Choosing a Translation Agency – 11 Things to Consider

Choosing a Translation Agency – 11 Things to Consider

It’s no easy feat finding a translation agency that truly meets your needs and delivers a high quality service. With so many agencies to choose from, finding the right one can seem like an overwhelming task.

It’s important to be confident that the agency you choose has the skill and capacity to deliver what you need. Here are 11 things to consider before you make your choice:

1 – Know what you need

Know what you need from your translation agency

Before you start your search, it’s important to know exactly what you need. Start with a few key questions:

What needs to be translated?

What language pairs do I need?

Is the content highly specialised or or technical?

What is the deadline?

Both you and your agency will need to be completely clear on what is needed and expected. Having a clear understanding of your requirements will make it far easier to find the ideal agency. Our ‘How to Write a Translation Brief’ blog post covers everything you’ll need to know.

2 – Expertise

Oncall staff using their expertise to conduct their work

When looking for an agency, make sure they can demonstrate that they have provided services of varying complexities, industries and languages.  A lot of agencies have some impressive client badges on their website.  But what work did they do for those clients?  The type of document translated makes a huge difference.

Longevity is another key factor – how long have they been operating as a language service provider?  Do they have genuine experience of the industry?

3 – Languages and Linguists

Oncall's highly trained translators

The best translators have fluency in both languages – the one you are translating from and the one you are translating to. Before choosing an agency, check the quality of their translators – do they have the relevant experience or qualifications?

There are a couple of ways you might do this.  One is to send a test translation, so you can verify the quality.  Another is to ask for a blanked out CV, so you can understand the quality of the translators they use.  However both techniques are not 100% foolproof.

It is probably best to go with a reputable supplier, with an established reputation – and an appreciation for the importance of language.

4 – Specialities

Always look for translators that specialise in a language

Whatever your industry, specialisation, or expertise, it’s helpful to find a translation agency that has experience in your sector. Just because someone is a great translator, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be familiar with the technical terminology of your industry.

The best way to determine this is by speaking to the company and understanding their experience in the sector and how they recruit translators.  You can usually get a good grasp on the level of professionalism based on their response to the question of linguist recruitment.

5 – Quality

Look at the translation companies quality control procedures

The best agencies will have quality control measures and procedures in place and will make these available to potential clients to ensure that their translation is accurate, precise and conveys the information in the way it was intended.

You can get a good understanding of the quality by asking to see the processes the agency has.  Another good measure is whether they have any ISO accreditations – a real benchmark of whether they have the baseline processes needed to provide an efficient service.

Another aspect of quality to consider is whether they use CAT tools and Translation Memory (TM).  These are technologies designed to help improve translation quality and consistency, and along with term bases lead to cheaper, better translation results.

6 – Accreditations

Look for a translation agency who has recognised accreditations

Which leads us nicely onto accreditations as an indicator of suitability.

Agencies that have gained internationally recognised accreditations (such as the ISO9001), and those that are members of industry bodies such as the ATC or GALA meet or exceed the standards set out by international and industry organizations.

These memberships are usually an assurance of their dedication to continual company wide improvements of the services they provide.

7 – Confidentiality

It is important that a translation agency understands confidentiality

Confidentiality is particularly important if you are working with sensitive content such as medical records, government information or legal transcripts. This information should be held in the utmost confidence and security. You’ll want to know how your information is handled, where your documents are stored and whether or not the agency will be sending your material out to a freelancer.

Check that your agency has rigorous privacy procedures.  Do they have an internal or external IT function?  Do they have an existing NDA policy?  These are the sorts of questions that will prompt insightful discussions.


8 – Adaptability

Make sure your translation company can adapt to your needs

It’s important that the agency you choose can adapt to suit your needs. You may have a lengthy sign-off process in-house or an extremely tight deadline – so be sure that both parties are confident and comfortable in delivering what is needed.

This isn’t something that can be tested very easily – but can be managed by having a very specific timeline and project outcome expectations.  This will avoid any ambiguity and make your expectations clear.

9 – Responsiveness

A responsive agency is an attentive agency.  And an attentive agency is a good agency.

A good indicator of how responsive an agency is might be how quickly they respond to your quote and future communications.  Do they call you back quickly?

Any lack of responsiveness at this early stage should really ring alarm bells.

10 – Testimonials

Testimonials are always a good indicator

As well as reading online reviews and client feedback, you’ll be able to judge a translation agency by looking at the types of clients they’ve previously worked with.

Google Places, Review Centre and Trustpilot are three commonly used review sites which may help you check for any known issues.

You may also like to check out their project managers on LinkedIn.  Good ones might have client recommendations on their profile.

11 – Cost

Cost of the translation

Low quotes are like Google Translate.  They should be approached with caution.

As with every other service – you get what you pay for. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should opt for the most expensive agency, just be sure to check that they can meet your standards and expectations.  After all, a damaged reputation can be costly and prove a hidden cost.

And a word of warning – make sure you compare like for like.  Is this a post-edited machine level of translation?  Standard translation?  Translation and proofreading?  Transcreation?  Your agency should advise you on the different options and provide a price that’s fit for your purpose.  Not theirs.

Need some help? (option 2)

Now you should be in a good position to go forward and make a really good choice for your language needs.

Whatever option you choose, remember that any good client/language relationship needs to be a true partnership.

If you’re still stuck, feel free to get in touch, and we’d love to help with your language needs.  Fill in our contact form and we’ll be right back in touch.