Metropolitan Translations is a boutique translation agency. We help our clients understand what can go wrong and how to protect yourselves when hiring a translation agency. While at first glance some of these may seem like common sense, it pays to be aware of all possible situations you may encounter. The following list of 7 mistakes to avoid when hiring a translation agency details the most common pitfalls facing clients new to purchasing translation services.
Mistake #1: Not knowing exactly what you need translated
When hiring a translation agency, many clients do not have a detailed Request for Proposal (RFP) that clearly describes their needs.
But that’s okay. We’re flexible (and so are most good translation agencies)!
Even in the absence of an official RFP, you can get an accurate price quote. Before contacting any translation agency, you should think about what exactly needs to be translated. Is it images with embedded text? Or is it text only? Do you have tables, charges and graphs? Do you need translations into multiple languages or just one? How quickly do you need it?
Lack of detail can lead to an extended timeline, an inaccurate quote, or even unacceptable translations.
Make sure that you ask the right questions and that the translation agency has detailed forms to fill out that will get all the parameters of the project right the first time.
Mistake #2: Not inquiring about hidden costs
The best translation agencies will be transparent about pricing. Many clients aren’t aware that there may be other costs associated with a translation project besides the actual translation—but an excellent agency will tell you this up front.
Does your project require image editing? Will you need desktop publishing? Does your text need complicated formatting?
Keep in mind that every agency will have its own rates for these services. Sometimes a translation involves many other nuts and bolts, so be sure that your agency is up front with you about them.
Mistake #3: Not getting a written contract!
Some translation companies work without written contracts. It’s best to avoid them when hiring a translation agency. You must protect yourself by getting at least the following three key items in writing. They are:
- A detailed description of the translation service to be provided
- A hard delivery date
- A price range (including the maximum price that will not change)
Without a detailed RFP and/or contract, you may end up getting results you don’t want, waiting for an overdue project to be finished, and suffering through endless delays.
Some agencies may provide an initial quote but when the project is done tack on an extra 10% because the project was more intensive than initially expected. Avoid this by getting the maximum price in writing at the start.
Mistake #5: Not being absolutely sure your agency is equipped to handle your translation
Some translation clients fail to ask if the agency they’ve chosen has experience translating the languages or subjects requested.
If you ask an agency whether they can translate from Language X into English, they will likely give you an emphatic “Yes!” However, once you ask them if they have translated in that combination before, you might be in for a surprise.
Similarly, some translation buyers fail to find out if they agency they’ve chosen has experience translating in a specific field such as biotech, marketing, medicine, or law.
In other words, don’t hire a translation agency unless they’ve done translations in your required specialization before. This is true for every industry.
Don’t take any chances. Always verify that the agency has the requisite language knowledge and experience to ensure a flawless result.
Mistake #6: Not asking about processes in place for when something goes wrong
When hiring a translation agency, most clients don’t think to ask about what processes are in place for when something goes wrong.
However, when you consider all the steps that go into producing a translation, it’s easy to see the potential for errors. As a rule, clients should always inquire as to how agencies handle customer complaints. A good translation agency will have a process in place should something go wrong. How a translation agency answers this question may indicate whether or not you wish to work with them.
As a rule, business runs a lot smoother when issues are addressed promptly and fairly.
Mistake #7: Paying too little
We know, we know. It sounds awful to tell people they are paying too little for translation services, but just hear us out.
As a business, you want your translations to reach your targeted audience and drive results. And services like translation—ones that produce results—aren’t basic. They can’t be done on the cheap but they can, however, be constrained by budget. That budget determines how much can be done towards improving a client’s business.
Our aim as a translation agency is to provide the most possible value. In order to do this, we need to embed ourselves into our clients’ businesses.
Most clients want a trusted partner that can help them reach their goals, and not a tool to try and do it themselves. The time and effort that goes into producing a flawless translation cannot be understated.
What’s more, the better translation agencies will work with better translators to produce better translations. And these translations are worth every penny! Hiring a translation agency that has your best interests in mind can result in better work.
One good rule of thumb is this: the cheaper your translation agency, the busier it is. And the busier a translation agency, the less time they can devote on perfecting your project.
Putting it all together
If you avoid the seven mistakes listed above, your translation project should go off without a hitch. Metropolitan Translations would like to help you take the first step by providing you a list of sample questions to ask a translation agency.
- Can you respond to an RFP or do you have detailed project order forms?
- What are your rates for each of the services you offer?
- Can you agree to a hard delivery date in writing?
- Do you have experience with the specialization I am requesting?
- Do you have experience with the language combination(s) I am requesting?
- Do you have client references available?
- Will your contract contain a detailed description and explanation of the services to be provided?
- How do you verify the qualifications of translators you work with?
- How do you handle customer proposals, contracts, and price quotes?
- What do you do if a customer complains?
- How do you handle proofreading and editing?
- What is your quality assurance process like?
- Can you provide a maximum price quote that will not change?