Anyone who has ever looked for a translation service will have seen how much is on offer out there. There are traditional translation agencies, individual freelance translators and seemingly handy quick translation services – not to mention almost free platform services and completely free machine translation engines. Still, despite the variety it seems difficult to distinguish one translation service provider from another as the key promise of most services is high-quality translations at a low price.
Given the difficulty of choosing, here are our tips on where to order translations.
Translator or translation agency?
First, determine what you are buying: Do you need a one-off translation or are you hoping to find a translation service partner for frequent translation needs? Do you always need translations into the same language or into several different languages? Are standard document translations enough or do you need more technical localisation services, integration with your own systems or additional services not provided by individual translators? The schedule is also important: an individual translator’s capacity is limited, while a translation agency can use the capacity of several translators to respond to more challenging scheduling requests.
As a rule of thumb, the more frequent and extensive your translation needs, the more likely you, as the customer, are to benefit from the services of a slightly larger translation agency.
What is a good translation service like?
Next, define “good”. Consider what kind of translation service you value: Do you want to deal with people or would you rather enter your source text in an anonymous platform service? Can you wait longer for the translation to be completed or is speed all that matters? Define what you mean by quality. What price-quality-speed ratio do you expect? How important are the reliability and references of the service provider? Do you need “a translation only” or are you looking for a translation partner that can offer a superior customer experience?
Once it’s clear to you what issues you are looking to solve, comparing translation agencies becomes slightly easier. A good translation agency is the one that best meets your needs.
How do you assess the competence of a translation agency?
Our experience has taught us that customers are concerned about whether the translator really is familiar with a certain field of business. It may therefore come as a relief to choose a translation agency that claims on its website that it specialises in the field in question. What is often overlooked, however, is that many translation agencies claim they are experts in all fields.
Unfortunately, the professional title of “translator” is not protected and new translation agencies pop up like mushrooms. The market is global and anyone can claim they are providing high-quality translations – cheaply. Therefore, the customer should critically evaluate the competence of translation agencies.
A good translation agency cooperates with specialised translators. Professional translators have good linguistic skills, excellent information search skills and the ability to use modern language technology. A professional translation agency knows how to allocate each assignment to just the right translator, collects a term base of the customer’s terms, requests reference materials and asks the right questions to ensure quality.
As a customer, you should also check the background of the translation agency: On its website, does the company provide information that supports its competence or does it only sell “affordable and high-quality translations”? Do the experience, references and key personnel of the service provider inspire confidence in its competence? What kind of value has the translation agency produced for its customers?
The best indicator of competence is the translation agency’s customer references and results. Remember, you are buying results, not mere promises.
How much does a translation cost?
Good is rarely cheap, and hardly ever free. On the other hand, even a good translation service is not expensive if you look at the price in relation to its value and results. In fact, compared to almost all other expert services, translation costs relatively little. In most cases, pricing is based on the source language word count, and many associated tasks, such as customer meetings or terminology work that can be considered part of translation, are usually not charged separately.
There are big differences in the prices of translation agencies, which is something that customers often wonder about. The reason for the wide range in prices is that translation agencies sell a service, the content of which varies depending on the agency. Where one agency has automated the entire translation process, another provides expert customer service in addition to the translation. Some provide translations at the lowest possible cost, while others apply a quality management system.
When comparing prices, find out what is included in the price of the translation service. For instance, are proofreading and possible rounds of corrections included in the price? What about customer service in case of problems: Where can you find help if the translation has not been delivered by the deadline? Do the customer service personnel speak your language?
The more accurately you can define your needs, the easier it becomes to compare prices. This way you can avoid comparing apples and oranges.
Does technology matter?
Modern translation relies on technology. However, in the case of a one-off translation assignment, it is not usually necessary to pay attention to the language technology used by the translation agency. However, the more extensive the translation needs, the more essential it is that the technology used by the translation agency supports smart ways of ordering translation services.
All professional translation agencies use translation tools, which usually don’t differ that much from one another. What is more important is what the translation agency does with its translation memory software and term bases: Does it keep its customers’ data separate? Are new terms and the customer’s change proposals regularly imported into databases? How does the customer benefit from the accumulation of the translation memory?
Translations are managed in dedicated translation management systems. They offer a variety of functionalities, interfaces and automation possibilities. Select a translation agency that has a system that makes it easier for you to order translations and supports your own business. Such a solution could be, for instance, integration with your own content management system, which means you won’t have to extract the materials to be translated and send files.
Secure machine translation offered by the translation agency, combined with post-editing, could be a solution for translating large volumes of text when the traditional method of translation is too slow and not cost-efficient.
A good translation agency is capable of suggesting the right solution for each situation.
Translation agency’s data security
As part of their daily work, translation agencies handle documents containing confidential information. Unless otherwise agreed, this information is stored in the translation agency’s systems and databases. Individual materials to be translated may also contain personal data, the processing of which is governed by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Therefore, it is not irrelevant where you order your translation.
When choosing a translation agency, keep privacy and GDPR requirements in mind. Find out if the translation agency and its servers are located in a country where the GDPR applies. What is the general data security of the agency like? What does the agency’s terms of delivery and privacy statement say?
A good translation agency is a reliable operator who takes data security and data protection seriously.
Compare several translation agencies
If you are not familiar with any translation agencies and you are seriously looking for a translation partner, you should dedicate some time to searching for a good translation service.
Define your needs, conduct background investigations, ask others for recommendations and finally make a shortlist of suitable suppliers. Only after all this should you proceed to the RFQ stage with the selected suppliers. In the RFQ, specify precisely both the goals and the requirements on the basis of which you will make the decision.
Do not organise solely price-based competitive tendering among randomly selected suppliers unless you are not concerned with any of what has been described above.
Also, don’t buy a pig in a poke: make the service providers prove their competence. Meet suppliers, test how the personal chemistry works and compare what is being offered. If necessary, have them do a test translation or request a demo of their translation systems or connectors.
You will know a good translation agency when you see one.
Who do you want to work with?
Let’s return to where we began in this article: The number of translation service providers is almost limitless. There are low prices and attractive platforms, small boutique agencies and large market leaders. Due to the global nature of the sector, many foreign translation agencies also market their services in Finnish on the Finnish market, even though they have no other connection to Finland.
Which of these alternatives is a good, or perhaps even the best, translation agency?
When choosing a translation agency, treat the decision as if you were hiring a new employee. A good translation agency is the one you want to work with and who you are willing to pay for the value it creates for your business.
Choose a translation agency with which you truly want to build a partnership and solve the language challenges of your business. Translation services are not only about expert service but also about the likes business.