As a small business owner, you may be looking to expand your reach and target new markets by translating your content into different languages.
Choosing a translation provider can be a daunting task - after all, on first sight, they all look the same.
A quick internet search will throw up a huge list of translation agencies offering a range of services. Using an agency, especially if you’re translating content into multiple languages, can be both time and cost effective.
They all promise to work with the best linguists, keep the highest standards of quality, offer the best rates, and promise the fastest turnaround… In short they will take you to a linguistic Nirvana where all your problems will be solved.
Then again, they would say that, wouldn’t they?
No business is going to tell you they pay their translators peanuts, expect them to work evenings and weekends, set unrealistic deadlines that inevitably compromise quality and then skimp on quality checks.
Or worse, bash all your content through a machine translation system and then get a human translator to ‘tidy it up’.
So, in this blog post, I'll mention a few things to keep in mind when choosing a translation provider.
The goal is to find one that meets your needs and delivers high-quality translations without any headaches.
It’s not fool proof, but at least it will help you see beyond the flashy websites and common promises all translation agencies make.
And as you read through, keep in mind that using a translation agency is only one option available to you.
In some cases, you’d be better cutting out the intermediary and dealing with a translator directly - that way you’ll still benefit from their skills and expertise and at the same time develop a solid, collaborative relationship with the person actually translating your content.
What should you look for?
So here are seven things to consider:
1. Define your translation needs
Before you start looking for a translation provider, it's important to define your translation needs.
Do you need translations for a website, marketing materials, legal documents, or all of the above? What languages do you need to translate into? What are your deadlines?
Having a clear understanding of the project will help you narrow down your options and find a provider that can meet your specific requirements.
It also saves time and money to ask yourself these questions before you start so you have realistic expectations about what needs to be translated, how much budget you require and what the deadlines are likely to be.
In my experience, projects tend to become more complicated (and expensive) when the project sponsor hasn’t really given much thought to what they really want to achieve.
2. Look for experience and ability
When choosing a translation provider, it's essential to look for one that has experience in your industry.
A provider that specialises in your industry will have a better understanding of the terminology, processes and nuances that are specific to your business, ensuring that the translations are accurate and appropriate.
In short, someone who speaks your language and the language of your industry.
And that doesn’t mean a default choice of one of the larger translation agencies in the market.
For some topics, you’re better looking at smaller niche agencies that regularly work with clients in your industry - ones that truly understand what your content is all about.
3. Check for certifications and quality assurance
Quality assurance is a critical component of any translation project.
Look for a translation provider that has quality certifications, such as ISO 9001 or ISO 17100.
These certifications ensure that the provider follows a strict set of quality standards and has a robust quality assurance process in place.
One caveat, however, a certification itself isn’t a guarantee of good working practices. It’s just proof that the provider can meet an agreed set of industry standards.
For most reliable translation providers that means they have a good set of internal processes to make sure their work is of a high quality.
But for some, it might be nothing more than a tick-box exercise. And it looks good on a company website.
4. Consider the translation process
A good translation provider should have a well-defined translation process that involves translation, editing, and proofreading.
This process ensures that the translations are accurate, consistent, and free of errors.
Good communication is part of this process - so be prepared for questions, especially if the context is extremely complicated or technical.
You should welcome and respond quickly to any queries the translator might have - it’s a sign they are fully committed to creating the best translation they can.
Additionally, it's important to ensure that the provider has a rigorous review process that includes a final review by a native speaker of the target language.
5. Look for technology integration
In some instances, technology integration is an important factor to consider when choosing a translation provider.
This is especially true for some types of documents, for example, when you’ve used a package like InDesign to create original documents. Translations into Spanish tend to be between 20% and 30% longer than their English equivalents so limitations on space etc. need to be taken into consideration.
Some providers will offer API solutions to integrate translations into your own business systems, and this can be useful when your content is constantly being updated.
Looking for a provider that uses technology to streamline the translation process, can reduce costs, and improve consistency.
6. Consider the level of customer support
Customer support is essential when it comes to translation services.
Look for someone who is willing to work with you, offer suggestions and respond to your concerns.
What’s your first impression of the provider? Do they seem friendly or are they too quick to look for a sale? Does the main contact come across as someone you could work with if there were issues or problems?
A good provider will communicate effectively, be responsive to your calls and emails, ask and answer your questions and support you throughout the translation process.
7. Evaluate the cost
Cost is always an important consideration when choosing a translation provider. However, it's important to remember that quality should come first. So compare pricing and turnaround times between different translation providers.
Keep in mind that cheaper isn't always better.
Don't sacrifice quality for a lower cost, as this could result in inaccurate or inconsistent translations that could harm your business.
That will inevitably mean having realistic expectations when it comes to how long the translation will take.
When a translation provider isn’t the solution
Rather than working with a larger translation provider, you might be better using an individual translator.
Usually translators will work with several providers on a freelance basis, so they’re working directly on the translation for you, and are best placed to discuss potential issues and solutions with you.
The majority of translators will have the specialist understanding and experience of your specific industry, so they know what message you want to convey in your translated content.
Having the same translator work on all your translated content contributes to consistency and quality - the consistent use of terminology and tone of voice.
This often results in a more tailored approach to the translation project, and this collaboration can be highly productive.
In summary, choosing the right translation provider for your small business requires careful consideration of a number of factors.
If you’re looking to translate content into multiple languages, a translation provider will be able to meet your needs - but do some due diligence. Don’t just rely on the promises they make on their website.
If you’re translating into a single language, consider using a freelance translator and deal with them directly. This often results in a long-term and mutually beneficial working relationship.
Regardless of your choice, remember quality is key - especially for customer-facing materials and content. Only then will translation help you reach new markets and grow your business.
If you’d like to discuss how your business can benefit from translation services or how to find the best provider for your business, please get in touch!