If you’re searching for a translation agency, it can be daunting. Everyone claims to have amazing quality, great prices, and super-fast turnaround. Trying to choose the right translation partner feels a lot like choosing the right builder or the right car mechanic — like throwing darts in the dark. Here are some things to think about that will help you refine your search for the right translation partner.
1. Large, medium, or small – what’s the right size agency for you?
Translation agencies range in size from tiny companies covering only one language to large businesses with sales exceeding $500 million. You should think about which will suit your needs best. The largest agencies like TransPerfect and Lionbridge have massive resources and experience, but they may be less flexible in meeting your needs. Unless you’re spending big bucks, you will never be a key customer for them. However, if you’re spending above $1 million, you may well benefit from the global coverage and depth of experience offered by the big players.
Smaller translation companies are likely to show more flexibility, and you know your business is important for them. However, small agencies may lack in-house technology expertise, and may not be able to cover the range of services you need. Do they have the systems and resources to meet your needs? However, if your requirement is small, simple and unlikely to grow, a small agency may offer you the care and attention you will never get from a large translation agency.
2. Technology matters
From Machine Translation to workflow automation, technology is increasingly central to the localisation industry. Many customers begin to translate without an understanding of the technology options, and only start exploring when the wheels start to come off the multilingual workflow, or when budgets can’t keep up. Think forward a few years and anticipate how your volume might grow, or which new markets you might target. Make sure you pick a translation agency with the technology smarts to help you grow. Check your partner is confident working with Machine Translation and has a range of integration options for your CMS, cloud file store or code repository.
3. Do you need a specialist translation agency?
Most translation agencies cover a range of specialisations, but if your content is focused in one specialist area, you could consider going with a specialist translation agency. For instance, if you need patent translations, an agency like RWS has decades of experience at the intersection of intellectual property and translation. Specialist agencies may offer related services (e.g. patent filing) which the generalists don’t.
In practice, most translation services buyers need a variety of specialisations. You may need to translate your website (marketing), T&Cs (legal), product specifications (technical) and employee communications (HR). Unless your content is mainly of one type, your best bet is to go with a generalist agency which can handle all your requirements. If your translation volumes are large enough, you could consider splitting projects between several specialist agencies, routing individual projects to the appropriate agency. If you decide to do this, make sure you maintain a central Translation Memory and Terminology Database to avoid duplicate translations by different agencies. Make sure you have a Style Guide in place to achieve greater consistency between work from different translators at different agencies.
4. Full-service translation agencies vs transactional websites
If your requirement is a one-off, there are some great transactional websites like Gengo. Services like these are low cost, but work on the basis that you’re unlikely to need much support, and your projects will be pretty straightforward. If you have an ongoing translation requirement involving multiple languages and file formats, you need an agency with the right service level to support you. How flexible are they? How experienced are their Project Managers? Do they have experience in Multilingual SEO? Will they charge you additional fees for certain formats? Can they handle the range of media that you need such as web, video, and DTP? It’s really hard to assess the quality of service provided by a translation agency without seeing how they perform. Here are a few things you can do:
- Ask if you can talk to a couple of their existing clients to get an impartial view
- Order a small trial translation. This will allow you to see their turnaround times, approach to translating tricky terminology, and give you an idea of how you are treated as a customer.
- Get a tour of their Customer Portal — make sure it’s easy to use and has the features you need, from placing orders to retrieving invoices, adding users etc.
- Check how they measure customer satisfaction, ask if they can share any current metrics with you.
5. Is turnaround time important for you?
Sometimes you need a super-fast translation, and there are translation agencies that specialise in this. OneHourTranslation are pioneers in this space and claim to be able to start any project within an hour, and then deliver up to 200 words of translation per hour.
So if you need fast-turnaround translation, there are plenty of options. Bear in mind, however, that there is a cost to translating at speed. There are a limited number of translators who are available to start right away, so you will likely get a different translator each time who doesn’t know your business. There may not be time to allow proofreading by a second translator, a critical step for most translation projects. Dealing with important queries from the translator may be difficult in the pressure cooker atmosphere of a fast-turnaround translation project.
Our advice: try to plan ahead and leave enough time for the translation. You will get better quality at a lower cost. For more guidance, check out our blog post about how long a translation takes.
6. Are you looking to translate high volumes at a very low cost?
When you see property reviews in German on AirBNB or product descriptions in French on eBay, these have probably been translated using Machine Translation. Human translation is simply not an option for high volume, user-generated content, and larger translation agencies specialise in building custom Machine Translation Engines for customers like eBay. One of the most interesting translation agencies in this space is Lilt who train custom machine translation engines, but also allow human translators to interact with suggested translations. Lilt say,
“…the system updates those improved suggestions across the rest of the document and all future projects for your organization. That means that each translator is working not just to translate content, but also to train our systems to be more accurate for your organization.”
We hope you found this short guide helpful. Of course, we hope that we might be the right translation partner for you! If you would like to talk and explore the options, get in touch and let’s talk.