How to find the right translation agency for your marketing content

As soon as you start doing business with people from other countries, you come up against language barriers. Once your business reaches a certain level, you can’t really do without professional translations. This is especially true for creative fields, such as advertising, marketing and communications. But how do you find the right agency to translate your content? 

What is a translation agency? 

A translation agency is a company that provides translation services and manages translation projects for their clients. Otherwise known by the more general term of language service providers, or LSPs, they often offer other services such as typesetting (DTP), proofreading, copywriting and other language-related services. They have a large network of translators and revisers, which enables them to handle large-scale projects into numerous languages at a time.

Why is it important to find the right agency? 

Working with a good translation agency should be an easy process. They will manage your project for you, check both the original and the translated text for errors and ensure that every project is in expert hands. At the end of the day, they will be on your side and want to do what they can to help. The right agency for you will be within your budget, hold the same values as you, and provide expert knowledge and a helping hand throughout the translation process. Working with the wrong agency might end up causing you extra stress, be it due to missed deadlines, mistranslations or misunderstandings about the right translation service for you. Translation agencies tend to charge slightly higher prices than freelance translators for a number of reasons that include double checking of work, professional networks and back-up in busy periods for example.

How to choose a translation agency: best practices

Step 1: Consider your current translation needs

How much do you need translating? Is it an email to your German business partners every few weeks, or is it at least one social media post per day? Do you send multiple marketing emails a month, to a variety of countries? If your needs are more specific and technical (i.e. a few simple emails in one language combination, without too much time pressure) then working with an individual translator might be the right choice for you. Platforms such as proz.com can help you look for possible contacts for this option. The more international, diverse and creative your business becomes, the more important it is that you contact an agency, which will have a network of translation providers all over the world.

Top tip: Ask your colleagues from other departments whether they also need any translations, or just get the ball rolling yourself. The bigger the order, the better your basis for negotiation.

Step 2: Research possible partners

Have you already tried googling ‘translation agency’ or even just ‘translation’? The results aren’t very exciting, unless you were hoping to find an online dictionary, or you wanted Google Translate to do some work for you. What’s more, your perfect translation partner might not necessarily be based in the same country as you. Particularly for creative translations, it might be best to look a bit further afield, to creative hubs like London or New York. You can find a seemingly endless list of language service providers on this website: Globalization and Localization Association (GALA).

Top tip: Nothing beats a personal recommendation. Ask your colleagues or your friends who work in similar fields if any of them know any good agencies. 

Step 3: Rating criteria to consider for translation agencies 

Along with objective criteria such as ISO certifications and pricing, your test run (see step 4) should answer questions such as:

  1. Who would my dedicated point of contact at the agency be? Is there a contact I can turn to outside of current projects?
  2. Who would be translating my content? How are the translation agency’s professional translators chosen? Who proofreads the translations before they are delivered? 
  3. What are my options if I’m not happy with my translation? How can the agency help me in this case?
  4. What technology do they use? Will professional quality assurance tools such as Trados and suitable project management software be used? If so, how?

Step 4: Arrange a test run

Ask the agency about carrying out a sample translation. A good translation agency should be able to do this for you free of charge, as part of a tender. For your test run, choose one or more short texts (200-300 words max). Identify what sort of texts you would need translating most often. Ideally, you’ll have a colleague or a business partner in the industry who speaks the language in question, who can evaluate the translation for you once it’s delivered.

Top tip: Ask colleagues from the specialist fields in question for help with evaluating the sample translation, such as your in-country sales colleagues who would be working with these translations.

Step 5: Make prices comparable

Request a quote from the selected agencies for the test translation. It would be best to specify the basis for their calculations, since every translation agency is likely to calculate their rates differently. Some charge per word from the source text, some per standard line of 55 keystrokes in the target text and there are others that charge per page. This makes comparing prices in a meaningful way almost impossible.

Top tip: The internationally accepted standard for language service providers is to charge per word of the source text. Every good agency should offer this as the basis for calculating prices.

Step 6: Choosing the agency

At the end of the day, we’re all thinking about the same thing: what should a translation cost? The price is, and will always be, an important criterion to consider. Nevertheless, in the end, the main focus should be on the quality of the translation and collaboration. Badly translated texts can end up leaving companies with extra work, and therefore extra costs. Most importantly, false or misleading texts in creative fields can cause negative PR, which in turn can cause considerable damage to a company’s reputation. Read our blog here to find out more.

Checklist for finding the right translation agency:

  • Good value for money
  • Recognised certifications
  • A single point of contact dedicated to your department or project
  • Ability to establish bespoke translation teams for each customer
  • Quick response times
  • Clear criteria for the selection of professional translators
  • Pre-delivery proofreading of every translation 
  • Targeted use of software to compile glossaries and corpora
  • A professional approach when handling complaints

To find out more about the ways Planet Languages can help, find out about our prices or organise a sample translation, contact us at post@planetlanguages.com or +44 (0) 1252 713 444.