11 things you must know before requesting translation services

Choosing the right translation services is like finding a needle in a haystack.

There are roughly 30,000 language service providers to choose from. And if all you know is that you need translation services, how can you be sure you’re requesting them from the right provider?

Whether you are new to translation services, or looking for a better way to consolidate your organization’s current translation processes, here are 11 important things every company should know before requesting translation services.

Per-word rates, technology fees, project management costs, quality processes, vendor management responsibilities . . . when it comes to purchasing translation services, you’ve got a lot to think about.

It can be pretty overwhelming. Heck, you may even want to throw your hands in the air and just go with the vendor with the best rates. Translation services are all the same, right? Not really.

But how exactly can you be sure you’ve made a solid choice when you sign on the dotted line?

Here are five tips to guide you so you don’t hastily make a decision you’ll soon regret.

1. Per-word rates may not reflect total program costs

Per-word rates are usually based on new-word rates, which means they don’t reflect any savings from translation memory. Instead of simply signing off on an initial rate, make sure your provider offers opportunities to help you save money on translation services long term.

Look at the company’s ability to manage your translation memory so you can find more—and more accurate—content matches (which are priced significantly lower than new-word rates). Check out A better translation memory: What should your company look for? to learn more.

On another note, per-word rates are unlikely the only charges you’ll see on the bill. Ask potential providers if they charge for technology, project management, setup or any other fees. Doing this ahead of time helps you avoid unexpected drains on your translation services budget.

2. Consider that you get what you pay for . . .

Be wary of providers with extremely low rates. They may be passing savings on to you because they are skipping out on crucial areas that affect your business. For example, they may not provide you with the complete translate-edit-proof process (which is vital for translation quality) or they may work with less-qualified linguists.

This is risky. Low-quality translations can cost you a great deal of time and money if you have to fix mistakes (expenses unlikely factored into your budget). Even worse, errors that aren’t caught can result in product recalls or in some cases put your customers in harm’s way—which would paint your brand reputation negatively.

Ask providers how they track and measure quality so you can hold them each accountable. Check out our white paper Ensuring translation quality: 10 questions you should ask your provider so you can effectively gauge their commitment to quality.

3. Think about process improvements to help drive cost savings long term

In addition to quality, make sure providers offer innovative technologies and capabilities—like process automation and systems integration—to improve productivity. When employees spend less time tediously emailing files for translation back and forth, they can focus more time on what the company pays them to do (which ultimately drives more revenue for the business).

Ask, too, about process centralization. A centralized translation process gets all departments and business units working together on translation services initiatives to drive greater consistency, cost savings and process control.

For example, you can still work with multiple vendors but also have a centrally stored translation memory. And a bigger pool of translation memory to draw from means more cost savings for everyone. Check out A centralized translation process: Getting the control you crave for more on that.

4. Look for expertise and experience

No one knows about a provider’s rates and services like its current clients, right? A provider should be able to give you case studies and references to help you make a sound decision.

See if the company has built strong translation programs for similar-sized global companies in your space. Make sure they have expertise in your industry along with subject matter knowledge and experience with your content needs. This groundwork can bring to light any red flags or allay any fears before going into this partnership.

5. Samples do not necessarily reflect quality

When shopping for translation services, it’s quite common for companies to ask for a translation sample. If you do this, don’t focus too heavily on these. While a sample can give you a good indication of linguists’ skills, they rarely show their full capabilities. Quality is a process, not a one-time event.

For example, samples are usually created without company glossaries, styles guides and other resources which help linguists understand your translation preferences around messaging, brand identity and more. When samples are returned, evaluate them with this in mind so you can compare vendor quality apples to apples.

Don’t get stuck in a partnership that doesn’t pan out. At Sajan, we’re here for the long haul. We can build a translation program to help drive efficiency and cost savings, all the while helping you achieve your global business goals.

So what do you think? What other factors should be considered to be a savvy shopper for translation services?

6. The scope of your translation program.

The first thing you’ll want to have full comprehension of prior to requesting translation services is the scope of your translation program. Note that we say program – and not project. Knowing how many words and how many language pairs your first project will require is certainly important, but your translation services should also be able to scale to fit the future needs of your translation program. Upcoming projects or potential translation opportunities may require new language pairs, larger workflows, additional project managers and other translation services. Partnering with a translation provider who won’t be able to offer these services later forces you to backtrack and research other alternatives – which can be a major hassle and waste of time.

7. What your internal request team looks like.

To find a translation provider who can better partner with your organization, you’ll need a complete understanding of your internal team. Who is responsible for requesting translations? Do your requestors have certain expectations? Will there be specific points of contact for particular projects? Having an outline of your project requestors and their specific needs will help you find translation services that complement your entire group – eradicating translation inconsistencies and needless costs. Knowing your internal request team will also give you an idea of the specific translation services each of your team members may require – or find added value in.

8. How your multilingual data will be managed.

If you’re new to translation services and currently do not have multilingual content, then this is something you’ll want to inquire about. It’s important that your translation provider can adequately capture and manage your multilingual content in a secure, centralized repository known as translation memory. This allows you to reuse any previously translated segments for future projects whenever applicable – which helps control costs and reduce time spent retranslating your company’s content. Indopak offers a centralized translation memory solution which contextualizes your translations by department while allowing you to reuse any translations across your entire organization.

If your company has previously requested translations, it’s important to know whether you have access to any existing multilingual content. If you do, we can use this data to build a customized translation memory for you – which can then be applied to your future projects, when applicable, to alleviate translation costs and inconsistencies.

9.  All of your quality-ensuring tools and requirements.

Finding a translation provider who offers quality translations is essential. Yet there are ways you can help ensure translation quality before choosing a translation provider – including the development of style guides and glossaries. These can be given to your translation provider prior to translation to help them adhere to your organization’s terminology, messaging and writing style for each target language. It’s also important for you to share clear expectations for how you want quality to be measured and controlled. Quality requirements can vary significantly depending on the organization – so making your expectations clear to your translation provider before requesting their services allows them to meet your standards and provide you with satisfactory translation services.

10. Your desired state of transparency.

Knowing the fundamental metrics is vital to running a successful business – and the same goes for managing your translation program. If you have little or no business insight into the translations you’re requesting – outside of total costs – you could be overlooking process inefficiencies or implementing an ineffective translation program. Whether it’s scrutinizing your translation quality, pinpointing cost-saving opportunities or charting your translation process control – know your organization’s desired state of program transparency and any business reports you wish to receive from your translation provider. These will not only help you validate the work of your provider, but will also give you better insight into your return on investment from your translation expenditure.

11. Your business objectives.

Many organizations fail to see the connection between business objectives and translation services, but believe us – it’s there. Whether your company’s global objective is to enter new markets or become stronger in one, make sure your future objectives are well defined before seeking translation services. This way, you will be more likely to find a partner who understands your long term goals and can better align their services to your organization.  Knowing your business objectives also helps us allocate the right project management team, create more efficient processes and find appropriate solutions for your translation program – to help you reach your goals sooner.

Rushing into a partnership with a translation provider can cause a lot of damage – especially when you find out their services are not customizable to your program’s needs. Be sure you understand these six things about your translation program prior to requesting translation services, and you can be more confident in your choice.


If gathering all of this information prior to selecting a translation provider seems overwhelming or simply not feasible, don’t fret. Indopak offers localization assessments – in which an experienced solutions architect analyzes the current state of your translation program and maps out your company’s best approach to localization services. This way, you’re armed with the right information prior to shopping the market. To learn more about Indopak’s localization assessment services, see our Consulting Services webpage.

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