What is the best translation service provider for your project - Freelance or Organization?
Both a freelance translator and a translation organization (company, agency) can be appropriate for your translation needs. Professional translation service companies will typically charge more due to the added value factor (project management, quality control, file conversions, standardized presentations for multilingual projects and additional services, etc). Further, translation service companies generally carry liability insurance which becomes more relevant as the financial risk of your project increases.
Consider the full requirements and financial risk of your translation project when selecting a translation service provider.
What is the size and complexity of your translation project?
Selecting a professional translation service that provides one-stop shopping (full service & additional, value added services), as opposed to several smaller organizations, can lower the overall cost for projects that are large, require multilingual translations or require additional services such as DTP or localization. On the other hand, these types of companies have a large overhead which translates into higher cost per unit that small projects do not warrant.
The size and complexity of your project is an important factor when it comes time to deciding on a professional translation service company.
What price range are you comfortable paying for professional translations?
Obviously, a high price does not necessarily guarantee a high quality translation service. However, below a certain price you are unlikely to receive professional translation or translated text that is beneficial to your service or product. Calculate how much you spent developing the product or service that you want to promote in Japan. Determine what the potential revenue is from gaining access to the Japan market. Consider how much time you spent creating the original, or source, text.
Research at least 3 price quotes from professional translation service companies (NOTE: estimates and quotes should not cost anything). Establish a price range that considers cost and the factors listed above, and that you are comfortable with. Then stick to it.
What pricing system does the professional translation service agency use?
We have all experienced situations where we are left feeling dumb after the nth explanation of a pricing structure. This is a well documented selling technique - it is called the high pressure technique and you are supposed to feel dumb! There are about as many pricing structures as there are translation service agencies. I strongly recommend getting an official quote based on the number of words in the source text before you commit.
Select a translation services agency that has an unambiguous pricing system - a system that does not leave you with delayed sticker shock.
What is the professional translation service company’s policy for assigning jobs to translators?
Is that my business you ask? You bet! Professional translators translate languages into their native language, only. For example, I am bilingual having graduated from a Japanese university (economics), and have lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. I only do Japanese to English translations (never English to Japanese). That is, I only work into English, my mother tongue (native language).
Ensure that your project gets a professional translation by insisting that it is assigned to a qualified translator that will be working into his/her native language.
What if a professional translation service agency serves up a bilingual person?
As long as he (she) is a translator - no problem. Confused? Bilinguals are fluent in 2 languages but this does not necessary mean that they are proficient in moving information between 2 languages, especially in writing. Translators are bilinguals and writers capable of moving information between the source language and the target language to produce text that reads naturally in the target language.
Always go with the translator for professional translations!
What technical, or subject matter, expertise does the professional translation service company bring to the table?
Translation is about language (moving information from a source language to a target language - English into Japanese) and technical, or subject matter, expertise. Have you ever tried to write about a topic that you had little or no knowledge of in your native language? Although you had no problem with the language, it was not easy, right? And the finished product probably lacked natural flow and conviction that comes with knowledge and experience.
Improve the quality of your translations project by selecting an company that has the technical, or subject matter, expertise suitable to your product or service. This is professional translation!
What project management system does the professional translation service agency have in place?
Managing large and complex projects is a difficult task - lack of a robust project management system can increase errors and delays (misplaced documents and communications), and, ultimately, your costs. Did I mention frustration?
Look for a professional translation service agency that has invested in a project management system (an indication of commitment to producing professional translations in and of itself).
What is the professional translation service company's policy on sample work?
Many experts suggest insisting on sample work before committing. This is a tricky one. Non-disclosure agreements will almost surely be in effect (and if not, you should be thinking about your intellectual property rights). Most professional organizations will understandably be reluctant to provide client work as a sample. More importantly, consider this: What trust can you place in a company that serves up a client’s translation project as sample work (your material may be served up to another potential client!)? Personally, I believe that commissioning a short trial translation and having it checked by a knowledgeable third party is a better option.
You make the call!
Does the professional translation service have a client agreement? Is it fair? Does it provide for issue resolution? Does it include a non-disclosure clause?
Everyone knows that these types of legal documents are designed for the benefit of the agency. Still, an agreement that is (somewhat) fair and provides for issue resolution before litigation is indicative of that agency’s business philosophy and ethics. When was the last time that you closely examined a legal document that you were party to? Non-disclosure clauses ensure that your intellectual property rights are covered. If they do not have a client agreement, then they are not a professional translations service.
If you need an agreement, then insist on a client agreement, and read the fine print! Of course, often translation projects are too small or repetitive to review an agreement all the time. Work with what you are comfortable with.
What relationship does the professional translation service agency offer?
Chances are that you will have an ongoing (long-term) need for translation services as you develop new services and products for the Japan markets. Calculate the cost (time and money) required to research what professional translation service is right for your translation projects. Now, think about that cost if you were to search anew for each translation project that you launch.
Select a professional translation service company that offers a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. Your boss will appreciate the savings, and you will get to keep your hair a bit longer!
About the Author
Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services Japan, Tokyo Visit SAECULII for the latest professional articles and news on Japanese Translation Services
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