISO 9001:2008 or EN 15038:2006, will mean the translation agency has defined procedures and uses a systematic approach for ensuring that the services provided meet customer requirements.
  • Testimonials. While some will find them overly positive, it still is praise well earned. If you have your reservations towards a selection of a carefully selected examples of positive work on homepage, ask them to put you in touch with at least 3 of their customers to obtain up-to-date references. Or ask the translation agency to give you specific samples of the accomplished work that is relevant to you.
  • Values. When browsing through agencies’ homepages, you should be able to get some feeling as to what their identity, ethical and work values are. Look for companies with whom you share the same values and ethics.



To be sure you are receiving a good quality service, but not overpaying:


  • Understand the approximate price range by asking for a free quotation to several agencies;
  • Be clear about what level of quality you expect and the intended use of text;
  • Pay attention to what services are included in the quote, so that quotes are comparable;
  • As prices may differ significantly, ask for clarifications if some quotation is considerably lower than others.

Visit a translation agency’s website or ask for specific project examples to check its qualifications:


  • Look for case studies that are similar to the type of work you have;
  • Standards and certifications will signal commitment towards quality and customer satisfaction;
  • Check testimonials or ask for direct contact with its customers in order to obtain up-to-date references.
  • Shared values will help make cooperation more productive and positive.

The first part of the article discussed communication aspects, while the final part will describe what to consider regarding security and technology.


How to Choose a Translation Agency? - Part 1

Whether entering onto global markets or expanding your business locally, it is important to communicate with your partners and customers in a language they understand. Translation plays a key role in this process, and a reliable translation partner can help you take your business in the right direction. The question is: How do you find the right partner? 


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The easiest and most reliable way, of course, is through word-of-mouth recommendation. You will save time and money if someone can directly recommend you a translation partner with whom he has had a good experience; one who is trusted and who suits your needs.


However, what do you do if you do not have any recommendations and you need to choose from thousands of translation service providers out there?


We have prepared a list with five areas of consideration that will help you to determine which translation agency could best suit your specific situation and provide you with the most value.




Once you have pre-selected the four or five translation agencies you like best, write each of them a short e-mail inquiring about their services and see how they reply.


There are some key factors to consider:


  • Reply time. Observe how quickly they reply to your e-mail and whether they keep this communication speed consistent. You should be fairly pleased with a reply within 10-30 minutes, but keep in mind the differences in working hours when contacting agencies in other time zones.
  • Comprehensibility. A good reply should answer what was asked and demonstrate competence. It should also avoid industry-specific jargon, or at least explain any specific terms in an easy-to-understand way. While the person communicating with you might not necessarily be a linguist, you should still expect a response without typos and free of grammatical, stylistic or other obvious mistakes.
  • Understanding your needs. If the translation agency tries to gain a deeper understanding of what you require and what you expect, it indicates that it cares about delivering good quality work and it focuses on each client individually.  
  • Attitude. A clear and concise approach to communication indicates that the company means business. Such an attitude is very productive and it helps to save time (who wants to read long e-mails?) and minimise the risk of anything being misunderstood. Having said that, the tone of communication is also important. If it is polite and positive, the cooperation overall will be a more pleasant experience.



Best way to get an impression about how the translation agency works is to write a short e-mail to that agency outlining your needs. Key factors to observe:


  • How quickly you get a reply (10-30 min. is a good indicator). Are the reply times consistent?
  • What is the quality of the reply (no jargon, no spelling errors, etc.)?
  • Are you being asked the right questions?
  • Does the agency try to understand your individual needs?
  • What is the agency’s attitude towards a potential new client (polite, practical)?

The next part of the article will describe what to consider with regards to pricing and references, while the third part will follow up on security and technology measures.